a vanderslice of the single life
I am single.
Like, super super single.
Like, never been on a second date, never even really been on a good first date, kind of single.
I like to think that this is in part because of a very conservative Christian upbringing wherein a focus on “preparing the heart for marriage” is placed above learning to talk to, flirt with, or befriend the opposite sex. While I’ve since awkwardly navigated these life lessons (though a fair bit later in life than most), I should also admit that my strong will, my love of education, and my commitment to my career serve to deter many a suitor (and likewise make me quite critical of most the men I date, as well).
But, quite frankly, the primary reason that I believe I remain single is because, beyond my control, God’s timing has not aligned with my own; He just keeps saying “No.”
I’ve planned for quite some time to begin writing about singleness as a Christian woman. I’ve left dozens of posts half written, still saved for occasional revision, yet none of them make it onto the blog. I hesitate for a number of reasons.
First, I don’t really care to publicly admit my singleness. If I position myself as a person who writes about singleness, I think, I don’t want it to deter me from whatever relationship could be just around the corner. I don’t want to limit myself to the status of “that single lady.”
Second, about half of my readers, and many of my close friends, are not Christians. My approach to dating is probably the primary aspect of my life that doesn’t make sense to them. Christian dating is weird; it’s really really weird. The (too often) obsession with marriage, the odd attitudes about sex (it’s holy? Wha?). The depth that my religion affects my dating experience is something I find easiest not to share.
But the primary reason that I’ve cut short each post is that they are far more personal than I typically like to bare. Sure, I can write about anxiety and restlessness. I can type with humor about the times I pacify my worries with wine. But those problems are normal. Everyone faces anxiety, everyone gets stressed out. The inability to date is an issue I internalize as a failure unique to Kendall Vanderslice.
Of course, I’m not alone. I am not the only 25-year-old Christian woman who’s never had a good date. I’m not the only lady that has found freedom in Christian feminism, but must come to terms with the loss of expectations of the patriarchy in which she was raised. I’m not the only one to face heartbreak or to wonder if a wedding day of my own will ever come. However my very personal feelings of failure come out of the Church’s lack of focus on us single ones. Sure, there is plenty written on purity, on submission, on looking for “the one.” And there is plenty written to teens and college students actively in search of their “prince.”
But what about the rest of us? What about us strong-ass, career-driven, Christian feminist women? What about those of us who don’t subscribe to the idea of a soul mate, but long to share life with someone who knows us deep to our soul? What about us ladies who don’t think marriage is something we are owed, who eschew the idea that it is something to expect, who understand that our life does not begin when we get a ring, who believe that we are fierce women of God no matter our marital status? But while we might find excitement in our career, might be drenched in caring community, might truly love our life, still face the deep loneliness of wanting to be known?
I’ve tried to talk with many church folks about this dire lack of resources, but all too often I get a response that proves the very heart of the issue: an inability to just hold, to validate, the presence of this pain. “Oh, I felt that way once. But as soon as I accepted that I might never get married, I met my husband!” I’ve heard a number of times. “Oh, I’m sure he’s on his way,” others tell me, as if to provide hope, “God’s just preparing him for you.” “You’re still so young, you don’t need to worry yet,” as though my loneliness now doesn’t matter, so long as it’s over in the next ten years.
I think the reason that us strong, single ladies don’t get a lot of press is because ours is a “problem” that others just can’t “fix.”
The tension of believing that we follow a God that knows every one of our days before one of them came to be, yet also that we have the freedom to make decisions for our lives remains a mystery of faith that I really can’t explain. I don’t like accepting that my relationship status is not actually an area of life over which I have complete control, but neither do I accept that it is something over which I lack any agency at all. When others try to pacify my pain with quick condolences that “God is in control,” they ignore the very real and harmful expectation created by the church that He’s “got someone in mind.” They pretend as though the difficulties unique to single women are temporary, hinged on the belief that marriage is the expected norm. They don’t acknowledge that sometimes singleness. just. sucks. But singleness is also okay.
To avoid these conversations that unintentionally ignore my pain, I hide behind my strong demeanor and pretend I’m content with the way things are. I go out again and again as the 3rd, the 5th, or the 7th wheel. I endure those awkward (or sometimes degrading) OKcupid encounters, I bat my eyes at my latest crush. And though I do have plenty of fun, I sometimes come home and cry alone – not because I feel sorry for myself. Well, yes, actually, it’s because I feel sorry for myself. Which I’m not ashamed to say.
I don’t have a solution, as my singleness is not a problem I need a man to fix. I might never go on a really good date, and I’d still have had an awesome life. Or I might go on one tomorrow, it’s something I truly can’t control. I don’t know what my future will hold, how my agency interacts with God’s will. But I hope to start the conversation, because I know I’m not alone.
To all my strong-ass single ladies: you might be lonely, but you’re not alone.