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Social Constructs

I recently came across an article that caught my eye online. The title was “I’m 36 And I’ve Been Single For 10 Years. Spoiler: I’m Fine”. I immediately clicked and scrolled.

You see, dear readers, I am what I call “perpetually single.” It has been a blessing and a curse, and as I will explain, much of my own doing. 10 years ago, I had just decided that the religious vocation that I had thought was maybe for me, wasn’t. I had entered a Catholic religious order, sold all of my belongings, quit my job, and moved across the country to try out “religious life” (aka the convent). I could write a whole blog post on my experience there or why I discerned this wasn’t for me, but this is not that post (I do have my own personal blog if you are interested, and always feel free to message me or comment with questions!)

I was 26 when I entered religious life which was still, somehow, considered “old” for starting one’s vocation. This blows my mind because after graduating college at 22, I just wanted to save the world. I had spent my college career learning about and advocating against so many injustices in our world. To be 22 and to think I would know who I would want to “settle down with” or wanting to start a family never crossed my mind. But not but a decade or two earlier, that was really all women were expected to want or capable of thinking of doing. Progress? (insert shrugging shoulder woman emoji here because I am about to explain how far we still have to go).

When the “I Have Been Single for 10 Years” article came across my feed, I didn’t exactly feel relief, because I had come to terms with my state in life years ago. But I was still glad to know that I wasn’t alone. After discerning that religious life wasn’t for me, like any break up, it took a while to “get back in the game.” I have dated over the years, but I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t enjoy dating. And so I finally had told myself, “if I don’t enjoy, why do it?” But let me explain.

This is not to say that I am asexual or not sexual. I identify, for better or for worse, as a hetero-normative, straight woman. I have been attracted to guys since I was in kindergarten and have had pain-staking crushes on men ever since. And though I bemoan the fact that I am attracted to straight men (and, as I have on occasion been known to find myself, the impeccably kept gay man), it is my reality. This is not to say that I am not open to relationships. I very much desire relationships and am open to anything that organically comes my way. Organic being the key word.

What I am not into or do not enjoy is wasting my time on games. I don’t enjoy small talk. I don’t enjoy scrolling left or right on a dating app. I don’t enjoy first or second dates that are forced. I don’t like feeling that I HAVE to date. So I don’t.

It was very freeing for me when I finally articulated these words with myself and to others. And so, again, it wasn’t a relief necessarily to read this article from another “perpetually single” woman, but it was a comfort of sorts. It is also why I have chosen to share my story with all of you, so that if anyone else who isn’t into the BS of what dating is today is reading this, you too can know you are not alone.

I am going to switch gears for a second, and I want to preface by saying I in NO WAY am equating dating with this next experience, just bear with me.  I recently attended a historic Slave Trail walk with a group from my parish, led by one of our deacons. Again, no great segue way there, and obviously, the two are NOT comparable by any ways or any means. However, listening to my deacon review the history of slavery and the systems and economics that were put into place because of the slave trade, I was reminded that so many of our social structures that we have been made subject to are based on antiquated, racist, sexist, unjust, greedy philosophies.

The Slave Trail walk where I live in Richmond, VA was moving and thought provoking for many reasons. Our African-American, Richmond-native deacon told us of Richmond’s terrible roots with the slave trade. We were one of the first cities to bring slaves to the U.S. and as the capitol of the Confederacy, tobacco plantation owners fought to keep slavery because they saw it as the means to make and keep their money. When we began our walk on the trail, our deacon had us keep quiet and made us put our hands on each other’s shoulders as we walked. He told us to imagine what it must have been like walking in a new land, in the dark (because slave traders had to have known what they were doing was inhumane and often brought slaves in at night. It also helped them keep control. If the slaves couldn’t see their surroundings, then they wouldn’t have knowledge of where they could try and escape). He told us of the economic industry that Richmond built around slavery. There were seamstresses that would make clothes for the slaves at auction; the thought being that the better dressed the slaves and better looking, the more money they would make. The fact that the city in which I live built industries based on racism and the killing and torturing of human beings is beyond sickening. (For more resources on slavery in the U.S. and in Richmond, my deacon recommended the book: “Richmond’s Unhealed History” by Benjamin Campbell).

But didn’t marriage start with inhumane economic dealings as well? I know that as Christians we like to look at Genesis and think that God making woman from man’s rib connects man and woman beautifully together (and “this is why a man leaves his mother and father to join his wife” and all that) BUT just a little further in Genesis we find Abraham sleeping with Hagar because Sarah couldn’t produce children for him. Or Jacob’s uncle giving away his daughters Leah and Rachel in exchange for Jacob working on his farm. Explaining these stories to my middle school students is always interesting. Their concept of marriage is based a lot more on romance (for better or for worse) or at least a lot more on choice, not the economic deal that it truly was. Later in Scripture we see Solomon marrying women from all nations so that he could make alliances with those countries. Solomon is heralded as a wise king! But what of the women who were merely part of the deal?!

Again, I am not trying to equate slavery to marriage, though I am sure there are many jokes in poor taste to be made there somewhere. However, I am trying to point out that our systems that still exist today are built on antiquated and unjust ideals. The racism that still exists in our world today was fed by an economic industry for white men to get rich off of. The poverty lines and the jail system and many more of our problems today can stem from this institution of the slave trade. Similarly, but not equally, our system of marriage was based off of an economic system. And even though the system has slightly changed, isn’t the way we promote weddings and bridal showers and bachlorette parties still based off of industries making money?

If I do ever get married, I really just want everyone whose wedding I have ever attended to write me a check. I want plane trips, hotels, dresses, gifts, etc. all factored in. I’m kidding. Kind of.

My point is, if marriage really is about love, why do we make it about all of these other things that celebrate the individual rather than the union? And why do we celebrate the end of that person’s singledom? The traditional feminine bridal shower in which women gather to shower the woman with kitchenware to celebrate that she will now need new items to cook for a man is archaic.  I know this all makes me the exact opposite of a hopeless romantic and probably explains perfectly why I am “perpetually single.” I also don’t want to isolate our married readers. I know that you all are progressive and don’t view the institution of marriage as such. But let me bring it all back to our faith:

We do have a loving God. Our God is the definition of love. And our God is all about relationships. The Christian belief of the Trinity is, in fact, relational. We believe in a Father and a Son and a Spirit that connects this relationship in and of Itself and with God and His other creations. It is a beautiful faith of relationships that relies on relationships to in itself exist and thrive.

It is this kind of relationship that I get my inspiration and model from, not the economic fueled constructs of our world. Take that, Tinder.

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Freedom

Say His Name

Every Friday, Grace and Feminism publishes a series of posts under a monthly theme. The theme for July is ‘Freedom.’

Sybrina Fulton starts her book with a Bible verse:

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17 (ESV)

And all I can think about is how so many of us failed her.

The name Sybrina Fulton might not sound familiar to you, but I bet the name Trayvon Martin does. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his story, Trayvon was a seventeen-year-old boy who, while wearing a hoodie, walked to the local convenience store to grab some Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles. On his way back to his father’s townhouse, a man by the name of George Zimmerman decided he was a threat, pursued him, and eventually shot him, despite being told by 911 phone operators not to. Right before shooting him, he said, “These assholes always get away.” Last week was the anniversary of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, and he was able to walk free after murdering a child.

Sybrina Fulton? That’s Trayvon’s mother. And the one thing she clung to throughout this entire travesty was the Lord and her faith. You’d think because of this the Christian community would have rallied around her. Supported her pursuit of justice. Listened to our black brothers and sisters as they shouted “I am Trayvon!” in the streets. But so much of the mainstream Christian community did not. What did they do instead?

We used the freedom that the Lord gave us, the freedom from shame and fear that Jesus himself gives us every day, to bury our heads in the sand. To combat the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” while actively supporting refugee bans from other countries. Put simply, white Christians abused the freedom they’ve been given to refuse to rock the status quo. Do you know who was all about rocking the status quo? Jesus. That savior, king of kings who gave us all this freedom.

Continue reading “Say His Name”

Freedom

Let’s Be Free

Every Friday, Grace and Feminism publishes a series of posts under a monthly theme. The theme for July is ‘Freedom.’

On a scale of 1-10,  “I’m an open book!” and 1 being “Get me out of here!” how comfortable are you being your true, authentic self in church and in your faith community?

If 10 is “I tell everyone everything I’m thinking” and 1 is “Get me out. Now.”… I am a solid 4.5.

On a good day.

I’m terribly uncomfortable being me at church. I grew up fairly conservative and played into the youth group attending, daughter of a deacon role quite well.

Until I didn’t.

I suddenly found myself feeling alone; misunderstood and out of place. Instead of trying to explore those feelings and ideas, I kept them hidden away. If I’m not comfortable being me here, why should anyone else get to see me? There was this justice-driven, intersectional feminist dying to speak out and I kept her quiet.

Wait. No.

I kept me quiet.

Continue reading “Let’s Be Free”

Freedom

Finding Fireflies

Every Friday, Grace & Feminism publishes a series of posts under a monthly theme. The theme for July is ‘Freedom.’

My boyfriend got his first motorcycle a little less than a year into our relationship. My only motorcycle experience up until that point was the rocking-horse style Harley that my uncle made for me when I was a baby. I had never been around motorcycles, had never ridden on a motorcycle, and was very, very aware of the dangers of riding one.

While my boyfriend worked on getting his license, I rode with an adult. The sudden intimacy with the road and the landscape terrified me. The wind was too much on my face and I jolted every time we went over the slightest bump in the road. Whenever we rode through an intersection, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what would happen if a car ran a red light. I knew that motorcycles and riding were important to my boyfriend and I didn’t want my fear to hold me back from something that really mattered to him. I hoped that if I kept riding, maybe I would just get over my paranoia.

Once my boyfriend got his license, I started riding with him. His bike was smaller than the one I had been riding on and my fears came back twice as strong. Not only was the ground so close, but I could feel my body on the bike. When he switched gears, it felt like the bike was trying to buck me off. Not only could I not control the road or the environment or the other cars, but I couldn’t even control my own body. I was terrified.

After our first ride together, my boyfriend (who had no idea how scared I was) grabbed my hand as we walked and started talking to me about how to control my body when we rode so that I wasn’t slamming into him every time he braked. I took his advice and the next ride wasn’t nearly as bad. I didn’t jerk around and I started to figure out how to respond to bumps in the road. I was so focused on controlling my body that I forgot to think about the possibility of impending death. As the years passed, we kept riding and I learned to control my body and I completely forgot to be scared.

I rode with my boyfriend several times this past week. We rode up to our alma mater and roads that I had been on so many times seemed completely new. I could see every single flower and every single feather on a hawk that was swooping down from the sky. I could smell the Indiana corn and hear people laughing and talking as we passed by.

It was only once I became free from my fear that I could appreciate the change in perspective. I knew the roads, knew every turn we made, knew exactly where we going. But it felt completely new on the bike. It felt like finally really getting to know someone that has been in your life for years. It was beautiful.

Continue reading “Finding Fireflies”