Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The good, the cads, the chastened

In the other news from this weekend, a reader wrote with a question that coulda been torn from my journals two years ago.
Hey Anna,

Do you date men that aren’t believers or nominally so? The trend here lately has been that I’ve met men that are are nominal believers sort of picking and choosing what they believe and don’t want to believe. My biggest problem is that the Christian men that I do know...who are supposedly committed Christians are so freaking boring...yawn and totally not “real.” Once more, they don’t have the cahoonas to pursue a woman like a man. I’m not making a blanket statement here. But that’s been my experience at least lately.

[...] Am I destined to meet boring Christian, wimpy men? [...] I just can’t seem to meet a Christian SINGLE man who has balls and a little grit. The last Christian Christiangton I was contemplating going out with, said to me, because of my somewhat salty sense of humor and mouth [...] “Are you really sure you want a relationship that has Christ as the foundation?” That bothered me a lot. [...] And hell, I’m not so sure he’d know what to do with me and my passion if we ever did get married. I don’t think he could handle me. All I can picture is him expecting me to wear pretty dresses and white shoes to that woman on Everybody Loves Raymond. Amy’s mother. The sweet, mousey Christian woman. Icky...
Yeah, I’m fairly anti-flower dress myself. But first off, do I date freaked-by-Jesus men now? No. Did I used to? Oh, yeah. Not that it was a good thing, mind you, but at the time I thought what little attention such men gave me (before moving on in search of someone more like-minded sexually) was as good as I could get. Clearly God could not be trusted to meet my needs when it came to romance. Since those secular men were pretty much all I ever dated, I can’t say I’ve had the experience you have, of dating supposedly Christian men with values much like every other guy’s.

For which I blamed them, of course: those wimpy, self-righteous, cowardly Jesus-freak men who almost never asked me out. I had plenty of reasons why, even if they had pursued me, they never would have been good enough. That I might not be good enough for them didn’t cross my mind. But one day a long-ago crush stopped by the blog, to read for more than one or two days. I probably should have wondered why he put up with my salty mouth and sadly broken view of sex, but I was more impressed with the way he stuck around this time. Unheard of! And other than his tolerance for my titillating talk, I saw much to admire in him. Here was finally a man I could respect, whose passion for serving God revived a long-dormant hope perhaps my longings for a godly man weren’t a curse after all. And something made me hopeful he’d be harder to scare away than all the other Jesus freak men had proven.

Then, a month into my giddiness, he blogged about what was wrong with all the women he met. None of which applied to me ... so what kept him from liking me? Well, I should say, none of his main points applied to me, but one disturbingly frequent comment mentioned how unattractive swearing made a woman to him. Then and there, I resolved to cut all profanity from my blogging — at least for the most part. But though this was a superficial fix bent mostly on bettering my chances with him (which tanked, despite my clean-up program and his occasional willingness to curse), his post raised a bigger issue. I’d always assumed the problem was with men — that they were more broken, sinful and flawed than me. But suddenly a man whose zeal for God caught my attention more than his sin had shown me a rather disturbing reflection of my own sin.

For the first time I had to consider if the sort of man I claimed I really wanted would be drawn to the uncouth, defiant woman I was becoming. Which wasn’t just an issue of a blog-persona makeover or a change in certain habits. It was a question of character. What I’ve realized in the nearly two years since then is that while the Christian men I disdained were full of faults — usually on the conservative end of the spectrum — I had just as much sin. Sure, maybe I could fault them for being self-righteousness and even legalistic. But in my excesses I did no better at living the self-sacrificial life Paul says defines the Christian who understands both God’s grace and His holiness.

Sure, I’m still single, but maybe I was less ready for love and marriage than I thought. And since I’ve allowed God to work on my character, I’ve also come to see that those things are less essential to living a fulfilled life than I once thought.

I think you see where this is going and no, I probably wouldn’t have liked this advice any better than you when I was in my “Christian men are lame-o, boring hypocrites” phase. We can never know enough to reasonably claim God’s making “mistakes” in our lives by not providing as we think He should. Nor are His gifts in any way based on our worthiness or obedience. However, I’m learning it’s far more fruitful to spend my singleness learning how I can better serve God than griping about why good-enough men don’t exist. They do. But instead of focusing on why others don’t meet our standards, I think it’s time we remembered how much we all fall short of the only standard that really matters — God’s — and humbly focus more on living to please that ultimate Beloved. Perhaps as we do so, we’ll find in time that the humble fellow servant at our side is looking better all the time and strangely thinks the same of us. But that part’s really in God’s hands; the only part we can change is ourselves.