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, June 05, 2006

Anna’s barter bin and other matters

Thanks ever-so-much for your patience, dahlings! I’m back, I have fresh coffee, and the newest rewrite of Sexless, pt. 1 is now settling into Poster Boy’s inbox or some folder on his laptop. My bank account, however, is not looking so good. Seeing as how I have meanwhile accumulated an awful lot of stuff I don’t really need, thought I’d start this week’s post off by attempting an online swap-n-shop. Contact me if you’re interested; trades or cash accepted; close-ups available on request.

Stuff I’ll part with
  • Glama: One (CD) featuring Pussy Tourett, k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, The Klezmatics and others
  • The Manhattan Transfer Anthology: Down in Birdland (2-CD set); cracked case but otherwise in fairly good condition
  • Rolling Stones: More Hot Rocks (2-CD set)
  • 1 pr. Diesel sunglasses, light brown and fairly oval; original case missing, but will ship with alternate
  • Ikea wood picture frames, 4x6, set of 3; never opened
  • John Updike, Couples; looks like it’s been read, but few to no notes in margins; spine still straight
  • Marc Jacobs perfume; won’t ship in original container, but I sure don’t need all 3.4 ounces I have! Let me know roughly how much you want (.5-2 oz), and I’ll do my best to approximate
Done laughing yet? Excellent. Here’s what I’ll take:
  • unused mascara samples
  • Starbucks cards
  • iTunes credits
  • chocolate covered espresso beans
  • Trader Joe’s or TJ Maxx gift cards
  • any of the CDs on my lust list (please, no ripped versions)
  • Metrocards for NY and/or BART subway system (will be out there in July)
Wow, I think even I’m embarrassed now. But hey, no shame, no gain, right? ;) Yes, Chad, singleness really has gone to my head. Here’s the proof: early-onset spinsterhood.

But actually, and more seriously, I want to say something more about that. First, for those who didn’t read Chad’s response to my last column, here’s a summary. He contests that I’m merely putting a positive spin on latter-20s singleness to feel better about my own state, that people who marry young don’t necessarily face fewer opportunities than their single peers, and that I probably would have chosen to marry younger had I met the right guy earlier. He raises several important points, which I’ll try to address here.

First, is one state better? I will freely confess, though I thought that came through in the post Chad was referring to, that I’ve spent most of my life thinking marriage is better. I bridle when people use Paul to try and argue that the single state is actually God’s superior plan, or a more-righteous choice for Christians. If that’s somehow meant as an endorsement of lifelong individualism, it’s bunk. The Bible is very clear that we are meant to live in community, and desperately need to exist in a system of interdependent relationships. How much that consists in immediate families will vary from person to person, but it should at least involve a local church community. We need places to serve and be served, encourage and be encouraged, bless and be blessed — no matter the left-hand jewelry we wear.

My point was that I’ve long struggled to see any genuine value or “gain” in the road God’s led me down. For years the only things I could have praised would have looked something like the list of a Relevant writer I criticized last year. Singleness was, in my book, fairly lose-lose compared to the win-win status of married folk. But as I’ve started listening to more of my married friends, I realize they face choices that are more complicated than mine have been. Just as I have faced an “opportunity cost” for spending my twenties as a single woman, they too have had various trade-offs for marrying earlier. They get more sex and male attention, sure, but they also face struggles I was too blind to see for years.

God will refine our character no matter what. For some of us, that means waiting a while for our greatest desire, for others it may mean getting that and then realizing we don’t feel any more filled on the inside. My pastor had an interesting point last night, that both Elisha and Joseph faced severe crises when they were in Dothan. Both men cried out for help, but in the former case we’re told God sent chariots of fire to protect him, while in the latter case, God let him get sold into slavery. Same God, different men. Same power, different exercises. Sometimes God lets us suffer through certain things, sometimes He chooses to rescue us.

And that’s what I was really trying to wrestle with, Chad. If I keep whining and moaning about why I’m single, what does that say about God’s goodness? That He somehow screwed up in my case? That He didn’t know what was best for me? Of course I can’t say that. And if I can’t, that means God must have so far given me the best life I could have lived. For someone else that best life might be marriage at 21; for me it isn’t. But neither of us knows what is in our future. Joseph needed to somehow wind up in Egypt so he could spare that country from starving when great famine came. And that’s just how he served as blessing to others! No doubt God also used his suffering to mold and refine his character so he would be the man he needed to be to complete that later good work.

I always have a real hard time looking back at my life and saying I would change things — even times of great pain. I went through 18 months of anguish, convinced that an already-married man was the soulmate I’d never get to be “with” in a legitimate way. At the time it hurt like hell. More recently, an old crush suddenly showed a never-before-seen interest in my life and became a guy friend like I’ve never really had before — prompting me to think he wanted far more than friendship. He didn’t. So what do I do? Do I scream and yell at God for letting me waste so much emotion, for bringing these men into my life just to cause me grief?

I can’t. For woven into those months and months of pain is such redemption and growth, I’d never be the person I am now without how God brought such good from the things that hurt me so much. And I’d rather be the woman God’s making me into than someone with less-scarred skin and a far more shallow outlook on life. Pain is not the variable in life, growth is. The miracle — and God’s kindness to us — is that if we let Him, He’ll use our seasons of pain to bring growth and depth. As an old David Wilcox song I like says, “All the roots grow deeper when it’s dry.”

For years I struggled to say it, as if accepting God’s plan for my life so far meant He could keep me single the rest of my days, but I have to say it: I wouldn’t trade the years I’ve lived as a single woman for the husband and marriage I didn’t get. I see now that I couldn’t have written the book that I am, which feels like one of the most important things I’ve done with my life so far. Who knows how God will use it? If nothing else, it’s one way that my singleness can hopefully be a blessing for many others. And that’s what the Christian life is all about: service. Either you are sacrificing yourself for spouse and family, or you’re sacrificing yourself for friends and loved ones; the sacrifice isn’t the variable, it’s those you get to bless through it.