Tuesday, 29 October 2013

An Evangelical Take

Evangelical Protestant Singles have it especially rough as they are cut off from the traditions of celibacy-lived-for-the-Kingdom. Here's an article Alisha sent me by a 23 year old Evangelical Single.

I have no other comment except that it irks me that a 23 year old would feel this way. On the other hand, I recall feeling this way all through high school. I focused more on the fact that some of my friends had boyfriends than on the fact that most of them didn't! And I don't want to talk about my attitudes in university. One thing about being 23, though, is that none of my 23 year old friends were married already. If you belong to a community where lots of 23 year old are married, you are indeed going to wail, "What about me?" And thus someone has to point out that, actually, most 23 year olds in the Western world are NOT married yet.


Anonymous said...

No but most of the ones at small evangelical colleges in the southern US are indeed married by 23... I came in as a 24 year old staff person to find that I was very much considered an old maid. Almost everyone originally assumed that I was married. Or that I would get married and leave for somewhere else (though how when I never met a single guy my age in that town I have no clue!) by the time I left for another job when I was 29, I had seen so many 19 year olds getting engaged after dating a month (married after 3 months) that I seriously am still curious to know the divorce rate of the alumni of that school. (Though it's probably more likely that people are sticking it out in unhappy marriages because they'd lose their ministry jobs if they got divorced.) it was insane. I saw one 21 year old graduating senior post on Facebook about how she just never thought she'd be graduating without being married... I was 28 at the time and wanted to ask "what am I? Chopped liver?" I still don't GET this subculture (my own evangelical alma mater had a few married students and a handful that got married right after college, but the vast majority of my friends didn't get married til 26-30) but it's certainly certainly out there...

Staying anonymous on this one because I don't want people to figure out the school in question (I doubt any of their people read you - they were anti-Catholic at times - but they were a good place for me to be at that time in my career and the point is that this is true from what I hear at many many of these schools)

Tess said...

The comment above from anonymous sounds a lot like a school that my husband attended for a year before transferring out! It's also a small evangelical school in the southern US. Definitely curious to know if it's the same one, although you never know, there probably are multiple schools with that sort of culture.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think when I first read this woman's blog post a few weeks ago that I skipped over her age. So I wasn't initially irked. What she says she is feeling is actually very apt for me at nearly 29. My Facebook really does look like Pinterest wedding boards with half my Catholic friends and baby albums from the other half. I think their secret was going to young professional/grad student groups consistently until someone they could make a happy marriage with came along. But it wasn't working for me, much like presumably being active in her school didn't work for her.

But now I am irked knowing her age. Looking back on the past 5 years of my life, I am glad I had the experiences I did (which would've been impossible sans husband) and on the good days I know I still have time.

I do have a question: how do all these young'uns get so ready for marriage--to know how to tell if their intended spouse will have the spirit and capacity to sacrifice when if comes to dealing with the hard stuff of marriage, like aging/sick parents far away or possibly parenting a severely sick child--all at the tender age of 23? I know I and many of my friends and roommates certainly weren't.

Urszula said...

I have a question to tag onto proverbial girlfriends last question. How do these people know that they themselves, not just their future spouses, are ready for marriage and dealing with life's difficulties together? It seems to me a lot of self-knowledge comes with time, with struggling through your 20s, finding a job and career, figuring housing, etc... of course I don't deny some people are ready for such things in their early twenties, but it would seem it's mostly social pressure.

Sometimes the only other option is to opt out of what can become an oppressive culture. It's part of the reason I stopped reading Catholic mommy blogs, riveting as though some of them are. They weren't relevant to my life very much and some of them did make me feel as if my current life was unimportant.

I'm still glad Catholic culture is much more supportive of singles, we need the support we can get!

HappyToBeHere said...

I don't know from first-hand experience, because I did not get married at 23, but while I am sure there are people who are 'not ready', I'm sure there are also plenty who have simply met someone and decided, "Okay, this is it, I love this person, I don't want to imagine my future without them, I want to make this commitment." I've seen it in happy marriages amongst friends ...

I think there would be challenges in either marrying young or less-young (one example might be adjusting to sharing your life with someone after a decade or so of adult independence). Perhaps I'm a romantic, but maybe it's not about the right time but the right person - and that is usually out of our control.

Jackie said...

Ohhhh this is bringing back memories. :( I was the maid of honor for my best friend who is of this school of thought. I had known her from primary school at her wedding when she was 22; I was 23.

I will NEVER forget the look of pity in her mom's eyes as she looked at me worriedly and said, Well, there still may SOME time for you yet.

All of their children married between the ages of 19 and 23 and, I will be the first to say, they all had the kind of marriages they were looking for. (Even if they were the marriages that I don't think I would have been very happy in, personally.) Also, they have all never lived more than 20 minutes from the home in which they grew up.

I always kind of wondered why the mom had such a "hurry, hurry, snap him up!" attitude when it looked like it had not served her especially well. She had dropped out of college to support her husband while he went to school. A series of low-paying jobs that were pretty much drudgery followed. (It was only in her 40s or so that she was able to go back to college.)

When it came to light that her husband had had an occasion of infidelity when they children were young, she was up a creek with no paddle. When a similar situation had happened to me with my former fiance, I was SO profoundly grateful that 1) I was single and 2) I had *options*. Seriously, I wept in relief.

Woah this comment got long-- sorry for the Russian novel!

Lena said...

I can relate to some of this article. In my thirties, I had the thought that if I'm single I might as well have fun and enjoy it. It would be shame if God gave me this life (actually He did give me this life), and I didn't appreciate it. That is on a good day. Also, I remember someone telling me that I'm waiting for the "right one." And I thought I'm not waiting for anyone. I am going about my life, and the "right one" can catch up with me. Of course, I have my bad days too as a single. But I'm not dead yet!!!

Anonymous said...

Tess - ask him if there was a joke "name" for the school that illustrated how many students got married (though they might all have such jokes but this one worked very well with the schools real name).... That said, being in Evangelical Academia, I know it IS true of more than one from what I hear. (I'm quite sure the same kinds of things have to be true at places known for their uber-conservativism/legalism/fundamentalism, like Pensacola and Bob Jones, though I know no one who works at either, so I haven't heard stories)

MichelleMarie said...

I was just thinking about this yesterday after hearing this unmarried Christian woman speak about singleness in her 40's. She was all but weeping about how alienated she felt from her church because of how much they cater to families... and she definitely sounded like she still had not come to terms with her singleness. She didn't sound content at all, the wound sounded pretty raw.

I felt for her so much and just wanted to give her the Eucharist, which really helps carry you through any difficult state of life. I also realized how glad I am to be Catholic - if I'm feeling down about being single, I can always go to mass and, lo and behold, there's a single celibate man up there celebrating mass.

Don't mean to sound smug. Just realizing there's so much wisdom in our Faith.

Seraphic said...

MichelleMarie, you are absolutely right. Most priests have given up marriage and earthly fatherhood for the sake of Christ and all of us. Those who are unmarried and not even male religious are consecrated Single men. They are a living witness to the dignity of the Single life and how it too can be lived in service to others.

The wonderful thing about the primacy tradition gives the celibate life is that chaste Singles can see, however much they may not have chosen Single life, that celibate life is okay with God.

And if married people sulk because they don't like the idea they are "a little less than" because they got married, tough potatoes. The consolations of the married life are many, and I don't envy my nun friends their superior "position" at all, just as I don't envy the Queen.

Tess said...

Proverbial Girlfriend - Speaking as someone who got married at 23 (my husband was the same age), I'd like to say first of all that through most of history people got married in their early 20s or earlier. The phenomenon of people "not being ready" until they are in their 30s, extended adolescence, etc., is very recent in history. It's a lot odder from a historical context to not know what to look for in a spouse until you are 35 than to not know what to look for in a spouse when you are 21. At least for me, I was very aware of what qualities would be best in a husband—it helps that I am the oldest of 7 children and have a good understanding of the work that goes into running a home and family, plus I had read some helpful books and had good conversations with married women about what to look for in a husband (this blog is a good example of the resources I turned to!).

I recognize that being able to think clearly and maturely about marriage and family when you are 21 or 22 is becoming very rare today, but my husband and I are both the oldest in religious families and we were brought up knowing what to look for. Honestly I think choosing who to marry is just about thinking clearly and planning for the long haul, regardless of your age. I chose to marry my husband because he was/is the kindest person I had ever met, plus he made me laugh and he was/is very hard-working and driven. I could see that those traits are kind of an ideal combination for a husband and father, and on top of that we had a lot of similar interests, found each other attractive, shared beliefs and principles, and a lot of other intangibles that sealed the deal. I know that both of us are still pretty immature and we have not gone through anything all that difficult yet, but knowing how kind and generous he consistently is, I am completely confident in his ability to handle life's tragedies with grace. If anything I doubt that I will handle these things as well as he will. :)

I'd actually like to turn the question back to you based on what you have seen with your friends. I look at some acquaintances who are single in their late 20s and early 30s and I see that they are getting very "set in their ways" and particular about how things are done. I wonder how they are going to handle uprooting their entire lives when they get married? How will they meld their personality types and lifestyles, which by the time they marry have often become very solidified?

Of course so much of when to marry depends on when the right person actually comes along, which is outside of anybody's control. But there is so much truth to the idea that young marrieds "grow up together" in their 20s and 30s. Already I have experienced my husband and I learning to accommodate and compromise and work out new systems and habits—which of course happens in marriage at any age, but since we are both new to housekeeping and adulthood as well as marriage we are especially flexible and able to adjust easily.

Importantly, I would NOT say that getting married young is for everyone, or even for the majority! But being able to make a smart, informed, and long-range decision about who to marry is very possible at 23 if you know what to look for and have the right mindset (and I guess have some maturity although I hesitate to ascribe this trait to myself).

I think when you start out with two basically kindhearted, loving, and mutually compatible people, who know what they are getting themselves into and share similar principles and life goals, getting married at 23 is not a gamble on an uncertain future but rather an investment in someone whom you know is only going to get better with time. At least, that has been my experience and the experience of many older married couples who have shared their stories with me.

Jam said...

Becoming "set in one's ways" and becoming confident in oneself as an adult seem like two sides of the same coin... We can't win for trying. Either you get married at 23 and suffer suspicion for being too hasty or get married at 33 and suffer suspicion for being selfish (or something).