« continued discussion | Main | bowling »

i lost my gift receipt

i've never dated anyone.

there. i said it. i've never dated anyone. i'd like to say it's been some sort of noble cause, as if i have a stack of dusty applications lazily strewn on a desk from suitors that just didn't make the cut. but it is what it is: no drama, no what-ifs, no ex-es. simply put, no interested parties.

in some ways i am thankful. i see the pain of rejection in the eyes of friends, and i hear the hurt in their voices. i feel their grief in my heart, but know it is not quite the same. i watch the relationships that should never have been, and i listen to the stories of boyfriends past. i feel their burden on my heart, but know it is not quite the same. i see and understand the pain well, but for the most part, i am removed from it.

on the other hand, this circumstance certainly creates a lot of questions. is it a test of patience? is it something i lack? is there something wrong with me? never are we promised a mate, which raises a most unsettling question: is there even anyone out there for me?

is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all? i sort of feel like it's the difference between a gunshot wound and a chronic illness. the difference between horrifying, intense pain which can be pinpointed, cleansed, bandaged and healed; and a slow, underlying ache which can only be controlled, subdued, and kept at bay. the difference between having scars that can be pointed at and talked about; and having open-ended questions, continually wondering if your illness has any hope for a cure. the difference between knowing specifically the event that caused your pain; and wondering aimlessly why you were chosen for this particular booby prize. the difference between having someone reject you; and never having someone to reject you. a rejection from man; and a seeming rejection from all mankind.

as dire as this all sounds, most days i'm perfectly fine with it all. i can rest in the knowledge that i am a whole and complete person unto myself, and that i can spend the entire day in my pajamas without leaving my apartment, eating chocolate ice cream and watching what not to wear, and no one would ever be the wiser. occasionally, though, the perpetual aloneness [though not necessarily loneliness] shows up as a burden to bear. it's not really a despair, or even a sadness, really... just simply more of a weight than anything specific.

in christian circles, the state of being unmarried is often referred to as a "gift of singleness". i find this phrase theologically meaningless; a useless line created to bully single people into feeling good about being single, and to make married people who actually use this phrase feel like they're bestowing a great and holy wisdom upon said singles. instead, it imparts bad theology and the implication that if you are single you are not really allowed to be unhappy about it. it says, 'enjoy your gift, dammit, and don't complain. we're busy being content over here.' if ever i utter this phrase without severe sarcasm, dear readers, you must promise to beat me senseless.

i think i lost my "gift" receipt somewhere.
Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 06:24PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments27 Comments

Reader Comments (27)

i first heard that phrase, "the gift of singleness", earlier this year in a conversation about spiritual gifts. i laughed so hard that it hurt.

i'm so thankful that i'm a guy. i just don't understand the dynamics of what this time might be like for you. i'm sorry. one thing i can tell you with certainty, however, is that the more in love you become with your Savior, the more lovely you become to "us". if only that meant that a guy would step up and do something about it, eh?
Jan 16, 2005 at 10:56PM | Unregistered Commenterlance
lance, thank you for your thoughts. i am a little confused though when you say "i'm so thankful that i'm a guy". are you saying that in the sense that 1) men in general don't feel this way, or 2) in the sense that men are generally the pursuers?
Jan 16, 2005 at 11:56PM | Registered Commentermdog
I think about this time (= singleness and a lot of alone time) in terms of becoming more fully on the outside who I am on the inside. In my mind, it makes sense that you have to be a complete, healthy person in order to become part of a healthy marriage (not that we'll ever be perfect but it helps if you aren't going into a relationship with open wounds). I see this time as key in setting a pattern for my life that is not defined by the presence and influence of another person.

But you're right... in theory this sounds good and easy and ideal but in practice it hurts to be not chosen again and again in this world influenced heavily by romantic comedies and beautiful people.

Or not chosen yet.

ps. I plan to spend entire days in my pajamas when I'm married.

pps. I'm thankful I'm not a guy.

Jan 17, 2005 at 11:52AM | Unregistered Commenterrachel
something similar to what i posted in my blog today, rachel. i so want to be as much me before i become a we/us.
and for the majority of my life, even up until about a year ago, i understood exactly where you are, m. but in a relationship, there can still be plenty of loneliness. i'd have to say the ache is the same depth having or not having; they're just different in origin.
you've seen where it's taken me & i'm not sure you'd trade just to have that experience?
heck, i don't know where my gift receipt is either. :p
Jan 17, 2005 at 01:11PM | Unregistered Commentermar
i was asking myself some of these very same questions and thinking some of these very same thoughts just yesterday, m. i even wrote song lyrics about it. i'll send 'em to you one o' these days.

i'm curious, too, lance, about what you meant by "i'm so thankful that i'm a guy." expound please . . .
Jan 17, 2005 at 02:56PM | Unregistered Commenteramo
"i'd have to say the ache is the same depth having or not having; they're just different in origin."

ahhh... that's my point exactly. i'm not saying that one is worse than the other, or that i would prefer one over the other. both are painful, to be sure, but in vastly different ways.
Jan 17, 2005 at 03:26PM | Registered Commentermdog
glad i was able to get the point across. :D
Jan 17, 2005 at 03:53PM | Unregistered Commentermar
Lance I like what you said about "being in love with the Savior" yielding the fruit of loveliness (please forgive me if I'm putting words in your mouth and let me know if I am).

Really loving and receiving Christ's love seems to be absolutely crucial to enjoying anything in life, yet it seems to be something we grow into, something learned (i.e. not automatic). It seems to me that perhaps the more we learn about how to receive Christ's nearness and to love Him every moment, the more we realize similar principles apply to similarly enjoying the nearness of a person who bears His image and loving them consistently.

Moreover, if the concept, (or the prospect) of loving and being loved by a person who bears God's image is so compelling, how much more sweet, deeply and profoundy exciting and satisfying would it be to really be in love with God (really recieving and loving Him)? Yet, do you think we miss this? Do you think perhaps we've been so taken by His parable (marriage) that we've forgotten the sweetness His Loving Voice and we don't know how to identify (or recognize) our desire for Him? This I think is what God is patiently, gently clearing up for me and healing me of. If anyone has any thoughts, please share.

By the way, I appreciate everyone's honesty and the space to talk. Hope you enjoy learning to love and be loved in return. Share your experience.
Jan 17, 2005 at 05:48PM | Unregistered Commentercynthia
My name is Angie and I've never dated anyone, either.

The first step to recovery is recognizing your illness. Does this mean my days of singleness are over?

For me, Maria, it's the occasional loneliness not aloneness. I guess I'm sort of odd, but I enjoy my aloneness very much.
Jan 17, 2005 at 07:36PM | Unregistered CommenterAngie
My name is Steve and I've dated a few people in my day.

Sorry, Angie... it just sounded like group therapy for a minute.

I could add a lot to this, but I don't have the time right now to do it. And if I do, I'll be gracious enough to use my own bandwidth.

The girls that I'm exposed to work on a timeline. Many of them think that you need to meet a man in college. I'm in grad school now, and I swear to you that there are girls here that are here for that purpose and that purpose only. They "missed the boat" in college and are now in grad school to get their man. My school is a $38,000 per year boat ride.

I will mention, however, that it's so easy to pinpoint where other's relationships failed and, even long after, you are oblivious to where yours went wrong.

I could write more, but perhaps we shall save this for another time....
Jan 17, 2005 at 09:52PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
maria, i admire your words. honestly, this is group therapy isn't it? maybe i'm wrong. this is something that is REALLY hard for me to talk about, so i don't know how much will come out on a blog...but, i've close to zero dating experience. most of the time i feel like i'm abnormal and there is clearly something wrong w/ me b/c i haven't been chosen by anyone either. i don't know that i thought about it much until my senior year of college. i was always busy w/ other things, but figured in the back of my head it would happen someday. now that i've been out of college and now finished with grad school, i have to consider that i might be alone forever, well, at least i have Tally! it's so hard b/c i know that right now i'm not in the place mentally to handle a relationship and i'd like to concentrate on a nonexsistant career. on the other hand, i do feel so alone or lonely...however you want to word it. maybe society puts too much pressure on us to have found someone by now. didn't God create us to have a companion?

i couldn't imagine going through grad school only to find a husband! all that hard work and $$$$???? crazy.

i'd hope that i could wear pajamas all day if i felt like wearing pajamas all day.

hope i made some sense...thanks for this discussion!
Jan 17, 2005 at 11:21PM | Unregistered Commenterjoy
"Do you think perhaps we've been so taken by His parable (marriage) that we've forgotten the sweetness His Loving Voice and we don't know how to identify (or recognize) our desire for Him?"

welcome, cynthia. i really like this.

funny, i was just talking with a friend today about the definite 'group therapy' feel of blogging. feel free to therapize, but let it be known that i am not a licensed counselor in any way, shape, or form. :)

thank you, everyone, for the continuing discussion...
Jan 17, 2005 at 11:57PM | Registered Commentermdog
disclaimer #1: the whole pajama thing wasn't really about the pajama thing; it was really about the fact that i could do so and no one would be the wiser. i am certain that i will indeed wear pajamas all day at some point if the whole marriage thing pans out. so don't you worry, readers.

disclaimer #2: since posting this entry, i've been asked by a few people if i'm depressed or unhappy. the answer is NO. if i could sum up this entire entry in one sentence, i wouldn't say anything about loneliness or sadness or despair. i would say... some days, it just gets tiresome.
Jan 18, 2005 at 12:17AM | Registered Commentermdog
did i kill the discussion? anyone out there with more thoughts?
Jan 18, 2005 at 06:21PM | Registered Commentermdog
Wow, this was an incredible discussion. As a married person (who actually dated quite a bit before marriage) and a guy who has a LOT of single friends...and a pastor who talks about singleness with people...it was great for me to just read and not comment. I think married people can't say a lot about singleness without sounding shallow. People experience singleness differently. For many single people, there is a lot of pain about being single. For some...it's just a fact of life and they like it. Single or married...we were created for community...with both men and women. Maybe a question is "how well do men and women relate non-sexually?" Is it possible (of course I think it is) to have a fufilling male/female relationship and not be married. You single people...what do you think? (is it okay to ask another question on a blog?)
Jan 18, 2005 at 07:52PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul
[yep, that's okay, paul... though i may start a new entry for discussion.]
Jan 18, 2005 at 11:06PM | Registered Commentermdog
Strange, but I find comfort in responding to this here... a place where no one really knows me or situations I've been in. I could write things like this on my website, but in the past where I have, I received a barrage of "are you okay?" and "what's wrong?" Anyway, Maria, believe it or not, guys DO think and feel how you do... maybe on a different level. Do I think about it? Sure, sometimes. I'm number 6 of 8 children, the only one not married, the only one without a child. There's always pressure, but for the last 7 years my mind has been set on my personal goals of having a career. I've been too selfish to have a relationship occupy my time. I was in a relationship last year that went sour. Very sour. Am I gun-shy now? Yeah, you could say so. All of my friends are getting married and I'm still hanging out. Over Christmas I was talking with a friend about his relationship (he's been seeing a girl for 8 years now) and he said "If YOU get married before I do, then I know there's a problem." It's true, and I just laughed.

The pajama thing? GREAT idea. I hear that's a sport in some countries. Keep doing it.

And about God's plan? I think a lot of people like to get caught up in what they think God wants of them. It's quite bold of someone to think they know what an omnipotent being has planned. Whatever happens will happen. I believe things happen for a reason.

Paul: the answer to your question depends on the definition of "fulfilling". In my personal beliefs: no. Marriage is a blessing from God, the union of two souls. I don't know what could be more fulfilling than that.
Jan 18, 2005 at 11:19PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
New to the discussion...I think being proactive is a way to cure your tiresome. My thoughts are that you've got to get some experience. Dating is a time when you get a better idea of what "relationships" are all about. Not that your missing out. But rather the question is: Will a dating experience be significant to me personally and spiritually? Don't worry about getting your heart broken, it will happen. And at the end of the day your friends will help you through it. The important thing is what you learn personally from the experience.
Jan 18, 2005 at 11:52PM | Unregistered Commenterjames
Yeah, I have to disagree with you about the "getting some experience" experiment. Maybe I'm just old, but I'm past the point of dating for the sake of dating. It has nothing to do with my "dating experience" but rather I don't need to deal with the dating BS. Why date someone if you know it's not going to go anywhere? I'm not saying that I want to marry every person I'd date... it's just that it would be hard to "use" them for experience. I am a firm believer that you can get incredible relationship experience just by observing others. No lie. And James, please don't tell her outright that her heart will get broken. C'mon. I know many many people who have gotten to the point of marriage without a scarred heart. It can happen and it does happen.

Jan 19, 2005 at 12:11AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
wow ... it's amazing how much you can miss in two days when you're offline.

to answer those lingering questions ... i was referring to the fact that men and women do have different roles in relationships (including the "pursuit" thing you mentioned, mdog), and i don't envy (possibly because i don't identify with) the position that women are often left in.

plus, i just like being a guy. i don't think you want me to explain that in-depth here. :)
Jan 19, 2005 at 01:55AM | Unregistered Commenterlance
Hey Mdog-

I loved what you had to say with the "gift receipt" topic. I, through my own experiences, don't agree with the old saying, "it's better to have loved and lost than to have ever loved at all." I have loved and lost, and there are times I sit and wonder if it had been better to have not loved at all, and mostly, I feel like it would have been. Because for me, though I loved someone once, the Lord relentlessly, thankfully, chased me down and rescued me from that relationship that would have ended in marriage, had he not been merciful to step in. I walked out of it and went through a long and very painful process of healing. It wasn't of God. It was my own way. And the ramifications of that were huge. I see now that I should have surrendered that to Him. I wish I could say, like you, that I have a clean slate. If I find that right person that God selects, that I could come to him clean, unblemished, and innocent. I know that through the blood of Jesus, I can, but there is that history that is still there.
Though it may seem difficult at times, and please don't think I'm trying to talk at you on this, I just see from the other side of that, that I would love to be in your shoes. And I believe the Lord will honor you with the right person at the right time, and when it's so, you are giving him a wonderful gift. Maybe the Lord is keeping you until then for that reason, no unnecessary heartbreaks, no struggles, no messes of the past, clean and unvarnished, until that time comes. Anyways, just my take on it, I hope I haven't offended or overstepped my bounds here, just thought I'd offer another perspective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so vulnerably and beautifully.
Jan 19, 2005 at 10:17AM | Unregistered Commenternaturegirl
with my tendency to initiate, I wish I could be more 'proactive' without overstepping what seems to be a semi-gendered role of 'initiating' a 'relationship'.

and paul, this is obviously a subjective topic that changes from person to person, but from experience I've found that I, as much as I try otherwise, tend to at some point fall for the male friends who have passed a certain level of intimacy. intimacy has become kind of a girl word, but by that I mean sharing of heart-thoughts. in some cases we have gotten to that point because we are safe people, one or both is in another dating relationship. but then at some point both of us are single and we get along and it's like this weird impulse that 'it could work' morphs into 'it should work'.

Last night I was talking with a 'safe' guy I know and he shared his desire for a wife to be a friend first. on some level I agree with this, but in recent years I have switched from trying to limit my perception of relationships to either extreme -- what the church ("only date the person you know you want to marry") and culture ("if he's cute and nice, go ahead and hop in bed") say. I find myself lost in the muddle between the extremes, desiring authentic and diverse relationships, wanting to stay in touch with but apart from culture, and past the age when I'm interested in idle pursuits...

Jan 19, 2005 at 10:50AM | Unregistered Commenterrachel
Sure, I'll throw my story out there for the sake of the discussion.

I dated my high school sweetheart off and on over the course of five years. We were best friends first and remained friends even during the "off" times. From my limited perspective on relationships, I was pretty sure that this had to be the guy I was going to marry. Yeah, not so.

Then there was the Rebound Relationship, where I got wrapped up by a total charmer who was so many things the first guy wasn't -- I mean, the guy wrote poetry about me, for pete's sake. But this, too, ended when his charms got focused on another.

In a prayer of heartache, I finally told God the truth about how I was feeling. I didn't want to be "that girl" who only found her security in relationships. I didn't want to go from one boy to the next trying to find the proverbial "One". And basically, I just asked Him to take the desire to be in a relationship away from me until He knew I was ready to have one... the lasting one.

I have to say that He has completely honored that request. Not to say that no guy caught my eye over the years, but it was so refreshing to just live and enjoy people's company without spending my nights pining away for someone who wasn't really meant for me.

And yeah, the guy who makes my heart skip a beat... he wants to marry me too. And I know that I've grown during these years of singleness that have brought me closer to being the woman who he deserves as his wife.
Jan 19, 2005 at 06:02PM | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
so much i could respond to...

instead, i'll thank you again for the continued discussion...
Jan 19, 2005 at 06:23PM | Registered Commentermdog
Wow... have you been reading my mind mdog?!?

Totally concise and to-the-point thoughts... I want to print your post out and thumbtack it to my bulletin board.
Jan 22, 2005 at 01:05PM | Unregistered Commenterhappyhearn
be my guest. :)
Jan 22, 2005 at 01:08PM | Registered Commentermdog
i LOVE what not to wear!!

"a rejection from man; and a seeming rejection from all mankind"

wow, that hit hard.
your thoughts resonate deeply, and i have a million things to say yet nothing is coming, so i leave it with saying that i stand with you in this, that you are loved, loving, and loveable, and if it's not in your life or hasn't been in your life then it hasn't been part of God's plan in your life to date. rest assured that you are in good hands, that He has a purpose and plan for you with GOOD and wonderful thoughts towards you, not evil.

Jan 29, 2005 at 04:19PM | Unregistered Commenterlana

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>