So… We can’t just be friends?

Ages ago, I watched a really silly interview with Steve Harvey, where he essentially reeled off all the generalised sayings about men and women that’s made him money over the years. There was one comment he said that made me laugh. How ludicrous! I thought. Why do people buy his relationship books? Surely he’s a man who’s become a parody of himself without even knowing it! In the interview, he’d said that men and women can never be “just friends” because the man is always thinking about sex; in his mind, as long as he’s close to her there will always be a chance for him. Obviously I’m uncomfortable with how similar this sentiment is to the “friendzone” mindset: when a man just doesn’t know his boundaries and decides that pushing himself onto a woman is the best way to ignore her stance that she really is just his friend, and in response to his rejection he hurls abuse at her for “friendzoning” him (or sometimes worse).

I shook my head at Steve Harvey, because I’ve never believed that to be true. It was just another stereotype based on pseudoscience and biological determinism about the crazed, feral, explodingly strong libido that heterosexual men have which means that if you’re not going to sleep with them, shut up and leave ’em alone.

Until now, I suppose…

Let me explain: I don’t believe the biological determinist lark, but recently I’ve been hurt by certain events that have left me disappointed in a few people—men—who I thought were my friends, but who now live a nonexistence in my life that I find quite worrying. They have both been alluded to in previous blog posts, and I would love to link to said posts, but it’s half-past ten in the evening; I start at 9am tomorrow and it just seems too long. I’m only writing at this time because I’ve had these thoughts in my head all day and I need to get them down.

Both of these guys were… not “love interests” by any means, but they were (in my mind) potentials. One of them used to message me often on Facebook and we used to chat and pray together on Skype or on the phone; he invited me to his church once, which was nice. Now, these things aren’t extraordinary, but he did this thing that I now know a lot of church guys do for a reason I still don’t understand. He had this habit of talking to me about marriage and kids and homelife. He even recommended that I read Adventist Home and used to always talk to me about relationships. In fact, he once asked me if I was seeing anyone. I took this to mean he was interested, but one day, he posted a picture online of his girlfriend (a woman who never came up in any of our conversations), and I withdrew a bit. I was shocked. This was my first experience of the “church way” and I didn’t like it. In my opinion, all the evidence showed that he had played about with me a bit. If he’d told me there was another woman from the start I would have known where I stood and continued correspondence as friends.

The friendship I shared with guy number two was too intense. As I think about it, I cringe. He told me very personal things about himself (that I still and will always keep to myself); I spoke to him about personal things; we spoke almost daily either on the phone or on Skype; he told me he was attracted to me and just when I thought things were going somewhere, he said I was more like a sister to him and that he didn’t mean to make me think we were going places. At this, I was angry. I felt as though he had called my heart out and I felt vulnerable because until then, I didn’t realise I was still trying to come to terms with a fairly recent instance of unrequited love. It made me really reassess myself; I put a lot of blame onto my actions and I was paranoid because I felt as though I would never get this relationship thing right. After a very tense and difficult and uncomfortable conversation with Guy Two, we almost stopped speaking.

Today, I can’t really say I’m friends with either of these men. With the first, we don’t even like each other’s statuses, let alone private message. With the second, he’s changed his number twice and has decided not to give me either of them—and I’ve been texting the wrong number for a long time. I don’t even know what he’s doing with his life or if he’s doing well, which is a shame. Now it’ll be awkward for us to talk again because it just won’t be the same.

Now, I wonder if the relationships I had with these guys were genuine, of if they were only used as tools to see my character and if I would be a good match for them. When it didn’t work out, they discarded me, which I don’t think is fair. Did I ever have a true connection with them, or what is all one-sided?

I realise now, that some guys really can’t be “just friends”. Of course, this is only my take on it and there could be a reason why we’ve all lost contact, but from where I’m standing, it looks as though they’ve both terminated whatever contribution I made to their lives.

Until next time…

xXx

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Proverbs 31

It’s a beautiful passage in the Bible in which the image of a “Woman of God” is described. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether this emphasis on young women in church being a “Proverbs 31 Woman” causes more harm than good.

There are constant pressures in the world telling us what women should be. Modelling agencies tell us to be size zero; everyone else wants a “real woman”: curvy and rounded. We shouldn’t be sluts, but we also shouldn’t play hard to get; we should either straighten our hair or be “natural beauties” and join the movement of big chops and dreadlocks. Going into the realm of Ethnic minorities, we should remember our places in the home and not follow the western women into wanting independence and equality. I get annoyed at these pressures, as would a lot of people—man or woman—and I know God alleviates some of this by setting equal requirements in the Bible for what a man and a woman should be together.

It’s just starting to niggle at me that there is now a requirement within church to be the Ultimate Woman. The Proverbs 31 Woman. Hey, to me, there’s nothing wrong with women encouraging one another, praying and helping one another to hold on to Christ, but I’m noticing that the level of a woman’s virtue, her sexual purity and her obedience is starting to cloud the desires of women and men in particular. These things shouldn’t be a man’s concern, but similar to the world, the church places a lot of value on a woman’s sexual prowess. I know males who have had their “fun”, they’ve been out in the world, sleeping around, breaking hearts and whatnot, who would have a real problem if their future wife wasn’t a virgin. Not only is that hypocrisy, it’s sexist and downright hurtful: it’s in her past. Let it go.

I do find it strange when I hear young men going on and on about pure, holy, submissive and virtuous women. It sounds oppressive. Life is hard enough for women without us coming into church and being told we need to be virtuous and pure. The more I hear such things is the more I feel a life of celibacy is the one for me. Perhaps God is calling me to that life? I’m not sure.

But anyway, this is just something I was thinking about today. I’m beginning to feel the pressure, I suppose. I’ve been called a “humble” and “virtuous” woman, amongst other things (by men), and I still don’t know what that means. Is it because I’m quiet? That I don’t wear high heels? That I wear a hat to church? That I wear knee-length skirts? That I’m a virgin? Or that I’ve never been in a relationship? Or am I being overly cynical?

The mind wanders.

The Boardroom

 

There were five members on the panel. Each man stood for an invaluable asset to the company; their strengths were envied by some and revered by others. Walking into the boardroom, I felt nervous but I knew that I had a chance. The director of the group, Lay Preacher, inclined his head as I sat down to face them.

“Morning,” said Evangelist. “God’s greetings.”

“Hey,” I said with a smile.

Bible Worker tutted. I heard him mutter “that won’t do” and I immediately questioned his utterance.

“You see, Miss Phoenix,” said Missionary, “we’re looking for something special. At the moment, we’re not too sure about you.”

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Your skirt for a start,” said Elder. “Where is it? Knee length is too high!”

I squirmed against their admonishing glare. This wasn’t an interview; it was a trial, spot lights and all.

“The thing is,miss,” said Lay Preacher, “we like humble women. A Proverbs thirty-one woman. We’re not sure you’re the one for us.”

There’s a lot of relationship advice circling the internet these days. There’s even more in church. I’m not sure what’s happened, but the recent church trend is an early marriage—I heard of one second-year university student tying the knot the other day. It’s like a mating season; everyone wants to get with someone and with it comes relationship books, DVDs, CDs and seminars. Then people start making their “list of standards”. Standards are fine, but there’s a problem when your standards make you come across as spiritually superior.

Both men and women in church have a habit of looking for their partner, rather than allowing God to choose for them. We’re limited by what we can see, so our requirements can at times be silly and superficial. There are girls out there looking for their “men of God”, always chasing after the guys who preach and do missionary work in their droves. My nature causes me to be healthily suspicious of such people, not because preaching and missionary work is wrong, but because those things are very much outward displays of piety. What are these men like on their “off” days, when no one is looking to praise them?

I have a friend who is one of those guys. He does a lot of work in church, eldering and whatnot, and he has caught the attention of a few people. When we were talking about relationships and our personal preferences, he kept on referring to himself in the plural.

“What we like is … What we’re looking for is girls who are…”

It took me almost a week to process that his usage of “we” was strange, arrogant almost. It gave the impression he was talking on behalf of an elite, exclusive company; drawing up a checklist of all the traits a Godly woman must have and screening the cream of of the crop in church. It confirmed my suspicions. When people compare their potential mate to their own spirituality i.e., looking at the situation on the surface, a problem is bound to occur.

Remember, folks:

But the LORD said unto Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”*

Shouldn’t that be proof enough to let God take control of everything? I don’t actually mind relationship advice; I like talking to my elders at church, older people who I respect and whose marriages are still intact and asking them how they would go about seeking a partner; I like talking about it with my dad, who always has something interesting to say; I don’t even mind a study on it every now and then, but this sudden onslaught of information is madness.

(Does this blog post ironically count as dating advice as well???)

So anyway, I’ve decided not to concern myself too much with all this stuff. I’m sure once you get into the right relationship it’s great, and I can’t wait for that experience, but at the moment, I’m going to take my time with it—I’m still young, after all.

So it looks like I’ll have to step out of the boardroom. It’s pretty brutal in there.

xXx

*1 Samuel 16:7