This is not a post about dating, at least not really. It’s about me. It is about you. It’s about men and it is about women.
Twice in the past few weeks I have found myself in formal discussions about marriage, and being the only single person present I was turned to for the single person’s perspective. And here is the first problem: everyone is different.
Don Miller has written a couple of long posts giving advice for guys and girls on how to live a great love story. And following the comments on twitter led me to Ally Spott’s blog, and in particular a great guest post from Darrell Vesterfelt. It also took me further, delving into the hinterland of advice available for young (and those growing less young) Christians approaching relationships.
My first reaction is of quiet rebellion, resisting the broad generalisations in how guys and girls behave. I want to insist that I am not like that, and neither are many of the guys I know. I also want to reject the thinly veiled chauvinism that is often masqueraded as male headship. I also wanted to respond but had no outlet, so I started this blog.
One more piece of context before I kick off with some thoughts of my own. A couple of weeks ago the question of masculinity in the church got a whole lot of prominence on the interweb because some guy who leads a relatively large church as well as a baying legion of hipsters made a rather crass remark about effeminate worship leaders. #effemigate sparked a flurry of posts rejecting its bullying mentality. I also picked ‘Why Men Hate Going To Church’ by David Murrow off my sister’s bookshelf, and ploughed through it with exponentially mounting frustration.
I grew up in a church with lots of young people, and lots of young people who didn’t really date. So when Joshua Harris was at the height of his popularity his words didn’t really hit home. I also adopted a classic posture of British superiority – ‘well that might be how it is in the states, but here we’re much more civilised’. I now go to a church with hundreds of young adults in central London, most of whom (70% plus) are single, and by that I mean single, not just not married but not in relationships. So while the criticism of casual dating that was at it’s peak a few years back rang hollow the current meme of why Christians aren’t dating more hits home with a lot more force.
There’s quite a head of steam behind it at the moment, it is a conversation I have with remarkable frequency: why aren’t guys asking girls out?
Darrell’s post touches on the question of pursuit and initiation and the conversation goes on in the comments, settling around the idea that it is the man’s job to pursue but that shouldn’t stop the girl from initiating. I think the question resounding from the cheap seats is: what on earth does this look like? Initiating but not pursuing?
Pursuit is in danger of becoming the concept around which we define the male role in relationships. And the problem with that is it makes it like a quest, and it appeals to the rather tarnished idea of conquest. Me man, win woman.
John Eldridge, David Murrow and co have this idea of men lugging huge tree trunks up a mountain and making fire from a squirrel’s tail. And that’s the kind of masculinity I have the most affinity for. Except I also know girls that like adventure and the great outdoors, and believe it or not, I know guys who like to crochet.
I know effeminate men, I know strong women. We label characteristics with pejorative adjectives, strong women might be described as butch. It is less manly to be effeminate and less ladylike to be aggressive.
And this is where I think Mark Driscoll gets it wrong, we should affirm and validate people for who they are, not who we think they should be. I do not deny that men and women are different, but there are as many differences within each gender as between them.
If we centre our understanding of masculinity and femininity on difference, and the idea of man as pursuer, provider and protector, there is an ensuing impact on how guys view girls. Even the language conveys meaning, to be a ‘guy’ is strong and compatible with being an adult. Whereas, ‘girl’ kind of runs out of steam, it pigeon holes women pre-marriage into a childlike state, a boy becomes a guy but a girl remains a girl.
The corollary of man as adventurer, is too often to see woman as meek and mild. And it is this casually dismissive posture that makes me shudder. I think guys do need to man up, but this doesn’t mean that women are neutered.
Masculinity and femininity are not two mutually exclusive life forms, they are both found to some extent in everyone. How we talk about men and women in relationships should reflect this diversity and not try to expel it.
Maybe that’s a controversial enough statement to finish on…
I told you this wasn’t really about dating, but the next one will be: ‘In defence of guys not asking girls out’.