One of the reasons I felt I needed a break from blogging over the summer was the intensity with which I had posted during June and July, both in terms of volume, and the topic. I’d often rise early write in my favourite spot for an hour or two and then head into work. I was often emotionally as well as physically exhausted. I’ve always tried to write with as much frankness as I can muster and it took its toll.
Which is why when I turned my mind to what I might write about upon my return relationships were further down than the bottom of my list. I was positively determined to steer clear.
Yet as I worked my way through the aspects of life that the phenomenon of the quarter life crisis affects I realised that avoiding talking about relationships would be doing exactly what I fear we do all too often. That is, push to one side the inconvenient and challenging topics and cling to what is safe, known and under our own control.
Emily Maynard wrote a cracking post a couple of days ago about the recurrence of inquiries about ‘why are you not married?’. I think it’s slightly different from a guy’s perspective, I don’t think it comes so frequently, but rather than the sympathy that is perhaps attached (but not always appreciated) when directed at women, for men there is built into the question an element of criticism. That’s because in the church one of the seemingly irrefutable facts is that women outnumber men. Also, as men and women age through their late twenties and beyond, it is women who see the biological countdown with greater clarity.
When the question comes there is always a hint of the underlying questions, either, ‘why haven’t you got your act together?’ or ‘why are you being so picky, there are lots of stunning girls at church?’. And yes I’m guilty of the first charge and I agree with at least the second clause of the latter critique.
What most often provokes the question is when I bake a cake, or brownies, or a pavlova, or decide on a whim to spend an entire Saturday creating a unique, never to be replicated dessert concoction. Then the question is a little different, it’s usually backed up with: ‘any woman would be grateful for a husband who can cook’. Ignoring for now the incredible gender stereotypes in such a statement, such a question places incredible pressure, am I supposed to use edible goods as my principle flirting mechanism?
The other prompt for the gentle prising open of my romantic commitments, or lack thereof, is when I’m in the company of either of my incredibly beautiful nieces. They’re 18 and 15 months old (each other’s cousin) and generally amazing. The occasional case of mistaken identity as their father is quite fun, but sometimes I manage to successfully pacify them, and then the observation comes once again…
Coming back to the quarter life crisis theme this comes into play because I have too many choices. My friends and colleagues, with their not always subtle critique, have a point. I am overwhelmed with choice. There are many incredible women who if in a different situation, with less choice, I may well view in a more romantic light.
But my hopes are built for that experience, that attraction, which transcends the normal. The defining feature of what makes life special seems to be that which lifts us from where we are and onto another plane. Relationships, and the romance within them, are heralded as the hosts of such achievement.
From a personal perspective, for most of my life I simply shrug it off and move on. But this makes me inoculated from the promise of relationships. It makes me view it as something that is even further away from my present state. It allows me to think in abstract concepts and not engage with what the challenge might actually be. I don’t have to become comfortable in my life outside of marriage if I don’t consider that an important part of me.
I respond to choice by running away. Scared of opting for an imperfect solution I prefer to delay resolution altogether. I let it linger in the air, I wait for too long to decide whether or not I – in that most infantile of phrases – fancy a particular person. I hang on to attraction even when I know that it is going nowhere, I hold it like a comfort blanket that doesn’t satisfy but constantly offers the promise that maybe one day it will.
During the frenzy of posts earlier in the summer Jennie Pollock wrote a guest post for me, Singleness is not a prelude, and it has attracted quite a lot of attention. It’s a really good call for contentment in where God has placed you. In it Jennie challenges our view of singleness: “our cultural attitude to singleness – particularly within the church – is similar to my attitude to my life in OM: it’s fun, but it’s not the real thing. It’s the phase you have to get through while waiting for your real life to start.”
The quarter life crisis is about wanting adventure and change, and a life that does not disappoint. But when the adventure carries the risk of disappointment we are pulled in different directions, some pursue the adventure and some avoid disappointment. Unfortunately the adventure is always a gamble.
What questions about relationships do you find hardest to handle? Do they cause you to question you place, identity and security?