If you keep up with the right bloggers online (or, if you haven't blocked my updates on Facebook and Twitter yet), you're probably aware of Rachel Held Evans prompting a week of discussing mutuality and egalitarian marriage (as opposed to complementarian marriages that place the man in position of being the head of the family, regardless of the two individuals' gifts and personalities). At least in evangelical circles, the complementarian philosophy is extremely popular and often abused.
It probably comes as no surprise, considering my viewpoints on politics, scripture interpretations, and education, that I'm a lifelong egalitarian.
I've read dozens of articles and blog posts (not to mention hundreds of comments) over the past week and a half, and my emotions have yo-yo'ed all over the place. I've also encountered several discussions that deal with those of us who haven't found our future spouses (and who may or may not ever do so). As such, I've been doing a lot of thinking, meditating, and mental wrestling about any number of related topics, and it's difficult to know where to start when it comes to articulating my response. The more I read the wide range of responses from the men in this whole discussion, however, the more I realized how this whole debate (not just in the past week and a half, but all my life) has affected my life. It comes down to two major areas: careers I've considered and decided against, and potential romantic relationships (and, by extension, potential for marriage).
I'm not going to spend much time discussing the career aspect. I'm comfortable and at peace about the direction in which I'm heading, and while certain expectations of women from patriarchal perspectives may have [directly or not] prevented my going into ministry, I don't regret my decision to take this path (only my not doing so a few years ago instead of now). I'm also not going to spend time in this entry debating the subject--just read through some of the incredibly intelligent blogs posted on the Synchroblog to find out why I lean the way I do.
No, what I've thought about the most over the past couple of days is how this dichotomy of different approaches to gender relations has almost certainly been a major catalyst in my having not dated anyone beyond a first date in all of my twenty-eight years.
For one thing, I know for a fact that if Mr. Future Boyfriend or Husband and I do not have a common ground in some key areas, we're probably going to butt heads more than is healthy in a long-term relationship, and since I tend to get my feelings all wound up in a debate, there are definitely some areas where we'd have to have quite a bit in common, but most importantly, these areas:
Faith. I'm not too caught up in finding someone with my exact same theological leanings, but we do need to have that foundation. Too much of what I do and think and say and live stems from my faith and my wrestling with ideas that challenge my understanding of it. I probably wouldn't be a good fit, though, for someone who is a Biblical literalist or who sees the world as only black and white, good and bad, etc.
Politics. Yes, politics. Now, I'm sure I'd get along pretty well with someone a little more moderately leaning than I lean toward the left, but because my convictions for viewing the government's role in our lives are so deeply ingrained in my emotional gravitation toward compassion and not letting people fall through the cracks when life gets the better of them, I would almost certainly would get into some pretty emotionally nasty debates with a partner who leans to the far right and who claims, "They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps!" Yup. I'd definitely see red there. Note this though: I'm not talking about friends and platonic friendship--I have this rule only for those with whom I'd have a more intimate relationship than even my best girl-friends and guy-pals.
Creativity. No, I don't mean he has to be just as creative as I am. But I do have a creative person's temperament and stereotypical sensitivity. So for me, it's necessary that any partner of mine at least know how to (A) appreciate and respect my creative drive, and (B) know how to read the signs of my emotions or how to not hit the hot buttons (I'm not good at hiding my emotions, anyway, so the trick is just to know how to tread carefully when I'm in a particular zone).
Willingness to Not Have Biological Children. It ain't happenin' here. It's part personal choice, and part genetic reason for not wanting to pass on certain conditions that make life very difficult, and part the physical risk that I would be taking with my body due to several deformities. I'm open to adoption, but as for my body, I've already decided to schedule tubal ligation before my marriage begins. If a man cannot deal with not passing along his own genes via my body, he's not right for me, and I'm not right for him.
Feminism. I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities regardless of gender, and (pertaining to egalitarianism) roles in a marriage based on individual skills and personalities, not predetermined cultural gender "requirements." Any man who disagrees with this concept (in other words, if he is not a feminist) is not going to get very far in a relationship with me. I am a strong woman who both does and does not fit into the cultural "norms" of "femininity." Putting me in a box will just end up creating a ticking time bomb--something's gonna have to give, and since I'm quite hard-headed, well...
Multiple Interests. I've spent some time on some dating sites, and one of the biggest red flags for me is someone who talks about one thing all the time, whether it be God, sports, or any other topic, even ones with which I agree or share an interest. Look, I'm a Christian. I love Jesus. But I'm also human with secular interests. While my faith can and does influence how I react in many, many facets of my life, I don't talk about the Lord every waking moment of the day. Heck, I don't think about the Lord all the time, either. In fact, because I've witnessed spiritual abuse in many forms, I don't trust someone who does talk about Jesus all the time. Who is that holy besides the Lord? It strikes me as being either false piety or, at the very least, a personality that would make me feel like a dirty soul no matter what I did or said. In other words... be real. There's more to life than _______. Seriously.
Now, this is not a huge list. There are a couple other items (for example, no smoking, someone not quite my biological parents' age (46, 47) or older, and I'd prefer being with someone who hasn't been married before, at least for my first ever relationship), but even if I included those items, it's still a short list. But...
There is a but.
I live in the Ozarks, in Missouri. The conservative Bible belt. There are people around here like me, but we don't always encounter one another. So, to find someone who is Christian (but not overly pious), not hell-bent on passing on his own genes, moderate/independent/democratic, egalitarian, feminist, and supportive of my passions with whom I have chemistry in this area of the country, well...
...it does suddenly make sense why I've never had a boyfriend. I may not have unreasonable expectations, but that combination isn't exactly everywhere around here. Besides, there's this one internet meme that rings particularly true with me:
And incidentally, my dad's the one who exemplifies pretty much most of that list. A man's got a pretty tough example to which he has to live up to win my heart. :)
Besides... as much as I'd love to have a relationship, I've finally arrived to that place in my life where, if it never happens, it's no biggie (most days, anyway). It's a good place to be.