There was a time during my unmarried years when I griped that the only women who were drawn to me were “old ladies, female relatives and little girls.” I wondered what was wrong with all the eligible bachelorettes who were overlooking me. I should have asked myself what was wrong with me. I might have realized that I was trying so hard to get dating right that I just ended up getting it weird.
Sometimes when I take my wife out to dinner, I look over, see a couple, and know it’s their first or second date. The signs are all there: the nervous chatter, the stiff posture and the forced laughter that says, “We. Are. Trying. To. Make. This. Work.” I look back on my own sometimes-awkward dating experience, and I don’t envy those folks.
It was April of 2002. I was single, living alone, and had no prospect of marriage in sight (nor would I for several years). But for some reason, I felt compelled to pick up my journal and write a prayer for my future wife. I prayed that if she was going through a hard time or making any bad decisions that God would give her the grace to move on and forgive herself. It seemed like the right thing to pray at that moment.
I entered my freshman year of college terrified of God and women – especially women. I wasn’t sure if either of them liked me, and I knew I had plenty of flaws that would make both of them want to reject me. The solution: I decided to abstain from dating.
My wife says our first date went well, despite the fact that I nervously interviewed her like I was Barbara Walters. On the other hand, our second date didn’t go so well because – um, how do I say this – after the concert I took her to a nice, little restaurant called – deep breath – okay, here I go – don’t-judge-me! – McDonald’s – yes, McDonald’s (I promise, there is a somewhat reasonable explanation).
“Dude, we’re just friends,” said the defensive 20-something sitting across from me. “It sure doesn’t look like a friendship to me or anyone else,” I said. “So I enjoy female companionship,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we have to date each other.”
Far and away, the most widely-read articles on this blog address the issue of Christian singleness. I get a lot of feedback from the singles who read them, the mothers who forward them to their grown children, and the angry readers who respond like I tried to rewrite the Old Testament. The article addresses “friendgirls,” that is, single women who find themselves providing intimate friendship to relationally needy men who never take the relationship anywhere romantically.
Cory, one of my happily married friends, was annoyed with some of his single, male buddies. “Joshua, it’s so irritating,” he said. “I suggest a woman to them, but they say ‘she’s not attractive enough,’ or she’s lacking in some other area. And here’s the crazy part: In every case — without exception — the woman is way out of their league.”
Lisa Wink, a friend from church, was 33-years-old and still wasn’t married in 2007, despite years of waiting for a husband. I probably would have asked her out if I were single, but I was already happily engaged to my 26-year-old fiance. “Josh, I’m serious. I’m at the end of my rope,” she said, standing outside church after a Christmas service. “It’s getting harder to believe I’ll ever get married.”
In my recent article, “Time for a Breakup,” I wrote about the inability of many single men to maturely initiate with women. My theory is that a lot of men have a basic problem: they are already committed, and there’s simply no room for someone else. That is, many of these guys have ongoing, highly involved relationships with (1) their imaginary girlfriends, (2) their moms, or (3) their tag-along “friendgirls.” This article evoked more of a reader response that anything I have written up until this point, especially regarding my point about unhealthy, “friendgirl” relationships between men and women. Though…
I live in a metropolitan area where the women outnumber the men by something like two to one. This is bad news for women who aspire to one day be married. The worst part is that so many of the single, heterosexual guys here don’t even appear to be trying that hard. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe it’s the man’s job to initiate when it comes to women – to make eye contact, to introduce himself, to ask a lady out, to plan a nice date, to go in for the first kiss, and so on.