To shift or not to shift?

Before I begin my long and passionate rant I should explain my ambiguous title for people who are not Irish or don’t actually know me. ‘Shifting’ is a term coined by the Irish which basically means hooking up with  another individual. This delightful activity generally occurs in public, when highly inebriated and is a particular favourite for anyone from the ages of fourteen and up. For those of us in college it is the gateway to finding a partner to have emotionless sexual activities with. It is gross, degrading, requires you to be without inhibitions and, if I am being truthful, can be quite addictive. This post is going to about relationships, clearly. I am single so obviously I may be a bit biased but I spend a good 90 per cent of my free time thinking about relationships so I feel I am more than expert enough. I want to talk aboutdating culture and the attitudes to dating in my generation as a whole and I also want to briefly touch on the Christian perspective which is sometimes at odds with modern culture but interestingly not always.

Many people ask me why I am still single at the ripe old age of 22. Not because of my overt attractiveness or that I am particularly noticeable to the opposite sex. It’s mostly because having reached this age it is pretty well known that I have never been in a relationship and yet, I have all the girl parts that boys like, I am fairly talkative and live in a country where pretty much anyone will shift anyone. My answer? I am waiting. Although for years it was not for lack of trying. I was the girl in school who was desperate for boys to like her. I was frightened of boys because they were so magnetic and had such power over how I saw myself, so I hid from them but I ached to be seen by one and be courted in a manner similar to Romeo and Juliet. In college I realised pretty quickly that one has to set aside all ideas of romance in order to catch the attention of a boy. So I tried very hard to give up the thoughts that I might be pursued by a guy and settled for casually going out for physical satisfaction. I recall living under this belief for the last few years, that if I look hot enough and flirt expertly a lad will be so enamoured by me he will chase after me. I deluded myself into going out to clubs, drunk and trying to find him, the ‘one’ who would make me feel pretty and happy and special. This was before I realised what it felt like to be loved by God and I craved the validation of guys. Everyone was doing it so why shouldn’t I? I never really thought about how other people my age responded to this culture so the other day I had a very honest conversation with a friend in my course. I was curious as to her thoughts. I was blown away by the fact that many of my own opinions were shared with her. She very validly spoke of how tired she was of nights out revolving around ‘getting the shift’ and it hurt her to see how devastated her friends were when they failed in going home with a guy. She and I huffed and puffed like old women about how woeful the dating world has become. Casual dating is an activity of self pleasure and for most people a means of self-validation. We as a generation are searching to be accepted as credible individuals by fulfilling the requirements of having a meaningful life as created by society. The driving force behind most social interaction and day-to-day living is the formulation of relationships, particularly romantic ones. Finding the perfect love partner in life is a measurement of success and a standard by which we define our worth. From this desire springs methods of searching, ways in which we can easily ascribe a purpose to our lives and thus legitimise our existence. Young people experiment with kissing games, college students have one-night stands, older people turn to online dating.  Life has become all about finding yourself in a partnership with another and people have lost what it means to find love in the presence of God.

A very tragic thing has occurred and that is the death of true courtship. We are becoming more ‘forward thinking’ globally, more open to ideas, living radically and freely and people are hell-bent on leaving behind traditions of the past such as marrying young. Gender roles in society have been so blurred that women are shying away from being honest about wanting relationships and men are cautious of taking the lead and being a gentleman. We strive to be seen as strong, ball busting, independent women who can handle emotionless casual relationships because ‘guys don’t want needy women’ and that vulnerability is not the way to make it in this world. Yet most women secretly live in the hope that one day one of those drunken fellas we throw ourselves at will want to date us and marry us and thus we will be fulfilled and happy in who we are because somebody loves us. We have lost intimacy, we have lost pursuit and we have lost the true meaning of relationship. In it’s place we have found instant gratification and faster ways to physical satisfaction. Technology has lowered barriers in having international relationships and connectivity but it has also broken down communication, taken away the effort of getting to know people and allowed for the normalisation of overtly sexual activities. Men live under the pressure that they won’t fit in with the guys if they don’t act in a wild, responsibility free ways and treat women in an obnoxious, objectifying way. This is ‘lad culture’. Women are afraid to have standards anymore, they don’t want to say no because we have been told over and over again that if we don’t ‘put ourselves out there’ we will be alone forever, single and unhappy in life. Being alone is portrayed a million times over as being less of an individual then those who are coupled up and this is heartbreakingly the ‘modern day woman’ culture. Individuals are compromising their identity in order to find romantic love and be accepted by their peers and themselves.

Being brought up a Christian means over the years I have felt scrutiny and pressure to find a relationship and form a family, and not only from the older Christian generation. The idea of settling down young is a traditional idea, not one that is in tune with society nowadays and yet I have always felt an expectation on me that I would find my husband in college. Now, if I was to do that while in college in Ireland my choice would be limited to either one of the few single Christian Irish lads, it is a very small pond, or more than likely I would have to choose an Irish lad. Unfortunately, while there are great guys out there lad culture is not one that truly understands what it means to be in relationship with someone. I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t want to date just anyone, I want to be with someone who will not only have value in themselves but seeks to value me and not simply be with me to satisfy their insecurities or fulfill their needs. I want to be made to feel that what I have to say has worth and that I don’t have to apologise for being the weird person I am, just like I want to do that for them in return. So in a way I am satisfying the Christian standard, I am being careful about dating, being considerate and learning to love Jesus above all else but I am doing it in my own time and I am trying to relax about the fact it still hasn’t happened. I have a friend who is thirty, she is single and has a beautiful, honest relationship with Jesus. I admire her greatly and she is fairly satisfied with her relationship status. Yet people still express shock and dismay that she has not settled down “at her age” and it is sad to see this. As Christians there is an expectation that we should be searching for a partner but also that we have to not appear to be wanting one. Christian women often feel the need to live the identity of being ‘married to God’. This is one we present to others and perpetuate even if we don’t know it. We don’t want to appear desperate and so we go too far the other way to meet the standards expected of us. We act like we don’t even want a man because a good Christian woman is fully satisfied by the God. Yes we only NEED God, but most of us do want an earthly romance it is part of who we are and so many young women feel they can’t let guys know they want to be pursued. It is undoubtable truth that we don’t need a man to make us a legitimate person but we are women and the heart of women was made to be loved and even more wonderfully to give love to someone. I love the fact that I can be wrecked by the love of God over and over again and not feel that I have to be out desperately searching for a man to make me feel whole. I am slowly but surely putting aside my unrealistic concepts of love however,  I cannot wait to truly have a relationship with someone.

Am I happy being single? Yes and no. Some days I wake up and I am fine spending my time with myself and working on my relationship with God. Other days I wake up and I feel very alone and bombarded with images of all the romance I could have but don’t. I am not perfect. I enjoy the single life, I have been in it a while but I’m not going to lie. I want to be chased by a guy, I want to be greeted with a beaming grin just for me and I want to have a guy love me. However, I am coming to know that I don’t need it to be happy, that in myself I can be a whole person because I do wake up every morning loved and that is by my best friend Jesus. Cheesy I know, but it is so refreshing to not be constantly feeling like I am a failure because I don’t have a boyfriend. I know that somewhere out there is someone as weird and messed up as me who I will have great craic being with, and when my person and I do enter into a relationship it will be as two people wholly independant but ready to become a part of the change that God is constantly working in the other. I am hoping I will see him soon but in the meantime I am gonna work to become the daughter God wants me to be. So we shall see how it goes.

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