Monday, February 2, 2015

AWPATT XV: January 17-February 2 (Thoughts 231-247)

231 It’s got to be a good sign when I can go this long without deferring to saying, “I hope she’ll be friendly.” I’ve perused enough dating profiles from time to time (mainly out of curiosity, wanting to see what’s out there) that I’ve had ample opportunity to be dismayed by the shallowness, not of desire (it’s hardly a lousy character trait to want to be around friendly people) but of the amount of thought put into what people are looking for. My anecdotal survey of sites like these turned out that the vast majority of ‘what I’m looking for’ sections, at least for women, say something like “a guy who can make me laugh,” “a guy with a beard/tattoos,” “a guy my friends will like,” “a guy who doesn’t say ‘your’ when he should say ‘you’re’,” “a guy who’s taller than me,” “a guy who can go out or stay home,” “a guy who can keep up with me.”

If you thought I was superficial when I talked about height in Thoughts #50-52, you should see some of these profiles. I was just analyzing subconscious inclinations in myself, but made no hard statement categorically excluding different heights from “wife potential.” But for many girls on dating sites, it’s serious, or at least one of the only things they put thought into. But what I notice when I see those statements is that there’s next to nothing you can learn about a person’s character based on their meeting those criteria. Some profiles will pretend that there’s more to be worked through once she’s interested already, but that just sets you up for a high rate of frustration, because your filter isn’t tuned well enough.

Yes, I want someone friendly, but in person, that’s the first thing I notice, and ultimately it’s a given, so it almost doesn’t even enter into the consideration of what sort of a woman I’m looking for. I have deeper compatibility concerns in mind than the utmost superficial things imaginable. And I’m looking for someone with a similar depth of forethought in their relationship plans. Statements like the ones I quoted show carelessness and possibly intellectual stupidity, and that’s a turnoff, so I avoid people like that, but without being disrespectful.

232 I don’t believe I mentioned being interested in a studious woman. I’ve talked about intelligence, knowledge, that she’s careful to think about things before making decisions, but not specifically about the pursuit of knowledge in itself. While someone who goes to school for the sake of schooling, and to insulate themselves from reality, is not highly appealing, someone who’s had a certain measure of achievement in terms of education will stand out. Now, pretentious Type-A’s are exhausting to be on the receiving end of, so not every personality type is made more magnetic by the increase of education. For some, it reveals abhorrent ego issues. But perhaps more important is the question of whether you can learn outside of structured academia. Someone who pursues learning on their own time is like someone who exercises regularly. They’re not content to languish with what they already have, but are honing it, to get better and better, for themselves and others. That is the root attitude that will benefit any relationship. Because someone who thinks they can improve is someone who isn’t likely to think that they’ve “already arrived,” and thus is less apt to be arrogant. It’s not a guarantee, as I mentioned, but a woman who is reading and learning on her own time is more interesting to me because of what it implies about her character.

233 Noses! Do you like ‘em big or small? It’s one of those things that I don’t typically notice, like prescription eyeglasses, but when I do, it’s temporarily amazing, as I look around and compare others’ to appreciate the variety. I don’t think I like flattened or broad noses very much, but I’ve been intrigued by noticing that a diversity in relative size can still be attractive to me. I remember reading somewhere, where Song of Solomon was being referenced, that large noses were considered appealing in Hebrew culture (Song makes a big deal out of the Shulamite woman’s nose in one section). It’s funny, considering that from ancient Egyptian images of Hebrews to modern day stereotypes, Jews are characterized as having big noses. This is in the back of my mind every time I notice an attractive woman who has a noticeably larger than average nose. I suppose I don’t mind them if they have an isosceles shape, have no bumps on the ridge, and aren’t over-bulbous or over-pointy. Longer better than shorter. Thinner rather than thicker. It’s not usually that I think about what shape of someone’s nose might be more attractive, but I suppose it’s one of the subconscious impulses in your mind, like head shape, eye spacing, etc, that work together to give you the instant reflex of “that’s good looking,” or “that’s kinda odd,” even if you can’t quite put your finger on what makes that person different from others. Maybe it’s the nose.

234 That thought came from noticing a very friendly woman’s nose in one of my prerequisite courses I’m taking. I’m diverting to talk about light subjects before beginning an excursus on “how to approach dating when dating isn’t the focus/goal/objective.” In each of my classes, there are 5 or less males, making the ratio something like 1:6 or 1:5 men to women in each respective course. This is a little odd. I realize the field might be less interesting to men, but the vast difference could have more to do with a simple, unemphasized detail that I’ve been noticing in trend reports for higher education. There’s less and less men, percentage-wise, in higher ed courses, the higher you go. Amazingly, the focus of grants and government projects is still on getting more women to go to school, but the tables have already turned. It’s something like a 40-60% split in the makeup of men and women who attain baccalaureate degrees in this country (unless perhaps it was Master’s). What are the possible consequences of this? Statistics show that more boys are born than girls, so it’s not explained by population. There is a huge chunk of males missing from classrooms. What are the possible reasons, or consequences? Who knows? No one’s funneling resources to investigate; it’s as if men don’t matter. Oh, I’m not bitter. It’s just as easy to take the alternate view, that “women need the help, men don’t.” But I refuse to take either one. It’s just a fact that no one is obligated to help me, so whether they do or don’t, the responsibility is still on the individual to pursue educational success. But I can’t help but wonder if, given the dramatically high gender disproportion in these classes, it might be within a course or within the field itself that I meet my future wife, just looking at it from a statistical possibility perspective. There’s scarcely anywhere else I could interact personally with so many women close to my age, except for bars/clubs/concerts or church-related youth events. For a middle ground in terms of the chance of meeting a wholesome virtuous lady, the classroom is not a terrible place to be.

235 Addendum to Thoughts #22 & 199. What are the chances that I’ll end up with a younger woman? As recently as a year or two ago, I would defiantly have refused the notion that I wouldn’t marry someone within a half year of my age. But that’s idealism, and the realistic outcome might be different. Should I refuse someone who’s perfect in every other way but happens to be 5 years my junior (if I’m 28 and she’s 23, for example)? The older I get, the more likely this becomes, because the margin of what’s appropriate expands with age. Up to now, if I had entered a relationship with someone 2 years younger, they’d have been 21 or less. But now, 2 years younger is 23, which is not quite so young as to have a high likelihood of being immature or naïve. Since I probably won’t seriously look for a spouse until age 27-28, anticipating a solid career by that time, the idea that I’d get to know someone now who’s 22, and maintain a friendship until then, when she’d be 25, is not very far-fetched.

I think the reason I’m resistant and cautious to contemplating a relationship with someone 5-7 years younger, other than the difference in life experience, is that for most of my life up to now, such an age difference would have been monumental and clearly inappropriate: 18 and 13 year olds? 22 and 15 year olds? Eeugh. But people who are 33 and 25 routinely marry, and the brute age difference is even wider there. But they are in the same age group. Adults. Because people mature irrespective of their biological age, it could be that a marriage to a 23 year old, at age 28, would be wiser than to a 27 year old who is far more foolish. Just letting the thought hit me as actually concerning me, and not just as a distant hypothetical, is a source of amazement to consider.

The really weird thing about it is pondering where such a person would be now. If I married a 23 year old at age 29, then by the time I met her and became engaged, we’d have been 22 and 28, meaning that there’s a possibility that a woman like that would just now be graduating high school, or a freshman or sophomore in college. In other words, I’d have no hope of meeting her now, anyway. Our life trajectories don't intersect at this time. So it may be several years before I’m engaged, not only because I’m waiting to get a career and stable income, and not only because I want to be careful to find the right person, but even because, if the ‘playing field’ is too devoid of suitable candidates my age, my future wife COULD BE, because of our age difference, not even here yet. Not arrived on scene. Somewhere else entirely.

What a mind-boggling thought.

236 Taking those last two thoughts together, there’s a real possibility that I might either meet someone in church or at university, while taking courses to get where I want to get. And they might be significantly younger. Respect for them would demand that I don’t make their life more difficult by ‘jumping the gun,’ and inadvertently pressuring them to commit long before the opportunity for engagement arises. But if they turned out to be fond of me, and for those years did not enter a relationship with another young man, then that would be gratifying. I can see myself like Boaz (paraphrasing), “you’ve shown me more kindness than before, because you could have had any younger man you wanted, but did not.” (Ruth 3:10) It’s equally likely that I can’t find anyone there, either, however, and may nevertheless resort to a dating site later on, but only God knows. I have the opportunity to wonder now, that I may marvel later.

How to Approach Dating when Dating isn’t the Focus, Goal, or Objective

237 The No, No, No rule: No commitment means no entanglement. No exceptions.

238 Be wise about crossing subconscious boundaries. Follow the traditionalists’ lead, and ladies, don’t go over to his house alone, and gentlemen, don’t put her in that situation. Take it off the table.

239 Don’t give the appearance of sin. In today’s world, having any sort of boy-girl relationship leads people to make the assumption you’re having sex. So don’t give the impression you’re in one (because you’re not!), and don’t play around with PDA. Don’t use terms of ‘endearment’ for each other. Literally, don’t touch (1 Corinthians 7:1)

240 Embrace formality. It gives you clear boundaries and helps you maintain a consistent pattern of behavior with integrity toward each other.

241 Believe it or not, respect is sexy. Speaking for many guys, I mainly experience dis/respect when it comes to taking me seriously. This can be greatly expanded in later thoughts, but it includes taking me at my word; acknowledging/appreciating when I’m right, smart, capable, etc; not negatively comparing me to others; treating me like what I say or think is worth something, by not interrupting or ignoring me. Women can appreciate this too, but the obvious way in this culture that a man can show a woman respect is by the way he treats her body. Simply by giving her space, even if she likes you, even if she hasn’t made demands about physical contact—and by showing that you don’t think you’re entitled to her body, you’ll stick out tremendously by contrast. Only the foolish women will be disappointed you’re not satisfying them sensually. The wise ones will be intrigued by your weirdness, and if anyone has found you attractive, this will ‘set the hook,’ for many of the young ladies who have had experiences with boys, and grown tired.

242 Meet the parents, if applicable. The first time a guy is introduced to a lady’s parents should NOT be when he’s asking for her hand in marriage. The sooner he can be presented so they can evaluate what sort of a boy or man they think he is, the better. Every time they hear, or infer, that their daughter is talking to/about or spending time with some certain young man, they’re either going to wonder if it’s a good thing that she is, or they’re going to be relieved, thinking, “oh, it’s him, then we know her heart’s in good hands, because we know he’ll respect her.” So if you’re just acquaintances, not a couple, there is no need to be introduced as a couple. If you’re going to have any sort of relationship with a woman, state your case.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. GirlI’mInterestedIn, my name’s Hakam; I just wanted to meet you and express that I’m an acquaintance of your daughter through [avenue], and while I’m not at this moment hoping to court her, we are casual friends who are interested in getting to know each other better. To hopefully relieve any concerns, I want to tell you up-front that I’m zealously concerned with showing her respect in everything I do, and I will therefore not cross the boundary of being physically intimate like kissing, holding hands or spending time alone, even if she wants to. I’m going to handle her heart responsibly and if we decide we’re romantically interested in each other, I will let you know of any change in my intentions before I pursue courtship.”
Maybe it’s not the exact words you’d use, or that you’d expect a guy who likes you to use, but I hope you’ll consider taking the suggestion to keep other people apprised of your intentions, and do nothing in secret.

243 Speaking of which, the more people you can keep informed and aware of your relationship, and just what kind it’s supposed to be, the better for you. Besides now having people who can help you stay on track, you have the subconscious awareness of impending shame if you do something you shouldn’t, since other people would know about it. This helps prevent you from making foolish snap decisions. If you keep your relationship public, whether it’s a friendship or courtship, then you really have more freedom to get to know each other deeply, because you have protection against doing anything that could hurt your relationship.

244 Strive to, as soon as possible, bring your relationship under the umbrella of the Church. I capitalized that to refer to the invisible Church, and not merely the building (but it, too). Take intentional action to ensure that you spend time together in the presence of other believers—not just other people, but other believers. The influence of the godly is preferred over the peer pressure of those who do not follow Christ. Seriously, even if you’re not a Christian, this can’t do anything to hurt you, and you should pursue it as well. Good relationships aren’t the goal only for those who now believe, any more than it’s only Christians who should live righteously, and not everybody. It’s harder to implement practical theology if you don’t believe, but it is no less true or beneficial. After all, even as Christians, no one succeeds in living perfectly (only Jesus Christ did that, and that’s why He could be our savior - 1 Corinthians 1:30-31), so failure to do it right all the way should not be discouragement from trying.

245 Verbalizing your intent either to do or not do all of this, to each other, is profoundly helpful in setting the tone for your relationship. The earlier you get this on the table, the better. Procrastinating creates vagueness and uncertainty, and allows for not only the intentional but unintentional crossing of boundaries that lead to mischief.

246 Don’t “make it facebook official.” Facebook wants your interpersonal information so they can show you engagement ring ads, and when you break up, chick flicks for her, dating sites for him, and self-help books for each. They’ll sell the info to data brokers who chart your dating history, and sell it to dating sites that, when you join, use algorithms to provide you matches based on your past partners, leaving you out of other options. Is that creepy? Yes. Is it worth it to put that information out there? Nope. How many intermittent relationships do people have these days, that someone out there can comb through facebook/etc and interpret for their own purposes? Is it really useful for you, or others? Not unless you want to brag to others. If you’re a couple in real life, people who know you in real life will know. Isn’t that enough?

247 Those final sentences got at what I was initially trying to write about, with regard to making something ‘social media public.’ Consider people who might interact with you on a several-months or biyearly basis, and if you have a 4-month relationship, do you think it might be confusing to others? More to the point, posting about relationships that don’t last is like bragging about your New Year’s resolutions and then bragging about your NEW New Year’s resolutions in August of the same year. Isn’t that embarrassing? The embarrassment (whether you feel it or not) comes from trying to jump the gun and make something more permanent through artificial means. If you do it because your SO wants you to, in order to mollify them, then you are a fool. And it is no wonder that your relationships end. Getting a marriage license doesn’t prevent divorce. And announcing your relationship on social media doesn’t prevent a break-up. It just so happens that commitment doesn’t lie in what you say about or call your relationship, it lies in your intentions toward the person. That’s something other people won’t see proof of until they see that your relationship doesn’t run out like a can of deodorant. So leave them out of it.

~ Rak Chazak

Much more to come. :)

(Almost a quarter of the way!)

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