Earlier this week I was over at my folks’ house before heading out for a private retreat (to my favorite retreat house in the desert). On my way out I stopped by the gas station around the corner to fill up my tank and grab some chocolate (you never know if sweets will be present when you stay at a monastery). Inside I said hello to the attendant. She’s worked at this gas station for years and my family has been going there for years. Back in my soda drinking days, my mom would take my brother and I there after school for humongous, gas station sized sodas (in which I chose nothing smaller than 48 ounces). We got to know the owner and all those who worked there. The woman I saw this week has seen my brother and I go from twerpy little kids to twerpy big adults. We exchanged hellos and the next thing out of her mouth was…wait for it, wait for it….
“So, do you have a boyfriend?”
Ugh, the dreaded question.
I replied back, “Nope.”
Her reply: “You shouldn’t be so picky.”
At this point I couldn’t keep silent, so I somewhat snarkily said, “Well, I don’t even have anyone asking me out.” In my head I added “so there!” So, my response may not have been the most poised one to offer back, but I am of flesh and blood. However, her comment also got me thinking about a common message that is communicated to single women. It goes like this.
To younger single person: Just be content and wait. Don’t throw your pearls before the swine. Be picky.
To older single person: Why are you so picky? You better hurry up or no one will want you.
I read an article a few years ago on this very message a few years ago. The author expressed frustration over the mixed messages and feeling the weight of this responsibility, somehow being solely placed upon her shoulders. I feel similarly. For years, I had the pats on the back and the encouragement to be choosy with your mate. Now, especially being in my thirties (which is practically spinsterhood in the church), the message has shifted to “don’t be so picky.” Apparently, one can only be picky when she is young. The odd thing is, the older I’ve gotten, the more I know myself. As a result, l actually have gotten more choosy. I don’t think it’s out of stubbornness, but rather I have a better sense of relational dynamics that work well with my personality. For example, the type of men who are often attracted to me tend to be extremely passive. They’re great men, but I know that with my strong personality I would dominate them. And they would let me. And I would have no respect for them. Although it will mean more fighting, I need to be with someone who can disagree with me (or at the very least, disagree with me on occasion – this does not have to be a daily occurrence).
All this to say, I think the pickiness effect (my new name for this messaging) is another one of these statements that are ultimately not helpful for single people to hear. It sounds to me like another way in which we are trying to control and understand God. This isn’t to say that there may or may not be an issue of pickiness present with the single person, but to make that the sole determining factor in his/her marital status feels ridiculous.