Girl On Fire! #SingleWithLeah

 Leah
Too smart. Too confident. Too particular. Too pretty. Too curvy. Too glamorous. Too self assured. Too funny. Too focused. Too ambitious. Too successful. Too inspired.
~~~

I’m Leah, and these are the things that people have told me that I am “too” much of. These are the reasons, according to the general public, why I am single. Too pretty? What in the the actual frick? Yes, somebody told me that. These are the reasons why I am “alone” and “childless” and “empty” and “a little bit chubby.”

And in my life, these are the greatest compliments that I am given. Before I jump butt first into why, let me tell you a little bit about myself (besides what you already know of me basically being a real life version of Beyonce.)

I am 31 years old and about 31 pounds heavier (all french fry weight) than I want to be (but hey, consistent). I can’t ever see babies in the ultrasound pictures. In fact, I have spent my entire life ooooing and awwwwing over ultrasounds that look like black and white finger paintings.

I know, I’m so unwomanly, but deciphering ultrasounds is just not my spiritual gift, mmkay? I have been gluten-free and dairy-free for about 7 months, and it absolutely sucks. Don’t do it unless you have to, and don’t let some yoga instructor with a perfect topknot who has knit her own clothes out of, I don’t know, organic flaxseed, make you feel bad about loving Chili’s chips and queso.

I work at a church in Sterling Heights, Michigan, as their youth program director. I do graphic design, event planning, and I make my boss tea. I think that I can dance better than I actually can. I am an absolute diehard Detroit Red Wings fan and I daydream about punching Sydney Crosby in the face. I recently cut 11 inches off my hair, and also noteworthy, I changed the way that I do my eyeliner. I am the whole package, y’all.

So why am I single? The honest answer is that I don’t even know.

I would hands down, 1000%, date me. I think the spiritual answer would be because “God hasn’t brought me the right person yet,” but I don’t even know if that’s the reason. You see, I could be in a relationship if I wanted to be. If it’s what I really, truly desired, I could find a man who would be enough for the moment. And that’s what so many of us do.

We fill our moments instead of filling our lives.

We meet wants instead of meeting needs. And when those moments pass and those wants change, we find ourselves in a how-did-I-get-here scenario where we have come to love someone who is absolutely wrong for us and who has a goatee and, while he plays Zelda, you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom texting your bff, “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” Well, that’s an easy one: you made it happen.

Awhile back, I made a decision to break that cycle. There’s no need for it. There’s no place for it.

Before I get knee deep in this, please let me reassure you that I love men and I have 326 celebrity crushes. But let’s also be clear that Tom Hardy holds the #1 spot and I don’t see that changing any time soon. With that said, this absolutely is not going to be a man-bashing blog, so if I at times seem harsh on the opposite sex, it’s only because there are women out there that need the desperate and harsh truth.

I have the platform to give that truth. In the same way, I want to point out that even though I might address women more, these roles can be reversed. I’m talking to both sexes, because let’s be honest…some of y’all girls are CA-RAAAAZY!!! So now, let the the deepness commence.

When you started reading this article (assuming you’re still reading), you saw a list of things that I was “too” much of. This isn’t a made up list, guys. These are actual things that people, friends, family, strangers, arabic women at Walmart, and pastors have told me that I am. These are the reasons, according to them, that I am single.

It’s super funny to me, as these are really great qualities. Like I said, they’re some of the greatest compliments that I’ve ever received. The qualities listed are ones that I would love my daughters to possess. They are qualities that are praised in the media, through music, and in poetry. They are attributes that are showcased by celebrities, politicians, authors, speakers, and actors.

We love these things…EXCEPT when we’re trying to get a man.

I remember a few years back a guy friend telling me that if I wanted to score a guy I should stop wearing red lipstick. He said that it was “intimidating” for men and that it would make a man second-guess kissing me.

Okay, first of all, this tube of lipstick cost $40 at Sephora, so I would second-guess if I wanted him to kiss me. Like, my lips are currently worth a tank of gas, so do I really have the money to be sharing it? Let me check my budget.

Secondly, how dare you? If there is one thing that I am absolutely, obnoxiously conceited about, it’s my lips. They’re beautiful. They’re full and perfect. You will not take away their one purpose in life: to wear lipstick. If I had to choose between kissing men who don’t like lipstick and my lipstick, let’s just say there would still be a monthly lipstick allowance in my budget.

Thirdly, I am glam, I’m always going to be glam, and I literally “wake up like this.” I won’t apologize for that. I like getting girly. I like putting fancy stuff on and like corresponding my lipsticks with my outfit because that’s me! Why would I change my personality to make sure that a guy wants to kiss me? Homeboy can go kiss someone else with not as gorgeous lips, for all I care! I mean who is losing out, really? Not us! (Us meaning my lips and me…)

So as ridiculous as that was, it’s an incredibly common thing that single people face.

But why? Why do we put these limitations on people? And this isn’t just for women, but for men, too. Why do we tell people to completely alter who they are to get a boyfriend or girlfriend? Do we realize the mixed messages that we are sending? Do we realize the lasting damage that this can cause?

Why am I applauded for being smart, but not applauded if I am smarter than my partner? Why am I praised for being confident and self-assured, but am told to “tone it down” and become more needy and dependent if I want a husband? Why am I looked upon as a role model for my healthy body image, but told to lose a few pounds to score a guy?

Why am I celebrated for being successful and high up in my job, but made to feel guilty if I make more money than he does? And the most confusing one of all, why do we tell young men and young women to create lists of what they want in a mate, to be picky, particular, and selective in whom they choose, but then once they hit 25ish, tell them that they are being unrealistic and silly and need to be less precise?

Do we see the double standard that we are selling? Do we recognize our guilt in this process? Are we able to admit our role in the epidemic of toxic, never-should-have-happened relationships?

We do have guilt. We have a ton of guilt in this, actually. Every day, we tell people to be extraordinary, but then encourage them to be ordinary in relationships. We tell them to be assertive and excited and motivated at their jobs but then to go with the flow in their relationships.

I understand compromise, and I understand that not everything is about you in relationships, but what I don’t understand is why we are prompted to lose ourselves.

As women, it especially seems that we are shoved into this idea of becoming less for the man. Instead of finding more of a man, we tone it down to become less of ourselves. We become insecure when a man can’t handle our beautiful, strong, incredible qualities and try to dumb ourselves down so that he feels better. Have we ever stopped to consider that the problem doesn’t lie in your strength, but in his lack of strength?

For me, the biggest thing that I would change in the culture of singleness is the pressure that is felt.

I would eliminate the question, “Are you dating anybody?” from the common conversation. I would replace it with questions like, “What’s something that you’ve recently done that you’re proud of? What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month? Who is somebody in your life that could use more love from you?”

When we lead with questions about people’s status and not questions about their soul, we send them a message about what we value as important.

And yeah, it’s super exciting when somebody finds someone they’re crazy about! Trust me, the WHOLE WORLD WILL KNOW when I find my man. But…crazy thought…is that the absolute best thing that can happen to me? And in the same way, is not having a man the absolute worst thing that can happen to me?

I have said this a million times, and I will say it a million more times until everybody hears it and understands it: I don’t want to be someone’s second choice. I don’t want someone to change their list to make me fit on it. And in the same way, I don’t want him to be my second choice.

I don’t want to get rid of things that I will love about my husband to fit into what I think is good right now. I don’t want to compromise on him. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to me. And it’s not fair to the people who could truly be happy with us.

We need to change our emphasis. We need to change our focus. I want to get married. Deeply. Truly. Absolutely. But if I don’t get married, I won’t die.

I won’t Anne-of-Green-Gables it in the “depths of despair.” I won’t be incomplete and lost and without value. I’ll be Leah. I’ll be exactly who I am right now. I’ll be planning my next vacation and spoiling my nieces and nephews. I’ll be fantasizing about punching Pittsburgh Penguins players in the face. I’ll be laughing and loving and enjoying life. And you know what else I’ll be?

Smart. Confident. Particular. Pretty. Curvy. Glamorous. Self assured. Funny. Focused. Ambitious. Successful. Inspired.

~~~

Leah Barterian works as the Youth Program Director at Grace Christian Church in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She is extremely passionate about singleness, purity, and instilling purpose in others. She loves baked cheetos, puppies, nature, and twitter. She inexplicably hates green beans and black beans. Follow Leah on Twitter and Instagram @Leahbarterian.

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18 Comments

  • OK, first of all, you are hilarious. 🙂
    I remember my uncle telling me that I needed to make a list of the qualities that I wanted in a man and then pray over it and God would send him to me. I think I was barely into my 20’s at the time, so my (unspoken) reaction was “Um, who even says I’m ready for that right now?” As I got older (late 20’s) I did start reading all the books and making the lists of ‘what I wanted’…kind of wish I still had them because I’m pretty sure my husband fits about 5% of what I thought I wanted. And I wouldn’t change him at all.
    But the thing is, I wish that more people had said “Make a list of who YOU want to be in life. Make a list of the qualities YOU want to cultivate.” That would have been ever so much more of a helpful thing to do. We really do need to change the way that we view and talk about singleness.

    • Awesome point, Rea. Seriously. There is so much emphasis on “finding the person” and (sometimes it seems) ZERO emphasis on “being the person!” I can’t even imagine how many silly and thoughtless relationships I could have avoided in my twenties if I would have tried to the be the kind of woman that a godly, amazing, hot man would want instead of wholeheartedly searching for him. It’s funny, too, that you bring this up because this exact point is the basis of one of my upcoming articles! Thanks for your insight, support, and encouragement!

    • IT REALLY DID COST THAT MUCH!! When he told me that I was like, “Oh no…do you know that this is Lancome?!”

      Thanks so much for the support! (of my post and my lipstick!)

  • As another single woman, I get this.
    Recently, I had a conversation with a single friend about a relationship she’d had. “I liked him a lot,” she said. “But I’m not sure I respected him.” I’ve noticed that in my own relationships, and I see glimmers of that here. Something to ponder.

    • Hey Cara! Thanks for the reply on this. Isn’t it crazy how much we grow in our singleness? There’s always something new to learn, with every relationship, conversation, and interaction. I think about what you mentioned all the time! Thanks for the read!

  • I agree that we won’t die if we don’t get married but I honestly cannot imagine being joyful living a life as a single when that’s absolutely not what I want. I’m 39 and deeply deeply sad about it and I am sure to the bone that if I am single against my will all my life, that while I won’t kill myself, I will not feel any joy or happiness, despite wanting to be since God commands us to be joyful despite our circumstances.

    I wish I had the same enthusiasm that you did, Leah. I could fake it but internally, I know it’s not anything I could sincerely say I feel though I have prayed to God to please take away this desire because it’s torturous.

    Blessings.

    • I appreciate and applaud your honesty, truly. I have been there and I honestly felt your pain reading this. The thing that’s so tough is that there are very few women that actually want to be single. It’s easy to feel like God has forgotten about this when we see yet another friend enter into a happy and exciting relationship. It’s easy to feel like “why not me” or “when is it my turn.” All of those feelings are normal, and you don’t need to feel abnormal, needy, or pathetic for feeling them.

      Let me be clear when I say that I haven’t always been like this. I spent awhile after a pretty traumatic breakup going through the (what seem to be) 1,000 stages of healing. But mostly, I was just mad. I was mad that I am a good person and God didn’t seem to recognize it. I was mad that my friends were meeting their husbands in the most random, orchestrated-by-god ways. I was mad that I couldn’t have that, too.

      After awhile, my anger turned to grief, and that’s when I made the decision to not be a victim of my singleness. There are so many of us, myself included for awhile, that walk around like we are sick because we are single. In the process of God speaking an incredible, soothing healing into my mind and heart, he showed me that the plans that he has for me aren’t for when I find a husband- they’re for now, and they’ve always been for now. I just was thinking that the “now” wasn’t enough, which ultimately came down to me thinking that I wasn’t enough.

      You are enough, SL. That’s just the bottom line…you are. A lot of the contentment in waiting will come with the realization that you are a treasure and a gift, and you will make some man incredibly happy and fulfilled. When things don’t work out, relationships fail, or guys come and go, instead of thinking of it as a personal failure or taking it personally, think of it like this: He wasn’t mine to have. When we can grasp the idea that we don’t have to have all of the answers to the why’s in life, we’ll have time to work on the what’s: what’s next, what does god have in store for me, what can I be doing now to attract the man that I want.

      I try (to remember…let’s be honest here) to thank god at least once a week for not letting relationships work out. I thank him for not bringing a replacement into my life while I waited for the real thing. I thank him for loving me enough to not let me have second best.

      You aren’t second best. You never have been, and you never will be. Trust God. He’s got you. He knows you. He sees you. And most of all, he values you.

  • I wish that this thought would have been the thought of more girls when I was young in the 70’s. Back then the thought was marriage, schools groomed girls toward marriage, women dropped out of college when they got married, and the divorce rate went through the roof or unhappy marriages were the result.

    Women were displaced with no careers and little or no college education so thus poverty was the result. Welfare was the next step. Unmarried mothers were also another result.

    I did not want to be divorced or stuck in a bad marriage so I had your attitude Leah. I would rather be single all my life, be happy with who I am(I once had a date give me a list of things he was looking for in a woman and I fit none of the list. 🙂 . I am happily married almost 32 years, but would have been fine being single. I pray this is the new thought for women in the 2000’s and beyond. We are more empowered than when I was young, and it is what many women in my generation were fighting for. It is what I taught my daughters and they are teaching their daughters. Keep this coming Leah. It is refreshing and it is Biblical.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie! It’s kind of come full circle, which is funny, because my mom was a product of the same kind of “expectations” that you’re describing. She is the one who really began to empower me to look beyond what was expected of my sex and just do what I want. I think it’s an honor and a privilege to speak for other women. Women are so fascinating, so talented, and so multi-faceted. Thank you for cultivating a generation of daughters into this thinking and encouraging us to be more than we could have ever imagined.

  • I’m a penguins fan…lol..but it is refreshing to see a woman just as passionate about her hocky team as I am mine. I am not single, but I can relate! That is why I know, my man is truly right for me! I got so tired of “dumbing” down for guys, that I gave up. I just said, forget it…if a man can’t handle me 100% then too bad! There are more women who are getting tired of being Luke warm as well! Thank-you so much for giving women this advice! I tell my daughters the same and I tell my son the same, you should not need to change yourself to fit in someone else’s mold.

    • It’s so true, Julie! This discussion should be had with boy males and females. It’s so important for both to grasp. Also true, we should never have to dumb ourselves down. I don’t want a man to make him less to stay with me. Why? Because I would never be fully happy with him! In the same way, I don’t want to make myself less so that a guy feels good about me. The cycle is hard to break, but once you do, you feel like a brand new person. Keep pushing, girl!

  • Im in my 40’s, never been married, been told Im too independent, too bold too… well you’ve heard it too I see. I do ministry, am really good at praying, love to travel internationally and yes the church doesnt know what to do with me either. (Boy, can I tell you some stories.) I still would like to find a husband however at this point, it would have to be someone pretty spectacular and who am I kidding? There is NO fish in the sea from what I can see let alone a spectacular one, so… but despite that I sing quite often along with Louis, what a wonderful world. God is good and I no longer am part of the Genesis 3 curse. God is SO good.

    • You’re right, Kellie! God is so good! And in my humble opinion, it sounds like he made you to be good as well! It’s so hard being a successful woman sometimes, and even more disappointing, hard to be a successful woman in the church. For me the idea of singleness isn’t scary any more because I see myself as something incredibly valuable. I’ve been told that I’m conceited for this, but at the same time it really helps in weeding out the guys who can’t handle me or don’t know what to do with me. I wouldn’t necessarily count out the idea of having a man. I have a great friend who just found the love of her life at 60! But in the same way, I think it’s awesome that you are so cool with god and cool with the way that he’s moving in your life! I don’t know you, but I can tell that he’s proud of you! Keep doing you and don’t settle! (you know this, obviously, but sometimes it’s nice to hear it from a complete stranger :).

  • I know what you speak of here. I am 51 and still hear it. Waited. Dated. Waited. Dated. Did healing work. Put effort into it. I am sorry that I don’t have any answers or cute little pieces of advice that would wrap it up in a nice little bow and make it make sense.

    In the last few years, I have thought often of a story that I heard as a kid. It seems so appropo.

    http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type1215.html

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