Untamable “Martha-Ness” #SingleWithLeah

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I’m in a relationship, guys! April Fools, still single. But after the enormous mistake that I made last night, everyone seems to think otherwise.

I went to a Red Wings game with a few friends. In the excitement of the game and the smell of hot dogs and pizza and all of the things that my diet doesn’t allow me to eat, I did something really, really dumb: I posted a picture to my social media accounts with me, one of my single, good looking guy friends, and our two married friends.

CAN YOU BELIEVE I DID THAT?

The repercussions were massive. Within 20 minutes it had like 100 likes. My phone was blowing up with texts from people I haven’t talked to in years asking me about this “mystery guy” (which was kind of funny because this guy has been one of my close friends since 4th grade).

People were commenting about our “obvious” connection (We were sitting next to each other and smiling, so I guess that’s all it takes to be in love. Who knew?), our definite chemistry (We actually argued the entire game about politics and his jaded views), and the fact that we looked so happy together (The wings were up 3-0. So yeah, I was happy).

The mystery guy’s name is Eric, and he’s a great guy. We’ve been friends since 4th grade, and when we were in 7th grade we “dated,” whatever that means in 7th grade. I then dumped him through a note. (Oddly enough, I was recently dumped through an email. Karma? Prob.)

And sometimes we hang out because that’s what friends do.

Friends sit next to each other at sporting events because it would be weird to purchase tickets that weren’t next to each other. They smile when taking a picture because that’s what we do in America when we’re past our duck face phase. They talk and interact and look into each other’s eyes because that’s what you do when you’re an adult and are having a conversation with another person.

But all of this was moot. All of it was overlooked, because I was sitting next to a guy who happens to be reasonably handsome (He just said, “Oh please” out loud) and so therefore I MUST BE IN LOVE WITH HIM.

This isn’t some sort of bash on the people that commented. This isn’t an attempt to make anyone feel bad. People are excited for me to find a man that I love and that loves me back (As I have already found a man that I love in Gerard Butler, but sadly he doesn’t love me back. Yet.)

This isn’t a slap on the hand or a shame on you…or at least not a really dramatic one.

But really it’s more of an opportunity to shine a light onto yet another reason why it is SO hard to date in today’s society. I woke up this morning, walked into the bathroom to take out my bite guard (I’m too sexy at night. Probably why I’m single) and while looking in the mirror, thought to myself, “Well, I can’t ever post a picture of me with a guy again. That’s that.”

Some of you might think that that’s a dramatic response, which is a little crazy because I am RARELY DRAMATIC LIKE EVER. But, really, is it? The comments ranged from simple inquiries to downright awkward. And I can handle it, that’s not really the issue I’m having here. The real issue is that I shouldn’t have to.

I shouldn’t have to humor countless texts, Facebook messages, and comments about my relationship with this guy. Why? Because it’s nobody’s business, that’s why!

“Well you put it on Facebook. You made it everyone’s business.” Is that really what I did there? Or did I put up a picture of me and three friends at a hockey game? I was also told that I lead people to believe that I was in a relationship with him because of the picture caption. For reference, the caption was “Wings game with my best friend, her husband, and the guy I dumped in 7th grade.” If that’s not a hidden marriage proposal, I don’t know what is.

And then what came next was even worse…feeling the need to answer people’s ridiculous comments. My GOODNESS, my single peeps have all been there. Because no response is a confirmation, right? So there I am, finding myself defending the fact that I am an adult woman, fully capable of having a great friendship with an adult male without secretly planning our wedding or doodling his name on napkins during my lunch break.

“No guys, I swear, there’s nothing there!!! I promise!!!” I exclaim as people nod their heads knowingly, as if they know my needs and desires better than I do. Why is this even necessary to say? Why can’t people just believe me?

Why, in our current culture, and ESPECIALLY in our current church culture, is the thought that two single adults could be great friends enormously more of a stretch than the thought that they are probably in some sort of secret relationship and are just keeping it from everyone.

Why can’t I have male friends and do things with my male friends without everyone assuming that I am some fragile female who cannot control her emotions and will fall in love with any single man that I come into contact with, and most certainly that I take a picture with?

This morning when I woke up, as I wiped the eye boogers out of my eyes and brushed my teeth, I realized that I feel like people would be happiest for me if I was in a relationship. There are people who have been there with me through my singleness and have prayed for me and the man that I will marry (or maybe I won’t get married…who knows. I’m not worried.), but then there are those who have no given interest in my life until they think that I have finally found a man who completes me. This is a really lonely and disheartening feeling.

It’s frustrating to me that with all of the content that I post on social media, including the content on my own personal website that I dreamt up and built myself, that the most attention generating post would be a picture of me sitting next to a boy.

It’s not my writings about women’s rights, equality, politics, travels, goals, family, or dreams. Nope, it’s a picture of me smiling next to a man who might be “the one” simply because he posed for a picture with me. Think about that logic, people. Think about the message that you’re sending me. Then you might understand why I woke up this morning feeling disappointed and mistaken.

Let me be incredibly candid: There is a secret, unseen pressure in the life of single, christian women, sadly put on us by other Christians, to be in a relationship and married. It’s exhausting and leaves us feeling like we are seen as less of a woman because we have not yet performed any of our “womanly duties” for a man.

Everyone wants me to be a quiet and sensitive Mary when I’m a mother freakin’ Martha, and I love being a Martha. I’m a doer. I’m a provider. I make things happen. I conquer. I take names and I kick butt. I’m successful and smart, and don’t buy into the lie that it’s not okay to be incredibly and insanely complex and have much more to me than just ridiculously perfect eyebrows. And all of that is overlooked because I don’t have a man who can complete me and maybe tame my “Martha-ness” just a little bit. (He could try…)

News flash: I am complete. Currently, as is.

Can we please, please, please stop commenting on people’s lives as if we have walked their journey with them? Can we please, please, please stop assuming that every social media post is some sort of hidden love announcement? Can we root for single people to thrive alone before they thrive with someone else? Can we applaud great friendships to encourage them to continue to be friendships?

And for one last time, can we stop making people feel like the best thing that could happen to them would be to be loved by another human, as if they aren’t already?

***Mic drop.

***

Leah

Leah Barterian works as the Youth Program Director at Grace Christian Church in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She is extremely passionate about singleness, Red Wings hockey, social equality, and late-night snacking. She loves baked cheetos, puppies, and laughing at videos where people slip on the ice. She inexplicably hates black beans and humidity. Follow Leah on Twitter and Instagram @Leahbarterian. Explore Leah’s blog HERE.

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17 Comments

  • It’s happened to me too. I happened to be in a picture with a guy friend, at a get together with seriously a dozen people. This was way before social media – it was back in the bad old days when you had to take the film to the drug store to get it developed. And this shot was in a stack of shots of the group in various combinations. But I heard that a buzz went up when the pictures were passed around. Oy vey.
    And when I was dating it was when are you getting engaged (why don’t people realize that is indelicate?) and when you are married it is When are you having a baby? (Which, if for instance the person is struggling with infertility, could be downright painful) I began thinking people must be bored and trying to live vicariously through me, but I’ve seen that most unpaired or childless women get the same.

    • YES YES YES YES YES. I cannot even begin to agree more with you. My mom said it really well the other day when she said that, “People have totally lost any sense of social grace.” Why/how/when is it appropriate to ask people about their baby making skills or their relationshiop status or any other thing that is private? And furthermore, me posting a picture doesn’t mean that I am giving people the green light to pry.

      I think social media has done this. We post something and everyone assumes it’s open season on our personal lives. In the same way, it takes the excitement out of so much. Families are finding out about pregnancies because somebody found out about it on Instagram and told a million people. I love the connection that it provides, but in the same way really miss the way that we used to “talk” to each other. Imagine that 😉

      Thanks for your input. I appreciate it a ton!

  • LOL the world if full of hormone driven thoughts and eyes. Great light hearted response. Can you believe that they even do that to men and women when we are in our 70’s. If ever there would be a time when single people can just relax and enjoy mixed friendships, you would think it would be then. 🙂

    • When my grandfather died, my grandma went and bought a place in Florida. She got a boyfriend and got super social in her community. My dad was freaking out (understandable…it’s his mom), but I thought it was AWESOME. I admired her so much for living her life exactly how she wanted to live it and not apologizing for it. I try to be like her. So yeah, let’s stop doing what people think we should do and just do what we should do! It’s so much more relaxing…I’m going to let them worry about it and I’m just going to keep doing me! Thanks for the input 🙂

  • OMGoodness. this is such a great post. I have the very same problem. I have guy friends and I love that we are just that, “friends.” I am so complete and have no need for “a man” until the Lord tells me otherwise. Society needs to find something new to pick on. Leave us single peeps alone.

    • Yes! It’s so funny to me how people seem to be more worried about the fact that I am single than I am. Like people are ACTIVELY looking for someone for me to date while I am literally at home eating nachos. I say have those friendships, do the things you want, and believe us when we say that we’re okay. Singleness should be celebrated, not scoffed at. The fact that somebody is in tune with their self enough to say, “This isn’t what I need right now” should be applauded, not questioned. Keep doing you, girl. And if you’re ever in Detroit we can go out, bring some guys, and make the internet explode.

      • Good comments, Leah! When I was single (I just posted my comments), I was near enough to Detroit so that I could have visited you. Wouldn’t that have been fun!!

  • I loved this article. I’m 58 and single after a long abusive marriage of 37 years. I’m so happy and content. I’m enjoying my intimate relationship I have with my God. Just finally at peace and joy. I get so many people telling me oh I’ll find someone who is loving and good to me. Don’t let what happen keep me from finding the right man.
    I’m not interested in a new man. I don’t need the right man to complete me.
    I am really ok being single. Having family and friends.
    It is irritating when a woman has to defend that she is ok single. People don’t take this well. They accept it more for a man verses a woman. But still just so dumbfounded as to why either man or woman would be content being single.
    My one son is 34 and is ok being single. Not sure he wants marriage. People question if he’s ok or gay which he assures he is not. He just says he’s not sure he wants to be married.
    Maybe some day but not today.
    I agree we jump to a programmed mindset.
    Where we have to be hitched and completed.
    Only ones society accepts as single are the Catholic priests and nuns.
    Where do we get this mindset from?

  • I loved this article. I’m 58 and single after a long abusive marriage of 37 years. I’m so happy and content. I’m enjoying my intimate relationship I have with my God. Just finally at peace and joy. I get so many people telling me oh I’ll find someone who is loving and good to me. Don’t let what happen keep me from finding the right man.
    I’m not interested in a new man. I don’t need the right man to complete me.
    I am really ok being single. Having family and friends.
    It is irritating when a woman has to defend that she is ok single. People don’t take this well. They accept it more for a man verses a woman. But still just so dumbfounded as to why either man or woman would be content being single.
    My one son is 34 and is ok being single. Not sure he wants marriage. People question if he’s ok or gay which he assures he is not. He just says he’s not sure he wants to be married.
    Maybe some day but not today.
    I agree we jump to a programmed mindset.
    Where we have to be hitched and completed.
    Only ones society accepts as single are the Catholic priests and nuns.
    Where do we get this mindset from?

    • Jan! Yes, I totally feel your pain. It’s funny how so many stipulations can be put on two women in two totally different places in their lives. I think that’s part of the problem: Society sees women as this single entity and not a diverse group of people who have different needs, different desires, and different wants.

      I think it’s brave to have the courage to say that you don’t know if marriage is for you- both in your case and in your sons. I have several single guy friends who have struggled with the same accusations of being gay, simply because they weren’t married with kids. Why do we HAVE to do that so that other people believe us? It feels so, so, so, so silly.

      Keep doing you. You inspire me 🙂

    • Hi Jan…..I absolutely GET what you are saying. When I was single after 32 years of marriage (read between the lines), I was at my happiest, even though I have now remarried! I understood, finally, that I am complete in myself. Period. I don’t need a man or anybody else to complete me. I also felt that, as a single, both men and women often avoided me, like I was a loose cannon or maybe was competition. I learned not to make eye contact with married men and rarely speak to them. You, too? Another part of my experience was different than yours. Nobody was pushing me to marry or that I’d finally find someone to love me, etc. Rather, one long-time friend told me to “be careful”. She was in a second marriage after being abused by her first husband, a pastor. An aunt said, “Oh, you have plenty of time (I was 50).” When I said, “But I want sex”, she laughed at me. Oh, silly me, right?
      Just making these comments to affirm what you are saying! I understand exactly why you found all those ‘helpful’ comments so disagreeable! And the other side of the coin is that I found the comments I was getting to be equally disagreeable. I still haven’t figured out why people said them. Perhaps you haven’t either! Blessings to you, my dear!

  • Unfortunately, it won’t end if you get married because then the whole, you can’t possibly be a complete woman/wife without having kids thing gets put on you. No, lady at church, I’m not adopting, are YOU? No? Why not? No stranger at Meijer I don’t have kids and actually, being 38 I’m not “still young enough” to have them later. I actually love the look of horror on their face when I tell them my age. It’s like they picture my eggs shriveling right before their eyes.

  • Cheers! People are totally indelicate when inquiring about others! A simple “Hey how are ya?” and leave it at that! Sheesh! I am not single, I have a fiance, however, I have tons more guy friends than female friends. I was at a friend of mine’s home one time, to give him encouragement after his father had got a horrible diagnoses of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. His mother and he were not in the best of moods, so I came to cheer him up. I don’t think anything of it, until I post on Facebook that we’re hanging out! I got “Does Bill know you’re there??” “Won’t Bill be mad?” No, my man is a very secure man, and he understands how to be a friend. Besides the fact that my friend is younger than me, and I see him as a brother! I was probably labeled a bunch of ways that day, I don’t care for or about the foolish nonsense people babble about. If my friend needs support, I’m there! I could care less what others think, God gives me grace and hope daily, I just try to follow my Creator’s guidelines and other people will just have to deal with it.

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