Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The old maid at the marriage seminar

Since I originally wrote this a couple of months ago, I've been going back and forth over whether or not to post it. Part of me still can't believe I'm actually considering putting this down in writing where others can read it, but the larger part finds the whole idea therapeutic. If this disappears in a few hours, you'll know I chickened out. 

Earlier this year, I attended the annual ministry conference for the ministerial fellowship my family is a part of.  As always, it feels sort of like a family reunion, seeing friends I haven’t seen in a year (or several) and meeting new members face-to-face for the first time. Having grown up surrounded by this group of ministers, I am always assured of being asked the same questions at least a couple of times during the week--You know, the usual reunion stuff: “Are you married?” “Any kids?” “What are you doing these days?” etc. (Thankfully, Facebook has made these questions MUCH less common because most of us stalk everyone else enough to know who is still single, childless, and working for her dad. Haha)

But this year, I was thrown for an unexpected loop. Since I hadn’t really paid much attention to who the speakers were supposed to be this year, I didn’t realize that at least two of our sessions would be on marriage. **sigh** Yep, that was fun. LOL (Actually, they were both very good, and I hope the majority of the room was able to suck it up and get over their obvious discomfort with the subject of sex to learn something from what was said.) Anyway, once I got over the initial “Oh, great! I have to sit at the same table with my family while he talks about this? What’s next, parenting lessons?” I started wondering about the rest of the room. Was there anyone else in the room feeling like the odd-man-out? Later that evening, someone in my family was joking that they should have all the single people stand up so they can pair us off. My response was that I pretty much know who is single in the room (especially the men) because, inevitably, someone at some point in time has taken the trouble to point them out to me. LOL (The realization of which led me to another realization: people keep jokingly pointing out single men to me, but that’s always as far as it goes. “You’re single? Oh, so is he. Haha”….walks away…Hmmmm...Hello? No introduction? Oh, well, back on topic…..)

As I was listening to the sessions, however, I came to a few understandings about myself. (Well, I sort of knew them before, but I now have it in words.) So, if only for the cathartic release, here goes:

I feel like I’m at an AA meeting: Hello, my name is Kari and….

1. I have been hiding. (Please, note the past tense. I'm truly working on this.) I'm not sure that this was ever an actual, intentional thought of mine past trying to avoid the terrible anxiety triggers that social situations inevitably caused during my teens, but somewhere along the way, I started avoiding men. To this day, if someone tries to introduce me to a single guy, I break out in a nervous sweat and try to bolt like a scared rabbit as soon as possible. If I’m remotely interested in him, my anxiety will short out my brain, causing me to say something utterly inane, which means I will avoid him like the plague out of fear of my stupidity. The cycle of stupidity and avoidance will continue until I can pull myself together enough to manage just enough small talk to come across as civil--of course, causing him to assume I deeply dislike him. (Facepalm!)

2. I am apparently incapable of making the first move (or any move at all). Seriously, I can be head-over-heels for a guy and not be able to do more than stutter out “Hello” when I see him. **sigh** As I stated in #1, my history of anxiety makes for a rather pathetic lack of certain social skills, but the art of flirting is utterly beyond me. I came along rather late in my parents’ lives. (I promise this is connected.) My parents are Baby Boomers; the rest of my peers were raised by Hippies. My house had different rules of engagement when it came to cross-gender relationships. I was raised that a girl does not call a boy. Ever. For any reason. Seems totally ridiculous (right?), but it was a fact of life in the 1950s. It was drilled into me that boys always do the asking. If a girl approaches a boy, she’s being forward and immodest. Guys always pay. (See where this is going?) None of these rules actually work in today’s society, and I still find myself trying to find my footing in today's dating world. Now, I am still a firm believer that the man should be the leader of the relationship, but I’ve always envied the women who could show their interest easily and respond in kind when they were approached. 

3. I am picky. Of course, I call this having high standards, but for the sake of this list, I’ll use everyone else’s term and say “picky.” One of the topics our speaker that week mentioned was “The List.” Any girl in a youth group during the 90s was told to write down a list of qualities she wanted in a husband, anything from appearance to talents to personality. Then, she was to hold onto that list and wait for the guy who would fulfill her every desire. **eye roll**  Yeah, that’s not a set up for disappointment. I ran across a list I wrote once in my late teens and laughed so hard I cried (or maybe cried so hard I laughed—it was a toss-up). Out of a page and a half of random wishes, I think only 3 were things I would actually even think of now, such as: Christian. I kid you not, the only things on the list that I now consider important enough to make the list were the things that didn’t even need to be on the list to begin with. 

4. Like I said: Picky. I am, without fail, attracted to the strongest personality in the room. While it is unfortunately difficult in today’s society of feminism and metro-sexuality to find a man who is comfortable as a natural leader, it is even more difficult to find a man who is confident enough in himself as a leader and as a man to handle being around a woman who is herself a natural leader. I know that there are many healthy relationships where the woman is the stronger personality; this isn’t always an indication of an overbearing woman and a weak man. Each relationship is different because the people within it are different. However, I personally cannot exist in that kind of relationship. I do not want to be in charge, make all the decisions, lead the house. (I hate when a guy constantly defers to me and won’t make a decision or have an opinion about anything without checking with me first. Just make a decision. Have a plan. Be open to hearing my opinion, but please, for the love of sanity, start with a plan! **deep breath** OK, rant over.) It has been my experience that the guys who are typically attracted to me are the ones who want me to take charge. They want me to make all the choices and have all the opinions. Basically, I end up as “Mommy.” Ugh! Is it too much to ask for a guy that I can respect as a leader as well as love as a man?

And there tends to be one other obstacle in getting close to these strong personalities: they always have groupies. There was the popular guy on campus with whom I really hit it off, and judging by his attempts to keep in touch, we could have at least been friends, but I was utterly stymied by the gaggle of enamored girls that followed him everywhere. Then, there was the man who was constantly recognized everywhere we went, leaving me feeling like a third wheel. Friends would always laugh at my frustration, telling me to just "get in there" or to "just ignore the others." But, I would always freeze. Being talkative, or even friendly, does not make one an extrovert, and I kinda panic in these surroundings. I am not at my best in large groups; I tend to revert to my Wallflower state and just watch the others. Introverts shine in longer, one-on-one encounters; and the depth and quality of a conversation is usually directly linked to its length. I come across as aloof and unfriendly (and extremely awkward) in unfamiliar situations or when I haven't had time to mentally prepare for something. (Thus, I may seem very confident in one situation, but turn into a stumbling, stuttering mess in another.)

5. I am a very convincing actress. “Today, the role of Independent, Self-sufficient Woman will be played by Kari Yerton. Ms. Yerton has a long history of hiding vulnerabilities behind similar roles from productions such as Too Busy for a Relationship and Not Interested. Everyone will remember her performance of the power ballad ‘Happy Alone,’ where she garnered a standing ovation with her show-stopping delivery of the line ‘As long as I’m busy, I can’t be lonely.’ In her free time, Ms. Yerton can be found Netflix-binging on her couch in the apartment she shares with her pet parakeet, a Betta Fish, and more books than a small-town library.” **sigh**

Well, I guess I'll just leave this here...

P.S. If you made it to the end, bravo for you! Now, go eat a cookie for me.