Talk to me about: being single

popcornWhoa Nelly! This one is long. Long and full of stuffs. Sheesh. Take it in stride. Pop some popcorn, get a cold drank, and wait for a long and uneventful afternoon.

Or just wait for a fluffy post, I guess. If that’s what floats your boat.

I’ve been mulling over things in my mind, reading articles and studies as they pop up on my newsfeed, and I think we need to talk a little bit. I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts. After you read mine, of course.

puppehFull disclaimer: I’m a young, Catholic lady so I’m approaching this from that perspective. This isn’t an official news source, it’s a blahg, yo, so biases stated are just in place because I have quirks. Please, feel free introduce yourself in the comments and to share. If there’s anything I love it’s making new friends. Making friends and SEEING PUPPIES. But, since puppies also become friends: that’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it?

ANYWAY.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about being single and you really don’t need to go back and read it, but I’ll link it just in case you feel like doing some research. I wrote that piece with a little bit of apprehension, just as I am today. But, after that one was written, I was touched by the response, the people appearing out of the woodwork saying, “yes, yes, yes,” and I have more questions, guys, more thoughts, and I need your insight.

When so many people were like, “yes, and for me, too,” I pondered that in my heart.

I know a lot of people. It’s because I like meeting new friends (see above). A rather large contingent of the people I interact with are fabulous, fabulous Catholic young adults. This is probably because I’m a Catholic young adult and I frequently plan Catholic young adult things to do. And a healthy percentage of the Catholic young adults I meet are single young women.

TianaOh, let me tell you about these single women. Yeah, they have quirks and flaws and standard imperfections. But, brother, most of them are astounding. Most of them are well-educated and gainfully employed (or getting there…). Most of them are spiritually astute, politically involved, social-justice oriented. Most of them have healthy family relationships, interesting hobbies, enlightening opinions, important life-skills. Oh, and most of them are stunningly beautiful, too. Really. Like, they could model for (modest and respectable) magazines.

Do you know any women like this? Probably. Probably you do. Solid 10’s, all of them. And…they’re single.

Let me give you a time line of things that have happened to me recently.

  • In the late spring I called my so so so cool friend, Blake, just to catch up. He said something in passing that has stuck with me. He had been hanging out with a friend of ours who, I kid you not, is so giving and gorgeous and everything that encountering her is like encountering the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, and Blake was talking about all of us like, “Yeah, I think we all thought we’d be married or in seminary by now…and we’re not.”
    And that kind of just hit a solid nail on the head for me. Bingo, Blake.
  • From the early spring onward I’ve been receiving notes and calls from women who are, frankly, a little concerned because they’re still single. Most of the time I just listen, but it’s happened to me so many times now, that a pattern is emerging, so I’m writing a post about it.
  • I have a male friend/ coworker-in-the-vineyard, the kind who is a good listener, so he tends to gather observations, too, and we’ve touched on this topic a few times. He’ll be like: “I listen to all these women who are worried… And I know that peace, hope, and joy come from Jesus, so if those things aren’t there, then something is off. I wonder if maybe we’re in a new season of the church and we need to examine what this means.” New season of the church? Hmmmmmm. Maybe?
  • bridesmaid

  • We’re still going to stay on the church-y side of the fence, but I want to point out that these observations mimic the culture as a whole. Here’s a 2010 report (is that super late? It’s sometimes hard finding current population data) about marriage rates dropping for young adults. 20% in the past few decades. Dang. This 2013 article is more recent, so I’ll link there, too. (On a scale of reliable websites, where does that one fall? Ha.) La la la, marriage rates are falling.
  • Want to get closer to home? The “Archdiocese of Detroit” (which is papist-code for “a large expanse of land containing many papists”) conducted a survey about many things, and the results FAS.CIN.AT.ED. me on many levels and you can access the results and read for yourself or, I can just tell you that: in the past twelve years, marriages have dropped 50%. Le gasp!

Now, before we all freak out, can I just say: “don’t freak out.”

I meant to find a gif of the monkey but found this instead and BAHAHAHA---HOW PERFECT!
I meant to find a gif of the monkey but found this instead and BAHAHAHA—HOW PERFECT!
I’m not freaking out. I’m just curious. Like George.

Now, the culture as a whole has marriage rates falling. There could be many reasons for that, right? People cohabit more (subtle message: don’t do this, ya’ll. Other studies show it doesn’t strengthen a relationship, rather, it weakens it. #collegeresearchpaper), people are more focused on careers. OK, sure. Maybe.

There could also be levels of fear involved here. Raise your hand if your parents or a hearty majority of your friends’ parents were divorced (*raises hand* (but for my friends’ parents. 30 years this year for my parents whaaaaaaat grace and grace ALONE)). We could be dealing with fear that we’ll love and lose. We could be dealing with fear of leaving what we know behind. We could be dealing with all sorts of fears.

Here’s even a silly article that women are, like, too much for men to HANDLE these days with their jobs and their self-confidence. *eye roll.*

I’ll hand you things.

I’ll hand you that the wedding industry is pompous and overdone and it makes me, even me, who likes dressing up and dancing and reading programs a little nervous that the focus has become a wedding-day instead of a married-lifetime.
I’ll hand you that there are a lot of couples who cohabit.
I’ll hand you that I can be nervous, too, about hurting and being hurt. Actually, the potential of hurting a guy makes me sad on good days and physically ill on bad ones.
I’ll hand you that ye olde feminism has given women like me options. Suddenly, I’m not Charlotte a la Pride and Prejudice, engaged to marry a weirdo just because I have no dowry or prospects and my parents are aging. I can, in this day and age, open a bank account and hold a good, fair-paying job and own some LAND, ya’ll. (And vote. Today is voting day. Remember to vote!) So, marriage is not like, “Oh, dang, I better get married so I can make it in my old age, quick, there’s a man, nab him!

I’m handing you those things so that they’re not rehashed to death in the comments. Thanks in advance.

But! Remember! I’m not here so we can all freak out.

panda
I’m here to listen and learn.

Why? Why are we in this new place? And what are the implications? And how do we address this new, single contingent as a community, as a church? How do we minister differently?

Maybe our secular girlfriends are postponing marriage, fair. But, the women I’m speaking to aren’t secular and do desire to be married. (I’m speaking for women because I have more field research. Sorry, gentlemenz). So what about them?

Let me tell you the things I am not here to say, not here to do. (In list. I adore lists. Can you tell?)

  1. EVERYBODY FREAK OUT. | I’m not going to say that because it isn’t helpful.
  2. Since things are different they are BAD | That’s actually a logical fallacy.
  3. We need to REVERT to the way THINGS ONCE WERE | Nope again.

Want to know why the “nope” on that last one?

Because, remember, I’ve met these women. And I believe them to be holy women, women who know how to listen to the voice of God, women with courageous hearts who follow where God leads. I believe they are doing God’s will…it just somehow looks differently than it did before.

Now, again, I have no field research on the menfolk. So someone could come along and be like, “Well, men aren’t being men!!11!!”

Maybe. I don’t have sufficient field research. I’ll defer to other researchers.

But! I’ve been thinking about the great saints, you guys. Sometimes their crosses are phenomenal testaments to the hope of a good God, even when everything around them is falling apart.

I don’t think that God wanted to see His children being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum, but Christianity needed saints to step forward and be like, “This isn’t a part of God’s plan, but I will testify to His love. I will sacrifice my life for the truth of this mission.”

Auschwitz was so so so far from goodness, but that’s where St. Maximilian Kolbe ended up, anyway, to remind people, “There is goodness. There is hope. There is love, and I will give that love until I have nothing left to give.”

Dang.

Maybe, in some way, this new season of singleness isn’t the worst thing ever. Maybe this, too, is an opportunity, given to us by God to somehow minister in a new way, a new season of the church.

I DON’T KNOW, of course, but I suspect it might be so.

pugWhy? Because I’m in my late-twenties, too. I could have six babies, a husband, a minivan and a labradoodle by now. But, I don’t. And I think I’ve been following God’s will. I think I’ve been discerning well. I think making pilgrimages and retreats and holy hours and dinner parties is somehow God’s will at the moment. (I hope! Ha!)

Why? I don’t know, but I think my friends have needed my ministry in a way I couldn’t have provided with said babies/ husband/ minivan/ labradoodle. I wonder, too, if we’re needed to bring compassion and hope in a special way to our secular-siblings going through similar realities. You’re alone on Friday, too? Girl, I know. Having trouble finding a good man? Sister, I feel you.

This is where I am. This is what I wonder.

Hit the lights, hit the comments.

What are your thoughts on this new phenomenon? And how do we respond better as a church, a community…and as friends?

Single people: any thoughts your state of life? Why and how are you where you are? God’s will/ not God’s will?
Any thoughts on your specific gifts to the church at this stage? How can the church support you? How can I support you?
Any thoughts this has granted you at all?

I’m all ears.

Even if you’re like, “Nell, you’re not married because you dress like Curious George.”

I’ve already heard that. šŸ˜‰

2011 photo. But, since I couldn't find you a Curious George gif, this'll have to suffice.
2011 photo. But, since I couldn’t find you a Curious George gif, this’ll have to suffice.

13 thoughts on “Talk to me about: being single

Add yours

  1. Well, the way I see it is too much waiting is happening. I know waiting can be part of God’s plan but if you want to be married you have to actively seek it.
    In my own case, I don’t consider myself a single person, I think of myself as an available Catholic girl. I don’t mean I’m on a hunt so to speak but you just never know when you will meet the right person or which friend will introduce you. Maybe you helped the older gentleman use the computer at the library and he has a nice grandson. I don’t know, but there are always opportunities to meet people and I believe there is someone for everyone!

    1. Great points, and I agree that optimistic hopefulness is a healthy way to approach. But, say you don’t meet the grandson for another 10 years…and, that’s a possibility. Then what about these next few years? How do you invest your time?

  2. VERY INTERESTING. all I know is one day, at twenty right, I was at Our Lady of Good Counsel praying after receiving Jesus and I looked at the cross and said (I very much always wanted to be married young with babies) “why? Why haven’t I gotten married! Especially when you know my heart, you know my intentions are pure, you know I want the kingdom through the family”… And clear as day, J.C said to me, “which one, which one would you give up for the sake of your marriage”. In my head all these teens flew to mind, kids I helped through crisis, walked through with joy and pain. I thought about ministry and what I was able to do without a family… And I got it. The new springtime is interesting. Now, probably more than ever, young people are desperate for meaningful, solid connections (a lot of time lacking in their own families)- I wonder if God might be “using us” a bit longer in the single capacity than he used to have to. I’m sure that’s a childish way to look at it, but nonetheless, it’s how I’m looking. I wasn’t married till 30- we made up for lost time through the quickfire kid having šŸ™‚

    1. Yes. This story. I don’t doubt that you desired marriage, had an open and willing heart/ attitude, etc…but, your marriage later than you expected it to. And you’re very much not alone, according to the numbers! I believe that you were following God’s will all along, as I believe my other friends are now…sooooo, what about this season? And how do we as ministers address it? How do we equip and empower? Dewd. So interesting.

      1. Well that’s the thing… I think you empower the season. Give purpose to it. Not just as a waiting season, but a valuable and necessary part of Kingdom. I wish I had more resoures/tools to navigate me through it. Pray through ministry as a single person, connect waiting with anticipation, and the spiritual value of both…etc…

      2. Also, though I know some men struggle with this reality, I will never forget when one of my most trusted friends validated my experience (and those around me) by saying this phenomenon is one almost exclusively for young women- I agree (as opposed to dudes). But think of how many people right now need a maternal kind of love. It all kind of makes sense.

  3. Hindsight is much easier but I’ve been reminded that although I may have been ready to get married earlier than in my 30’s, my husband would have been too young. Point being, I always thought, “I’m not holy enough to get married, ” or “I can’t fold laundry perfectly,” or other silly things. But my spiritual advisor would say, “Whatever. Right guy, right time.” Sometimes it’s because we have issues to work on, but it could be as simple as your future mate a college freshman. šŸ˜‰

  4. Love how you put your thoughts together. I also was married at 31 but felt the desire before that. I said to a friend at one point that I knew I was living in God’s will for me, but I couldn’t put a label on my vocation at that time. So then we figured out that a vocation is to love wherever you are and for me then, it was being a good friend, sister, daughter, youth minister. Is that crazy? It made me find peace at that time, just to love where I was and who was with me. I think it is vital to include singles in ministry. That is a solid way too love, to serve, and to know you are important in the church.

    1. Awesome and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
      One thing my friends have pointed out to me is a quote from St. Therese, she reflected that her vocation was love, too: loving and being loved. I can get on board with that, you know?

  5. I think there is one integral reality that some miss: we’re all different. Our journeys back to heaven don’t follow the same road. Some people find their way in a seemingly “quick way” (they get married/enter seminary/consecrated life soon after either high school/college and there they go from there). Others take a bit more time to discern but eventually jump off the fence and follow the road God has for them. While still others struggle and wrestle with God and themselves over where that means they ought to go.

    Some people’s roads to God are straight and with limited bumps, dips, and obstacles. Others meander and wander about but they still get to their destination. While still others wind in such a way that not even a Spirograph can make curves and angles that complex.

    I think it all boils down to dependence on Providence. Feminism has instilled in the minds of many women that they are the ladies (though, I hear, they don’t like that term) of their destinies whence they have the power to determine what, when, and how things will happen. Nope. We have say but God is the navigator … we’re the first mate. Sometimes it takes time for the first mate to figure out why the captain is doing what He is doing but it all boils down to trust. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

    So yeah, we’re all different and thus our journeys will be as unique as we are as individuals and also that we must trust that God knows what’s up and that even if we go off path a bit, He will pick us up and put us where we need to be or take that detour and make it a moment of grace.

    1. Sorry! I was away and didn’t respond.

      The question I have for you, then, is how do you/ how have you developed that grace of trust in your life? For me, walking the Camino de Santiago played a huge role. Well, that and my Marian consecration. But, what would you say?

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