Portraits and single ladies

Dear Single Ladies,

To be fair, I must needs direct a few words your way as well. And truly, I have somewhat to say unto thee.

[And they said unto her, Say on.]

There is an enemy to romance lurking in the heart of every woman, single or married, as far as I can tell: the Ideal Man. I just want to say this about him: he doesn’t exist. Now don’t even think about getting all prickly on me and saying you’ve found one; hang on a few years and you’ll know what I mean.

So if you’re looking for tall, dark, and handsome, keep in mind that he will probably be tall and dark but not at all handsome—or dark and handsome though not particularly tall—or tall and handsome and… blonde. And if by great good fortune you find someone who is all three, he is sure to have a caveat somewhere, such as an especially unpleasant family, for example, or a collection of ancient, mushroom-scented footwear he refuses to part with. The earlier you can start laying down the Ideal to take hold of the Real (and it starts with your father, your brother, your friends), the better off you will be. He’s not going to come in a frame.

Back in our grandma’s day, a woman knew she was blessed just to get a good steady man who could hold down a job and support the family.

Nowadays that’s only scratching the surface. Nowadays we want it all: a man who stands boldly for truth and leads the pack in righteousness and expresses himself with passion but also a man who comforts the fallen, bathes the wounds of the outcasts, and wipes his boots before he comes indoors. He should sing well. And dress well. And use good table manners. And make pretty much money but not care too much about it. He should be a man’s man with a deep voice and an easy laugh. He should be good with kids. And animals. And difficult people. And if he plays a mean game of baseball and has arms like a sailor’s we’re not going to complain about it…

Girls, we don’t make it easy for him either. He says “Will you please?” and we say “Hmm. Twelve out of twenty criteria? Ummm, no thanks.”

(By now you may be wondering if I have a secret plot to marry off the whole world. You’re getting close. I have found no better institution than marriage for ending aloneness and enforcing selflessness.)

Did you know that many men show their best colors in close relationship? Don’t judge him from a distance, by “what you know of him so far” when you’ve only met up with him in herds and crowds. Give the guy a chance to do his wooing! You will soon know if it’s not working—there are people who simply do not gel—but you may be very, very surprised by the man you discover.

A man in love is a crazily compelling thing. And a man who stays in love and finds persistent, foolish, wild ways to show it—triply so.

He doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Thanks for giving him a chance.

Love,

Shari

Scenery and single men

Dear Single Men,

It’s been a while since I’ve directed any comments your way, so lest you get too comfortable I thought I’d jot a note to light a fire under your collective rumps.

I may have reminded you before that most single women are not single by choice. (Is this ringing a bell? Okay, good.) You wisely pointed out that this is also true of most single men. Well said. Having gotten this far, I would like to add another piece to our logic: it’s time for you to stop ignoring the women over thirty.

I don’t plan to crack open the whole “Is it God’s will for me to be single?” bit, partly because I can’t decide for you and you certainly can’t decide for her; but mostly because the question itself goes against my understanding of God’s will as we know it. However I am certain of this fact: there are quite a number of magnificent adult women out there who would be better off with good men in their lives.

It’s startling to think about, really, because the women who do singlehood best make it look so effortless. They are engaged in fulfilling work, they are surrounded by relationships, they are maturing graciously, and they laugh often and delightfully. God be praised. But don’t be deceived. There may be a Christian woman or two in the world for whom singlehood is effortless, but I have not met her yet. Behind every gracious action and every appearance at yet another event alone lies a large dose of will power and heartache.

She has become a stronger person because of her life alone; I don’t deny it. And as a result, she is the kind of gem you will come across only once in a lifetime. She is serene. She is faithful. She is well-versed, well-traveled, well-rounded. She is truly beautiful.

And you almost don’t notice her.

She fits easily into the scenery of your local church, or mission, or school. You hang with the slim and ditzy twenty-year-old chicks and to you, she is just an Aunt Jane—the pleasant, wise, and completely safe person you so deeply admire. Platonically, of course.

Would you stop divorcing esteem from romance, and get Aunt Jane out of your head? You are not making this easy. She is a woman, and anything but immune to manly attention. She notices the way your eyes twinkle, the things you laugh at with her, the way you talk to a child. She knows that to you she is just a part of the scenery, but she dreams of a knight who notices.

Some of you have asked girl after girl, only to be met by a string of refusals, and I am sorry.

Ask a woman next time.

She may turn you down as well—though she longs for love she is not fool enough to accept anything with a beard—but her sympathies will be on your side and she’ll sure as shooting think about it. She will think about how good you are with children and what books you like and how you use your money. If you dream of Miss Gorgeous, she admittedly harbors hopes for Mr. Studly, but your lack of studliness will never be the deal-breaker. She knows enough of human nature to look deeper.

(And the minute she starts falling for you she’ll think you the studliest thing she ever saw. So it’s all good. Did I mention she’s a woman?)

I want to say this, with no disrespect to the hot young things: not one of them can hold a candle to her. She has a femininity that’s been tempered by time, mellowed, sweetened, tested by fire. She will comfort you as no one can comfort—follow your lead, admire your strength, and honor your manhood; time has taught her their value.

She is priceless. Thanks for noticing.

Love,

Shari

One piece of the puzzle

Confession: You wouldn’t expect deep philosophy to come from a 1980’s pop love song by the Nylons, but that’s how a piece of it came to me.

The heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you’re loved by others.

The first time I heard it I laughed out loud—just as I did the night I found out Ryan Zook wanted to be my boyfriend—a crazy moment in which the world spun upside down and I laughed because I was dizzy.

The heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you’re loved by others.

What if it’s true?

You could say it’s not true in the strictest sense, because when we stand before God, the ultimate Judge, He will be interested in our own hearts’ choices and not the choices of others…

And yet when am I ever judged on my own merits? All you have to do is capitalize one of those words and it becomes the truest philosophy ever stated. The heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you’re loved by Others. Isn’t that our truest identity? And from there, it’s not a far step to say that perhaps that Beloved mark set on me by Jesus is reflected more accurately in the love of others toward me than in what I feel most often toward myself.

What if I am merry not because I feel merry but because my son experiences me that way?

What if the lavish love that sets my soul awash in times like Mothers’ Day and birthdays and long one-on-one talks and beautiful gifts and hand-written cards—the lavish love that I daily feel unworthy of—is the real measure of my worth?

*****

More coming. Slowly.

Postscript on love

So what about them marital differences?

Here’s a parting piece of advice that I would like to learn to take myself—some days I swallow it with a smile, some days I choke.

*

Please be careful.

A woman’s scorn is poison.

If you’re going to infiltrate your marriage with scorn, you might as well lace his after-dinner coffee with a little arsenic; it’s going to have the same effect.

Teach yourself all over again what you knew at once when you met him: he is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to you. Work at it. Believe it. Polish it. Practice it. It’s the thing that makes marriage work.

The End

Concerning love

To anyone who is worried about whether or not the psycho writer of this blog can be trusted, rest assured. She cannot. However, only in a single five minute period of frivolity has she ever deliberately posed here as someone she is not, say between the hours of 11:17 and 11:22 on a dark Wednesday night, for example.

She is being held in custody, pleads guilty, and says so help her if she ever does it again.

However, she has always wanted to throw a dozen eggs against a brick wall.

You’re in good hands. Relax!

—The Management


Tonight I share links to some snippets I’ve been enjoying: for your edification, amusement, outrage and delight.

I’m working up to something, probably tomorrow: a post on the myth of true love.

Yes, I said the “myth.” I did say “the myth.”

Relax!

–Shari


How I Met My Wife

–Writer Jack Winter plays with some English words never used without their opposing prefixes.


My Husband is Not My Soul Mate

—A great blog post shared by one Hannah on her first-year anniversary.


7 Things Every Woman Needs to Know about Relationships

7 Things Every Man Needs to Know about Relationships

–Relevant Magazine


It’s Not About the Nail

A comedy clip on male/female relationships, posted to YouTube by Jason Headley