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.



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9 years ago

Are any of you other ladies reading this? Oops! I guess it is Saturday morning and some of you are just now pulling yourselves out of bed, and perhaps the more industrious ones swinging a dust rag around the corners. Take a few moments to reflect the truth of these words written by a wise lady. Great job, Shari.

9 years ago

“He doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”.


This whole post was actually a really good reminder for me as a married woman to appreciate all the good that my husband brings into my life and to lay down some of my unrealistic expectations.

9 years ago

Shari, I don’t often leave comments, but I couldn’t help myself on this one. 🙂 I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both posts to the guys & girls – including all the comments, and definitely agree that you’ve got very valid points on both sides. I qualify in the over 30 single ladies’ category, and have been serving in missions since I was 22 – so while I feel very fulfilled in life, I won’t deny the longing for the leadership, strength, and companionship of a man. I think most every girl longs to pour her heart of love out to a worthy man. I don’t have a whole list of “qualifications” – but I want my man to be all out for God.
I completely agree that there are guys and girls that need to be challenged on these things but there’s another group that can read it and feel discouraged because for you “things just haven’t worked out” and you wonder what’s wrong, what to do? To you I say, don’t be discouraged; if you are sincere in following God’s will for your life, He’s not going to let you in the dark concerning what His will is for you. But keep in mind that God’s best for you might not line up with what you THINK you need! Keep waiting on God – the light WILL come.

9 years ago

So what if there aren’t even any imperfect men around? 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

To Jan and others, I understand at least a part of what you’re speaking. I married fairly late, and chose unwisely. We did and do love each other, and have both come back to The Lord since then, but the pain and anguish and struggles we’ve been through! Speaking of loneliness, there is no place lonelier than being alone in a relationship that’s supposed to be a union! It’s been 25 years, and we’re still together, but I can’t say they have been happy years.
We have had moments, and periods of days of happiness, but it isn’t like it should be. Many, many times I’ve wished I never married, and he also, but we were too stubborn to quit–and we both wanted to be true to our vows before God.

9 years ago

“And make pretty much money but not care too much about it.”

I needed a laugh this afternoon, and you gave me several. 😀 I’m really enjoying these letters to men and women, Shari!

In my case, I loved a man who could both out-think me and woo me, but he wore socks with sandals and dreamed of eating garlic by the whole clove. I had to decide–and keep on deciding–which was most important to me. I’ve learned to like garlic. 🙂

Suzanna Weaver
9 years ago

Again, very well wrote and to the point! But its tough to not print this and directly hand it to a certain single lady I know….;)

9 years ago

I’d be ready to join an “Ending Aloneness” campaign (at least if a campaign would work for that).

Good words, Shari. I’ll try to give him a chance if he gives me a chance to. =)

9 years ago

These posts thought provoking and intriguing. From the other post, I realized there are areas I needed to forgive where others didn’t step up to the plate at a time I should have had help with a project. Today I’ve found myself praying for singles who have been wounded in cross-gender relationships. All kinds of thoughts have been rolling, such as how does more individualism in our American culture and churches make a difference? Are we as churches fostering good relationships between couples, families and singles (whether never married, widows, or widowers)? If not, am I sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is asking of me? I’m in the process of reading Dorcas Stutzman’s book Trust or Control. How does all that figure into this entire picture? In singlehood, when is “independence” what God asks of us or when are we trying to avoid more pain at all costs or wallowing in self-pity? One can put a shell around oneself to avoid pain, but it also cuts off other relationships and isolates. Not everyone needs to be married, but I am praying for healing and restoration for those who have been hurt and felt the sting of rejection. Just as marriage doesn’t come with all pat answers, neither does singlehood. I don’t have answers, but I found myself thinking and praying about the posts and comments.

9 years ago

I am remembering comments my single sister has made, about how she thinks she misjudged some fellows when she was younger. She gave some “no’s” to guys who she thought were immature or had other “faults” and now she sees them married and developed into very decent chaps. And there may be some regret on her part for not seeing their strengths at the time. I think about these topics alot. How do we as parents of daughters view less-than-perfect men who may come calling for our daughters? When do we hold out for the godly leader who we can totally recommend and when do we give some growing maturing fellow a chance?! With all the teaching now about fathers being involved in the process (unlike my parents, who pretty much gave us free rein in the choosing department), I wonder if we as parents contribute to the problem. Boys can be afraid to even ask girls because they know they are going to get grilled by Father and most boys aren’t willing to be involved in that unless they are very sure ahead of time that this is the right girl…. and so this generation of fellows don’t much ask a girl out just to see if they might connect.

a single man's sister
9 years ago
Reply to  Twila

and this generation of girls don’t agree to dating just to see if they might connect.

a single man and a dating gal's sister
9 years ago

this is so true – my brother (rapidly approaching 30) has asked numerous young women and gotten multiple No’s. He wishes only that she would give him the chance to woo her. and Amen to what Twila said, about “courtship” being part of the problem.
My sister recently said yes to dating a guy who she was hoping wouldn’t ask her for a special friendship because he didn’t really fit her image of who she wanted to marry. it was rough going the first few weeks, with her questioning if she did the right thing in dating him when she doesn’t like him near as much as he likes her, and if she was just leading him on, and more. but then one day when she was bellyaching about it again – i in trying to empathize said – ya, it’s tough dating a man who doesn’t fit your long held image of the “perfect man” she immediately rose to his defense saying “I don’t know how he could be more perfect”. i knew then that her image of who she wanted to spend the rest of her life was/had changing/changed.

9 years ago

“He doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”

Yes, yes, yes.

But he has to be close to perfect.


Kidding. 🙂

9 years ago

When I was young, we read Elisabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity” and dreamed of god-like young men of passion and fire. A friend of mine noticed this syndrome and reminded me that we can’t all marry Jim Elliots. She knew lots of young women holding up this ideal.

For myself, I didn’t marry a Jim Elliot (thank God). He’s wonderful though imperfect, ordinary, and secretly a man of passion and fire. It’s just that I’m the only one who gets to see that side of him, and that’s fine by me!

9 years ago

Jim Elliot, hero that he was, knew his limitations because he said every woman should have 3 husbands: one to make money, one to love her, and one to fix things around the house. =)

9 years ago

I love this and had thought these thoughts many times, though not so elegantly. You put it so well. I laugh when I think of the visions I had of a “perfect man”. The thing is he’s perfect for me. Not perfectly the way I want him, but perfect in that we balance each others imperfections. He does things that make me groan, but then so do I. I’ve thought at times about my “ideal” husband and how uncomfortable I would be with him.

9 years ago

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these articles of yours, and find myself agreeing on so many different things, with you, and also with a lot of the comments. I’m 37, and when I see some of the boxes that others try to put me in, I wince. Other times, I stop and wonder–is that MAYBE true of me? (If so, HELP! I don’t want to fit in a box!)

I’ve never been asked. For years and years, I wondered, too, if there was some serious flaw in me that no one guy seemed to want me. I wasn’t too shy, I wasn’t too bold, I was just myself (at least, after I got past those terrible teenage years…). I’ve been surrounded by family who loves me (and would love to see me married but don’t make me feel the less for being single), and the best friends that I could wish for (most of them married). The men in my life–my dad, grandpa, uncles, and employers have been real men who live for God, and true examples of godliness. Not all women have been so blessed. Through the years, I’ve learned more than ever to embrace who I am. I’m independent, though living at home again after almost a decade of living hundreds of miles from home. I devour books. I laugh a lot. I can get stuck in a rut and do things the same way every time and make others feel like they’ve been doing it wrong. I sometimes say too much too unkindly. But all those years of wondering if I’m flawed have taught me that yes, of course I am. Yes, we all are.

So does living at home make me an overly dependent old maid?

I’ve learned to do what I love instead of doing what others think I SHOULD do. I’m not that great with children. I’ve never wanted to be a nurse. Cleaning a house can wait till tomorrow. Or the next day. But put me in the kitchen to make supper. Give me an office to organize, workflow/systems to tweak, and a project to manage. Or give me a lawnmower and a cordless drill and a hammer. (But please, don’t give me a flat tire!) Those men I talked about earlier? They’ve given me the freedom, the opportunity, the privilege of using those talents.

Do these things make me overly independent? Bossy? Maybe some people see it that way. Yet those are the gifts I’ve been given. Wouldn’t it be wrong of me to ignore them and drudge through life babysitting or cleaning people’s houses and simply putting in hours because that’s what I must do to support myself? I don’t mean to make it sound like those jobs are not worthy. I have good friends doing those jobs. Those jobs are noble and necessary, but they would drown me in sadness.

I’m not seeking a husband. Neither am I against marriage, either in the greater scheme of things, or for myself. I’m far from perfect, and have long ago realized that there is no perfect man out there. If I truly believe that someone would choose to live with MY imperfections, I must be more than willing to live with his.

I don’t like when people make me feel like I should get married, because really, in our Mennonite culture, what am I supposed to do about it? And because I want people to stop pairing me up with this one or that one, I’ll give the same grace to those single guys. They are the ones who know what they’ve been called to do. And if it truly is God’s will that I get married, that’s okay. He’ll show me that. Either way, I’ll go on being me and doing what I do best, because in the end, what I do with my talents is what counts. God has given me much. Of me, much is required.

Wow, I didn’t know I had all that in me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and opening this for others to share. We all have so much we can learn from each other!

9 years ago
Reply to  AK

Wow! I don’t know who you are but finally I’ve found someone who has a lot of the same dislikes and likes that I have. I will be 34 in a few minutes 🙂 (Yes, I was born on July 1.) I have a very nice group of single girls that I hang out with and several of them are nurses and love children. Well, I am not a nurse and I am not exceptionally well with children. But- I love computers, I love managing something(if it’s not too hard), I love to cook, and I love photography. And as I tell people, if my house is dirty on Monday it gets cleaned on Monday. I am not like my Mom and sister who have to clean their house on Friday.(I would way rather hang out at Starbucks than to be cleaning) But alas, I am very dependent on my mother…because she loves to keep the house spotless and to wash clothes everyday. She gets up early, works hard all day, and picks up clothes in my room that I don’t take downstairs because I don’t want her to have to wash them. My brothers and Dad are going to build me an apartment if they ever get some time and I can’t wait to have my own quarters so I can feel responsible for some of my own things. (I know I can do it because I have not always lived at home) 🙂 I like the thought that you shared about using our talents….we most certainly are very accountable people. So it seems I am still learning to accept myself the way I am, because I’m not married like some of my friends, I don’t have my Mom or my sister’s energy (we’re actually twins),(my lack of energy is partly due to side effects of meds) I’m not interested in children like some of my friends, nor am I a nurse…it seems everywhere I go I feel different but your article has been a real encouragement. Thank You!

PS. I am not good at composition…I apologize if my sentences are too short and choppy– I love to read smooth flowing sentences, but it’s too much work to try to make them run smoothly at this hour of the night. 🙂 If your a school teacher, please teach your children really good composition and don’t just brush over it with your students like I did when I taught school.

Oh, and I love how you stated that cleaning and babysitting would “drown you in sadness”. -so totally me-especially the cleaning part. 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  AK

AK, are you me? You have described me perfectly! From the never been asked to the not that great with children but can organize an office workflow. Just everything. Are you my twin out there somewhere?

“I’ve never been asked. For years and years, I wondered, too, if there was some serious flaw in me that no one guy seemed to want me.” “I don’t like when people make me feel like I should get married, because really, in our Mennonite culture, what am I supposed to do about it?” So So So true!!!! These few statements you made have been the cause of some of the deepest struggles in my acceptance of singlehood.

I went to college to get a degree in accounting. Guess what happened, I got the comment from an Uncle ‘what if you get married when you are half ways done.’ Well, excuse me, but what if I don’t? There is no guarantee I’ll marry when half ways done or when I’m completely done and either way I don’t believe it is a waste of time. By the way I’ve completely finished several years ago and am still single.

I personally came to the conclusions that God does not want me to ‘bury my talent’ just because some man may appear to marry me while I am in the middle of improving (college) or working with my talents. So with God’s help I continue to field the unthoughtful comments from ‘helpful’ family members and friends and put my talents to use the best way I know.

When or if God calls me to marry one day I trust He will help me through that as well.

Thank-you so much for your comment. It greatly encouraged me to see there is another like me and I’m not alone.

God’s blessing to you.

9 years ago

I chuckle when people (myself included) say, “She’s so nice, I wonder why she never got married.” Well, it just comes down to it that lots of people who did get married weren’t all that nice!

AK's sister
9 years ago

I must add that AK is a wonderful babysitter nonetheless. She takes time to do special things with her nieces and nephews, and they love her!

Another single man's sister
9 years ago

My brother’s feelings exactly. Undoubtedly due to the fact he was told no because “she didn’t know him good enough to make a decision.”

9 years ago

“(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.)”

This is the first I remember reading something that made me snort out loud next to my sleeping husband.

9 years ago
Reply to  Carolyn

I don’t have much luck commenting here, the last part of my comment is missing…
“Ending aloneness and enforcing selflessness” – just cracks me up.

9 years ago

I have something to say to thee as well, and it’s even biblically based :-). “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” James 4:3.While some men are getting no’s, there are many men who are not brave enough to ask. I’m in the past 30 crowd, and few of the friends I know in my age group have said no in the last several years (unless they are just being kind and not telling it around). I know of quite a few guys who got “no’s” several times, but were not afraid to keep asking, and eventually got married (and to wonderful girls). I’m not advocating asking a new girl every month until one finally says yes, however, I have a beef with guys who haven’t asked any girl in the last five years and are complaining about girls who say no. Courage men, courage!

9 years ago

And to the brother who asked numerous girls and got no’s, Bravo!!!! You are a courageous man. Don’t let those no’s get you down. Get involved in people’s lives (maybe you are already) and become passionate about something that matters in the kingdom of God. That is attractive! If you are overweight, do something about it. I’m sorry, unfortunately we women are quite human and aren’t attracted to men who don’t take care of themselves, just like you likely wouldn’t be attracted to a girl who doesn’t take care of herself. And please, don’t be afraid to ask another girl out. She might be wishing you would!

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