This post begins with a true story. I was sitting at Church last Sunday, alone, and a little dolled up in response to the What Not to Wear marathon my mom and I indulged in over winter break. I was pumped to spend some time with God, get my focus back, all that jazz. To make a long story short, a man thought it would be a good idea to pass me a note in the middle of the sermon asking me out on a date. I was caught off guard, and more than a little annoyed, but I did consider (for a moment) saying yes. He was awkward and not all that bright (from what I could gather of our pre-service chit chat), but I've been told by more than a few friends and family that I have to work on being more approachable and less judgmental, about dating that is. And then I remembered, the man passed me a note in the middle of the sermon. Even minus the creepy vibe and lame comments before church began, passing a note in the middle of my time with God earns you a big no. A quick question after the service might have earned a must-be-open-minded yes. When picking up a girl at church it's important to remember that she might be there for God and might find such a note more than a little inappropriate, and certainly not the mark of the sort of man she'd actually like to date...
The real question was, do I say no (and interrupt everyone else's focus), do I condone the note passing with one of my own, or do I shift in my seat awkwardly until the the service comes to a close? Pen please! To my dismay, he didn't have one. Wait, how did he write the note to begin with? Was this planned? Was he a church crasher? Well I found a pen and wrote back, sorry, I'm dating someone already (lies, during church, oh my). He managed to persevere, however, and wrote back a few minutes later (holding it up for all around me to see): do you have any sisters? Seriously?? Any guilt I had vanished then and there. Ridiculous. After my second no it wasn't much longer before he just got up and walked out with the sermon still in full gear. And I'm left wondering, what just happened? Am I at a bar? Or back in 5th grade? I'm bewildered.
I tell that story to make a few points. The first is this: it's not at all flattering, to me at least, to be asked out based purely on physical appearance. That's not my strong suit, to be sure, and it hasn't been a big problem. But even so, I've had my fair share of awkward moments like this. It's enough to start singing Knock Em Out. And it makes me doubt the advice of Stacey and Clinton. Come to think of it, it's awfully unfair that the pressure seems to always be on women to dress nicely and look our best. And I'll be honest, as awkward and unattractive as the culprit was last Sunday, if he had been someone who had gotten to know me, or if we were already somewhat friends, it would have been worth a shot. After all, at least then I would have known that he was interested for the right sort of reason. I'm not saying nothing can ever come out of a random number exchange, I'm just saying that it can be a real turn off. Though I suppose that if this had happened at a bar I would have been less weirded out, and I probably wouldn't have thought much of it at all. Anyway, there's no way this would happen to a man, certainly not at church. So my main complaint is that women, despite our mighty feminist gains, are still subject to creepy approaches, to being objectified, even in church. That annoys the crap out of me. Not new, I realize, but still. Ugh.
Now, I think my "even in church" clause is misleading. This brings me to my next complaint: the church is a meat market, especially youth and young adult groups. There is serious pressure in Christian circles to pair off and marry. What better place to shop for a mate than church? I was briefly involved in a Christian organization during college, and many of my cohort there are now either engaged or married. Some, I'd say they did the right thing. Others, well... I worry. The joke is that if you're dating, and if it's senior year, then the gal better get a ring sometime between Christmas and Valentine's Day, or the relationship has been a waste of precious time. The pressure to marry early is insane, and it makes it hard to be a genuine participant in a young adult gathering. If I go, will anyone really believe that I'm there just to make friends and have fellowship? Will the guys be measuring me up for my wife potential? Hint: my potential is low. That is, I have low "good Christian wife" potential, where my independence, sarcasm, and career ambitions (okay, this is a stretch, but I love my job/school, and won't easily give it up) are seen as threatening. Do I mind? Kind of. I mean, I mind in that the standards by which I'm measured (or that it feels like I'm measured) are outdated and not in line with what I really believe God has in store for many women. But I don't mind in the sense that I don't regret not having a ring on my finger from any of those guys, because any guy threatened by my independence is not the guy for me. But yeah, in the Church frustrations mount as the pressure rises and the standards just don't fit.
So what's a girl to do? Well, for starters I've made my feelings known to friends, family, and fellow church goers (well, at my old church). I think it's important that the new generation of Christian women rise up and speak up against traditional gender roles, and against the supposition that they must be in want of a husband and 2.5 children before the age of 30 (or at all). Believe it or not, there is a large number of deeply religious young women that are embracing the change I think we need. Sure, older generations frown and fuss, but we can be the start. Yes, yes the church is historically/currently patriarchal, and some say that's enough reason to ditch the religion all together. But I think it's better that women work within the church for change, if they still believe, because they need to be the ones to make the church a better place for their sisters, daughters and friends. It is possible to be true to your faith and maintain your equal worth in God's eyes and in the world. I think Jesus would be all for it. Remember Mary and Martha? Mary chose what was better by stopping the "woman's work" to spend time with the son of God. At church, women should feel like they are equals, like they aren't be objectified or being measured up. It only takes a few.