We need to chat about this.
They are some of the most popular posts I have ever written, garnering more attention than some of the most controversial or thoughtful things I have ever said in this space. When I am asked to guest post, it's not uncommon for one of the topics I am given to consider exploring to be centered on that particular issue. More than once, I have found myself on a list of bloggers featured for no other reason than this detail, which follows me around like a shadow of a self I have forgotten.
I am single.
Variations of the condition in online circles results in forms of single blogger or single Christian guy or single Christian guy blogger, who this one time wrote a letter to his future wife and was dumb enough to publish it.
I've been keeping a candid voice here in these lines of text for a few years now, but if memory serves, the last time I wrote about singleness was in the summer, as a guest post, about the humorous nature of the +1 wedding invitation and having to attend alone. Expectedly, it was one of the highest read and shared posts I have ever written, and I still receive emails from people who have only recently read it and want to share their own experience navigating the tumultuous waters of the single life.
You may ask, then, as a reader recently did in an email, why I have stopped writing about being single. You may wonder why, if it is a guaranteed way to boost my traffic, my online presence, my platform, I have chosen to by and large remove that topic from my lexicon of meditations.
The answer has a handful of moving parts, all of which came in their own time, and I think I am finally ready to start opening up about the complexities, though I want to do so only briefly, give just enough, and not bore you too much with a lot of unnecessary detail:
1. My singleness does not define me.
The difficulty with writing about a topic that draws a lot of attention is the result of association. One too many posts about relationships and I was inundated with emails about bad boyfriends and girlfriends who didn't text back. Then there was the general sense that because I had written about the thing well, I had the ability to speak into every situation with some sort of wisdom. While I have always been happy to receive reader email---though it can take me time to respond, my inbox is a nightmare---I've never sold myself as knowing any more than I do. I really am twenty-three. I really do quote Ke$ha sometimes.
What I know is that my whole life is not defined by or driven by my singleness. I'm in no rush to get married, though I very much hope to do so someday. And, someday, I'll write out some of the stories I have about ex-girlfriends that are humorous or telling, after enough time has past that it can be memory and poetics and not mean-spirited. But for now, what drives me is discussing theology, making good food, listening to people's stories, and loving with fullness and fierceness and passion. I'd be really thrilled if tomorrow I met a woman who wanted to partner with me in that. But it's a great big world and there is time enough for all kinds of wonders. It doesn't need to be tomorrow or next year. At a certain point, I finally understood that. So in a blog devoted to me being transparent with you about who I am, what I'm up to, what I'm thinking through, I have to admit there's not a lot of singleness that comes up for me these days.
(Except when people ask. I admit that, then, it gets a little dicey. Haven't you met a cute girl over there in Scotland? I'm working on not profanely responding to that question. I'm too clever by a half, and in this it shows unfortunately.)
2. I grew tired of the sort of response posts about singleness drew, particularly from young women.
Where to even begin?
You may as well know that this post on When in Comments comes out of this issue. After every post I have ever written about being single, I receive at least five emails from young Christian women flirting with me and asking if I'd like to strike up an online "friendship". Or they don't want to flirt but want to have me as some sort of safe, online guy at their emotional disposal.
It's heartbreaking. Not only are the emails often awkward but also they communicate that we've become so jaded in our idea of what a good relationship can be or could look like that we're willing to chuck entire portions of our theology out the door if we can cozy up to someone who happens to be articulate and not a total jerk. I have really, really complicated theological positions and I am looking forward to meeting a woman---if God wills, because, hey, celibacy is real and sometimes it happens---who likes to spar and put me in my place and challenge me. Real talk: clever and capable women are sexy. But the majority of the emails I receive are laden with problematic theology and a lack of self respect, not to mention an inability to establish healthy boundaries. It's disheartening and a bit offensive, because it makes me feel as if putting myself out here in this space has been a bit of a waste. It's like I've been talking to a wall and the wall has suddenly decided to respond, but only to the last three words I have said. (... Not my best analogy. See? This topic totally robs my poetics.)
In the public comments, writing about singleness, even humorously, garners some of the most awkward online responses. Ranging from assurances that I'll find someone to sexually-charged emotional manipulation, the public reaction to reflections on a single life leave me queasy. Often, it's a space in which people feel free to be bitter openly, to decry how none of their coupled friends seem to get it, and I'm so far away from that kind of thinking that I don't know how to engage it well. I'm not pissed off about being single and, even when I try to communicate that, it seems more often than not the sentiment is ignored in favour of being mad and bitter and passive aggressive or trying to bargain with God---and don't even get me started on how poorly I take that last one.
As I said above, singleness is not the sum of who I am, so unlike my very talented friends who are able to write about singleness without their comment sections turning into a pit of awkwardness, I've steered clear of the dialogue.
3. I don't write the way you're supposed to when it comes to, well, pretty much anything, but particularly this.
You all know me well enough to know that even this post was a stretch for my writing. It has numeral points in it, for goodness' sake.
What I found when writing about singleness, especially in other spaces, is that I was normally asked to do so in a way that masked a how-to post in the form of story. We all know how much I think that's a waste of time. I prefer to keep spinning out narrative things, reflections, to focus on Gospel lived in the everyday. I haven't found a way to do that, unlike my friends, while writing explicitly about the single life. Until I can, I don't think it's an area I necessarily want to explore. I don't like posts like this. I don't like the sound of them on my ear.
Regrettably, this means you've missed out on some great moments of humour, Internet, like the guy who told me in front of his wife that I needed to settle because he had too, or that one time one of my ex-girlfriends ended up engaged on Holy Saturday and everything liturgical in me shouted, Did she learn nothing from me?!
But, I think that area of silence is for the best.
We'll keep things about grace and light and life and love around here, we'll keep baking it out before making out---the only true relationship advice I have---and when and if my singleness changes, well, dear Internet, you're going to be the very last know.
a.k.a. Boy, twenty-three, charming but deranged.