I'm privy to a lot of (unsolicited) dating advice. Not usually directed right at me, just articles and blog posts I come across. Some of the advice has been worth pondering. Some has been smug, insensitive and/or just plain bad. News flash: Single people are not all exactly the same. We have different needs and desires, different histories, different phases of life. It's pretty absurd to counsel, say, a fresh-faced college student and a middle-aged divorced woman exactly the same way. But it happens all the time. People love to tell singles how they ought to feel and behave about relationships, and that if they're failing to get dates, it's because they aren't following certain steps.
I'm sure all singles have our own personal advice peeves. But the one that gets under my skin the most, by far, is this popular gem for women:
"You won't find a man unless you say yes to everyone who asks you out."
For women of a certain age or temperament, this could be good advice. But for me? NO. How do I loathe this statement? Let me count the ways.
1. As Christian women, we're not supposed to "pursue" men we're interested in. (In some denominations, even friendly behavior toward a man can be viewed as pursuit and result in a panic moonwalk, but don't even get me started on that.) All we can do is wait to be noticed. Our only power at the start lies in our yes or no. Personally, I'm not about to hand over my only free agency.
2. The most common argument for this policy: it's sooo scary and difficult for men to ask women out, and they'll be more likely to do so if they know they won't be refused. How exciting and adventurous! If I were a man, I'd feel insulted. Listen, men, I acknowledge your guts. I know it's not easy to put yourself on the line. But if a mature woman feels the need to turn you down, she will do so as kindly as she can. If she's mean about it, you didn't need to be with her anyway. I truly hate to hurt anyone's feelings, but if I already know I'm not interested in a guy, it seems more considerate not to waste his time (more on this below). Also, I'd rather be asked out because a man genuinely likes me, not because I'm the only woman he knows who won't say no. It's meaningful to know that a man sees you and is willing to risk something for you.
3. Second support point: if you look beyond "surface" attributes that would normally make you say no, you might find that the man is actually perfect for you. This is a valid point if all you care about is physical appearance, but I hope most of us have moved beyond that. Like most people, I have a general idea of the qualities I want in a mate. I'm also aware that the right guy for me might be different from what I imagined, and I'm open to that. But I'm also pretty intuitive. My intuition isn't infallible, but it's correct most of the time, even when I had no initial solid proof or backup for those feelings. I'm slowly learning to stop doubting my gut. I get a sense of people pretty quickly. Sometimes I even feel like my heart chooses people to love (all kinds of love) before my head has caught up. Therefore, I know the right sort of man when I meet him, even if he doesn't match up with my ideal wish list. If my initial negative impression of someone is really wrong, I trust God to make that clear to me over time.
More importantly, I'm a grownup, and I know myself and what I want and need. It's sad that knowing what you want in a relationship is frowned upon and seen as narrow-minded or even as a sin. Especially if you're a woman.
4. I want to feel at least mostly excited about getting to know someone. There has to be some spark of interest that's not totally smothered by red flags. Anxiety, dread, and a sense of duty should not be anyone's primary dating emotions. Further, you're not doing anyone a favor by being with them begrudgingly or out of peer pressure. I speak from painful experience. If you know right away that you're not feeling it, leave the person free to find someone who's genuinely happy to be with them. Or to be alone, which is still better than being with someone who doesn't love you. Life is too short.
5. At what point have you sufficiently given someone a chance? If you go on one date and really aren't into it, well, that was only one date. He could have had an off night. Better go out again to be sure. Still feel blah? Oh, he's a nice Christian guy, you're just making shallow judgments. Give him another chance. Before you know it, you're giving him a chance at the altar with no clue how you got there. I know that's hyperbole, but between my people-pleasing nature that I battle constantly and the intense persistence of some single men, it's a personal phobia. At my age and in my culture, even casual dating isn't 100% casual. If I lived in a less conservative part of the country, or ran in different circles, I think I'd be more relaxed about all this. But I don't want anyone mentally marrying me off to some guy whom I'm not even sure I like that way.
6. In no other type of relationship are we so encouraged to throw our feelings or misgivings out the window. I don't see articles instructing us to be close, intimate friends with anyone who speaks to us. But when it comes to the most important relationship of your life, just give in to the first person who asks? It makes no sense.
Bottom line, I think we should all be allowed to have preferences and boundaries in dating, just like we do in everything else. Am I alone in my principles?