Getting a Little Messy

It’s springtime, which means things get a little messy. Mum and I have done some backyard gardening, with Dandelion as our “helper.” And with all this new life, my allergies go crazy, so my head is frequently a stuffed mess. Being a permanently single 40-something Christian dealing with other Christians’ strongly held views of singleness? Also messy.

A couple months ago, I was able to have 1½ hour long conversation with my friend, pastor and writer Scott Mehl, about “The Mess of Singleness” for his podcast, “The Messy Podcast.” The episode aired at the end of March, but I didn’t think to mention it here at the time. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to it, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It holds truths, challenges, and encouragements for both singles and marrieds. 

You can find it on Apple or Spotify:

Just when I think I’ve said everything there is to say on this topic, someone like Scott comes along with great questions, and I realize there is so much more that needs to be expressed about living the life of a single adult in today’s Christian church environments. 

One of the main things I wanted to express is that singleness is vast and varied. From the young 20-something who has just started dating, to the 75 year old man who recently lost his wife of 50 years, from the divorced single parent, to the never-married person in middle age, singleness is not one-size-fits-all. 

If the Christian community wants to serve its single people well, it needs to expand its perspective and be ready to truly get to know each individual and what their specific needs are rather than treating singles ministry like a monolithic entity, usually geared toward young adults with the goal of marrying off as many of us as possible.

I’d love to hear what you think of the topics touched on in this interview, so feel free to comment or message me back once you’ve listened! What would you like me to discuss next time? What needs to be repeated, delved into more deeply here on my blog, or what have I missed thus far?

On Old Insecurities

It was a Friday night, and I found myself feeling a little panicked. I NEEDED to dye my hair. Now for those of you who know me, you know well that I’ve been dying my hair various shades of burgundy/red/purple/etc. since the 1990’s, so this is nothing new. But I get lazy and also like my hair to be healthy, so I usually let it go a couple months between home box dye jobs and the used-to-be-dark-brown-but-are-now-pretty-grey roots rarely bother me. That Friday, however, I felt compelled to get my hair back to its fresh, bright, new burgundy.

Why that specific day, you ask? I had an outdoor event to attend on Saturday. With like 15 people. In LA. Gasp!!!

Looking at the RSVP list online, I knew the vast majority of the attendees would be friends – people who have seen me in various states of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They are all supportive, encouraging, lovely people who accept me as I am and seem to genuinely enjoy my presence. People I lived life with for 10 years before moving out of LA. But after 2 years of living the life of a trying-to-keep-my-mum-and-littles-alive-during-a-global-pandemic hermit, my brain was off and running.  Insecurities from over a decade ago loomed large and negative views of myself I had overcome popped back up, unbidden. Just – POOF! There they were!

I found myself scrolling through that RSVP list to see who all would be there, and started categorizing the differences between them and myself.

  • They were all thin and/or fit (significantly more so than my plus size self)
  • They were all stylish (ah, fashionable LA)
  • They all had great teeth (well, better than mine, which is not difficult)
  • They were almost all married (all but 1 or 2)

After this quick assessment, my brain informed me that I would be the one and onely chubby single friend, who had never had braces, in the tent-like maxi-dress.

So that Friday night, I texted my sister and bestie that I was dying my hair because I felt super frumpy. Which my autocorrect changed to grumpy. Appropriate.

Once I realized what my brain was thinking (that doesn’t always happen right away, you know?), I found it fascinating. I spent years in my late 20’s/early 30’s coming to terms with my weight and had decided that, for me, it was healthiest to accept being plus sized and move on with my life rather than keep trying to lose weight and have it constantly on my mind, feeding into my already-prone-to-depression self. It was and is freeing. The concern about fashion was an odd one for me, as I’ve always kind of done my own thing. The thing about being one of the only single people there is something I’ve dealt with for 2 decades now, and doesn’t usually bother me. And the teeth thing? Where did that come from? I don’t think that even bothered me when I lived in LA! So weird!

I sat back and pondered these intrusive thoughts and where they’d come from. Since I have barely socialized these past 2 years, and rarely in a large group, it seems to have brought back some very unexpected insecurities. It was more fascinating to me than concerning to have my mind wander to these places it hadn’t for so long. I could look at these thoughts and go “that’s interesting” but not let them get to me. I think the not socializing for 2 years may have some unknown side effects in my life, which I find intriguing. 

As these thoughts were all ones I had processed and come to terms with ages ago, I was able to hold them out away from me and look at them with curiosity, then tuck them safely away with a younger, less healthy version of my past self. 

Yes, I did dye my hair that night – but I did so like I always do, because I enjoy having reddish hair. It makes me feel confident and a little punkrock, most like myself. It looks healthier and is easier to take care of. And I enjoyed it because I no longer felt the NEED to look better. 

The party was enjoyable, everyone (as I suspected) was kind, happy to see me, positive, and non-judgmental. I was a bit of a wallflower for some moments of it, but that is normal for my awkward self and something I don’t mind. And yes, for curious minds, I was indeed the only plus sized person there, and only one of a couple singles. I didn’t actually notice anyone’s teeth, so can’t make a call on that, and they were all pretty freakin’ stylish, but I somehow fit in just fine.

What’s the moral of the story, you ask? It’s not that kind of a story. This is merely a descriptive personal tale of one moment of my life, not a universally prescriptive parable. The only universal truth in this is that socializing is hard for many of us, and can dredge up some past insecurities we thought were gone forever. When that happens, we’ll all just deal with them the best we can in that specific moment, with the capacity and resources we have available at that specific time. Godspeed to you all as you head out to (safely) socialize once again.

This Awkward Spinster’s Life on Social Media

I was going to start a 5 part blog series on ways to embrace prolonged adult singleness, but to be honest this week isn’t the week for it. Hurricanes, fires, over 180,000 dead of Covid-19, police still shooting Black men, the murder of protesters by a white nationalist teenager, so many lies each day of the RNC that it’s dizzying, and the constant barrage of white evangelical Christians online arguing on the side of violence, selfishness, greed, hate, ignorance, and hypocrisy has left me with little to no mental, emotional, or spiritual space for that right now. I’ll get to it because it is important, just not today, not this week.

Instead, I’d like to explain how I try to interact online in the insane world of 2020 social media. This is what I strive for, but to be honest, I constantly fall short. As a single adult in the 21st Century, a lot of my community has been facilitated via social media sites long before Covidlife made that normal. When you live alone or just with one other flatmate, and when you have a lot of friends who live in different cities, states, and countries who really are more like family, connecting online is an incredible blessing.

I don’t have a Twitter account anymore because I tried it for a year a couple years back and it just stressed me out. I already struggle with feeling the need to know everything that is going on in the world, so having that much information at my fingertips every second was overwhelming. I know I’m missing out on some awesome things, some beautiful and clever communities, some networking opportunities, etc. but I can’t do it. That’s a personal choice, you’ve got to make those too. But honestly, feel free to just delete an entire platform if you don’t like what it’s doing to you. 

What I do have is Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Instagram is my favorite because I’m a visual learner and photography is a hobby of mine; I studied it in high school and college a bit, my first job was a Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and I love seeing people’s lives through a visual medium. In the past few months, I’ve added more of my political views into my Insta account, especially through my Stories. With stay-at-home due to coronavirus and the lack of contact I have with other humans, social media is one of the main ways I can let others know that there are indeed real true Christians who disagree with the way the current administration sees the world, who know that Black Lives Matter and aren’t afraid to stand up for them. It’s not a Private account, so anyone can follow, but I do Block people who get weird.

Pinterest is my silly space to pin pics of all things geeky, Anglophile, and bookish as well as find recipes and keep track of my reading. I’ve been in that space for years, and really enjoy it. Before my school closed the school library this year and I lost my job, it was also a great place to find ideas for bulletin boards, lesson plans, and activities. This space is still just a fun one for anyone to check out.

Facebook is my most troubled online existence, but still remains the main way I can keep up with some of my dearest family and friends. It’s also where a lot of you, my readers, find my blog. FB, for me, has always been the main space I post any political or social thoughts, so be warned. I also only add people as Friends who I actually know in “real life” or know of well enough to trust on FB. So if you try to add me and I don’t know you, it probably won’t work, but a lot of what I post is public so you’ll still be able to see some of it.

When I lived in Los Angeles, a much more liberal city than the one in which I currently live, I never blocked anyone on social media unless they got truly pervy or creepy. I figured that, since I lived in a pretty liberal area, I shouldn’t limit my bubble, so I kept a pretty even balance of conservative and liberal friends. As an alum of both UCSB and The Master’s College, as a person who has lived most of her life in either LA or the AV, as a woman who has spent many months in other countries and continents and experienced worshiping in churches that look quite different than the typical white evangelical one, my friend and acquaintance list is incredibly diverse. I used to want my daily FB feed to echo that. But since moving back to the AV and working at a Christian school, my tolerance for that balance has decreased. Most of my in-person life was surrounded by the white evangelical Christian bubble, where I never quite fit, so I needed a slightly more liberal bubble online to keep me sane. So here are some of my online rules to help keep my sanity and some semblance of balance:

  • I don’t go on other people’s FB pages and argue unless I have an actual relationship with them, and even then I very rarely do so. I’ll “Like” and comment on pictures and posts, but steer clear of arguing. If they keep posting stuff I find horrible, I’ll just unfollow them. No big deal.

  • If someone comes on my FB page to argue, I try to respond reasonably and with respect, but with honesty. I do not pull my punches. I will respond until it becomes obvious that the “debate” is going nowhere, and then I will end it because there is no point in continuing. This is especially true when people I have not heard from in years, or even over a decade, hop on for the sole purpose of arguing. I don’t have the time or bandwidth to “debate” with someone who obviously has no other interest in me as a human than to “prove” their point. Honestly, if you haven’t shown any level of care for someone’s actual life, you have little to no authority to jump on their page and say they’re wrong. That conversation is not going anywhere for anyone.

  • If someone comes on my page and calls people names, will not stop arguing even after a few tries of being asked to stop because it is devolving, or is belligerent in another way, I will unfollow, unfriend, or block them as needed.

  • If someone is a creep, I will block and report them. Right now, I only have 6 people on my FB Block list, 3 of whom are creepy/abusive ex husbands of friends of mine, the other 3 of whom were blatantly and repeatedly disrespectful and verbally abusive to me or my friends and family in comments on my posts. The saddest part is that 5 out of 6 of these blocked “friends” still claim to be following in the footsteps of Christ. Shudder. Honestly, if you don’t like what someone says on their social media, just stop following them. Don’t abuse them, their friends, and family. I have more people blocked on Instagram, but that’s mostly because I get random creepy comments/friend requests from guys I don’t know that are just cringey. So I block them real fast. Again, why??? Just eeeeew. No woman likes this. Not one.

  • I’m not going to lie, the longer the current administration has been in power, the more people I’ve unfriended online. I stopped feeling bad about that awhile ago.

So why do I bother saying anything online that isn’t all joy and happiness? First, there is such a thing as Toxic Positivity that claims everything is okay and we should just have a positive outlook and it’ll all get better. Which is neither biblically or demonstrably true. Second, I think it is incredibly disrespectful to the families and friends of people who have died from Covid-19, or Black Americans fighting for their very right to live, or others who are genuinely suffering to pretend everything is normal. Things are not normal. And, as a follower of Christ, I believe I should follow the advice of King Lemuel’s mother as recorded in Proverbs 31:8-9:

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

So I try to create an online presence that looks an awful lot like me, like my real life. A weird balance of pictures of my dog, activism, my niece and nephews, nature, my mum, books, mixed with scripture, articles, memes, comics, and other random stuff. I’ve never been one to shy away from being open and authentic, so you’re going to see that in whatever space we meet. 

I was a high school English teacher for 8 years of my life, so a lot of the people who follow me online are former students of mine, now incredible young men and women in their 20’s and even early 30’s (gasp!). Many of them are young men and women who are struggling with the current state of America. Though I’m no longer their teacher, they are still and forever will be My Kids, and I feel a responsibility to them as well as any other people who follow me online, to do all I can to stand up for what is just and right and good. Don’t mess with my kids!

Here’s the downside – I fail at this. A lot. I’ve argued more than I should. I’ve ignored comments I shouldn’t have when I was tired or just over it. I’ve reposted things with the wrong intentions – just wanting to get my thoughts out there without actually thinking how it would affect others. I’ve hurt friends inadvertently by posting things that pain them. I’ve said too much or not enough, spoken about the wrong thing in the wrong moment, been insensitive or arrogant. I know of at least 2 relationships at the moment that I need to figure out how to repair, if possible. I am imperfect, but I am trying. And, by God’s grace alone, I am growing. So, please have patience with me in all my various versions, I’m trying.

How do you guys deal with your online realities?
Any tips that have worked for you?