Guest Writer: Tom Ward
The climb of every mountain starts with a single step but looks a bloody long way up from the bottom I can tell you.
So I’m at a wedding. I’ve listened to the sermon. Nodded thoughtfully. I’ve played through the service. Smiled. A lot. I’ve posed for photos. Chatted with old friends. Mingled. I’ve eaten my fill and I’m sitting back enjoying a nice glass of something or other, taking a little breather from the festivities. Now, if you are of a certain disposition (above 18 and have a pulse) the mind inevitably turns to the question “what would I do at my own wedding?”
This probably isn’t the most guy-ish thing to think about, but we all do it. We do the list of the things we like and will most likely copy. Rustic sign of couple’s name and date – check. Table names themed around significance for the couple – check. Amazing Einaudi arrangement – check and outright steal. It’s human nature.
You also look around the wedding breakfast at the couples in their different stages. The wedding couple themselves. Other newlyweds. The folks past their third anniversary. The couple who have been going out for 9 months. The parents of the bride and groom. The single people.
You think about them all, about all these different stages of life and it visualises the eternal struggle of single people. So does the checklist. We’re planning for the future, we hope for the future, we live for the future that has not yet been realised. It’s a little microcosm of a Christian’s life on earth; living and working for the eternal reward that has not yet come. (Annie, this gets me theology points, right? Right?)
Men love to be able to effect change, but the pursuit of happiness can be met with resistance. Not everything happens on the timescale we would like. Romance is a terrible DIY project. It (mostly) can’t be split down into smaller jobs. There is no timeline. No deadline. Most of the time what you have looks nothing like the instruction manual. How do you cope living in the shadow of the future you hope for? The pressure is palpable.
It doesn’t help that there aren’t many unmarried Christian role models around. Think about how many unmarried role models do you have older than 30? Or even 25? How many people can you think of that head up something in church and are unmarried? In my church the number is somewhere around one.
As you get older church seems to consist less of single people and more of married couples. I will bitch and moan about this right now, about how it’s tough being single, how my needs are not met, how the older you get the more abnormal and ostracised you can feel. However. I will hopefully get married one day (and walk about terrorizing helpless singles about their love life and what about that cutie over there I’m sure he’ll like you oh you’re just so great just let me talk to him for you and get him to buy you a drink). This is a total betrayal of what I’m trying to say here I guess. I will stand up proudly for the cause of single men and women, as a bastion of hope in the hardship, a beacon of truth in the grim darkness right up until I get the chance to jump ship. What can I actually say to you that isn’t contrived or forced hopefulness or just griping? Maybe just wisdom on how to get by and actually grow in singleness from someone who’s been doing it way too long.
If you want to be good at something, find someone who is better at it than you and listen to what they have to say. Then go and suck at doing that thing until you don’t. This applies to everything from convincing the opposite gender how hip and cool you are to poaching an egg. This is how you should be living your life. Really.
Don’t wait until you are married to start being the husband or wife you want to be. We all have issues we know we need to get sorted out. Eventually. So why wait? And hey, if you don’t have an SO right now that must mean you have an overabundance of free time to do this, right?
Use your words. Seriously. Just say the thing you want to say. Don’t try to guess what other people feel, don’t try to hint at things, just be straight forward. I’ve done some stupid things over the years but the times I regret most are when I didn’t try to find out how other people felt and I’ve been left wondering.
God doesn’t really give us things when we don’t try for them. He isn’t a personal matchmaking service to deliver your perfect partner with no work involved. You need to take initiative (no matter what gender you are) and make things happen. Only you can prevent forest fires.
Find good friends. Keep them. Nothing is as bad when you have really good friends. Nothing is as good as when it happens with really good friends.
Be naturally suspicious of people who give different advice to men and women. This will help you sniff out the bullshit. Half the advice written for women on dating seems to be stuck in a mindset from about twenty years ago. Guys don’t always make a move on someone they like. Often for legitimate reasons. You don’t know what’s going on with their family, their work, their friends, their health, their spiritual life. Bloody ask already, it is ok to ask out a guy. Worst case scenario: if they turn you down just because you took the initiative instead of them, does that really sound like someone you want to be with? Bullet dodged. Deep down how much do you listen to advice to be timid, reactive or passive because it is actually good advice? How much do you listen because putting yourself out there sounds risky and potentially hurtful? Guys who would be uncomfortable when asked out: why? You’d better have a damn good reason.
Fear is good. Fear is telling you that you are afraid of losing something. It is telling you that you actually value a potential relationship and what this person thinks of you. Fear lets you know when you are on to something special.
I usually don’t use sports/games metaphors when it comes to relationships. They are usually incredibly crass or just downright sexist. There is one I like, however. “The point isn’t to always win. The point is to play a beautiful game.” Living out your full potential isn’t about always being in a relationship or always being successful in pursuing someone. Dating isn’t the game. Life is the game.
Always wear sunscreen.
So I’m still at this wedding. The bride has a bib. Classic! I’m at the wedding and there’s an old flame there that I haven’t seen in a long while. Maybe flame is a bit strong. Old spark? Old heat? Old… I don’t know okay? But she’s hot alright? Just go with it, just be cool, okay? Daaamn.
Anyway. One of those people you can see as being perfect for you. Nothing ever happened, but she was one of those people who makes you want to be a better person (where are you going with this Tom?). They have a habit of showing up now and again, don’t they?
My point is after a while you learn to your failures, your mistakes, your unfortunate pasts. (No autocorrect, pasts, not pasta) they become just things that have happened. This is how we deal with the present. This is how we live today for tomorrow. We know eventually that this too shall pass. This too will be something we dimly remember one night as we try to fall asleep. This sounds terrifying at first, but it is ultimately hopeful as it shows us a way past our current problems to a future we can imagine that has something better. Something new.
The present is the only time we interact with the past. We can do it on our own terms based in who we are now. Not who we were then. The present is the only time we build the future, too. At all times there is at least a tiny bit of the future we can make right now. I know that one day I will look back on my current struggles from a better place in my life. I know that in that moment I will be also making plans to make my life even greater. That sounds pretty damn hopeful to me.
So I finish my drink. I get up from the table. I have old friends to talk to.
Tom Ward is 25, and is about to become a student. Again. He will be studying mathematics and trying to avoid becoming a teacher. He rates his chances at 50/50. His life is uncomfortably close to Scott Pilgrim and he writes sarky profiles about himself at three in the morning.