Yesterday, Shasta’s Fog wrote a blog post about what it’s like to be single in a Mennonite community. It has since gone “Menno-viral” and stirred up some controversy.
This blog post is a response to that blog post. In my opinion, here’s why I think her article is important, and how I think it should be interpreted.
Note: This is my personal opinion. I am not “speaking for” the author in any way.
First: The article is important because it sheds light on an unexplored aspect of singleness.
What do you think of when you think about singleness?
I think of people shaking their heads, saying, “How can she still be single? She’s so kind/sweet/pretty. What’s wrong with all the men?”
I think of all those articles on singleness. Articles about finding your purpose in God and not in a husband, or about waiting for the right one, or about how men should man up and ask out the nice Christian girls.
We always frame the singleness discussion in a very specific way. We assume that the primary motivation for marriage is the inherent joy of having a loving life partner and the ability to start a family, and that the pain of singleness stems from a lack of those things.
Esther’s article was the first I’ve seen that said, essentially, “singleness is tough because single people are treated differently. It’s hard to be excluded from ‘the married club.'”
Second: The article should be viewed as a springboard for thought, and not be taken quite so literally.
If you took the article 100% literally, you may get the idea that married people have to tread on thin ice around single people in order to avoid offending them.
Conversely, you may get the idea that married people are completely rude and insensitive by virtue of being married.
Obviously, neither of these is true. If you are married and find yourself doing a couple of the things on the list, now might be a good time to stop. HOWEVER, we get that you’re busy, and don’t always know how to respond in “the right way.” We’re not constantly offended, and we give grace to people who have good intentions but are rude anyway.
We just want our perspective to be heard, too.
Which leads to the next point, which is…
Third: It’s more about the culture than about the specifics.
Being kind to single people is not about following a specific list. It’s not about inviting them to all the right parties and never asking them to babysit. It’s about including them and treating them like adults, which is going to look a bit different in every situation.
Culturally, we see people as somehow, magically becoming adults when they get married. When do people move from the youth Sunday school class to the adult Sunday school class? When do people get invited to go on the ladies’ retreat, or get asked to be on a committee?
This isn’t a uniquely Mennonite problem. If I had gotten married at age 19, I could have gotten financial aid for college independent of my parents’ income. As it is I had to wait until I was 24, even though when I started college I had already been on my own for a year and a half.
Many cultures, throughout many centuries, have made marriage a benchmark of adulthood. I’m not denying that marriage often forces people to grow up. However, it is important to remember that while this is a common cultural practice, it is not Biblical. As Esther pointed out, both Jesus and the apostle Paul were single, and the latter actively praised singleness in I Corinthians 7.
Please remember that single people are people too.
I welcome your comments, but please respect the fact that Esther is my friend, and will likely be reading this blog. If you feel the need to personally attack her, please do not do it on this blog.
Again: I am not speaking for the author in any way.
But you could have been. 🙂 Yes. This.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I don’t know your friend, but I’d love to meet her! Sometimes when we feel challenged, it’s because we need to be changed.
My next door neighbor is not your typical 70 year old Mennonite Mrs. Becky Home-Eckie Grandma. However she is highly intelligent, has served on committees and boards and run businesses, taught Sunday School, and been a faithful member at one of our local churches for 40+ years. I just heard recently, through the grapevine, from the whisperings and hushed voices from the sisters in her own church, that this woman has been known to, you’re not going to believe it, but she has been seen taking a store bought package of cookies to share for fellowship dinner.
Imagine the outrage!
From a lady that should “know better”.
This would usually go in one ear and out the other, a roll off my shoulders kind of statement.
But this was said about my Momma, and something way deep inside crumbled and broke, and I wept. For her. For them. It’s not funny to me when Oreo cookies determines the value of any person.
This disdain is not limited to single people toting cakes from Kroger’s. 😢
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oh my word, Linda.
Thanks for sharing this even if it makes us cry with you.
You forgot to mention when do single people get to move to the grown-ups table at family gatherings…
LikeLiked by 2 people
Good response, Emily!
I am finding this whole discussion about singleness from a Mennonite view point very stimulating! Today I turned 52 and yes, I am still single. If I would have know that 30 years ago it would have seemed like a death sentence but today I can accept it for what it is. I can identify with every aspect of Shasta’s Fog, the pain, the loneliness, feeling like you are on the fringes. In the past I hesitated to share some of my feelings because I feared it would make me appear weak and most of all I did not want anyone’s pity!! But over the last several years I have began to open up and share my desires with married and single friends and family. Yes, I did receive some pitying looks but more than that I found what I gained was respect, support, and love! There is freedom in voicing/acknowledging the grief, the loss, the death of a dream.
I had an experience several weeks ago that I thought was very beneficial in bridging the married/single gap. I was invited to go to the beach with 2 married ladies and 1 single lady. I didn’t know them very well but didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation. We had several meaningful times of sharing about the joys and sorrows of single life and married life. I came away with so much respect for those 3 ladies. Why don’t we initiate things like that more often!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Sounds like a wonderful idea to me!