Put your hands up!
I’ve been noticing a trend among young Catholics (myself included, recently) that consists of complaining (maybe not complaining, but discussing… all the time) about the lack of other young Catholics of the opposite sex.
I see it in the people I follow on twitter. Other young Catholics, feeling alone and unmatched in different parts of the country. I see it in my friends, both male and female. I think there are a few causes of this.
First and foremost, we don’t know how to date. It’s an art that has been lost. We didn’t really do it in high school, and any relationships we did have weren’t anything real anyway. They were superficial, status-related, and lacking seriousness. We wanted to pursue virtuous and long-lasting relationships, but that brings me to my second point: all of our models for dating feature(d) sex.
I grew up in a family where chastity and abstinence were not only taught, but expected. As I learned more about sex and human dignity and sacramental marriage, I made the conscience decision to remain chaste until marriage. Most of my friends in high school- and definitely as adults- are in the same boat. We want to be able to enter into marriage with our whole selves, body and soul, and share the beauty of sexual intimacy with only one person. It’s rare these days, but not unheard of. It’s also not really where I was planning to go with this, so I’ll move on from me.
Back to my second point: all of our models for dating feature sex. It was true when we were in high school and it’s true now. Movies, television shows, music, magazines… I mean, let’s be honest, even our parents and our friend’s parents. We are inundated with sex. Okay, it’s not always sex, but almost always some sort of physical intimacy is expressed, and not having intimacy in that way makes you strange. I mean, I was convinced there was something wrong with me because my life was really similar to Lizzie McGuire’s, but I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 16 and she had kissed a boy and Aaron Carter by the time she finished middle school. By the time I was 16, I had stopped comparing my love life to that of a fictional television character. But it didn’t change the way I saw myself as a 13 and 14 year old.
See, the big issue with sex is that it has permeated all areas of our society. And it influences the way we view ourselves. There were so many times I questioned my pursuit of morality when I was in high school, most often when I was
making hanging out with boys (sorry, mom). All of my pop culture icons were reminding me that I was doing something wrong because I still had my clothes on. I was being prude, I would never actually find love, etc… I never acted on these things, but I definitely considered them.
And I think that’s where we struggle as the faithful, especially the single faithful. There are some great role models! Leah Darrow is one of my personal favorites. But she’s married. Most of the ‘influential’ Catholic blogs I read are of married moms. And that’s great. It is. If I am ever a mother, I hope that I can look to these women for guidance and a laugh and be able to understand their points of view with greater clarity.
But right now, I’m a single, chaste woman in a world that tells me each and every day that I am wrong. I am nothing. Feminists tell me that I am wrong for not “embracing” my sexuality and “owning” my body. In a way, though, I am, and more than they do.
I, along with my fellow chaste brothers and sisters, are embracing our bodies. We are owning our sexuality. So much so that we see these things as a prize. I am worth so much that my body and my soul deserve only one man. My future husband has so much dignity that he deserves to protect his decision of chastity and not have it questioned. My best friend deserves to guard her heart and her soul from the hurting that accompanies premarital sex, without someone telling her that she is wrong or stupid or will change her mind when she ‘meets the right person’.
The thing is… She may never meet the right person. At least according to the world’s standards. Another reason why we aren’t dating is because we are all discerning…
(worst thing to ever happen) There’s tons of people around. But we are still young and still trying to prayerfully discover if we are actually called to marriage, or to religious life, or to holy orders. These are all beautiful and necessary vocations and it is important to actively discern. But I have to ask… What is the cost? How can you actively discern without doing some dating?
The struggle that my friends (and I) face is that everyone is so centered on finding their spouse that no one is asking anyone on dates. Just a date… I mean, a casual date.
“Hey, you’re pretty, smart, and trying to be holy, do you want to get dinner with me?”
“Hey, you’re handsome and virtuous and brave to take the risk, I would love to go on a date with you”
No proclamations of undying love, no proposals for anything more than an evening. Obviously, we want the more, we want the marriages, the commitments, etc. But as my bff+e says “I just want a semi-attractive guy to ask me on a date.”
Maybe the right thing is to discern out of single life, seminary, an order, etc. before beginning a dating relationship. Obviously the most important thing is to remain prayerful in it.
So… Here’s my question to single Catholics… How are you pursuing your vocation? Are you praying about it? Are you cultivating your heart for another? Is your heart in the hands of Jesus as you prepare to learn who will hold it for the rest of your life?
Most importantly… Are you actually doing something about it?