“There are three vocations people can take: married, clergy or single,” my 6th grade teacher said as she read from the Family Life book during Religion class. Yes, I was aware. Earlier in the week I was forced to painfully page through the Catholic Sex Ed book with my parents so they could sign the permission slip confirming that we had talked about the birds and bees. It was the only time I disliked my mother’s beautiful calligraphy handwriting that was impossible to forge.
“Everyone chooses one of the three,” she continued. “Stand up if you’re going to be married.” I glanced up from the doodles in my notebook to notice nearly the entire class standing beside their desk.
“Stand up if you’re going to be in the clergy,” the teacher said as they took their seat. One student stood up. Though I didn’t necessarily see him as a Priest, it was possible he had received a call from God I didn’t know about.
“Now, finally, stand up if you’re going to be single.” Was this the only option left? I stood. And realized that I was the only one standing. My heart skipped a beat as everyone’s eyes shifted to me.
Why Did I Stand for Single?
5% Rebellion. Similar to my B. Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” rendition of my Catholic School uniform much to my Principal’s dismay.
5% Insecurities. I’ve always been self-conscious and in sixth grade I still had a lot of self-confidence to gain.
90% Confusion. How did everyone know that they were going to get married if marriage is a two-person agreement? Did they all have a secret pact to marry each other? It didn’t seem likely that they had already met the love of their life at age 11. I mean, I once thought I would marry my cat. But, you know.
It also begged the question: Why would our teacher even ask for such a definitive answer to an entirely subjective question?
The Girlfriend Guy
“Thanks for sending the podcast the other day, it has been helpful.” His text was like music to my ears. Since starting The Story of My Life, a handful of guys have confided in me about their dating issues. And he is one.
While some guys are looking to get out of their relationships, he is looking for one to get in. He is what I would call a “Girlfriend Guy.” The type of lovable guys who feel most comfortable with a girlfriend. Since he does not have one right now, dating has become a large part of his spare time. However, since it’s impossible for every date to work out, he is left with downtime that feels foreign. How does a Girlfriend Guy find joy in single life?
Love and Sex and Attachment
One of my favorite podcasts has become On Being with Krista Tippett. I thirst for each weekly episode, and when I saw that the newest one was titled “Love and Sex and Attachment” I had a feeling that it wouldn’t just quench my thirst, but completely drench my desire for more information on one of my favorite topics. And that it did.
First, let’s just say, Helen Fisher is a new girl crush. She’s an anthropologist who studies sex and love, is known for her famous TED talks and now does research for Match.com. She has also published a number of books on the topic, which I am reading right now, and that you can expect to hear more about in future blog posts.
Growing up as a twin inspired Helen to study the question: What makes all of us the same?
What Makes Us All the Same?
The answer: Our reproductive strategies, as well as what she calls the “profoundly basic human drive to love.” Aww. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? However, it is the who, how and why we love that is where things get interesting.
In the podcast, Helen explains that thousands of years ago in farming societies, marriage was a means of survival. If your spouse died, you would remarry the next day because who would feed the cows? Who would farm the land?
However, that is not the case today. While a majority of people would say that they would rather be in a relationship than not, we are learning that it is possible to lead lives full of love without one. Since dating is not a matter of life or death, more people are taking their time and getting into relationships slowly which has also given rise to online dating and one-night stands.
Though Helen credits hooking up as a way to get to know someone, she also cautions listeners: “If you don’t want to be attached to someone, don’t sleep with them.” Her studies look at the science behind sex and explain why casual sex can sometimes lead to unexpected emotions thanks to our bodies’ natural reaction and the dopamine that floods our system.
For me, the information was empowering, and I was glad to hear that it helped my guy friend as well: “It made me realize a lot of things that are just instinctual emotions rather than true feelings of love. Pretty profound.”
However, I know that for others it’s uncomfortable. As Americans, we love love from romantic comedies to fairytale weddings to some sweet sexting throughout the day. And I love it, too. But I believe a fundamental understanding of it is important for healthy, productive relationships.
It’s a Matter of Choice
Had my guy friend and I been in the same sixth grade classroom, I think it’s safe to assume he would have stood in the first group, while I was standing last. Which is totally fine. But why is it that 16 years later, I am still obsessed with this gap? To the point that I created a blog primarily around it?
I am very much like Helen Fisher. I have always been interested in what unites us, and one of those things being love. Despite growing up in a stable household with two loving, married parents, I never felt forced in one direction, and it’s interested/alarmed me when others feel that way. Though all of our biological clocks are ticking, and it is human nature to want to reproduce – to ensure that our DNA lives on – we have evolved to the point that we can focus more on meeting an amazing person, with the idea of marriage second. This isn’t the farm anymore.
It’s okay to take as much time as you need. In the same way that I could have stopped by Circle-K to grab donuts for these photos, I went on a full-on road trip to discover ones that were unique. We are all hoping for something special.
When Would I Stand Now?
Now if I were in a classroom and the teacher asked us to stand for which vocation we would choose one day, I would stay seated. I would politely suggest that she restate the question: “Do you see marriage as a possibility? Do you see single life as a possibility?”
Yes and yes.
While it’s fairly safe to assume that out of the millions of people on Earth, I will want to marry one, I do not want to put that type of pressure on myself. And while I love my independence, I have met guys throughout my life who I think would make incredible husbands, and I imagine there are more out there. Because of that, my future marital status will ultimately be determined by who I meet and when I meet them.
So, are we meant to be single or married? Biologically speaking, it doesn’t seem so, but I’m not certain. All I know for sure is that I want to focus on who I love before choosing how that love manifests itself.