Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On CK1, Young Lust, and Adult Love


I grew up in a religious household and [I was forced to attend] youth group retreats that focused on dating and ‘how to find God’s perfect mate for you.’

Some of these events included drawing on a Barbie doll with a Sharpie to display what areas of your body were permissible to touch when dating (sex was out of the question) and scare tactics by showing graphic pictures of what STDs looked like. We also were instructed to make lists of our non-negotiables for a future spouse.

We were 13-years old. We barely knew how to maintain our own hygiene.

We didn’t know what we wanted in a dating situation other than hoping they were really cute, a good kisser, and liked the same music we did. Yet list-making we did, being brainwashed into believing there was one ideal person that would be everything we wanted them to be before ever meeting them.

My list of an ideal mate included such weighty items as “tall, handsome, funny, loves God, wears CK1.”

Some of my friends made their lists and some of them met ‘their person’ and got married young. It didn’t work that way for a lot of us, though.

While I believe that my youth group leaders had admirable, good intentions, reality is that fear tactics and lists of ideals harmed my ability to learn about what actually mattered in a relationship. It didn’t train me for life within a relationship.

Or marriage at 24 years old. Or divorce at 27 years old.

It didn’t teach me about how to set healthy boundaries.
Or how to stand up for myself when something felt uncomfortable or hurtful.
Or how to distinguish what ‘red flags’ are and how to talk about them.
Or how to break up with someone in a dignified manner.
Or how to like myself first, the other person second.

Nothing about character. Just a list of check boxes that indicated if you were ‘staying pure’ or not.

At age 29, I tried something different. I threw out the old mentality and I committed to a new way of doing relationships.

I made a list of all the things that hadn’t worked and things I did not want. I did something scary – I trusted the process. I didn’t try to control the variables.

Eventually, Zachary came along.
Now he’s my dude. My partner. My bestie.

While he doesn’t wear CK1, he’s got a slew of amazing qualities, outstanding character, and he is one of the most likable people I know. He’s not someone I would have ever considered dating previously, though, because he didn’t match The List of ideals I made at 13-years dumb.

Now I see that my relationship has to feel and be holistically right, not a list of checked boxes. I’ve looked great on paper before and been miserable at home. That’s not a sacrifice I will never make again. And this resolve has led me to seeing the importance of living congruently. My insides match my outsides. My relationship matches that, too. 

When You Realize Your Heroes Are People Too

I longed to be like Pam. Her crimped blonde perm,  long, red acrylic nails, and bright red-salmon colored lipstick. Hey, it was the 80’s and she was totally ‘80’s Hot.’

I would go through Pam’s purse, taking out every item and asking her what it was for. She would then proceed to paint my nails and let me wear her lipstick even though my parents didn’t allow me to at the ripe old age of six. Pam was my hero.

She spent a lot of time at our house; over for dinners several nights a week, would babysit me and my sisters, and go to family events with us. Pam was over one afternoon and I walked outside to play jump rope (which is what we did before Facebook and Netflix). Little did my child-heart know that moment would bring my hero crashing to the ground. Pam was outside smoking.

My heart was crushed. I cried and ran inside, so angry. I swore I would never smoke and I would never trust Pam again.

Ironically, I picked up a smoking habit when I was 17 years old, but that’s a story for another day. The point is that I couldn’t handle my ideal image of my hero being tarnished by her humanity.

I think this is true of many of us. It's why we get into an uproar when celebrities or public figures show failure. If we were actually consciously aware of every person being human and full of error, we wouldn’t be surprised when humanity shows. It would be expected, in fact.

I spent a lot of time believing that my heroes couldn’t be actually human. I needed them to be on a pedestal so I could feel secure being connected to them. Even at six years old.

Now in my early 30’s I’m seeing that people are just that... people. They will be late to appointments. We will not like all of the same books. They will think I’m ridiculous for some thing I do with my life. I will believe them stupid for believing some thing they do. This is humanity.

I sat across from one of my long time mentors tonight who I have not seen in a while. She’s invested in my leadership training beyond what anyone has before, and people pay her a lot of money to do that. She’s given me free education and real time feedback on my bullshit. I love this woman.

It was interesting, though. We actually disagree on many topics or beliefs, yet we are able to hug it out and respect what the other thinks. I could not have done that a decade ago. I was able to stand back, admire her, and graciously state what I thought. There was no conflict. Just friends holding space for each other.

So maybe I’ve gotten to the place where disagreeing or holding room for someone to be human and different is expected. It’s not threatening. It’s comfortable. After all, my heroes are people, too.