Twiddling Your Thumbs?

This past summer, before I began working at the showroom, I worked as a waitress in a little diner a mile down the road.  I had to be there at 6:30 every morning to open, and then I stayed until 2 or 3 pm cleaning up.  The restaurant was very small — only eleven tables fit in the dining area — but I spent every day, all day, running back and forth and to and fro like a frantic hen.  People could be friendly, fussy, flirty or freaky — rude, rambunctious, Really Annoying… it didn’t matter what you felt, you were to wait on that person and serve them to the best of your ability. 

The title of ‘waitress’ implies that you are waiting on something.  Truthfully, a waitress ‘waits’ on the customer to order his food, ‘waits’ on the cook to produce it, and finally brings it out to be served.  Yet while she is waiting for these things to happen, she is alway moving.  She is not idle, she is not shiftless — she continues to work even while the food is not ready.

Waiting on love is the same.  As Sarah Mally said in her book Before You Meet Prince Charming,  waiting does not imply that you are sitting around waiting for something to happen.  You aren’t twiddling your thumbs and humming “Someday My Prince Will Come”.  On the contrary, this time of waiting is to help you become all the woman (or man) God wants you to be. 

The reason we wait is often lost in the occasional pain of the waiting.  Truth be told, you aren’t waiting to get married.  The goal is not to get married.  One of the problems that arises with the ‘wait not date’ mentality is that it produces girls who think that marriage is the end-all.  It becomes their life goal, their only calling, and any other services are either scorned or ignored.  This is not a right or true way of thinking.  Do you know I know?  Because I did it. 

Being a wife and mother is a wonderful thing, but there is a time for it.  Until that time, girls should not spend their days focusing on reaching that time.  This time, this day, this present, is where you live.  This is where you become effective.  You may be waiting, but keep moving.  Keep other goals!  Develop alternatives.  What if you never marry?  Then what?  What if you don’t marry till you’re thirty? What will you do with your time?  Make the most of the years God has given you.  While I do believe that singleness can be a trial, making the most of that trial grows you into a person worthy to marry another. 

Each day is given to you and me to glorify God and grow in our walk with Him.  While planning ahead and having dreams are fine in moderation, an over-focus on the future produces discontent.  As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:33-34) 

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Got a Boyfriend Yet?

Every Christmas one side of my family used to gather together in the town hall of the little village where my grandma lives.  There was usually a huge turn out — up to 100 family members total.  And every Christmas, while I piled my foam plate with mashed potatoes and baked beans and my cousin’s squeaky violin was tweeting out “Silent Night” from the corner, my Aunt Charlotte would come out of nowhere and ask the question she had asked every Christmas since I was eleven:

“Got a boyfriend yet, Phleesha?”

While other people may not grab your elbow and ask it in the same nasal tone, you have probably already fielded this question plenty of times.  And you will continue to answer it for years to come, until you’re married, and society becomes bored with your faithfulness to monogamy. 

As one guy friend of mine said, “It seems to me people are so bored with their own romantic lives that they have to go meddling around in everyone else’s.”  It seems that that is the case.  Now, some of these are well-meaning relatives that just want to see their little babies grow up and move on and be happy — but often even they can’t understand why a girl would consciously choose not to spend her high school years dating.  “Hey, it’s fun! I did it, and I turned out okay, right?”

Maybe in the 50’s, when there was a current of morality still running through the culture, dating could be viewed with a little less caution.  Back then television had just appeared on the scene, and music wasn’t constantly blaring with sexual innuendos and overtones.  Children grew up innocent, girls learned to be homemakers, and boys learned to be men.  But even in that time, dating opened up room for temptation and consequently, failure.  With the invention of the car, young people could ‘take off’ anywhere they wanted to.  No one was watching. 

And no one was watching while the dating scene became more and more centered around physical interaction.  No one was watching when children — fourteen and fifteen years old — were committing adultery without even knowing what the word meant.  Namely, parents weren’t watching. Or perhaps they watched, with hands thrown in the air, and ‘let kids be kids’, rather than training them to be the adults they should be.  The current of morality became nothing but a trickle through the 60’s and 70’s, and in our present day, we are lucky to see but a drop of it on the wasteland that once was our country’s moral standard.

Choosing not to date in high school should not be done out of fear, which is what many people would like to say is our motivation.  The decision to wait is a decision not to avoid, but to attain. Our motive should not so much be to make known what we are against as to proclaim what we are for.  While a discussion of the problems with dating is necessary to understand why we need an alternative, focusing only on the negative turns off the world faster than anything.  What solution do you have?  Why should you wait instead of date?  What are the benefits?  What can you attain by waiting to be marriageable age before entering a relationship?

So we tell them.

“You can attain freedom to have friends, and to be one.  You can attain character as you wait, free of distraction.  You can attain a greater understanding of family and marriage.  You can attain appreciation for the sanctity of the marriage relationship.  You can attain inner peace knowing God will bring the right one, rather than grasping for him or her.  You can attain, and maintain, purity of body — out of the way of temptation.  And you can attain a purity of heart, unbroken, untarnished, and precious in the sight of God.”

What can a temporary relationship offer that outweighs those benefits?  The teen years should not be wasted with broken hearts and unkept promises.  They should be a time to grow, and enjoy life with friends without the unknowns and pressures of a ‘special’ relationship.  Am I saying that after high school dating is also unadvisable?  No.  I will be addressing that in later posts.  But high school is a time where a relationship has a 98% chance of ending.  Is that worth the time, energy, emotion and temptation?

I don’t think many people realize the implications of the teen dating scene.  Unsupervised interaction between girls and boys in this over-sexualized culture will inevitably lead to the problems we see all around us today.  Parents bewail the state of our generation, wondering what to do, and what went wrong.  We know what went wrong — and now we can offer an alternative; a way to do things right.  Many people won’t want to receive it because it seems too ‘extreme’.  Let me ask you:  in view of the consequences of unsupervised dating relationships, is there any alternative that wouldn’t be ‘extreme’? 

Waiting instead of dating in high school is a commitment.  Like I said before, it isn’t always easy or fun.  But your Lord knows that you are doing it to honor Him and your future mate, and He will bless your decision.  Saving your heart and body will be a decision you will never regret.  Make your high school years the best they can be.  Have good guy and girl friends, have fun, and enjoy life.  A temporary relationship is not necessary to fulfill that goal.  I can testify to that!  I am now out of high school, and no, I don’t have a boyfriend yet.

So one more Christmas for Aunt Charlotte to go unanswered.  But that’s alright by me.

Symbolic Interaction and Flirtation

You’re wondering what ‘symbolic interaction’ is, for heaven’s sake, and also what it has to do with flirtation.  Well, I will tell you.  Symbolic Interaction is a sociological term used to describe how people look at things and how it affects their behavior.  For instance, in America, mummies are a symbol of death and fear, so we react in that way.  In Egypt, however, a mummy may just be a historical symbol treated with respect, not repulsion.  So how do mummies translate into flirtation?  No, I am not going to tell you how to flirt with a mummy.  (That would be rather one-sided, if you ask me.)

Symbolic Interaction is part of my sociology class.  My sociology textbook had some interesting things to say about American culture and how people behave.  I am going to share some things from the book below, because you will find that a worldy textbook has some very interesting things to add to what we have already covered.  Please take a moment to read through it as I think it adds some scientific backing to the Biblical concepts we have been discussing.

Touching:  Not only does frequency of touching differ across cultures, but so does the meaning of touching within a culture… An experiment with surgery patients illustrates how touching can have different meanings.  The nurse, whose job it was to tell patients about their upcoming surgery, purposely touched the patients twice, once briefly on the arm when she introduced herself, and then for a full minute on the arm during the instruction period.  When she left, she also shook the patient’s hand…  Men and women reacted differently.  Touching soothed the women patients.  It lowered their blood pressure both before the surgery and for more than an hour afterward.  The men’s blood pressure increased, however.  The experimenters suggest that the men found it harder to acknowledge dependency and fear.  Instead of a comforter, the touch was a threatening reminder of their vulnerability.  Perhaps.  But the answer could be much simpler:  being touched by a pretty nurse aroused the men sexually, which increased their blood pressure… 

Eye Contact:  One way that we protect our personal bubble is by controlling eye contact.  Letting someone gaze into our eyes — unless that person is an eye doctor — can be taken as a sign that we are attracted to that person, and even an invitation to intimacy.  Wanting to become the ‘friendliest store in town’, a chain of supermarkets in Illinois ordered their checkout clerks to make direct eye contact with each customer.  Women clerks complained that men customers were taking their eye contact the wrong way, as an invitation to intimacy.  Management said they were exaggerating.  The clerks’ reply was “We know the kind of looks we’re getting back from men,” and they refused to make direct eye contact with them. 

Smiling:  In the United States, we take it for granted that clerks will smile as they wait on us.  But it isn’t this way in all cultures.  Apparently, Germans aren’t used to smiling clerks, and when Wal-Mart expanded into Germany, it brought its American ways with it.  The company ordered its German clerks to smile at customers.  They did — and the customers complained.  The German customers interpreted smiling as flirting.

Eye Encounters are a fascinating aspect of everyday life.  We use fleeting eye contact for most of our interactions, such as those with clerks or people we pass in the hall between classes.  Just as we reserve our close personal space for intimates, so, too, we reserve lingering eye contact for them. 

Several girls mentioned that they had not thought about the eye contact issue very much.  While I think it is necessary to look someone in the eyes while talking to them, looking ‘deeply’ or maintaining eye contact during a conversation with a man issues a challenge to him.  It signals that you are interested in a more intimate relationship than ‘just friends’.  I think the textbook did a good job showing how our actions can symbolize something totally different than we even intend — which is what flirtation is.

I hope all my readers have enjoyed this study of flirtation.  Rest assured I am learning right along with you!  Our next study will begin on Monday, and I will be covering “Waiting — When Not Dating”.  God Bless!

Flirtation 101: Effective Methods for Flirting

At a Christian homeschool conference a few years ago I happened to pick up a little book on a table.  The book was about dating.  I figured since it was a Christian, homeschool conference, it might have some interesting tips for single girls.  It did.

In the middle of the book were two pages — one for girls, one for guys — on how to flirt with the opposite sex.  For guys, it suggested smiling, winking, holding her hand, and commenting on her hair, eyes and skin (!).  For girls, it suggested flattering his ego, gazing into his eyes and touching his arm or leg seductively (!!).  I was flabbergasted.  What was this doing here?!  The little book was teaching how to be a Jezebel.  A hussy.  A manipulative, wily, deceitful woman of the world. 

Since we have already covered what to do when a man flirts with you, and since we have addressed the question of having friends that are male, now we turn to how to act with those friends.  Worldly girls learn by osmosis how to gain attention from men, and work that talent to their ‘advantage’.  Christian girls, however, are being trained to keep Christ as their focus, not their friends (male OR female).  Even in this, however, Christian girls can unintentionally flirt with a man. 

Methods of Flirtation

The Hair Toss:  You’ve seen it; in response to a compliment, she giggles, throws her head and flicks her mane behind her back.  This is probably the most apparent method of flirtation — painfully obvious and attention-grabbing.

Eye contact:  This, I think, is an easy place to stumble.  Where looking someone in the eyes is essential for good communication, steady eye contact with a guy send signals of “I’m really interested in you…” There is a fellow at my local college who consistently tries to make eye contact with me across the room.  If I accidentally happen to pass his gaze, he assumes I am interested in him!  Be careful how long you look into someone’s eyes. 

Giggling/Whispering:  Don’t giggle and whisper to a guy.  Doing so projects a closeness with him that either isn’t happening or shouldn’t be.  Also, giggling and whispering with a girl about a guy, with him present, is another way to gain his attention, or just attention in general.

Laughing:  Okay, here is where I have a problem.  My mom has a *cough* rambunctious laugh, and so do I.  Thus, whenever I laugh, it is usually rather loud.  This is just my natural guffaw!  However, when with young men, if you laugh extra loud or often at his jokes and comments, that is a way to tell him that you like him better than anyone else.  I have to consciously tone down my laugh around men because of this. 

Flattery:  I have one male friend who happens to notice whenever anyone cuts their hair, and he usually comments on it.  When I got my hair cut, he told me it looked nice.  I knew he wasn’t flattering me because I knew his personality.  With men you don’t know, or are only aquainted with, they may try to compliment you unnecessarily to get your reaction.  In the same way, don’t dish out compliments are that aren’t relevant to the conversation, the environment or the relationship.

*Special Note

In the olden days, when a young man thought a young woman was pretty, he would whistle at her.  This still goes on today.  Men are visual, and when they see a pretty girl, they may ‘compliment’ her by throwing out a little tune her direction.  This happened to me when I was skiing a few years ago.  A young man whistled at me, and utterly flabbergasted by it, I yelled at him to “Shut up!”.  Smooth.  When I told my parents, thinking they might understand my flabbergast-edness, they told me I had disrespected that young man.  My dad said the best thing to do in those situations is to smile and walk on.  Don’t return the attention —  but don’t scorn his attempts at a compliment either. 

Aggressiveness:  This is more common in preteen girls.  Still unaware of what to do when it comes to boys — half annoyed at them and half liking them around — they fight, wrestle and punch like one of the guys.  Girls left to themselves still do this into their late teens.  It is not attractive, and comes across quite masculine rather than feminine, as we should be. 

Touching:  Even with my friends, I really don’t touch them unless I have to — and then it’s a quick pat on the upper arm to get their attention.  Guys are very responsive to touch and it belongs within very strict boundaries.  There are certain male friends that I do hug on occasion — but then it is a ‘side hug’, never signalling any intimacy.  Of course, fathers will decide what it appropriate, but I don’t know a father alive that wants his daughter running about throwing her arms around every guy’s neck!  Now, standing stiffly next to a young man is not necessary either.  Good communicators turn and look the person in the eyes, stand close enough to talk easily but do not appear possessive of their conversation partner.

Posessiveness:  Possessive girls are often very ‘latchy’ and like to keep a guy ‘on their arm’ even if he isn’t literally on their arm!  They are also jealous and sarcastic toward other girls because they present a ‘threat’ to their crush.  Jealous girls tend to be insecure, while also assuming that the guy wants to be their friend in the first place.  Something I have learned over the years is that guys like to pick their own friends.  If they approach you, and talk to you on their own, they want to be your friend.  ‘Pushing’ yourself on them makes them feel disrespected. 

Most of these can be done, and are done, unintentionally.  This certainly isn’t Phylica’s List of Do’s and Don’ts — but I hope it helps you in evaluating your own actions when interacting with young men.  In addition, I interviewed five young men about how girls flirt, and the above methods were all given as evidence of flirtation.  

Finally, a girl who has Christ as her focus will not be concerned about getting attention from men, and will not need to use any of these methods to her ‘advantage’ — because she has the Advantage of being loved by the greatest Man of all!

Can I Have Guys as Friends?

Ah, yes — the age-old question of the homeschooled girl!  After many discussions of modesty, purity and interaction with young men, we are often left wondering what, if any, interaction we are allowed!  Can we have young men who are friends?  And if so, what is our level of friendship with them?  How do we talk to them?  What about doing things with them?  The questions go on and on!

First and foremost, men are humans just like us, and need to be treated that way.  I want to address this very basic concept first because I have seen girls take several approaches to young men out of fear.  Some put on their haughty or aloof attitudes, others become super-shy, and others just plain ignore them.  Let me ask you, do any of these approaches fit a Biblical pattern for how to treat anyone?  Men are still people, and they need to be shown that respect.  Now, our respect will be limited by some reserve simply because of it being a male/female relationship.  But keep in mind, through everything, that men have feelings, have hearts and are also owed a small measure of our respect simply by being men. 

With that in mind, we return to our question:  how close of a relationship can I have with a guy?  Since most of my readers have chosen not to date, which is also a commitment I made, you will understand that by ‘relationship’ I mean a friendship.  That is, in essence, a relationship.  Does that mean we avoid it?  No.  The truth is, having friends that are guys will probably be one of the most beneficial things you can do before marriage.  Friends give you insight into how guys think; how they talk, what they like, how they relate to girls.  Godly young men can give you wisdom concerning your walk with God.  Contrary to what the world says, you don’t have to date a man to discover his character, and a friendship can give you all the insight you need without the pressure of a dating relationship.  This model fo relating to guys has been my ‘best friend’ when it comes to understanding their approach to life! 

So how far do you go in a friendship with a guy?  When is it too deep?  Well, my parents have always known who my friends are, and though not always present, they knew who I was with and where we were.  Only just recently (since I turned 18) have I spent one-on-one time with any boy-friends — this will be discussed in a moment.  At age fourteen, I joined a high school drama group with my sisters where we formed a core group of friends, both guys and girls.  Those friends lasted all the way through high school.  Everything we did together was in groups, or with the family.  None of the guys thought we ‘liked’ them, because they had made the same commitment as us.  No pressure… just wonderful times.  We laughed, we joked, we talked, we sang, we danced — all in purity, and all in good fun.  Looking back, I would say that that group of teens probably had the best high school years of anybody!  Parents were involved, and kids were committed, and Christ reigned over it all.

Young men are often awkward around girls, trying to impress them or appear more ‘grown up’ than they are.  Girls tend to squash their little egos in the bud with condescending glances, sarcastic remarks or just by ignoring them.  Guys don’t often know what to say, so they just say what comes to mind.  If it isn’t crude, don’t respond rudely.  Give them the time of day in a pleasant manner.  Remember, they are still people! How would you like it if you saw a girl ignoring your brother’s attempts at being funny?  I’d kick her in the shins!  (Well, not really…)

Through high school my parents kept an eye on who we were with, and they still do.  But when I turned eighteen, I was given a little more latitude with my friends.   For instance, one friend of mine was going back to college this past fall, and he emailed me and asked if I would go out to lunch with him before he left.  I showed the email to my dad.  He asked me if I thought he wanted a deeper relationship, and I said I didn’t think so.  So after dad consented, I sent my friend an email saying I would pay for my own lunch, and to tell me where to meet him.  So we went downtown, ate at a little bistro, I paid for myself, and then he left for college.  Neither of us had deeper intentions than what we presented to each other. 

That is an example of how a friendship would ideally go with every young man.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that flawlessly.  That’s how it went with another friend of mine.  We essentially met in church, and as friends, spent a lot of time talking there.  Neither of us had intentions toward each other, but people began to ask me if we were an ‘item’.  Several other factors finally pushed us to go out, sit down, and talk about the friendship, clarifying where we were at and what, if anything, needed to change.  This kind of openness makes a relationship free to change and flex as it needs to.  Rigidity and fear only cause strain and stress, so the friendship can no longer be enjoyed simply for what it is.

The truth is, when you meet your husband, he isn’t going to just walk off the street and ask to court or date you.  Guys like to know the girl they are courting!  Arranged marriages are not what we are talking about here.  Thus, you will probably have a friendship with him before he asks to take it to another level.  Having pure, godly friends before him will help you to relate to him when that time comes.  You won’t be stilted, nervous or defensive to his attentions. 

In conclusion, friendships with young men are just as fun as friendships with girls — they just require a little more care and caution.  You will have to watch yourself, that your heart and motivations stay pure; you will have to watch him, so that he doesn’t get a wrong message.  Keep things open between you, him and your parents.  Mostly, don’t let a guy be only ‘your’ friend.  The best friendships with young men are those shared with your girlfriends as well.  Let Christ reign over it all — and in that freedom, enjoy time spent with guys and gals! 

If any readers have more questions on this topic that you would like to see addressed, please email me at phyliciadelta@hotmail.com.  Thanks and God bless!