dating

Exit 251. An unfortunate tendency to worship fads.

Sorry for the hiatus.  Life got really busy, and I knew this next post would be a big one, and I needed time to process.  I was also writing stories for my other blog during that time.

Former pastor Joshua Harris recently made an announcement that he and his wife of almost 20 years were divorcing, and that he no longer considered himself a Christian.  While I would be sad in any case of someone renouncing the faith, this one hit me a bit more personally.

As any long-time reader of this blog knows, or as can easily be discerned from searching the archives of this blog, I have some rather strong opinions about Mr. Harris’ teaching, particularly concerning his 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  This book, and others he wrote later, make the point that dating is un-Biblical and prepares people for breakup and divorce. Instead of spending time alone and giving into temptation and being fake with each other, Christian singles should spend time together on “group dates,” getting to know people in groups to see who they really are.  Then, eventually, through a mechanism I never understood, two of them will choose to prepare for marriage.

I became a Christian (or at least started taking what I believed seriously) about a year before this book was published.  No one ever taught me in childhood or my teen years how dating and relationships worked. I didn’t really see my parents doing coupley things very often; their relationship isn’t really like that, at least not in front of me (which is ok, there’s nothing wrong with that, everyone is different).  So after hearing a few talks at Intervarsity about not rushing into relationships and waiting until one is ready, and then learning about Harris-ism shortly after, I just assumed this was how all Christians lived. I didn’t know any better. So I really didn’t go on dates in college or my young adult years (except for a couple of awkward experiences which I thought were dates and the girl didn’t, but that’s another story for another time).

Mr. Harris’ books seem to be written for an audience of people who date frequently and even promiscuously, with selfish and un-Biblical intentions, but have now found Jesus.  (I should give the disclaimer that I never finished IKDG because I could tell about 100 pages in that it was crap, and I didn’t read any of Mr. Harris’ other works.) The main idea of IKDG seems geared toward explaining what is wrong with that aforementioned lifestyle, and replacing it with something at the other extreme that avoids the temptations therein altogether.  It seems to not even allow the possibility of the existence of someone like me, someone who wants to go on dates without having those selfish intentions.

If I followed Harrisism exactly as written, given who I was at that age, it would have looked like this: I’d meet a girl and eventually realize, for whatever reason, that I was into her and wanted to get to know her better.  I wouldn’t say anything, because Christians don’t date and that would be inappropriate. I’d hang out when our groups of mutual friends were doing things, but I wouldn’t be able to talk to her, because I’m an introvert, and I can’t just jump into a conversation without it being awkward.  I don’t read nonverbal communication well, so I would never get to know her, so the intended effect of hanging out in groups would never happen. She would end up together with someone else, because she would never know that I was interested in her. And I would never really get to know her, because I’d never have time alone with her where I really see people for who they are, and they see me for who I am.  According to Mr. Harris, this would cause us to be selfish and not real with each other, but my personality is just the opposite. I don’t look to be selfish when I’m alone with a woman, not at all. I’m just me.

Now if you followed Harris-ism and found a spouse and you’re still together, good for you.  I’m glad it worked for you. It worked better for you than it did for Mr. Harris himself, after all.  But not everyone is like you. Not everyone relates to people in the same way. And the Bible says nothing about the process of dating itself, so you have no right to judge people who don’t approach the world of dating that way.

Also, by the way, I predicted this in 2002.  In one of my other creative projects, I shared a story in which the character really likes a girl, but she read this book that is clearly supposed to be IKDG, and won’t date because of it.  The character later gets a chance to meet the author of the book, who goes on to explain how he followed his own advice and never dated his wife before he asked her to marry him. The character asks how that works, and the author and his wife end up in a huge argument when they realize that they don’t know each other at all, because they never dated.  They divorce.

A few years ago, Mr. Harris himself renounced his writing and apologized, saying that he never intended his writing to become a set of rules, the kind of legalism that has always infected the church to some extent.  And there have even been entire communities built around recovering from Harris-ism, and a documentary made on the subject. That’s a first step. At least he is aware of how his writing affected an entire generation negatively.  But I still feel cheated out of opportunities because of this artificially created fear and restriction. The satire news site The Babylon Bee did a great article on this, about people demanding reparations for all the dates they missed out on because of Mr. Harris.  I have never felt a satire article so deeply in my soul. Granted, I wasn’t good at dating to begin with, but I feel like I missed my chance to even try because of the way so many around me were brainwashed with Mr. Harris’ teaching.

I also don’t fit in with the communities of people who have vocally rejected Harris-ism, in terms of the kind of dating they look for now.  My views fall somewhere in between theirs and pure Harris-ism, opening myself up to rejections from both sides. Many single Christians today who have rejected Harris-ism now have views at what I would call the other extreme.  They would say that Harris-ism and purity culture in general don’t value women and treat them as objects. Women should be free to explore their sexuality, because society judges women more harshly than men on these matters. The Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.  One shouldn’t idolize virginity, and everyone sins and Jesus forgives so sex isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t believe any of that. The Bible certainly does mean what it says. Purity culture doesn’t treat women as objects, it teaches that our bodies aren’t our own because we belong to God.  Women are precious children of God, as are men. Society shouldn’t give women a free pass to be promiscuous; it should also be unacceptable, at least in Christianity, for men to be promiscuous as well (but being judgmental and gossipy isn’t ok for anyone either, of course). And the Apostle Paul specifically writes against using divine grace as a license to live a life of sin (Romans 6:1).

The biggest problem here is that Christians have an unfortunate tendency to worship fads, rather than the Almighty God Himself.  Some new Christian book, musician, celebrity pastor, whatever will come along, and all of a sudden all the churches wanting to be cool and relevant latch on to whatever this is, without even considering whether this new fad shows an appropriate level of spiritual maturity around which to build one’s life.  It should be pointed out that Mr. Harris was 22 when IKDG was published.  Fads come and go, and a few years later these people will latch on to something else. But I’ve seen many examples of former Christian celebrities renouncing their faith.

There was an episode of South Park that explored this topic, where some of the boys formed a Christian band because they thought it would be easier to get a big following as a Christian band than as a secular band.  It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but there was one scene where someone told them they needed to play a big Christian music festival. Someone said, “Just tell Christians what music to like, and they’ll buy it!” After hearing that line, I said, “That would be highly offensive if it weren’t so true.”  Christian music is full of flashes in the pan that disappear after one or two big albums.  I heard it pointed out somewhere that there are no Christian oldies or classic rock.  It’s not that uncommon to see kids born after 2000 wearing Beatles, AC/DC, or Nirvana shirts, but you never see Christian kids born after 2000 wearing Petra, Stryper, or Jars of Clay shirts, because everyone who listens to Christian music has moved on to something else (except me, occasionally; I still have a ton of Jars-of-Clay-era Christian music in my collection) (and, case in point, I still have never heard Petra or Stryper because the Christian world had already moved on from 1980s Christian music by the time I started listening to Christian music in 1996).

If Christianity is going to stay culturally relevant, we’re going to have to move away from this mentality of fad-following and start following Jesus instead.  It sounds simple, but one would be surprised. We’re also going to have to get away from this mentality of legalism. Sure, there are some absolutes in the Bible, but putting too many narrow rules on exactly what one should and shouldn’t do to honor God draws one’s eyes away from God and toward the pride in oneself for following the rules, as well as idolizing those who follow the rules.  And as for Mr. Harris saying he isn’t a Christian anymore, that’s between him and God. We should be praying for him.

So is it too late for me?  By the time I realized that Harris-ism was not the only way to honor God with one’s relationships and sexuality, it felt like I was in a place where there were no single Christians left my age.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve been through some stuff since then, and I don’t even know for sure what I’m looking for anymore. But being angry and demanding reparations, as the Babylon Bee article said, isn’t going to help at all.  

Exit 210. A letter I’ll never send.

Dear ___,

It’s been a while.  582 days since I have seen you, and 220 days since I have had any sort of communication from you.  I have no idea what’s going on in your life.  I’ve been thinking about you again the last few days. I know why. It’s pretty obvious why, considering what day it is. I’m not proud of this fact.  I feel quite immature that I’ve been thinking about you today.  But my mind isn’t like that. I have been cursed with holding on to memories and thoughts long after their times have passed.  So why can’t I just move on?  It sure didn’t take you long to move on.

I still feel like I owe you an apology for unfriending you and cutting off all contact.  I never wanted it to be like this, and I’m sorry for that.  I don’t know if that was the best way to handle things, but it felt like something I had to do in order to have some chance of moving on someday.

To be honest, it almost felt like a blessing in disguise when you ditched all of us and found a new group to hang out with.  As much as I spent most of 2016 trying to stay on good terms with you after everything that happened, it was hard sometimes.  We used to be so close before then, and I was just watching you grow apart from me right in front of me.  I wasn’t getting much more from you than small talk.  You never shared your life with me like you had before.  You were always off flirting with whichever drunk guy was paying attention to you, while you were giggling and claiming to be shy and awkward.  And after you found your new friends, I only heard from you in texts once every four to six months, and those conversations always ended quickly and abruptly.  I just couldn’t stand to go through that.  You said that we couldn’t be together because it just wasn’t a good time for you to be in a relationship with anyone, but you sure had no problem running after other guys.  I kept getting my hopes up that we would be close again, and I eventually realized we wouldn’t.  I normally get annoyed with people who find new friends and disappear from my life, but in your case it probably needed to happen.

I don’t know what you’re doing today.  You’re probably out doing something fun with your new friends.  I don’t need to know.  You’re out there living the perfect happy life that I always thought I wanted, while I’m growing apart from some of my longtime social circles and finding new ways to be hurt and ignored by women.  And for as much as your bad decisions have hurt me in the past, this particular part of the struggle is entirely on me.  No one has promised me anything, and I have no right to actually find the happiness that I pursue. How your life turns out is no concern of mine. My long memory and my logical mind make forgiveness exceedingly difficult. Believe me. I have tried. I even wrote here about forgiving you, back when we were trying to be on good terms again.  What changed? Was I being dishonest? I don’t think so… but, as I said before, at the time I was hoping that we would be close again someday, and your actions in the time after that have shown that you aren’t interested in this.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if we were suddenly to cross paths again, face to face. Would I want to talk to you? Would I want to work things out and welcome you back in my life? Would I angrily tell you how much I am still hurt by the way you pretend to want to communicate and then leave me hanging?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what I would do. And maybe that’s why it is best that our paths not cross right now.

I’m not good at letting go and moving on.  I still sometimes carry around hurt from others before you.  I’m just going to have to learn to live with it, to accept that it happened and choose to focus on more positive things.  And hopefully as time goes on, it’ll hurt less and I won’t think about you as much.  So, in case you ever seen this, I’m sorry I’m not emotionally strong enough to keep you in my life, messaging me every six months to see how I’m doing.  But that’s okay.  You seem to be doing very well without me, and it’s probably just better this way.

Exit 209. The week that everything happened.

In my last post, I made reference to “The Week That Everything Happened.”  I have used this name at times to refer to a period of seven days in my life in which, as the words suggest, a lot of things happened, many of which were the kind of things that affected me for a long time.   I’ve never explained exactly when that was or what happened, though… so it’s story time, especially since the anniversary of The Week That Everything Happened is this coming week.  As usual, I won’t mention names, and if there is someone in these stories whom I have told about before, I will use the same pseudonym I’ve used for them before (“Mimosa,” for example).

The Week That Everything Happened was Friday, July 30, through Thursday, August 5, 2010.  Eight years ago.  In the time leading up to this week, I was living in the same house where I am now.  It was summer, and it was toward the end of summer break at the school where I worked at the time.  I had been doing a lot of swing dancing and blues dancing that summer.  At the time, I was carpooling to both dancing places with a girl who lived not too far from me, whom I will call “IC443”.  I’ve told previously (#12) about a party I had been to in Davis earlier in July 2010, hosted by some college-age friends.  Most of the people at this party were from the swing dancing student club at UC Davis (some of them I already knew from my usual dancing place), and for part of that summer my friend and I started crashing the UC Davis swing club, just because we wanted to dance.  But there was also a much younger girl from that group, Mimosa, who I had been talking to a lot, to the point that other people were starting to notice and wonder if something was going on between us.  I had plans coming up to go on a long bike ride with her.

Friday afternoon, July 30.  A friend had a picnic in the park birthday party.  One of her friends, “Y Sextantis,” left before I did.  A few minutes later, the birthday girl told me that Y Sextantis had texted her and told her to give me her number and tell me to call her.  That caught me completely off guard.  Y Sextantis is cute, but she didn’t seem like my type, and more importantly, I had plans with Mimosa the next day, so I didn’t respond to that.  However, Y Sextantis found me on Facebook a few weeks later, and we did end up spending a day together in September.  I’m still in Facebook and Instagram contact with Y Sextantis, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in person since then, and I’m still pretty sure she’s not my type.

Friday night.  I gave IC443 a ride to swing dancing.  On the way, I was talking about my plans with Mimosa the next day.  IC443 has a very different background on dating and relationships compared to me, as most people do, and I got a little frustrated with some of the things she was saying.  Something changed that night.  We never carpooled again, and she never really seemed as friendly toward me after that.  I don’t know if it was because of the way I acted while we were talking, or because she just happened to find new friends the following week who were younger and more attractive and more popular, or if she just does things on whims for no reason.  It could have been any of those.  I still tried to be friendly to her for a while, but never got much more than hello out of her.  At some point in the future, she stopped going dancing.  She came back once in 2015 and was friendly again, but we didn’t stay in touch.

Saturday morning, July 31.  My long bike ride with Mimosa.  I didn’t sleep much the night before.  I was nervous.  At one point later in the day, I kissed her… at several points, actually.  It was my first kiss in over three years.  Everything felt wonderful, and it didn’t seem to matter that I was 33 and she was 20.

Saturday afternoon and evening.  I dropped off Mimosa at her friend’s house after our bike ride date, as we had planned.  I went home and showered.  I was going to a wedding that evening of some friends from church, and they had asked me to bake something to serve at their reception.  After I was done baking, I attempted a quick nap, since I had only slept for about an hour and a half the night before and I had ridden my bike about 40 miles that morning.  There was dancing at the wedding reception.  One of my dance friends, “Gamma Comae,” also knew the couple getting married; she was there with her entire family.  That night was the first time I remember talking to her 16-year-old sister, “Sulafat,” although to this day Sulafat insists that she already knew me, or at least knew who I was, at that time.  A few years later, Sulafat (at that time 19) and I carpooled to a mutual friend’s game night, and in that half hour car ride we quickly went from acquaintances who say hi in passing occasionally to close friends, which we still are today.  But we first talked (and danced) at that wedding during The Week That Everything Happened.

Later Saturday night.  I was going to hang out with friends after the wedding, even though it was going to be pretty late by then.  Gamma Comae was friends with this group too, so both of us carpooled there (to the house of the same mutual friend from the game night a few years later in the above paragraph).  Mimosa and her friend with whom I dropped her off earlier were there too.  On the way home, at about 2am, Gamma Comae asked me how I was still functioning, since I had slept for less than two hours of the last 44 or so.  I guess I was just on a high because of the whole Mimosa situation.

Sunday, August 1.  I went to the fair with a friend.  The concert that night was Weird Al Yankovic, the most recent of two times I’ve seen him live.

Monday, August 2.  I was in Davis hanging out with Mimosa for most of the day.  We went to see Toy Story 3 in the afternoon.  Great movie.  Then we hung out at her house for a while.  That night we went to the swing dancing club at UC Davis, and after dancing came back to her house for a few hours of kissing.  I was really on a high at that point.

Tuesday, August 3.  In the morning, I made the Facebook song lyric quote that I wrote about in #208 last week.  That night, I went to the Sacramento River Cats game with some friends from church (that’s AAA baseball, one step below Major League).  I don’t remember much about the game (I looked it up, the River Cats lost, 7-5 to Las Vegas), but I do remember texting Mimosa during the game; she was packing to go out of town to visit her friend for a few days.  I’ve already told the rest of that story twice on here.  But there was another long-term consequence of the Mimosa incidents: a couple weeks later, we were still trying to be friendly, and she mentioned that she and her aforementioned friend knew someone who they wanted to set me up with.  At first I didn’t like their friend, but a few months later we seemed to click better… and that was Acrux, the horrible relationship that I was in for most of 2011, the one that became long distance because she decided she was going to move away without even discussing it with me, and then she didn’t make me a priority once she moved away.

Wednesday, August 4.  As far as I can remember, nothing special happened this day.

Thursday, August 5.  I went to a friend’s birthday dinner.  I talked a lot with one of her friends, “Aurora” (whom I mentioned in one of the other stories I linked to this one).  We got to be close over the next few months (and we actually figured out that we had met once before, through the same circle of friends, but neither of us realized it at the time), and the following January she told me that she liked me.  We hung out a lot for a couple months, but I just wasn’t feeling it, and I felt terrible having to tell her so.  I felt especially terrible because this was all during the same time that I was first getting to know Acrux, and I feel like I had to choose one over the other.  I didn’t go on an actual date with Acrux until I knew I really wasn’t into Aurora, but I still wonder if my judgment wasn’t clouded.  In hindsight, I don’t think either of them would have been right for me.  I did end up on good terms with Aurora, although I haven’t actually seen her in two years.

So what does it all mean that all of these things happened within a week of each other?  Probably nothing.  But all these little things together have made that week feel like a turning point in my life.  I guess there isn’t really a point to this story.  I like stories.  Have a good week, everyone.

Exit 208. I want to love somebody like you. Wait, no I don’t.

I have a complicated history with this song.

I pretty much didn’t know that the song existed until 2005, three years after its initial release.  I mostly ignored country music until the four-month period when I was wandering around the USA trying to find myself.  One day, I was driving from San Antonio to Austin flipping around on the radio, I got to a country station, and I decided to leave it on for a bit, because, hey, I’m in Texas, may as well immerse myself in the culture… and I realized that country music wasn’t all that bad.  A few weeks later, I was staying with a friend in Alabama, and she was so excited that I had started listening to country music that she copied a bunch of country albums to my laptop, including the one that this song is part of.

I quoted a line from this song on my personal Facebook page once (specifically, the opening line, “There’s a new wind blowing like I’ve never known”).  I remember exactly when it was: Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, during the time in my life I refer to as The Week That Everything Happened.  If you’re friends with my personal Facebook, you can go look that up; it’s there.  I remember exactly when it was, because I remember why I posted it.  It was the morning after my second date with Mimosa (as explained in #12).  From my naive perspective, it looked like new love was in the air, or at least on the way, and it was going to be a different experience from anything else in my past… which is basically what this song is about.  But it didn’t last; I found out a week later that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, and that all the kissing didn’t really mean anything to her.  This seems to be normal for most people these days, but having grown up sheltered and then among Josh Harris types, the idea that kissing doesn’t mean interest in a committed relationship was heartbreakingly new to me.  (We did end up on good terms years later, after some very complicated ups and downs, although we don’t really talk or message much these days because of natural causes.)

For a time in 2014 and 2015, I was running a Song of the Day page on Facebook.  Sometimes I would just post a random song that was on my mind, but sometimes the song would be something that had a deeper meaning to me.  I kept it in the back of my head to reserve Somebody Like You for a time when I had met someone special again.  SN1604 came along in May 2015; I’ve mentioned her a few times on this blog, but I don’t believe I’ve told the whole story.  We hit it off quickly, there were two dates and a lot of kissing, and then she decided that spark wasn’t there.  We stayed good friends for a few months, and during that time she told me that she had changed her mind and realized she liked me after all.  I didn’t act on that right away, though, because I still had questions in my mind, because I was comfortable just being good friends, and because this conversation happened right when I was starting the school year and had a lot of other things on my mind.  In October, we revisited those conversations and decided to give things another try.  And as I pulled away from dropping her off after the first date of our second stint, I turned on the radio… and Somebody Like You was playing.

I had already stopped doing my Song of the Day page by then, so I never posted Somebody Like You as the Song of the Day.  But hearing it at that moment felt like a sign, a sign that new love was on the horizon.  And just like when I quoted the song during The Week That Everything Happened, new love was not actually on the horizon at all.

In the next five weeks, SN1604 and I had one more date.  We also had five times when she either had to cancel on me or attempt to reschedule, and one time when she flat out stood me up, supposedly because she fell asleep.  The five times were all legitimate excuses, though, either related to work, family, or health, so this left me confused as to whether or not she actually wanted to be with me.  In a tearful phone conversation on November 10, 2015, she said that with all of the work, family, and health things, she just had too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone right now, and she cared too much about me to see me keep getting hurt.  That would have just ended there with a bit of sadness, and possibly staying on good terms, except that a month later she was with someone else.  Not exactly the actions of someone who just has too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone.

Last month (June 2018), I met someone.  It was great at first, but it became increasingly evident that she and I have very different ideas of how relationships should develop and grow, and very different concepts of “taking things slow.”  A few days ago, during a Facebook conversation attempting to make plans for later in the week, she ambushed me with a serious long term future type question that I just don’t feel qualified to answer about someone whom I’ve only known for 25 days.  I could have told her what she wanted to hear, but I panicked and gave an honest answer instead.  She said that I was wasting her time if I couldn’t answer that, and proceeded to make some really insulting, patronizing, and slightly disturbing remarks which I won’t go into detail about here.  The next morning, I tried to call her and explain my side a bit more calmly; she didn’t answer, I left a voice mail, and as I posting this, a little over four days later, I still have not heard anything from her.

After I made the phone call that she didn’t answer, I needed to eat my feelings, so I wandered down to a place in the neighborhood that has a lunch special on weekdays: all you can eat pizza, salad, breadsticks, and inferior but acceptable soft drinks for comparatively cheap.  I walk in… and Somebody Like You is playing.

Really?  Now?

I got so distracted thinking about my history with that song that I got tongue-tied trying to place my order (even though all I had to say was Lunch Buffet).  This was probably just a coincidence, but the song is 16 years old, not something that is going to be all over the radio at any given time.  The lyrics of the song are about new love, but in my life the song has been more about romantic encounters that went bad quickly.  It makes me wonder if this is a coincidence or God trying to tell me something, since I’ve felt in the past that songs I’ve heard at noteworthy times might have been messages from God.  My mom would probably say that it’s only natural for a Keith Urban song to be associated with bad dating experiences because Keith Urban looks like a child molester.  For that matter, what kind of name for a country singer is Keith Urban?  He should be named Keith Rural.  But I’m getting sidetracked.

About half an hour later, as I was reaching my stomach capacity for eating my feelings, this song came on.

The message here is a bit more obvious and unambiguous.  Time to stop drowning in sorrows.  This woman who can’t accept the fact that I can’t make long term decisions about someone I’ve only known for 25 days, she ain’t worth the whiskey.  Or in this case, she’s not worth the pizza.

I am currently conflicted between trying to contact her again and work this out or just letting her go and admitting to myself that she and I have very different views of how relationships work.  So far, my actions (or lack thereof) have been consistent with the second option, and the songs I heard in the pizza place seem to be pointing in that direction too.  But we’ll see.

Exit 186. The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

The voice of a ghost singing words a quarter-century old recently pushed me to make a difficult decision.

Okay, I suppose that’s explaining it in an overdramatic way.  Let me back up and explain.  A couple weeks ago, Irish musician Dolores O’Riordan died unexpectedly.  Ms. O’Riordan was best known for being the lead vocalist of the band The Cranberries, who had three big hits in my late teens.  At least that was my extent of Cranberries knowledge over the years.  (I should point out, though, that as friends started posting Cranberries music on social media as tributes to Ms. O’Riordan, I found a couple more of their songs that I recognized.)  They weren’t one of my favorites back then; I was mostly neutral toward their music.  I always liked the song “Dreams,” although I don’t think I ever knew the title until maybe five years ago when I was expanding my collection of 90s music for making retro gaming playlists.  I had completely forgotten about “Zombie” from some time in the 90s until seeing someone perform it at a karaoke bar in 2015, but that is a good one too.  The third song of theirs that I remember, however, was definitely my least favorite of the three, and ironically, those are the quarter-century-old words that I’m writing about today.

I hate trying to interpret song lyrics, because I was always bad at interpreting poems in high school English class.  But the way I’m reading this one seems pretty straightforward: the narrator has been treated badly by a significant other, but her feelings for him still linger.

So what does that have to do with me?  I may not have been treated badly, or treated others badly, in the specific ways described in the song lyrics, but I understand that sense of feelings lingering from both sides.  And I did something about one side this week: specifically, the point of view of the other character in the song, not the narrator.  I called someone I met on Christian Mingle and told her that I just didn’t feel like we were clicking.  It’s hard for me to do that, because I often can’t pinpoint a specific reason for it.  She didn’t do anything wrong, but I just didn’t really feel like she was someone I could see myself spending my life with.  And I didn’t want her to have to feel like she was wasting her time with me.  And as much as that hurts on both sides, I think that’s better than pretending to make something happen when I know I’m not feeling it and stretching the heartbreak out over several months.  (This makes me think I should link to another relevant song here, this one not having any direct Cranberries connections, but it does use the word “linger” in the same context – by the way, I saw this band live for the third time last week, they didn’t play this song but it was an AMAZING SHOW!!!)

I’m wondering if there are other lingering issues I need to deal with (double meaning, issues related to old feelings lingering… lingering issues of lingering, if you will).  In this case, I’m more like the other perspective of the song, the narrator dealing with her lingering feelings for someone who doesn’t care for her in return.  In particular, I have a lot of people I’m still in social media contact with whom I’m not sure if I should be in contact with anymore.  Some of these are people I knew in the past who mostly just post angry political and/or anti-Christian stuff that I don’t agree with.  Some of these are people whom I’ve had various issues or hurtful experiences with in the past. Some of them are acquaintances from certain social circles who are just arrogant jerks.  Most of the people in question here I have at least unfollowed on Facebook, so I don’t have to think about them any more than necessary, but that begs the question, what purpose would it serve to unfriend them completely?  If I don’t see these people anymore in real life, and I have things set such that I don’t see their posts on social media, is it necessary to take any more steps?

It might be.  It might help me find closure in my mind and put a stop to the lingering (there’s that word again) issues once and for all.  But, as I’ve said before, maybe I’m overthinking social media here, but I find it hard to cut people off like that.  If you are my Facebook friend, that means there was a time when I wanted you in my life, and it’s hard to let go of the hope that we’ll never be close again.  But maybe it’s necessary to let go of that.  There are people that I once hoped to be close with, but realized that I didn’t want to after all once I saw what they were really like.  And there were people I was once close with, but then they changed, and my hope is that I might once again someday be close with who they were before, not with who they are now.

So I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for how to deal with these situations.  But it’s something I should be thinking and praying about.  I need to take care of myself, and it isn’t healthy to let people linger in my life who are causing more harm than good and probably won’t change.

Exit 145. That’s ok.

I missed a post a couple weeks ago and didn’t write a second post to make up for it.  That’s ok.

I had a semi-blind date a couple weeks ago.  It didn’t go badly, but in conversations that happened afterward, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that we’re not right for each other in that sense.  That’s ok.

One day this week, we had to evacuate the school where I work, for over an hour.  It turned out to be a false alarm, but it was pretty inconvenient, and it messed up my schedule for the week.  One of the classes is now another day behind where I should be at this time of year.  That’s ok.

I had people over last night.  It had been four months since my friends had been to my house, and that was a last minute thing; it had been six months since I had planned to have people over.  I just haven’t been feeling very social the last few months.  That’s ok.

Although I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, I always enjoyed things like this where a ton of people show up at my house… once in a while, at least.  I would count how many people show up, hoping to set a new record.  But last night was a much smaller crowd.  That’s ok.

I don’t even remember what the record is now.  I remember having 30 people once, but I think that might have been surpassed once.  But I’m not sure.  That’s ok.

I stayed up really late last night, and I skipped church this morning.  That’s ok.

Around 11:00 this morning, I went back to bed, and I stayed in bed until mid-afternoon.  I didn’t go for a bike ride today, and I haven’t cleaned up anything from last night yet.  That’s ok.

It’s ok, because I have to take care of myself.  It’s ok, because I needed to be around a smaller crowd and feel closer to this group of people.  It’s ok, because my true friends will understand.

Exit 132. It reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated.

I voted for Gary Johnson.

This is not going to be a political post, so I’m not going to go into detail on my thoughts on the issues.  So here’s the short version: I wasn’t expecting him to win a majority of the electoral vote.  I mostly just didn’t want a vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on my conscience.  I dislike them both, for different reasons.  And I don’t agree with Gary Johnson on some things, but the thought of him in the White House scared me less than the thought of either of the two major candidates in the White House.  And I do not regret one bit voting the way I did, so all of you who kept telling me that a third party candidate can’t win, save your I-told-you-sos for someone else.

So… anyway… even though I wasn’t 100% behind all of Gary Johnson’s views on the issues, and I don’t agree with all of the Libertarian Party’s stances, this year felt different.  With Clinton and Trump so widely disliked, many voters were looking for an alternative. Johnson had previously won two terms as governor of New Mexico, so he had relevant political experience.  He was polling over 10% in many states a few months before the election.  He was popular with certain subgroups of the population, and in a few states, such as New Mexico and Utah, his numbers were looking like he might actually have a chance to win.  No third party candidate had won a state since 1968, and in an election projected to be close, like this one, just winning one or two states might be enough to ensure that neither of the two major candidates would win a majority of the electoral vote.  According to the Constitution, this would lead to the House of Representatives choosing the President, with each state getting one vote (as opposed to each Representative), and this would open up the possibility of a compromise with the Republican Congressional delegation not being unified behind Trump.  The chance of that actually happening was small, but like I said, this year felt different, and it felt like time for the unexpected to happen.

But it did not happen.

Evan McMullin of Utah entered the race late and took most of the Utah anyone-but-Clinton-or-Trump voters away from Johnson.  Johnson got a little over nine percent of the vote in his home state of New Mexico, and over five percent in only a few other states.  Nationally, Johnson won a little over three percent of the popular vote, a number very similar to his showing in my home state of California.

Watching this phenomenon kind of annoyed and disappointed me, because it reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated over the years by people who I thought cared for me.  People get all excited about something that I’m also a part of, but then in the moment of truth, they back out and abandon me, much as many people who polls said were voting for Gary Johnson apparently abandoned him and the rest of the Johnson voters.  There have been times when I have made group plans to go out to dinner, game nights, movie marathons, sporting events, and the like.  Many of my friends act interested at first, and then many of them back out at the last minute.  Not only is this frustrating, but sometimes this leaves me with tons of uneaten food at my house, or a responsibility to find someone at the last minute to take a ticket I’ve already paid for.

Similarly, in my 20s, I was surrounded by Christians who preached an extremely restrictive and conservative message regarding dating and sexuality.  I did my best to conform: I made friends with girls instead of actively pursuing them as romantic interests.  I tried my hardest not to masturbate or have overly flirtatious and sexually explicit chat room and instant message conversations, and when my willpower wasn’t strong enough, I felt immensely guilty and down on myself.  Meanwhile, many of my friends who were so passionate about this lifestyle eventually threw all that stuff out the window and started doing all the things they preached so loudly against.  They told me that I was single because God doesn’t want me dating and I wasn’t praying enough, just before they went home to watch porn and have sex with their significant others that they weren’t married to.

Why do people do this?  I don’t know.  I do have a few theories as to where all the prospective Gary Johnson voters went.  There probably were not as many of them to begin with, since much of what I was reading on the subject came from the Johnson campaign itself, which had a vested interest in skewing statistics to make their candidate seem more popular.  As I said before, many of them, especially in Utah, voted for Evan McMullin instead.  Some of them probably decided that they were so repulsed by one candidate that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate just to stop the slightly more objectionable one.  Some of them probably were so repulsed by both candidates that they did not vote at all.  Some of them probably lost faith in the ability of anyone to go up against the two-party system that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate.  That’s their right, and I’m not here to blame third-party voters for a major party candidate winning or losing any state.  That’s not how it works.

As for why my friends acted in ways that made me feel abandoned and backed out on, I know even less.  Some of the people in my life just aren’t true friends, just as many potential Johnson voters weren’t truly on board with his candidacy.  With social plans, sometimes things genuinely do come up.  People get sick.  Family members have emergencies.  And as for the Christians-don’t-date lifestyle, sometimes people get caught up in a certain lifestyle or viewpoint because of the people around them, without actually having a life-changing commitment to this lifestyle, and when circumstances change and they see other viewpoints, sometimes they fall away.  I don’t want to be angry with my friends.  I understand that things come up sometimes.  And everyone has their own journey of faith, and everyone who has left Christianity or become more liberal in their interpretation of Scripture has their reasons for doing so.  It is not my place to judge their faith.  I have things to learn from them, and I certainly see some things differently now than I did as a new Christian 20 years ago.  Many of these things happened to me a long time ago, and I don’t think it is healthy to carry grudges.

I guess I’m mostly angry at the world in general.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do about it.  Life isn’t fair, and people will disappoint.  I’m just going to have to find a way to deal with it, and this is a process that will take a long time.

Exit 126. But ask me again tomorrow.

Yesterday, I stayed home and had a nice relaxing day.  The day ended with me on the couch binge-watching five episodes of Castle on DVD.  (If you’re wondering why I’m still binge-watching on DVD rather than using Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime, I only have to pay for DVDs once, and I don’t have to worry about the network being down or my show getting pulled from my service provider.  But that’s another topic for another time.)

Castle is a crime drama set in New York City, about novelist Richard Castle and homicide detective Kate Beckett.  Castle consults with Beckett and her precinct, an arrangement that began when a serial killer was copying murders that happened in Castle’s novels.  Castle uses Beckett as the inspiration for the main character of his new series of novels.  At first, Castle and Beckett have these awkward do-they-have-feelings-for-each-other-or-not overtones, and their relationship gets explored later in the series.  The show recently concluded its run of eight seasons.

I have currently been watching season 4, which aired in 2011-12; this was the first season that I actually watched when it was on TV.  Season 4 is the creepiest to me… but not because of any of the murders depicted on the show.  No, season 4 is creepy because of how it predicted my life.

A side plot running through the first half of season 4 involved Castle’s red-haired daughter, Alexis, and her long distance boyfriend.  Alexis was in her final year of high school, and her boyfriend had just graduated and moved three thousand miles away to California, to attend that snooty university that I don’t name in this blog.  Alexis was rearranging her life around their long distance relationship, making plans herself to move to California and attend school with her boyfriend.  In the meantime, the guy was blowing off their Skype dates, taking his sweet time in calling and texting her back, and just generally not making her a priority.  Eventually, Alexis gets tired of being treated like that, and they break up.

I first started watching Castle in the fall of 2011 on the recommendation of my red-haired girlfriend at the time, the one I call Acrux.  She had just moved five hundred miles away to the other end of California.  I was rearranging my life around this long-distance relationship, assuming that once the school year was over, I would move to Acrux’s part of California.  In the meantime, Acrux was blowing off our Skype dates, taking her sweet time in calling and texting me back, and just generally not making me a priority.  Eventually, I got tired of being treated like that, and we broke up, about a month after the episode with Alexis’ breakup aired.

(There was another episode at the end of season 4 that also predicted something big that happened to me a couple weeks later, but that is also another story for another time.)

Alexis’ breakup happened over the phone, and Castle walked in on the last part of the conversation.  He asked her if she was okay, and she replied, “No.  But ask me again tomorrow.”  I wasn’t okay when Acrux and I broke up.  And it takes me a while to feel okay, mostly because I’m not in high school, I’m pretty picky, and opportunities to meet significant others are few and far between in my life.  But, almost five years later, I am okay with this breakup.  Acrux wasn’t right for me, I’m better off without her, and I’m okay with that.  It took some time to get to that point, and there are other things and people I haven’t completely dealt with right now.  But ask me again tomorrow.  Ask me again in a week, in a month, in a year, and I’ll be ok.

Everything will be ok.

Someday.

Exit 113. All I can say is that my life is pretty plain.

Those of you my age may recognize the title of this post, from the lyrics of the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon.  If that title doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps I should refer to it as That Bee Song.

I don’t have this song in my collection currently.  But I’m going to add it soon.  But why the big deal? you are probably asking, especially if you know me in person.  You rediscover one-hit wonders from your teens and add them to your playlists all the time.  Why is this one a big enough deal to blog about?

Two reasons.  First of all, because my brain is mush from all the socializing I did over this recent holiday weekend, and I can’t think of anything else to write about.  But more importantly, because this marks a major turning point in my feelings toward this song.  I’m not rediscovering this song; I’ve never forgotten it, despite the fact that, for the greater part of the last two decades, I have refused to listen to it and immediately changed the station almost every time I hear it on the radio.

If not for one specific incident, this song wouldn’t be a big deal, and I very well may have forgotten it in the almost-quarter-century since it was released.  One time, back when I was young and confused, a guy I knew went to a Blind Melon concert with a girl I really liked and didn’t have the guts to ask out.  And this guy was a jerk.  She could definitely do better.

That’s it.  After that happened, I refused to listen to this song.  Nothing ever happened between that guy and that girl, as far as I know, but for many years after that I refused to listen to this song, because I was angry that he got to go out with her and I didn’t.  It sounds petty and ridiculous, but… no, there is no but here.  It is petty and ridiculous.

Approximately eleven years after this incident happened, I was making cookies with the radio on in the other room, and I heard No Rain come on.  I instinctively started to walk away from the cookies, toward the room with the radio, so I could change the station.  But then I realized something.  I realized I was being absolutely crazy.  There was absolutely no legitimate reason I should leave what I was doing and go change the station, getting the flour that was all over my hands all over everything else in the process, just because someone I liked went out with someone I didn’t like, once, over a decade earlier.  Not listening to No Rain had become so ingrained in my brain that this was the first time I really thought about why I didn’t like this song, and how it really didn’t matter at this point.

For a while, I still didn’t particularly like the song.  R. Shannon Hoon, the lead singer (who, sadly, died of a drug overdose a few years after recording this song, only a few weeks after surviving age 27), has a weird voice, and on those occasions when I would hear No Rain come on the radio (which usually happened in the car, when my hands weren’t full of flour) I would still change the channel.  But I’ve heard it twice in the last couple weeks, all the way through, and I got to thinking about how I still associate this song with something that happened more than half a lifetime ago that still has nothing to do with me and is insignificant in the long run.

And, even though I’m still not a big fan of Mr. Hoon’s voice, it really isn’t a bad song.  It’s exactly the kind of nostalgic one-hit wonder that I’ve been listening to a lot in the last few years, with the kind of beautifully sad lyrics that I can really relate to.  So, now, every time I hear this song, it will be a reminder that the world didn’t end for me on that day decades ago when I found out that my crush had a date with a douchebag.  I’ll probably never completely forget about this, since that’s not how my brain works, but I don’t need to let the past weigh me down anymore.

Exit 112. I don’t want to play this game.

In the 2011 novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, an ordinary trailer-park kid is trying to save a dystopian near future virtual reality world from a corporation trying to gain control of it for themselves by solving a series of puzzles rooted in late 20th century geek pop culture.  I have written about this novel before (#32), and how one quote from it sticks out in my mind in particular:  “Like any classic video game, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level.  A new level often required an entirely new strategy.”

This principle seems especially true in my life today.  I came of age in the context of evangelical Christian college-age youth group in the late 1990s, and much of my views about life and the future were shaped by this world.  In this world, you get married in your early- to mid-20s (preferably without dating, and without kissing your wife until your wedding day, because Josh Harris), and start having children, who will then get involved in Awana and Sunday school while you and your wife attend the young parents’ Bible study. That ship sailed a long time ago for me.  That strategy doesn’t work in my world, and I feel like there is no precedent for me, because many people I know in situations similar to mine have long since walked away from their faith entirely.  Hence, an entirely new strategy is required.

Now would be a good time to plug a guest piece I wrote for another blog, since it is related to this topic.  Go check it out.  And while you’re at it, check out the rest of this other blog and the original blog from which this was spun off.

https://beingyoungandtwenty.com/2016/06/19/dennis/

Anyway, where was I… I realized recently that there is more to the story than finding a new strategy.  Looking around me, it seems that the life that many of my peers are living, the life that is considered normal for someone my age in my situation, is one where socializing revolves around alcohol, whether that be going out drinking with friends, going out for drinks with a date, or, especially here in northern California, a classy wine tasting excursion.  Dating in this life involves playing with people’s feelings, fooling around physically with no sense of commitment, and not communicating honestly.  Is this the life I want?  Do I want to find a new strategy only to become this?  I don’t think so.  To go back to the video game analogy, I don’t want to play this game, and the game I thought I always wanted to play is out of print, with no copies anywhere on eBay and no working emulators for it.  Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t know if I want to play that game after all, by which I mean that the evangelical Christian family world I described above is not entirely my ideal anymore.

But what game do I want to play?  How can I figure that out, and how much of the rest of the world’s game will influence my game?  I’m never going to be the type to hang out in bars regularly, but maybe I could benefit socially from hanging out in bars occasionally and drinking something without alcohol?  Should I give up my personal prohibition on drinking alcohol and have a drink every once in a while in moderation?  Should I be a little more adventurous in pursuing dating rather than looking for any of hundreds of deal breakers right when I first meet someone?  I really don’t know.  But I have a feeling I’m at least starting to ask the right questions.