My newsfeed is always swarming with rings, engagement announcements, and couple pictures during the holidays, but this year was a little different.
This time, the lonely, relationship-seeking, un-engaged 20-somethings interrupted the love fest with a rebuttal. Those who sing “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T” (and probably don’t know what that means) reposted this article like no other. At first I liked it, I really did. I respect the writer and the spirit of the article and, while I wouldn’t advise many things on this list, I enjoyed a sarcastic break from Facebook’s mating season. But then I saw it shared over 14,000 times on Twitter and Facebook and had to take a step back. The article, titled “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23,” tries to justify those who are feeling less than cozy this holiday season. It lists things one should do before getting married, giving hope to those without love in sight and remorse to those who are getting hitched. Here’s the list:
1. Get a passport.
2. Find your “thing.”
3. Make out with a stranger.
4. Adopt a pet.
5. Start a band.
6. Make a cake. Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too.
7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage.
8. Explore a new religion.
9. Start a small business.
10.Cut your hair.
11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.
12. Build something with your hands.
13. Accomplish a Pinterest project.
14. Join the Peace Corps.
15. Disappoint your parents.
16. Watch GIRLS, over and over again.
17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.
18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.
19. Sign up for CrossFit.
20. Hangout naked in front of a window.
21. Write your feelings down in a blog.
22. Be selfish.
23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year.
THANK GOODNESS I get to eat, cut my hair, and hang out naked in front of a window before getting married. Like seriously, I really would have missed those things.
You’ve got to be kidding me. The statements this article make about marriage and divorce break my heart. “Divorce is no longer a staple in a midlife crisis, but rather, something that SEVENTEEN Magazine should probably be printing on,” is an unnerving statement about our generation. But aside from all that, y’all, social media comparison is killing us. An article that probably had intentions of setting singles free is binding them to comparison and regulation.
It reminds me of another story I know.
In the creation story found in Genesis, Adam and Eve are first naked in the garden WITHOUT SHAME. God tells them they can have free reign in the Garden of Eden, as long as they stay away from the forbidden fruit. The serpent slithers up to Eve, saying, “Did God really say that? Don’t you know that if you do eat the fruit you will have the knowledge of God?” This is the way to happiness and control, Eve. The only way. You’ll love it.
And what happens next? Eve eats the fruit. Adam follows suit. They are naked and ashamed.
This is the perfect opportunity for an, “I told you so,” from the Heavenly Father, but instead, God responds to the situation with one of the most poignant questions in the Bible:
Who told you that you were naked?
He is hurting for them, like a father whose children are buying into every lie he worked so hard to prove false.
Who told you that you were inadequate?
Who told you that you are behind if you don’t have a ring on your finger before 23?
Who told you that if you’re not engaged, you will never be happy?
Who told you that you have to accomplish a list of things like “make out with a stranger” to cover up your loneliness?
Who told you that your relationship status defines your worth as a person?
Who told you that your story is the same as everyone else’s?
How did you get to this point?
Friends, we need to think about these things because they are not true and they are hurting us. I do agree with some points the article alludes to, like learning to love yourself before you can love someone else and experiencing all life has to offer. I love the initiative taken to make the single 20-somethings feel a little more empowered. But, it’s the same thing.
If an engagement picture holds the power to spike my anxiety, then why wouldn’t a list of things I should do? Both leave me feeling pretty inadequate. I am so happy for those that have found confidence in themselves in singleness and true companionship in marriage. But what works for them, probably won’t for me.
Realize how easily we are falling into the traps of the unspoken social media contest. Each time you open your browser or click on the Facebook app, you are simultaneously opening your heart up, too. It is constantly searching for more, more, more, and when you see picture after picture of edited lives putting their best face forward, it will allow them to win. I truly believe depression and anxiety rates are heightened due largely to social media. Yes, the same events are happening, and these couples would still be engaged or singles living out their independence. But never before the age of Facebook have we had the ability to mindlessly browse something with the potential to destroy our self esteem.
Think about the times you are usually checking your phone. I know I usually do when I’m not engaged with what’s in front of me, I’m waiting for the next thing, or I’m looking for a distraction. I’m not actively guarding my time much less my heart, creating a perfect soil for seeds of dissatisfaction to grow. My thoughts spiral directly past “Who told you that you were not enough?” and straight into “You’re definitely not enough because this picture and this status say so.” Just like being naked and ashamed.
My advice? Live your beautifully written, hand crafted, one-of-a-kind story and love every minute of it. You weren’t given this life to live it by the standards of others, so let’s shake them off at the beginning of this year. Don’t give others’ highlight reels air time in your mind, and mindfully prepare and protect yourself each time you begin to scroll through Apps. Remember that living and being present in your story will always triumph.
So, you want to eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting? Fabulous. You want to share it with your husband or wife? Awesome.
No matter what, may we never be ashamed.