Monday, January 3, 2011

Guest Article ~ Hannah Elizabeth

Before I let you read this article, I want to thank Hannah Elizabeth for allowing me to copy this article over from her blog, "Hannah'sHeartstrings" ( Hopefully, this will be the first of several guest articles that I'd love to share ~ esp. when I don't have time to write an article myself :D So - thank you Hannah! ::Hugs::

Smiling Singles

There’s a common thing that happens to girls in many conservative Christian circles. When they are young, they are taught that girls play with girls, and boys play with boys, and any interaction was merely in passing or in supervised group activities. As they grow older, the division between boys and girls grows, and before they are more than thirteen, they have been taught the proper modesty, attitude and position of a good Christian girl. By the time they are in their teens, they have become perfect models of conservativeness…dressing right, walking right, never making eye contact with boys, and knowing all the “right” things to say. As they head out the teen years, they become virtual politicians on the subject of singleness. They constantly preach amongst themselves the beauties of singleness, search for ways to be more content, and ultimately try to convince themselves that they don’t have any other desires outside of being a perfectly content Christian lady.

But then something happens. They hit twenty, and think “Ah, now I’m ready to get married.” A year goes by. “Okay, where’s my Prince Charming? I’ve been waiting.” Another year. “What? Aren’t there any guys out there looking for wives?” Another year…and another…and another. Soon the girl is nearing thirty, and several of her friends are married. But she has no prospects.

What happened?

Sure, this doesn’t happen all the time. There are many good conservative Christian girls that have gotten married at nineteen or twenty. But there is a large population of them not married and wondering why.

The timeline I just shared with you is the problem.

I’m not saying that teaching young girls modesty and femininity is a bad thing. Nor am I saying that keeping girls and boys separated during those tumultuous teen years is a bad thing. These things are good, in their place. But they can get out of hand. And they can lead to some very frustrated almost-thirty year olds.

I honestly think that the biggest problem here is this simple fact: we’ve forgotten how to smile.

Yeah. Just smile.

I remember a time when I was about nine years old, and the term “shamefacedness” hit our small circle of conservative homeschoolers like a hurricane. The idea was that young girls and ladies should be “shamefaced”, or direct their gaze to the ground, especially around guys. This was designed to keep a girl’s eyes from betraying even the slightest hint of “liking a boy” or “flirting”, but what it also did was take out any chance of just a friendly encounter. I honestly could never get used to the idea.

How many others, I wonder, were taught this idea of shamefacedness? To never make eye contact with a young man? Ever? Sure, this may work for children. But it does not work for mature adults who are ready to take the next step in life and find themselves a spouse.
I began a small, personal experiment in the summer of 2009. I had discovered a beautiful thing called dancing earlier that year, which God used to bring me out of my shyness shell, and make me be much more comfortable around men folk. But during my first dance, I only got asked twice by a guy for a dance, and only one actually singled me out. The next dance I went to I did something different. When a new dance was announced, I looked around the room and tried to meet the gaze of a guy, and then gave my sweetest, “best friend” smile. There was nothing seductive about it. I just wanted to see if a simple smile could make a guy ask me to dance. Guess what…I had a guy partner for almost every single dance. I was ecstatic. I had figured it out. And, oh, how simple it was! I was excited about this revelation, but quickly became careful of whom I shared it with, because I ended up on the wrong end of some gossip because a “friend” misunderstood my meaning of “making eye contact” for “looking romantically into a guy’s eyes”.

I tried it at another dance, and found the same thing. Some guys I even had the courage to go up to them and ask them if they had a partner. It worked. I ended up with a guy partner when a few of my other friends didn’t.

I came to this conclusion.

Guys are shy too. They’ve been taught that girls are sacred creatures and you don’t touch them, talk to them or look at them. Period. This is a whole new ballgame for them too. And they are the ones that have to do all the asking and initiating. Perfectly good, conservative Christian girls are intimidating.

Girls! They need help! If you want the guys to notice you and like you, then start with one simple thing: SMILE.

My friend Michaela and I were recently talking about, if you found yourself liking a guy and thinking he might like you, if it was alright to give him soft, subtle hints or not. My response to her question was, in most cases, no. I thought that a guy should pursue the girl he liked whether she seemed interested or not. But then I asked two of my brothers’ (ages 17 and 19) opinions on the matter, and got the shock of my life. They both said that they would like it if a girl gave hints! They said that they probably wouldn’t give the time of day to a girl that appeared to be standoffish or uninterested. A girl needs to be friendly and engaging, mostly, they said. I then asked my 19-year old brother what he would consider good, appropriate hints. He said he would see good hints as things like wanting to be around the guy, invitations to gatherings and places where they could visit, smiles, and being attentive.

It’s not “flirting” to be friendly. We’ve confused the two. Talking to a guy doesn’t mean you are going to marry him tomorrow. Being friends with a guy doesn’t mean you are suddenly less pure than you were the day before. By smiling, conversing and showing attention, you are showing a guy that you are open and that he is welcome. You are not compromising your integrity, your purity, or you dignity. You are just letting go of some of your pride.

Stephen Arterburn, in his book “Finding Mr. Right (and how to know when you have)”, even goes as far as saying “It’s okay to flirt!” Of course he does not mean the seductive, “advertising-what-ain’t-on-sale” kind of flirting. He goes on to list good and proper ways to “flirt”, including smiling, gesturing in conversation with your palms up, sitting with your knees together, standing with your weight on one leg so that one hip sits ever so slightly higher than the other, tilting your head when listening, and other such simple gestures that communicate openness and welcome.

Don’t be afraid of your smile. Don’t be afraid of your desires. Your dream is to be a wife and a mother, right? Well, there’s one important factor in that equation called a husband. And you know deep in your heart, that is your dream too, but in your quest for contented singleness, you’ve strove to kill that desire. You are female. God created you that way, and put those desires in your heart. He is the author of romance, the one that thought it up in the first place.
Wake up. Smell the roses. Put one in your hair. Be yourself. Smile. Laugh. Engage. Be the woman God created you to be and quit killing your heart.


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