I’ve been single longer than I’d like to admit (nearly 6 years).
I think I need a bit of background to explain exactly how this post came up for me. It’s the result of another one of my family’s conversations about me.
In my family, I’m the eldest grandchild, and one of my grandparents is obsessed with me having children almost pronto. He’s got his own reasons, which are long and complicated, and far too involved to fully explain. However, he’s got it in his mind that, due to familial traditions over generations, as the eldest, I should be the first to marry and then have kids. And to him, it’s essential I do it in that order. He’s only 68, but he’s obsessed with having great-grandchildren to spend time with. Part of it is that he’s part of a generation and population subset of American population that children should unquestionably listen to and agree with their grandparents/elders…so he wants little children around again that believe everything he says. I haven’t ever been the type to unquestioningly believe anything that I’m told, which frustrates him to absolutely no end. He wants little ones to basically indoctrinate his beliefs onto. Don’t get me wrong — I love my grandpa dearly, but he’s not the one who has the choice on when/if I have children.
The other half of the thing is that in my family’s history, almost everyone had their first child by 18 at the oldest. I did some math from family stories, and the average age for women having their first kid was 16, for the men, it seems to be about 20-21. My great-grandma was 15 when she had her first kid, and my great-grandpa was I think 21 at the time (geez, how times have changed). That was until my mom came along. My mom was 26 when she had me…which is terribly late by my family’s old standards. I’m already “old” to be not having kids, at least according to all the older generation in my family. So they constantly harp on me about not getting married soon.
I’ve been single for 6 year though, which concerns some of the people in my family. After all, I’m 22 and single…and I haven’t dated anyone in years. Then there’s the whole familial expectation that I start a family first amongst all my cousins and my sister, plus the fact that I should be the first to do all of that, just because I’m the eldest.
Six years though, it is frustrating. I’m sure I contribute to the problem — I do have my flaws, and I’m not immune to that knowledge. But, I have a lot of issues with the fact that I seem to attract all the wrong types of guys. Either that, or I have just a lot of trouble with them. In whatever case it is, I do not have any sort of luck. I’m still sure that I need to figure out a way to deal with the problems of my own atrocious dating luck. I’ll worry about that later though.
Still…being single does lead to my family constantly picking at me. Why? As in, why am I single? How come I won’t just date some nice guy? Or my favorite, my grandpa’s sage advice — play stupid to get guys to go out with me, because they hate smart women. It all boils down the simple question my family keeps pelting me with: why won’t I date anyone?
Like it was a choice to not date anyone. Sure, I’ve turned down guys who have asked me out. I’ve gone on a few dates, scattered over the years. Most have been utterly disastrous and haven’t really left me with much confidence in dealing with men under the age of 25 or so. I don’t actually believe that most guys my own age are really capable of a good, lasting relationship that isn’t based solely on having sex with me; at least, that’s how all impressions seem to go in my history of trying to date over the last 6 years.
But my family, some of them, place the fault on my shoulders. Because I’m a woman, it’s my fault that guys aren’t flocking to me. I need to be nicer, play stupid or act like I don’t have the interests that I do. Or my favorite fact — I should just deal with guys treating me like crap. My family all seems to think that I should just easily find a boyfriend, because that’s the way it is with my sister and all of my cousins. They’ve all found/been in long-term relationships over these 6 years, and I’m the “defective” one who just can’t figure it out.
Dating isn’t good for me. It’s tense and full of all sorts of opportunities to screw up social interactions. I’m tired of false starts and awful situations. It makes dating terribly painful and an overall uncomfortable situation. However, I’m not giving up. Eventually, one day, I have to have some luck. I can’t completely fail at this part of life forever, after all.
My family all wants me to just settle down.
What I want is to be happy.
And now I’m full circle to my title of this post. (Geez, I take a while sometimes I suppose)
My friends have asked if I would date a pagan over a Christian. That surprised me a bit. After all, I’m used to the assumption from friends that I’m just “phasing” through my beliefs. They’re all sure that I’ll be an agnostic when I’m through this. I think it’s sweet, but it’s not what I’m sure my path is at the moment. Maybe in the future I will end up agnostic one day…but for now, I’m following this path, and I’m happy with it.
But they did bring up a point that I hadn’t considered. Dating in the “pagan” world. See, most of my friends are assured that they could find a good X-denomination Christian boy/girl to marry. They’re practically guaranteed finding someone who shares their beliefs part and parcel. My friends even admit this, they’re grateful that they don’t really have to worry about the whole interfaith relationship thing and all the issues that potentially can come with this.
I have had to explain before that my beliefs aren’t the “stereotypical” pagan beliefs to my friends. They’re interested and we enjoy conversation about it. I like interfaith dialogue. But, to them, my beliefs are totally unknown. So I had to explain to them that there isn’t just some overarching “pagan” doctrine that units beliefs. It isn’t like Christianity that has some basic tenets that are almost identical across the board (to use the frame of religion that most of my friends are familiar with). I’m not the kind of “Wiccan” that TV shows and movies like to play up for pop-culture. Which usually surprises them, but that’s normal. It does mean that I then have to explain that there are types of “pagans” and people who get labeled pagan who don’t even like that label. Still, I have a lot to explain at times.
Since I don’t have an overarching framework within the “pagan” world to draw from — I can’t just immediately connect on the same level as my Christian friends can. And my particular interests (as I’ve noted here) are in Slavic paganism, which is rather unusual to my knowledge in the States…and it’s definitely a unique interest within my friend group. My friends all look at my interest and leanings towards Slavic paganism with some skeptical humor, they constantly tell me that it’s all just “jokes and stories”. I of course can always point out the story-like nature of their own mythology, so it’s been an unusual conversation.
It does make the thought of dating in the “pagan” world interesting for me. I’ve told my friends that I’m not opposed to it at all, but I’m not seeking it out. There are just as many differences between types of pagans as there are between certain branches of Christianity at times. There could be a lot to debate and argue if a hard polytheist was dating a soft polytheist, or even a monotheist pagan. It could be interesting, but it’s still highly interfaith, just as much as if a pagan were dating a Christian or Muslim, a Jew or Buddhist, etc etc. I don’t really see any pagan relationship as being same-faith, unless both were following the same style of practice within the same pantheon (say, 2 people following the Hellenic pantheon). It’s far too varied to actually be considered single-faith as a relationship, or that’s how I’ve seen it.
Since I see all relationships as being of an interfaith nature, that solves one major problem in the dating world. I’m always expecting there to be theological and spiritual differences, which do not bother me. All I want in a relationship (on a religious/spiritual level) is respect from both ends, a very firm understanding that religious differences are going to happen, and that both sides need to compromise on major life decisions. Since I don’t expect to have identical beliefs, I’m fine with different bases of religion. It’s something that I long ago resigned myself to, and it’s actually a bit freeing.
I grew up in a family that was of multiple faiths and theological beliefs. I don’t know if I could really relate to being in a single-faith relationship. I’m used to the debates between Catholics and Protestants on their differences, the northern Protestants arguing with the southern Baptists in my family, atheists arguing with the Christians, the agnostics pointing out what the uncertainties are that lead to alternate perspectives. I know some of my family is Buddhist as well (forgive me for not knowing any specifics), and we have some family that are Hindu. I never once felt that it was problematic or unusual to see all these beliefs in one family. It actually seems rather foreign to date someone with the exact same beliefs as me, given my family’s unique milieu.
Honestly, at times I would rather date someone from a larger faith (i.e. Abrahamic, Buddhist or Hindu, among others) than pagans. Sometimes it seems like they’re better educated on their beliefs. Not always, but with the deluge of the so-termed “fluffy bunnies” on Facebook, Tumblr and even on other blogging platforms…it does grate on the mind at times. I want to have in depth conversations, debates, understandings with whoever I date. And while it is highly judgmental and overgeneralized, I can’t help but feel like many “pagans” are under educated on their own beliefs. (I can admit an academic bias on my part, I’m a bookworm and researcher by nature, so I am inclined to finding people who know details and history of their beliefs more interesting/worth dating than someone who knows nothing beyond their own personal beliefs) Not that they all are like that, I know. I have a friend who is somewhat-pagan, and he is smart, very smart, about his beliefs. I just…I want intelligent discussion in my relationship, and my prior experience with “pagans” has always tended towards the unaware of history and culture types.
All in all, dating is a hugely complicated system.
I want to find someone who makes me happy, and who I can relate to on an intellectual level. Religion and spiritual beliefs are important to me — there is no denying that fact. But, I’m also not stubborn. I’m not going to narrow my options down to the “pagan” world. In fact, I think almost every pagan I know is married to/dating someone of a different faith. That’s told me far more than the commentary of people online who say they want to date someone of their own faith. I don’t mind an interfaith relationship, it actually holds benefits that I kind of enjoy.
If I can have a good relationship and talk and debate with the person that I’m dating…that is far more important to me than sharing every single belief with that person. It is interesting to have differences to learn from and see how others believe. I like enjoying those types of discussions and learning more about those other faiths from the people who practice them.
Interfaith dating seems far more likely in my future. Even within the “pagan” world, I think that it is a far more prevailing pattern than a lot of people say. Either that (or also very likely) I’ve just come to a pretty obvious realization about dating in the “pagan” world that. Though I suppose, if it is pretty obvious, well then, I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake in dating/relationship matters.
I’m actually glad my friends and I discuss these kinds of things. While they way not see themselves dating outside their religion, I’ve always figured it offers new opportunities. There might be challenges down the line, come marriage and whatever follows…but that’s far in the future right now for me. I’m not going to worry about the future when I can deal with the present.∗