Thirtysomething and Never Been Kissed? Getouttahere!
A writing acquaintance of mine posted the following in her (very lovely) review of Menu for Romance:
The only part that didn’t quite ring true to me is that Meredith could have gone 34 years without one date, let alone a kiss.
I couldn’t let that go without commenting upon it, so I posted the following response:
Well, the author has gone thirty-eight years without one date, let alone a kiss, so it does happen in real life—and more often than most people realize.
And I’m not talking about those who are involved in the “Virgin Lips” or “Purity” movements. I’m talking about normal, everyday women, Christian or not, who’ve never been asked out on a date (though we’d really like to be) and who’ve never been kissed (though we’d really like to be).
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a diatribe on the new Fox “reality” show More to Love in which I mentioned hearing many of those women, in their twenties and thirties, remark that they’ve never dated and that some have never been kissed. But surely, most viewers must be thinking, the producers had to search high and low for these women. Either that or they’re lying about it. Because as everyone knows, every woman in this country has not only dated but has surely been kissed before she’s—what? twenty? eighteen? sixteen?
When Susan Boyle came to prominence on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year, all one had to do was look at her to understand why she’d never dated, never been kissed, right? I mean, that’s what everyone was saying on the blogs and in the in the tabloids. With someone who isn’t the western world’s idea of attractive/beautiful, it’s easy to categorize them and shove them off to the side and believe they’d never “get” someone simply because they’re not good looking enough. In this blogger’s post, the information that Susan Boyle admitted to—being single, living alone (with a cat), and never having been kissed—is classified as “self-deprecating facts.” Since when did being single, supporting one’s self to the point of being able to live alone, and never having gone through a horrible experience with a bad relationship just to mark “first kiss” and “have a boyfriend” off our life’s to-do list become “self-deprecating”?
I know there are people who will look at pictures of me—having been a size 16 when I graduated from high school (at 5’9″) and now at a size 22/24 (though two years ago barely fit into a size 28)—and put me in the same category with the Susan Boyles of the world. But I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never dated. I’m proud of the fact I’ve never been kissed. I’m proud of the fact that I don’t have the baggage of past relationships to drag around with me, to damage my view of what falling in love is all about. Because I wouldn’t be able to write the books I write if I had to lug all that garbage around with me.
But heaven forbid a woman of average height who fits into a size 10 pants with strawberry blonde hair, nutmeg-brown eyes, a pretty face, and a six-figure income should have gotten to the grand old age of thirty-four without ever having been asked out on a date or been kissed. It’s unthinkable! Especially in the modern culture of American Christianity, where everyone knows that it’s a young woman’s job to date as much as possible so she can find her husband as young as possible so she can start popping out as many babies as possible, right? I mean, come on now, right? That’s why most Christians who are over the age of about thirty-five who aren’t married are no longer attending church regularly. If every unmarried Christian over the age of thirty-five were to go to the church in his or her community on the same Sunday, all the married people/families wouldn’t have room. But because we’ve been marginalized and pushed to the side for years and years—mostly viewed as abnormalities, as people who obviously aren’t living good Christian lives, because otherwise God would have blessed us with marriage and children by now—most of Christian society has forgotten that we exist.
But it may not just be in the churches where we’ve ceased to exist. In this blog post, the blogger brings up the idea that in the past, on TV shows or in movies, there was always the character of the “maiden aunt” or “bachelor uncle.” Usually as a comic relief, or sometimes as a parental substitute in stories in which the children had bad relationships with their parents. But in the last twenty or thirty years, the fact that someone could have survived into adulthood without having been in a romantic (and/or sexual) relationship with someone AND who isn’t lesbian/gay has pretty much been wiped out of all media—whether TV, movies, or books. One might argue that the chick-lit genre celebrates the single woman. Sort of. But how many of those characters (a) have never dated/been kissed or (b) aren’t actively dating/looking for someone to date/falling in love?
Since being published, the question as to why I write romance novels invariably comes up in interviews. Here’s my standard answer:
My heart is, as it has been for more than twenty years, focused on writing light-hearted romances. But not just any romances. I like writing characters who represent a growing segment of the population that seems to be increasingly left out in Christian circles: women in their late-twenties, thirties, and early-forties (and even older) who have never been married and who want to be loved and accepted for who they are, not pigeon-holed into a category, labeled, or, as happens most often, shoved to the side and ignored/forgotten about by their churches, coworkers, or even friends and family. I’m writing to the women who, like me, expected to be married before they turned twenty-five (-six, -seven, -eight . . .), but who may find themselves now in their mid- to late-thirties or forties and have never even had a date or meaningful relationship.
I’m writing for them (me, actually) so we can hang on to the hope of finding a well-adjusted, loving, marriage-minded Christian man out there somewhere and having a “happily ever after” ending with him (with the optimism that he may be closer than we realize). I’m writing for the woman who, like me, feels most alone when she goes to church and sees all the married/engaged couples and families sitting together; who has to endure the family-focused activities, Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, and sermons (if you’ve never noticed, start keeping track of how often your pastor talks about families and/or marriage); who begins to feel it isn’t just the church that has pushed her aside and forgotten about her, but that maybe God has too.
Apparently my books are getting into the hands of these targeted readers—if the e-mails that I’m getting are any indication. While I once believed I was unique—perhaps one of a kind—in this world where it seems like happiness depends solely on “hooking up” with someone else (whether permanently or temporarily), I’m finding that there are many more kindred spirits out there who are like me: never dated, never been kissed. Some are okay with it, some are heartbroken by it. But all of them are my sisters.
In response to a comment left on the More to (Not) Love post, I wrote this: While I would love to find “Mr. Right” and perhaps get married one of these years, I’ve learned to be content with the life God’s given me. As long as I have companionship—in whatever form it comes—I’m satisfied. The rest would be “gravy.”
And that is why Meredith Guidry is thirty-four years old and has never dated nor been kissed.
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