The first time I heard Taylor Swift’s, “Love Story”, I wept softly while sitting in my car.
Had she been spying on my dreams?
How did she know?
“It’s a love story, baby, just say, yessssssss…..”
Taylor Swift is neither psychic nor omnipresent. She just had the power to put words and music to the experience that I so desperately craved.
I wanted a man to ride in, sweep my off my feet, and carry me away to his castle. When I worked at Target, I would sometimes watch the front doors, thinking about what it would be like if he would just walk in, whisper sweet nothings in my ear, and tell me I didn’t have to clean up poop off the bathroom floor or barfed-up peaches and cottage cheese off the floor of Aisle 7.
I wanted someone perfect. Someone gallant. Someone…imaginary. If I could just have that perfect guy, the one who would answer all my needs and be my other half, I would feel complete. I would become the princess. That would be my ‘happily ever after’.
Credits roll. End scene.
From the moment I learned how to walk, I was playing with girly things. I had a doll collection. I dressed up in frilly dresses. My dad and brother built me a miniature wooden stove, and I played at making dinner in my “kitchen.”
As I grew older, I wrote in my journal about what I was looking for in a man. I created a long list of expectations for him, already picturing his tall, dark, handsome self in my mind.
I closed my journal and remained a perpetual lady-in-waiting – an almost nun– thinking that God would certainly provide me a man in my life by His great power and miraculous intervention. To aid my God in this (because He clearly needed my assistance), I tried a few ways to get some men to notice me.
I tried to make myself known to my brothers’ friends.
I joined E-harmony for a hot second and a half, then deleted my account because I lost the nerve.
I flirted with the guys in my church’s small group.
I learned how to keep a house, perfectly, honing my skills in cleaning, cooking, sewing, and hanging around babies. I ran the children’s department for my dad’s church and all the kids loved me. I was confident of my abilities to be a mother.
All my efforts failed, though. My miracle man wasn’t appearing on the horizon, bronzed from the sun, sweaty from a gym workout, smiling just for me. (All my visions came from my absorption Lori Wick novels.)
At some point, in my mid-twenties, I read a line in a book by Michelle McKinney Hammond, “You should learn how to talk about more than just Jesus.”
That line rocked my world.
I was the preacher’s kid. The pastor’s daughter. A leader among my group. Jesus was central to who I was and what I did.
But maybe learning about other stuff was important, too? Maybe there were other options to sitting around on my tush, thinking that some magical man was going to materialize from the sky? Maybe just experiencing life that was passing me by might be worth my time?
I started doing other things that were outside the realm of my church or my homemaking skill-honing. (I mean, I could already make a mean chocolate cake, by this point)
I sold cosmetics, worked as a freelance writer, ran races. I went to therapy, joined a gym, and traveled. I joined up with a group of other 20-something’s who were trying to figure out the world. We skied, hiked, camped, and stayed up late at coffee shops. The world expanded beyond the walls of my room, my solitude, and my church.
That’s when the true change started to happen for me. I was so busy having fun and working on myself that I lost weight, laughed more, and said “yes” to more invitations.
And then, a guy noticed me….
In 2009, I received a dinner invitation with a friend of mine whose name was Thomas. We were both concerned about ruining the friendship we had built in the 2 years since we had met. But we thought it was worth the risk, so we took the plunge into the world of dating. As we learned about each other, grew in our faith together, and fostered a deep love (I married him, by the way), we discovered that we both had to speak our minds honestly, carry our weight in the relationship, and never give up on the other person.
Almost 10 years later, I realize more and more every day that the load is not solely on him to make life better for me. Nor is the burden on me to make him my center and axis.
It is a push and pull, a tug and shove, a gentle back and forth seesaw.
The search for the White Knight hasn’t disappeared from our ideals since my single days. Romantic comedies, novels, and TV shows still garner millions of dollars. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are still on network Television. Our desire is for the women in our lives to have the happy ending, yet we preach to them that it’s about a man coming in, sweeping them off their feet, and eliminating all their worries and woes.
This is a great disservice. To our girls and our boys. We are placing tremendous amount of pressure on men to provide and strive and fulfill roles that are impossible to fulfill, while simultaneously robbing girls of their God-given abilities and opportunities to fully become who they were meant to be. Not to mention, we are filling them with these stories that the girl will always by rescued by the guy, and that the guy will always get the girl.
And sometimes, life doesn’t go how the fairy tales depict it.
It isn’t supposed to.
That is part of what makes life so beautiful.
I believe women should be equal to men. I also believe men should be equal to women. The idea of men and women having specific, gender-related roles in a relationship is ridiculous. To me, this means that I am supposed to act or think or respond a certain way. Or that Thomas is supposed to be or do or say certain things. This rigidity pigeon-holes both me and my husband into set expectations in our marriage. It doesn’t allow for creativity, individual strengths, or mutual support.
It’s time for the women to step up and take hold of our voices and our contributions. It’s time for us to stop making the guys work so damn hard to read our minds, know our thoughts, and earn our approval. We need to respect them enough to have tough conversations, to shoulder our portion of the load, and to keep on learning new things. It’s time for us to let the guys off the hook a bit. And in turn, it’s time for the guys to open up a little more to us about their weaknesses. Each side needs to step out in vulnerability and shed the armor of old conventions.
As Brene Brown says, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” (from her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead)
It doesn’t matter to me if the image is of the girl riding on the horse with the guy, arms wrapped around him in sheer a’more. Or if the image is of the high and mighty dude, riding in princely style, with the demure princess behind him on her own, smaller steed.
Both images need to be destroyed and the lame stories that accompany them.
We should be riding side by side.
When my husband is tired, I do the dishes. When I am exhausted, he handles bedtime routine with our son. When I forget that tomorrow is trash day, he takes it out. When he doesn’t think about the bills to be paid, I pay them. When a room in the house needs fresh coat of paint, I break out my coveralls. When the light bulbs burn out, he screws in new ones. When I don’t know the answer to a question, he helps me research it.
We pull and tug. We give and take. It is a dance of many varied moves and styles.
We never stop learning and growing.
There is no marker of achievement.
There is no end game. We just constantly level up.
In the movie, Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts character, “What happens when the Prince rescues his Cinderella?”, her response is, “She rescues him right back.”
That is my true experience.
In my world, we save each other.
We are partners, full and equal, unique and individual. It is in that strength that we thrive in our relationship. We are constantly learning, growing, evolving. Our life hasn’t stagnated. We do things together, and we do things separately, because we know that we are fostered our own individuality as we continue this awesome life journey together.
So, no matter where you might find yourself….
Go on dates and have some freaking fun, for Heaven’s sake. Or don’t go on dates, if you don’t want to. But put yourself out there into the world. Rush headlong into the wild and crazy and expanding-universe world that you live in.
Learn a new skill. (I’m currently trying to learn Spanish. Confession: It isn’t going well….)
Talk about Jesus. He is worth having a conversation about. Then talk about all the other wonders of this Christ-soaked Universe, like family and travel and art and movies and music…..and on and on….
Be honest in your relationships. Don’t fake it with another person, in love or in friendship. It just ain’t worth it.
Be fascinated by who you are becoming. The joy is in the process. I’ve not even begun to realize who I am completely, nor who my partner is fully. There is still so much to explore and marvel at. There are so many experiences to have, places to see, and people to connect with. No longer am I sitting around, waiting for the miracle to come my direction. I am actively participating in the miracle I want to occur.
And throughout all your wild discoveries, know that you are loved…whether you are sequestered away in a high tower, or roaming the barren wilderness with your bow and arrow on your back, or you are commuting to a desk job, or driving a mini van full of squirming kids, you are insanely loved and valued and accepted for who you are and who you are becoming. You don’t need another person to tell you this truth. House it in your heart all on your own.
This is what I want the girl in my old journals to understand.
This is what I want my son…and all my future sons and daughters to grasp.
This is what keeps me inspired every day in my marriage to my husband.
This is the secret that Lori Wick never divulged.
It’s never too late, for the white horse.
Because, sometimes, the knight in the story…the rescuer….