Review: Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?
There was, it turned out, at least one advantage to being without Internet. On Thursday I had to leave work early, as my Internet provider was finally going to send a technician out between 4:00 and 8:00 P.M. In my mailbox when I got home was a package from Amazon; I tore into it eagerly and spent the next two hours buried in one of my new books.
The book in question is Carolyn McCulley’s Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Noel had mentioned it in church this weekend – had actually asked single people to go out and read it and let him know if it was worth recommending.
The short answer is that it absolutely is. I expect this book to be a treasured resource for me in the years to come, and one that I pass along to all my single female friends.
There are three main reasons that I love this book. The first one is that it actually, heaven forbid, looks to more than just the book of Ruth or 1 Corinthians 7 to explore Biblical singleness. I mean, any book that actually seriously references the book of Leviticus gets major bonus points from me.
The second is that McCulley goes for breadth, not depth, in offering strategies for living as a Proverbs 31 woman. Things like whether or not to buy a house (if you’re financially stable and able, her answer is to go for it). Or ways to strategically develop relationships with the families in your life, and to be an influencer among kids outside of, say, Sunday School. She touches on so many things that it’s easy to find several specific tips that I can actually apply to my own life.
The last point requires an explanation of me as a single person. I am a self-described perpetual bachelor, having adopted this term for myself as early as 2002. I’m 28 and have had one boyfriend. One. And I really shouldn’t have been with him in the first place, since there were glaringly obvious religious differences. We dated for a month, then I got a grip on myself and called it off while we could still remain friends. (There is, of course, a much longer story behind this.) But other than that one weird little blip in 2003, I’ve never been in a relationship. And, to be quite honest, the only times I’m unhappy with being single are those times I have an active crush on someone. If I never get married, I think I’d be content. But the problem is that I keep meeting Nice Boys, thus disrupting my contentment. I’ve prayed during my last four crushes that the guy in question would be the last, and that whether nothing happened or we got married, I’d never have to go through another crush again.
I needn’t state how that turned out.
So that’s one of the ways this book was refreshingly honest and strangely encouraging: McCulley actually talks about the fact that the desire for a husband never really goes away. The last chapter starts with a conversation with a 50-year-old woman named Lisa (go figure) who mentions that she still wishes she could be cuddled up on the couch watching football with her husband.
Like I said, bizarrely encouraging. Those who talk about the gift of singleness as if it were something handed out like the gift of serving or the gift of speaking in tongues probably don’t get it. They’re probably married and quite possibly assume that single people are single because something’s wrong with them or they’re between relationships or have some sort of supernaturally-given lack of desire for a spouse. The latter may be true in a handful of extremely rare cases, but there *is* no magic switch that says, Okay, you’re now a card-carrying member of the Society of Perpetual Bachelors, and as such you’ll never fall in love again.
It’s a simple, stupid realization, but honestly, I needed that jolt. Because of course life doesn’t work that way, but I keep waiting for that moment to arrive – the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. But the reality is, even if I never get married, and if I die an old maid at 90 in a nursing home, I’ll probably still have a crush on the nice 87-year-old down the hall who still has most of his teeth.
Weird, right? That this would be encouraging? But it actually is. Like, I’m not doing singleness wrong if I *do* like a guy. That doesn’t give me liberty to obsess, of course, but when in the course of time I inevitably do, it’s because I’m a single human female who may one day yet get married, and not one who absolutely never will. It’s because both singleness and marriage are temporary states, both of which could end at functionally any moment for any number of reasons.
The thing about this fact is that it’s so patently obvious that nobody ever addresses it. Even this book only addresses it incidentally. Most seem to ignore it entirely, instead focusing on the whole “don’t be the aggressor in the relationship” thing. These books always feel like they operate under the assumption that (1) women choose when they fall in love and (2) single women are by default desperate enough for marriage to initiate a relationship. Okay, talk about that, but (1) initiating a relationship as a female does not guarantee its failure, and (2) some of us have long since learned that knowledge and can we please move on to something else. So it’s also really nice to have a book that helps you live like a single in spite of your emotions toward any particular man.
So those are my two cents. This book did raise one other interesting question to me, though: are there books written to single men? Every book on singleness that I’ve read has been written to the ladies. Since in the general Christian culture the man is supposed to be the initiator, though, I’d think that in some ways a book on singleness would be highly important to them. Like, a brief bit on what men should look for in wives, but also how to handle rejection and whether or not they should make the concrete decision to never get married.
So: do books for single men exist? And are there any books in particular that have helped you out?