It’s been almost five years since I posted a little thing I wrote about dating. I’ve been surprised at the circulation it received and the discussion it sparked. I’m still identified occasionally as The Guy Who Wrote That Article. I didn’t intend to be a one-hit wonder; I do, in fact, have opinions about other subjects as well – some of which may be forthcoming in the future.
But first, a few observations about “It’s Complicated.”
- Context, tone, and audience is significant. The article was written as a blog post – a casual tone, for an online audience. When it was reprinted several months later, largely unedited, in the venerable and staid Calvary Messenger, I can only imagine that it didn’t sound like a typical CM article. I don’t know specifically what I would have changed if I had written with that audience in mind, but I think I would have made some changes in tone. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t.
- Maybe this isn’t surprising, but much of the direct feedback I received was positive, while the negative feedback I heard was mostly second-hand. I know there was hearty disapproval of what I wrote, but I didn’t hear much of it directly. (Evidently some juicy gossip also made the rounds: I learned through the grapevine that The Guy Who Wrote That Article eloped shortly thereafter, and with a non-Mennonite woman to boot. Gasp.)
- I found it interesting how much positive feedback I received from older people. One elderly gentleman told me appreciatively that he’d been preaching this to the “young boys” for years.
- One reader told me that he was more interested in what kind of person the author is than in the content of the piece. I thought the comment was interesting and perceptive. I realized that even if I disagree with an idea, it doesn’t seem as threatening if I know the messenger and understand the context. For example, most of my friends didn’t really think the article was a big deal. They knew where the ideas originated, they had been part of similar discussions about dating, and they know what kind of person I am. (They were as amused as I was when we learned of my elopement.) I think there’s something big here. Let’s try a little experiment: think about the beliefs that are most opposite to your own. Next, think about a person who believes those beliefs. Got it? Now – difficult as it may be – try to get inside that person’s head and to understand why they might believe those things they believe. You’ll probably still think the belief is stupid or wrong (or both), but at least you’ll have a little empathy for the person. You don’t need me to tell you that there are a lot of ideological shouting matches going on around us. If we could remember that we are interacting with living, breathing humans rather than disembodied ideas, I think the shouting would diminish significantly. I, for one, would relish the silence.
- One should tread softly when discussing subjects with which one has limited experience. OK, so I did have experience trying to date. And I certainly don’t regret what I wrote. (Hold on, let me reread it just to make sure……. yup, still true.) In fact, I agree with myself more than ever, especially regarding one of my concluding points: “We also need to be more OK with different methods of finding a partner.” Every relationship is unique, and inherently complicated. As much as I want dating to start out comfortable and low-key and uncomplicated, experience confirms that it’s still a big deal. Even a single coffee date can be momentous and tricky. It’s human relationships we’re talking about here, after all. I don’t think I fully appreciated the complicatedness of relationships – particularly romantic ones – when I wrote the article. So, if I wrote the article today, I would still write pretty much the same article. But I would do so with a little more appreciation for the beautiful messiness of relationships. Mercifully, a girl I knew put up with my clumsy attempts to be uncomplicated. She agreed to go on a date and to be my girlfriend. Then she married me. She’s nice that way.