Beliefnet

A New York City university recently offered continuing-education students a course on "Living Single."

"Now, more than at any other time, the single lifestyle is viewed as a viable, desirable choice for men and women," read the course description. "Whether they find themselves single again, or single still, many adults are not completely comfortable flying solo--or confident in their ability to do it successfully. Topics include: viewing the contemporary world; relating to couples; the dating scene, how to be part of it (or not); and battling the blues that sometimes arise. Enrich your life with resources on what to read, pursue, reflect on, and talk about to gain confidence with single living."

As a final note, the description added, "No grades are given for this course."

Phew! What a relief. After getting your certificate in "Living Single," wouldn't you hate to have to confess to some guy you met in a bar that you got a C-minus in "viewing the contemporary world"?

Seriously, as I read that course description touting "the single lifestyle," it all seems to boll down to a single word: lack.

The paradigm for modern singlehood is yin without yang. The modern single woman's goal is to relate to men from a single perspective, and to have fulfilling relationships with them without ever becoming part of anything larger than herself. As my parents' generation would have said, she is on her own trip.

For a woman with the least bit of longing for something deeper, this modern-singlehood rut ultimately devolves into the familiar Bridget Jones merry-go-round revolving around the hope that the ever-distant Mr. Darcy will come along one day and stop the music. I find the whole mind-set terribly stifling, and I think most other single women do too--they certainly complain about it enough. Yet, most seem helpless to find an alternative.

The truth is that there is another way, but most women don't want to think about it. It's scary to get off the merry-go-round while it's still spinning. Sometimes, however, it's the only way to get off a ride to nowhere.

A woman with the courage to step out into the unknown, risking temporary loneliness for a shot at lasting joy, is more than a "single." She's singular. Instead of defining herself by what she lacks--a relationship with a man--she defines herself by what she has: a relationship with God.

A single woman bases her actions on how they will or won't affect her single, lacking state. She goes to parties based on whether or not there will be new men to meet--if there won't, then the food and drink had better be first-class. She chooses female friends who likewise define themselves as single and lacking, thus reinforcing her own cynicism. But a singular woman bases her actions on how they will enable her to be the person she believes God wants her to be. If she longs to be married, she trusts that God has a plan for her and that a husband is part of that plan. Moreover, she trusts that God will provide all that He has planned for her if she follows His will for her life, making the best use of the gifts she has been given. She'll still enjoy parties and meeting people--but as ends in and of themselves, not just as a means of finding a man.

A single woman, in seeking a husband, feels the need to act in a coy, sly, or deceptive manner--even if she normally would never think of intentionally misleading someone. Somehow to be cagey to a man within the parameters of a budding relationship doesn't seem wrong to her. Likewise, she accepts a level of superficiality from a man she's dating that she wouldn't tolerate from her friends. She's not stupid--she just loses perspective when facing the possibility of a relationship. Her brain compartmentalizes dating into its own relative morality--"all's fair in love and war."

A singular woman behaves with an honesty and lack of guile that will appear arresting to the love interest who expects a superficial relationship--as well it should. With her words and actions, she is speaking a deeper language, one that can be understood only by the kind of man for whom she longs--one of integrity. Such a man will understand that the singular woman's straightforwardness and absence of pretense is rooted in deep respect for him as a fellow child of God. For example, Miss Singular is not going to suggest to her love interest that he faces competition for her if no such competition exists. She expects him to be equally truthful in return.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between a single woman and a singular woman is one of gratitude. Because she defines herself by her lack, the single woman is plagued with a sense of sadness and resentment at what she doesn't have. When positive things happen in her life, she may be thankful, but she may just as well respond with a sense of entitlement--"At last, I'm getting what everyone else has."

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