Last week Pastor Terry wrote about being self-aware. With him being out of the country, I get the task of digging deeper. Self-awareness in the dating world. Here we go…
As we well know, the dance between men and women in the singles world is complicated. And, as we get older it can be even more complicated as there can be a pile of baggage to trip over that we don’t even see.
Within the Singles ministry, whether it’s young adults, middle adults, or older adults, we always stress that it’s about God, community, and growth. It’s not dating, finding your true love, or a marriage partner … though we’d be remiss to pretend that sometimes that sneaks into the back of our minds.
So, what are some reminders to think about as we navigate this dance?
Alright, guys, we’re going to start with you. (Next week – you gals are on the line). So, gather ’round. Get comfortable. We’ve got some things to go over.
First of all, how do you date without being labeled a creep? What?!? There are no creeps in the Christian world!
The ability to label men as ‘creepy’ is just one “privilege” that women enjoy – right or wrong. Creep is “the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy” claims Jeremy Paul Gordon at the Hairpin. Largely because the charge of “creep” is so difficult to disprove. He contends that “creep” has greater power to wound than any other word, and yet it’s tossed around with cavalier freedom by cruel women who ought to know better. (You listening women?)
The word creep has a long history, first as a verb and only much later as a noun. Dickens gets credit for first using “the creeps” in its modern sense in 1849, but the use of the word to refer to someone disgusting or frightening is, surprisingly, less than 100 years old. (Interestingly, while the term “creeper” today is a hipper synonym for a creepy person, its use as a noun is actually much older, dating to the 17th century, when it referred to a stealthy thief.)
No one wants to come across as “creepy”, especially not to the attractive person they’ve just approached. In the case of men who approach women, the word creepy doesn’t even need to be said. A cold shoulder, quick step, or plain old rejection from a woman or her group of friends can signal to some men that they’ve just been dismissed as a “creep”.
So, what exactly is a creep? A creep isn’t always the spray-tanned, aggressively narcissistic jerk who treats women badly. A creepy person could be anyone of any gender, well-meaning or otherwise, who makes someone else feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or wary. And honestly, they may just be socially awkward.
Now, thankfully most guys don’t actually engage in creepy behavior (yay!), but unfortunately, the ones who do, really really stand out. So, it never hurts to double-check your behavior.
The good news for people who don’t want to come across as creepy is that they have some level of control over how they make other people feel. When flirting, or even just being friendly, the key word to remember is boundaries.
Boundaries are the invisible gates of social interaction that people set up for themselves. So, for those of us who do want to be respectful of boundaries but are unsure of how to approach someone, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Read Her Body Language
Let’s say a woman on a train has headphones on and is reading a book. In her mind, this may seem like a clear signal that she wants to be left alone.
But, wanting to be friendly, you approach her and attempt to strike up a conversation. Since she’s engrossed in something, you might just say, “Hey I wanted to talk to you but don’t want to be a bother either. Are you up for chatting a bit?”
This hasn’t crossed into creepy territory because you’ve asked her and not assumed anything. But if the woman is constantly trying to bow out of the conversation or if she avoids making eye contact, chances are she wants to be left alone. Eye contact is a big one here.
If her body language is even stronger—she frowns when approached or scoots away and puts her music on blast—then she clearly wants to be left alone.
What’s more, some women may smile or act polite out of nervousness or fear, so smiling shouldn’t always be taken as a sign of interest. That’s why body language is only part of the equation when it comes to picking up on boundaries.
- Listen To What She Says
Let’s rewind the previous scenario. Let’s say the woman on the train is reading her book and you approach her. She smiles and takes her headphones off and you have a short but good conversation. You decide to ask for her phone number, but she politely declines. A clear rejection, more often than not, is a boundary that says “do not pursue further.” This is true even if the woman on the train genuinely likes you and smiles at you but does not want to give you her number or go out with you.
A non-creepy person recognizes the rejection and moves on. A creepy person reads her signals wrong and presumes that she’s interested based on the interaction and pursues further, making her uncomfortable.
If you don’t want to be creepy, do not do this. “No means no” applies outside of sex as well — if someone sets a clear boundary with their words, it’s important to respect that.
- Friendly May Mean Friends
Some people are just friendly by nature. Don’t take this as flirty or necessarily interest. She may just be a very friendly person. Sit back. See how she is with others. If she is the same with everyone, then it’s just that – friendly. If she is more so with you, then maybe it means more.
- Do Not Stare – It’s Scary!
So, the woman on the train is reading and you’re thinking of approaching her. As you’re gathering up the courage, you find yourself absent-mindedly looking in her direction. She’s noticed and is visibly uncomfortable under your gaze.
Easy mistake. At this point, you can just look away. But do try to be aware of your gaze when approaching strangers. Being stared at is unsettling for everyone because we can’t read minds—we don’t know if the person staring is thinking, “What a nice scarf they’re wearing,” or “I think I’ll follow them home and strangle them with that ugly scarf.”
We had a guy in our life group who would stare at the gals to the point that they finally asked that we, the leaders, find a way to ask him to stop. Truth is, he was very socially awkward and was genuinely just locked in thought, but he sure did make them uncomfortable, and yes was labeled a creep.
- Touching is for Friends
There is this “social norm” that has been developed in the Christian world where certain types of touching are okay. I’m talking about hugging, the arm swipe, the back swipe, etc. Hey guys, listen up! This may not be okay. I can tell you – if you just met her – it is not ok. It can come across as sexual, even if it’s not your intent. Regardless, it is a space invader. Yes, some people are just naturally “touchy” but this can make a woman very uncomfortable depending on the environment and her history. This is the ideal time to read her body language, wait until she touches first, wait until you’ve become friends, etc.
Years back I had a guy at church who always hugged me when he saw me and it always sent the hairs on the back of my neck up. I told a friend and she said, “Yeah, a Christian grope.” Yikes. That was sad.
- Don’t Assume She’ll Like You Because You’re Being Respectful
If you’ve done everything you could to be respectful – respected her boundaries, avoided staring, etc. – you’re on the right track. But don’t expect women to fall at your feet just because you were respectful.
Respect is a basic human right. Showing respect to someone else doesn’t automatically get you brownie points in the dating world, and you may still get rejected even if you’ve been respectful.
- Don’t Take It Personally If She Gives You the Cold Shoulder
She may have given you the cold shoulder because she wasn’t interested in you personally. She may also have given you the cold shoulder because of other reasons unrelated to you. You never know what someone is going through. If a woman is on guard be polite, be friendly, and leave her be.
Don’t take every cold shoulder personally. Whether you’re one of them or not, there are a lot of creeps in this world that she’s trying to protect herself from.
… Admittedly, it’s difficult navigating the dating world, and sometimes more so the Christian dating world. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to offer up some thoughts and suggestions. I spent some time in my mid-adult years in the singles world, as did Pastor Terry.
I think the best advice I ever received was to recognize that when meeting a new person, a potential friend, a potential date, or a potential spouse, this is God’s child. This is God’s daughter put in your path to help make you holy. This is God’s son put in your life to sharpen you. They have been placed in your life by God for you to help them grow in their God walk and vice versa.
Each person that comes into our life is placed by God, we are to honor, respect and cherish that. It’s something to remember.
For God and you,