"But They're Not My Type!" – Balancing Standards and Flexibility in Dating

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As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Taylor Swift. I really hope I’m not jumping the gun when I say this, but as I showed in a previous post, I’ve been very supportive of Taylor Swift’s recent relationship with Calvin Harris. Her recent posts on Instagram (as well as one post from Calvin Harris) has only made me all the more excited. But what makes this particular relationship interesting, aside from the fact that Taylor is being open about it, is that before they met, Calvin Harris didn’t consider Taylor Swift to be his “type.” Given what I know about Taylor’s relationship history, Calvin wasn’t someone she would’ve considered dating in the past, either.

We all have this image of the “type” of significant other we want to have. We have an idea of what love is and what the perfect relationship is. If you asked me what my type was, I would show you a picture of my favorite vampire from Buffy, the one with the bleach blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and bad boy attitude all wrapped up in a black leather duster. My relationship history, however, has been very different from that. I dated different types of guys in the past: a dry-witted boy next door who liked The Godfather, a wild-eyed bad boy that always made me laugh, and a guy that I met in a ballroom dance class who couldn’t sing on-key to save his life. Growing up, my “type” was similar to the one I still have, except I wanted a nice, romantic guy who was taller than me and a big brain. There were parts of my “type” in each of the guys I crushed on and/or dated, but none of those guys were everything I pictured in my head.

It’s one thing to have standards when it comes to dating. We need to make sure that we’re safe, after all. But life can’t be like The Ugly Truth or Hallmark’s The Wish List, where a girl has a long list of things she wants in a guy and judges every guy she meets based on that one list. When it comes to dating, you gotta be flexible to some extent. What exactly is a “deal breaker” for you? There are things to keep in mind, like making sure that we stay chaste when dating and not go after married men, but we shouldn’t turn down a guy just because he doesn’t dress nicely or likes a kind of music that we’d rather not listen to.

Dating in the 21st century has turned into a balancing act: making sure you stay safe, but at the same time being willing to risk your heart. You have to think ahead, but enjoy the moment at the same time. Most of all, you have to be sure that you still love God and yourself and not make an idol out of the person that you’re dating or the ideal relationship you have in your head.

Relationships aren’t fairy tales that end with a happily ever after. They’re messy and broken and change as we get older. Relationships are a lot like this spoken word poem by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye:

The best advice I can give about dating and relationships is to offer it up to God. Just when you start to accept that you’re single and not ready for a relationship, He’ll probably turn around and surprise you. After all, as they say “Man makes plans, God laughs.”

 

Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Darrow

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Back when I was in high school, I used to be obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. I got into it when I found out that one of the contestants, Heather Kuzmich, had Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would later learn of another contestant who left the modeling lifestyle and became a well known Catholic speaker. When I first heard of Leah Darrow, I knew her as a speaker, not as a reality show contestant. Later on, I watched her when she gave her conversion story on The Journey Home and found myself fascinated.

After watching her testimony on The Journey Home, I found a video clip of her elimination from America’s Next Top Model. I watched in awe as the judges said that her outfit was more suited for a “secretary contest,” telling her to take off her jacket since she was wearing a tube top underneath. In my honest opinion, she was definitely less “soccer mom” than Tyra Banks declared her to be.

With beauty queens these days showing themselves to be less-than-stellar when it comes to world matters, Leah Darrow stands out as a woman who wears a better crown on her head: the crown that God gives to all of his daughters. And the fact that I first knew her as a speaker rather than a reality show contestant tells me that she’s come a very long way.

What did your time on America’s Next Top Model teach you about being on TV and the “glamorous” lifestyle?
My time on ANTM taught me that there is no such thing as the “glamorous lifestyle” – that’s only something that Fergie and Beyonce sing about. The lifestyle perpetuated by fashion, music, and movies is one focused on instant gratification and constant conformation to a ridiculous standard of beauty and entertainment that one has no control over.
Tell me how you met your husband and how things are for you and your family now.

We were introduced by friends. When we met in 2008, Ricky had just returned from his first deployment to Iraq (he’s a US Army Special Forces Green Beret) and was prepping for his second deployment, so, a “relationship” was a bit out of the question. We started and maintained a friendship, and for the next four years and really got to know each other. In 2011, we just happened to be in the same place, at the same time — and that’s when Ricky knew I was the love of his life and he couldn’t live without me…that’s at least my version of the story.
What advice would you give about relationships?
We are obsessed with relationships today and define ourselves by them. Sadly, we have forgotten the art of friendship. We end up dating strangers and attempt the friendship while we navigate the dating process. Try friendship out first before you go and date a stranger. People who have a strong relationship with Jesus tend not to jump into relationships too quickly because they have a stronger sense of self, worth, and dignity. When we allow our identify to be defined by HIM, we don’t seek it in the world or in others.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty should inspire and empower love. Beauty should not reduce a person to a collection of parts or use. True beauty is rooted in service to another – “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face” Ven. Fulton Sheen.
What is your favorite go-to outfit for a typical day? How would you describe your style?
My favorite go-to outfit for a typical day is something that snot, markers, and banana can be washed out of quickly – my fashion choices are now inspired my daughter, Agnes. However, I’ve always leaned toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. I update them with accessories (jewelry, scarves, jackets, shoes) but rarely go with “trends”. Instead, I stick with what works for my figure and budget.
Who are your go-to saints?
I like St. Theresa of Avila because she’s feisty and she ‘gets’ my lack of patience that I am forever trying to quell, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen because he is a pro when it comes to evangelization with a microphone, and St. John Paul II because, well, he’s John Paul II.
What would you say to girls who want to audition for reality TV shows or pursue a career in fashion/acting?
Don’t audition for reality TV shows. It’s not worth your time and people rarely take you seriously afterward. Just take a look at all the reality TV contestants out there today and their lives – for most of us, it didn’t exactly help our situation in life.
Acting and designing are both amazing creative arts that require God-given talent, time and practice. In either one of those fields, a strong faith community is a must for accountability and support.
To see more of what Leah Darrow is doing right now, go to Leahdarrow.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Interview With Arleen Spenceley

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Photo courtesy of Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

What was the inspiration behind
Chastity is For Lovers?
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs.  In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.

Click here to follow Arleen Spenceley on Twitter, click here to like her on Facebook, and click here to follow her on Instagram.

Danielle Rose: Culture of Life

In the spirit of the marches and rallies for life happening all across the country, I want to bring attention to music missionary Danielle Rose and her album Culture of Life.

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Copyright to Monstrance Music and Danielle Rose.

 

For those who don’t know, Danielle Rose is a Catholic singer/songwriter. She’s been making music since 2001. My personal favorite album is I Thirst, but I also like the tracks from Mysteries and Pursue Me. However, Culture of Life is by far her best album yet.

I don’t consider many real world people to be role model material, so believe me when I say that when I see Danielle Rose as my role model, know that my statement carries a lot of weight. One thing I’m noticing in all these songs is that God is always included in the story. None of these songs could be considered “praise and worship” in the traditional sense, but instead are more meditative, thought-provoking.

  • Little Flower: I love the Chinese flute intro, for starters. I also love the emphasis on God’s provision. “God provides” rings throughout, as if to say there is no need to worry about caring for the child in question. (In other words, take that one-child policy!) The music video is amazing, too. Watch it and please raise awareness of the Little Flower orphanage. Donate if you can.
  • Just One Life: Covering two instances where life hangs in the balance, with the bridge of Mary saying “yes” to the life God wanted to give to her. I can almost see a music video of my head of the stories getting happy endings, even though they don’t get any closure in the song. But maybe leaving them more open-ended is a good thing, since it makes you think of how much value one life really has.
  • You Matter: Living in Texas has made me a sucker for fiddles and steel guitars. It sounds like a wonderful, beautiful country-style song. The lyrics convey a love song, but it’s not one dedicated to a romantic interest in particular. Instead, it’s general enough to apply to anyone. It could be about a love interest or a child or a dear friend, but it’s a love song nevertheless. It’s a song you can dance to. If only country songs these days were more like this!
  • Waiting For You: It’s kind of crazy to think that the same lady who wrote ”Nothing Compares to You” is writing this love letter for her future husband. It’s a song of lovely longing worthy of being compared with the other epic love songs out there. This song does not beat around the bush about the importance of chastity, but it paints the waiting in such a beautiful light. What I love most, though, is that God still has her heart. St. John Paul II would be proud.
  • Make Love With God: Once again, this song does not beat around the bush about the sanctity of marriage. Too many songs about sex these days don’t really talk giving yourself to someone else. Instead they talk about what they’re getting out of it. And many, many people will probably laugh at the lyrics, but be honest. How many songs do you know talk about sex in such a beautiful way that respects both parties and includes God in it? And talks about family?! It’s not just making love, it’s making life.
  • A Mother’s Communion: This is every mother’s song to her child. It echoes what Pope Francis said about motherhood being a type of martyrdom. Never have I connected motherhood to the Eucharist until I listened to this song. My pastor said yesterday that our lives and our bodies are not our own (in reference to yesterday’s second reading). How often have we heard that phrase: “This is my body…” associated with justifying an abortion. How unaware they are that having that child is a call to surrender and selflessness. Pray for them.
  • Joseph’s Prayer of Adoption: It’s only natural that a song about motherhood would be followed by a song about fatherhood. This isn’t the first time she wrote a song in Joseph’s POV before and the lyrics feel like something Joseph would say to the child Jesus, like a father telling a bedtime story. The best part of this particular song, in my opinion, is when it extends from St. Joseph’s adoption of Jesus to God’s spiritual adoption of all of us.
  • Can You Hear Me: A lamenting song of the kind of loss that only abortion can give. Her vocalizations sound like crying, but in such a tragically beautiful way. The melody as a whole is haunting. This song provokes prayers for all those affected by abortion and I pray that it also invokes compassion. Danielle sounds like she’s really crying in this song, especially in the end. And heck, I’d probably be crying along with her.
  • Psalm 51: Okay, this lady obviously has some country roots in her. If “You Matter” reminds you of the upbeat country songs, this song is more akin to the strong, steady ballads that aren’t heard as often. Even though the lyrics speak of surrender and being sorrowful, the melody of the song speaks of strength.
  • Glorious Wounds: Another country-sounding song with fiddles and guitars. The uplifting tone also makes this song the closest thing to what’s typically recognized as “praise and worship.” It praises and worships the holy wounds of Christ, but also brings in the “felix culpa,” the blessing that comes from the brokenness. We may have our scars, but Christ still has His and we can use the scars of our lives to heal those who still have open wounds.
  • Not a Burden: I can see this song being sung as a round. I love the drums used. It inspires the hand-clapping and swaying kind of dance you would see in a charismatic Mass. It kind of reminds me of old spirituals like “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” The chorus is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
  • Sharing Calvary: I can see myself listening to this during Lent. This song acts like an Ignatian meditation that takes you to Calvary and makes you feel like you’re really there, watching it or being a part of it. We can see ourselves as either thief or a spectator, sharing the pain that the ones crucified are experiencing. I love that it carries the theme of the previous song, that good things come from the pain and suffering that life brings.
  • The Saint That Is Just Me: This was the first song from the album I heard and I related to it instantly. I want my life to be just like so many other people, wishing I was someone else. The reason I have very few real life role models is because I’m more inclined to follow the example of the saints. But in the end, this song reminds me that God created me as I am and gave me this particular life for a reason. The first call will always be to holiness. How we live that call to holiness is up to God, but we need to answer that call to holiness first.
  • Reborn: I remember a movie night I had with my second graders where we watched a movie that included a scene of an old lady attending Mass. It was later revealed that the old lady was dead all along and her soul was attending Mass, preparing to enter Heaven. When I saw that scene, I thought of my dear friend Fr. Keon who passed away. I could easily see him saying these lyrics. Sometimes, I see him at Mass, celebrating with the priest. And other times, I think he’s still in the cafeteria at my old college, watching over the students. I still miss him, but this song makes me smile.
  • I Love Lifeland: It almost sounds like a children’s song, but I started laughing with joy as soon as the song started. It’s basically the song you would sing on a long road trip or at a summer. It’s like the Catholic version of Taylor Swift’s “22” or a throwback to “My Favorite Things.” There’s a little improvised scatting that acts like the bridge and just makes me wanna dance. The laughter in the song is absolutely contagious! What a beautiful way to end the album. It celebrates life with all the little moments and how the little things add up to a lot. And yes, this is my favorite track! How can you beat lyrics like “Daily Mass is the cat’s pajamas”?!

So if you haven’t done so already, get this album. So many of these songs can be anthems for the marches and rallies for life while other songs can apply to other aspects of life. I hope that at least one of these songs speaks to you the way they have spoken to me.