The other day, one of those so-called “fun” surveys came across my Facebook feed. I usually love a mindless activity like this so I started to fill out the survey. I was about three questions in when I came to the question, "Have you ever been in love?" I hesitated. Now I have never been married, never really been in a serious long-term relationship, but I have still known love; love of friends and family. Yet when I got to that question I hesitated. I know better, but I stopped because of what I believe culture has taught me about “purity culture” and life as a single woman.
You see, I am a single woman who yearns to be a wife and a mom. Yet it seems that it is not okay for me to talk about this especially as a woman leader in the church. How will others see me if I am too honest about life as a single woman in this world? Will it taint how others see me? I ask myself these things even though I know the truth is that God calls all of us into relationship. I believe the church needs to do better about talking about our body parts and our bodies.
I have tried to figure out my role as a single woman, I have probably bought and read every book ever written about singleness and purity. On my bookcase you will find titles like "Single and Content," "Captivating," and "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." Yet how can I have kissed dating goodbye when I haven't really dated much in my life? I even almost bought a purity ring. I am finally realizing that these books and that ring I almost bought have done more damage than good.
It is hard to talk about singleness and even purity when the world is uncomfortable with who we are as women in the world. It is time we take a long, hard look at why this is. I think it has to do with the fact that our standards are different for men and women. Women are supposed to dress so that their knees are covered or not a hint of cleavage is shown. It has taken me a really long time to get there, but I am finally at a place where I feel beautiful and am not afraid of how others perceive me through what I wear and how I act.
Our perceptions are often influenced by the experiences we have had in life. Each of us are going to have different experiences. For me, those experiences are being the daughter of a woman who lives with a mental illness and being picked on as a child. Because of this, I cannot talk to my mom about boys like other women can.
Earlier today, I came across this quote from one of my favorite theologians Frederick Buechner. He writes, "I believe that there is within us this image of God...There is something deep within us, within everybody, that gets buried and distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us. But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength."
It is my hope and prayer that places like #Slatespeak can be that place of insight and healing and strength for one another. I know that it has been for me! For in sharing our stories together, we realize that we are all incredibly loved and are all "fearfully and wonderfully made," no matter what our relationship status or identified gender may be.
Tara Ulrich (@diakonia78) is a single ELCA Lutheran girl called to the ministry of Word and Service who loves the prairies of ND! Jesus-Follower/Author/Sister/Friend. She blogs at prayingontheprairie.blogspot.com