Monday, May 15, 2017

Clogging the Social

Via Trumwill, an article from the Babylon Bee (think The Onion for Evangelicals):

According to sources, Freeman, who dabbled in community college for a few semesters in his late teens before deciding it wasn’t for him, rode his longboard into the college ministry’s building as usual for Wednesday Bible study. College pastor Philip Huxley, whom Freeman affectionately calls “Preacha Hux,” was waiting at the door with several members of the security team to escort the unemployed Freeman to the church’s singles’ ministry on the other side of the property.

. . . .

A spokesman for Spring Hollow’s singles’ ministry, “Following Jesus Solo,” which consists of over three-dozen single men and five women in their twenties and thirties, says Freeman is slowly adjusting to post-college life and is expected to make a full recovery.

I didn't know that wanting to hang around the college-aged Sunday-school class past graduation (or college-age, at any rate) was A Thing. I moved after college, and it would not have occurred to me to try to attend a college class at any of the churches I attended thereafter.

I was 27 when I returned from my assignment to the Far East and began attending a large metropolitan church in a city at the base of the Rockies. The Sunday-school class I attended was marketed towards post-college singles. I enjoyed the class, but after a year or so I began noticing some emphasis put by the leadership on the class's intended age range, IIRC, 22 - 28. I don't know if this was directed at me personally -- in retrospect I don't think it was -- but I reasoned that I was now 28 and should at least start checking out the alternatives.

So I attended the class for the next age bracket up, and the experience was . . . depressing. I don't remember skewed demographics as implied by the satire, but I couldn't lower my expectations fast enough. I was leaving a class where there were (it seemed) a reservoir of attractive potential dating partners and where I enjoyed such status as could be had from being one of its senior members, to a class where the women were not just all older than me but visibly older. I saw almost none that I would date in anything other than a nadir of desperation, nor any whom I would expect to date me, given what must have appeared as my relative youth. I did briefly engage in conversation with what was perhaps the only exception, a woman who whatever her age was holding up pretty well . . . and learned that she was (a) PCSing to Korea, and (b) had a kid. Now, in my late 20s (and, hypothetically, even now, given what I know) the prospect of being a step-father was something that I would have to work through, but I knew even then that I couldn't expect much patience from a woman while I "worked through" such an indelible feature of her life.

Then there were the men. I'm not really qualified to pass judgment on another man's attractiveness to women. In the aggregate, there was a sense that I was looking at the second string, but looking back on it my primary impression was . . . hopelessness. In our twenties, we young professional men can tell ourselves that our lives -- professional, social, physical -- are only getting better. By our thirties, those of us for whom that is actually true are no longer attending the singles Sunday-school class. We've successfully graduated. For those of us left behind, we've come to realize that our lives plateaued well below where we thought they would, and that knowledge leaves a mark. In this particular case (according to Mrs. Φ, who had occasion to attend the same class separately), there were apparently a significant number of men who were recovering from divorce. Recovering, as in divorce wasn't something they did so much as was done to them.

"Is this my life now?" I wondered. It wasn't. Around this time I began courting Mrs. Φ, and we saved each other.

Trumwill writes that the Babylon Bee article reminded him of his erstwhile co-blogger, who wrote most recently under the pseudonym Sheila Tone. Sheila was not a church-goer -- rather militantly so, though that never kept her from making negative generalizations about church-goers. But I think what Trumwill is referencing is Sheila's writing about any social circle that clogs up with men whose social status hasn't kept pace with their advancing age.

Women hate, hate sharing social space with men of perceived inferior status. Those of you reading this blog know that the median 20-something woman's assessment of her own status against the median 20-something man's is not what an ordinal ranking would support. On the other hand, the penchant for female self-deception is also not something that's going to change anytime soon, so we might as well treat it as a parameter we have to work with. Even in my twenty-something Sunday-school class, the one I liked, I heard on two occasions complaints by women about the men along the lines of we weren't good enough for them. (One of these instances was directed at me personally, but, whatever.) Keeping ahead of this kind of criticism probably motivated the church to try to encourage adherence to the designated age range. The class benefitted from a particularly charismatic -- and tantilizingly unattached* -- worship leader, who I suspect was the reason we maintained the mix of women we did. But he eventually left, and the church may have lost that battle in the long run. I see from its website that my old class no longer exists, and there are now no classes marketed exclusively at either "singles" or "twenty-somethings".

* Twenty years later, he's still unattached. I hate thinking what that probably means.