Three years ago I graduated from Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college in the hamlet of Houghton, New York. A few months before I left, however, I wrote my first and only op-ed for the Houghton Star, the student newspaper, the title of which is pretty self-explanatory.
Due to recent events [three engagements within a few days of each other] marriage has very understandably been on my mind, and I thought it would be worth digging up the article and comparing where I was then to where I am now. Due to extensive revamping it’s no longer hosted on the paper’s website, so I’ve included it in its entirety below. There are also pictures from my high school and college graduations, respectively, for your enjoyment.
Houghton Students and Early Marriage
An Observation, Not a Defence
Four years ago I graduated from Grace International School, a Christian school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With the internet and, of course, Facebook I was never really far away from my former classmates in spite of us scattering to the far corners of the globe. Since that final year of wearing matching polo shirts and eating lunch by the pool seven members of the class of ’08 have gotten married, two of them to each other; three others are currently engaged. Out of a class of 45 or so students that’s almost a quarter of us tying the knot before the age of 23.
A few years later I was musing about the flood of marriages [four happened at least a year after graduation] out loud to my cousin one day, and he asked why all of my classmates were getting married at such a young age. He then quickly answered his own question with a question, asking “Oh, it’s because you can’t have sex until you’re married, right?” This wasn’t a factor for him, and I vaguely recall half-heartedly muttering something to the affirmative. I knew that couldn’t be all there was to it, but it made enough sense at the time.
Now here I am, a senior with less than two months left before I hit the real world. At least four of my college friends have gotten married since my freshman year and “Save the Date” cards continue to materialize in PO boxes left and right. Proposals have lost any kind of surprise they once had for me. Not too long ago two people in one of my classes were engaged over the weekend and I [not that I wasn’t happy for them] didn’t give it a second thought. My first semester here I had never heard of “ring by spring” or the more clever “getting my MRS.” I didn’t understand at the time how quickly dating relationships could metamorphose into marriage or how prevalent engagements would be in my college life.
So why are we, referring to the majority of young, Christian students, getting married so young? Like my cousin surmised, sure, sex probably has something to do with it. Premarital sex is generally regarded as a sin, something we like to stay clear of, and I’m not sure most people are willing to wait for the American average marriage age of 27 before losing their virginity. But alongside the plethora of verses cautioning us to save ourselves is that one scripture concerning yokes. To be more specific, 2 Corinthians 6:14, which says “Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” Regardless of your position on hermeneutics I feel like there’s a pretty straightforward reading there.
With that on the table let’s assume that I want to find a significant other who shares my faith [which I do]. As a single Christian male attending an “academically challenging, Christ-centred” institute of education with a girl-to-guy ratio leaning strongly in my favour, what better place to find one? Not only am I in an environment where I’m already more likely meet someone who shares similar interests [that’s what meeting other students in your department is for, you guys], I’m also in a place where that person is, at the very least, familiar with the concept of Christianity in some form. I came to Houghton for an education, but it doesn’t hurt if I come away having found the future Mrs. Yeong as well.
The truth is, finding a Christian spouse outside of this [yes, I’m using the word] community is kind of terrifying to me. Right now I live in a place where almost everyone around me is a believer, and that’s just so much easier. Upon graduating I will leave Houghton for the distinctly more urban [but really, where isn’t?] city of Toronto, and once I’m there and settled and working and so on I’m probably going to want to date, and how does that even work?
“Evan,” you may be thinking, “Obviously you are not looking where you should be looking, which is in the/a church.” To which I would respond that chances are that’s the first place I’ll look; churches are typically full of Christian people. But what if I don’t find any eligible ladies there, then what? I’m not going to switch churches, because that’s not how churches are supposed to work. They’re not supermarkets for future better halves, and if that’s why you’re attending them then I think your priorities are out of order.
Could I find a girl outside of church? I mean, probably. Maybe I’m at a bookstore or something [this is likely] and I see a cute girl reading a book that’s something I can connect to, like The Hunger Games or an unabridged Les Misérables or Spider-Man: Matters of Life and Death. I go up to her and start a conversation and before you know it we’re going out to grab a bite to eat or something. At what point do I ask whether or not she’s a Christian? It’s a point that I think matters, but I have no idea how I’d bring it up.
I’ve never dated in my time here at Houghton, and at this point I don’t really expect to. One day, though, I hope to join the multitude of Houghton students in professing my love for another person in that hopefully-permanent way. I’m not afraid of whether or not I’ll get there, I’m confident that God will get me there. What intimidates me is how. If you’re looking for a Christian husband or wife I’m not going to lie and say that Houghton’s not the place to do it, but I don’t think it’s going to be that place for me.
First thing’s first, as far as I can tell up to 19 of my former high school classmates have since walked down the aisle. We can add to them one person who counts herself among those proposed to last week. It makes me uncomfortable to say this, but altogether they’ve created enough progeny to make up a terrible football team. No part of me wants to delve into how many of my fellow college graduates have gotten hitched, but given a class size well over ten times larger it is no small number.
When it comes to yours truly, on the other hand, I continue to champion my seven-year streak of being sans significant other. Yes, while my peers have located and latched onto the men and women they want to spend the rest of their lives with I’ve been . . . not doing that? This is all to say that three years and change later and things are more or less where they left off.
And speaking of consistency, my stance on wanting a spouse who shares my faith has not shifted. Consequently, the daunting handicap I mentioned in my op-ed has not disappeared. Though to be fair it’s not like I’m actively on the lookout at the moment. That aside, I think it would be good to see how Present Day Me has lived out the life that Pre-Graduation Me predicted. For example, how have I fared with-
Looking For Prospective Partners in Church
Hands-down my favourite part of the article is the accusation I put into the mouths of my readers: “Obviously you are not looking where you should be looking, which is in the/a church.” Beyond all of the recent engagements that idea’s sort of what sparked this post into being.
About a month back I was staying over at my granddad’s house and caught an ad for It Takes A Church, which is exactly what it sounds like, if it sounds to you like a game show where an entire congregation handpicks three potential matches for a young man or woman. That is unadulterated entertainment right there, I mean, just look-
Full disclosure, this post was originally meant to be a review of an episode, except that after scouring the internet for a clip longer than a few minutes I came up with nothing. The real takeaway, however, is that there’s enough of a belief in the viability of this method to breathe a [full-er disclosure, ChristianMingle-sponsored] television program into existence. It’s not just what better place to find a possible spouse, it’s what better community to find them for you?
As far as where I am at the moment, I’ve regularly attended two to three churches since [consecutively, not all at once, and for reasons other than the available dating pool]. No dice. Not there haven’t been attractive, interesting, and ostensibly spiritual female types around, just none that I’ve been into enough for me to do anything about it. The heart wants what the heart wants, as the Spirit leads, et cetera. If it truly does takes a church then maybe it is a different fourth or fifth one. Having exhausted that well, how about-
Looking For Prospective Partners Online
I read through the Culture War Correspondence that Kat and I did on online dating before writing this, and man do I miss that feature. While some of this information was covered in that post, I can reiterate for all of you now that I am no stranger to these sorts of sites. From the time of writing until now I have devoted some number of hours to two in particular.
eHarmony is fine, I suppose, if you want to be able to look at matches and have no means of contacting them whatsoever. No means of contacting them, I mean, without paying a fee. Which I did not do. Which resulted in my deleting my account some time after creating one. OkCupid, on the other hand…
As mentioned in that earlier post I did with Kat OkCupid yielded one friend but also, in addition to that, a single date. A single date that was not terrible, but also did not result in any corresponding dates. Which was entirely my choice. And which isn’t to say that I’m bitter or disenchanted about online dating; I’m not. It is to say that despite the ability to curate your matches [in regards to religion and other factors] it’s still far from easy.
One of the reasons I’ve considered is that online dating sites operate much like the real world, and that the two-step recipe for success-
-isn’t any easier in spite of how straightforward it is. I’m no data expert but I would assume that there’s a direct correlation between the how physically attractive someone’s pictures are to how long a visitor stays on their profile. Though a friend of mine who is better looking than I am has faced the same trouble when it comes to online dating, so what do I know.
Compared to churches I have gotten I have come across vastly more people that I would be interested in grabbing a beverage of their choice with, but the reality is that you can’t force someone to message you back. While definitely a viable way to view would-be dates a lot of it boils down to whether or not people want to reach out to you as well. Which leaves one final option-
Looking For Prospective Partners Literally Anywhere Else
No, I have not met any cute individuals in bookstores. To once again reference that post Kat and I wrote together I have in fact asked someone out in-person. Only once. A brief description of which I’ve cut and pasted for you below:
“I straight-up asked a girl a few months ago if she would see a movie with me, and I had to put my hands on my knees and take several deep breaths before I could ready myself. That stuff’s super hard, man. And then she said no, she was seeing someone.”
And to be 100% honest with you all I can still vividly remember my heart racing, the paralyzing nervousness, and the truly cliche mantra of Evan you can do this running through my head. I don’t want to provide a lot more context as to what happened, because I want to maintain some degree of mystery between myself and readers, but I would categorize the person as somewhere between total stranger and casual acquaintance, closer to the latter than the former.
“Evan,” you may be thinking, “Obviously you are not looking where you should be looking, which is within your social circles and their adjacent circles.” To which I would respond that creating relationships of any kind, friendships included, is hard. It’s really only within the past twelve months that I’ve started to meet more people and strengthen the connections I’ve made with others. That said, it’s still not a bad route to consider.
As far as expediting that process, ie. asking friends to set you up with people someone told me, when jokingly asked, that essentially what it does is put an immense amount of pressure on them. They’re on the chopping block if the match is deemed unsuitable by either party, and especially put to task if it does take off but fails spectacularly.
At the end of the day I’m left single, which is something I have no issue with 95% of the time. Like I said up above I’m not in a rush to be dating. It’s more that the barrage of successful proposals and, let’s be fair, the children being born are constant reminders that many of my peers are succeeding in an area of life that I am not.
Pre-Graduation Me was concerned about finding someone, though ultimately more invested in what remaining time I had left with my friends in college. I had doubts that things would be easy out there in the “real world” for someone whose goal was to find a Christian better half. Make no mistake, they aren’t, but what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not much easier for anyone else, really. In the end creating meaningful connections is difficult because they’re substantial.
Present Day Me is still interested in one day dating and, eventually, getting married and starting a family. That said, through writing this and having to assert over and over that I’m in no rush has been eye-opening, in a way. I have options, and while some of them are certainly more viable than others [I should have added starring on a dating show] I’m sure one will pan out in time.