Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What I'm Looking For In a Relationship (AKA Why I Likely Will Never Be In One)

Before I start, let me say this: If you do not consider yourself to be a Christian, please do not read any further.  Thank you.

When you were single--or if you are currently--you were probably asked the age-old question at some point: What do you look for in a mate? Most people's responses would probably be along the same lines: somewhat close in age, adhering to the same faith, similar interests, etc.  I'll admit that I haven't been the best about potential mates; not only did I want to marry Hilary Duff back in the day, but, even the female friends I pursued relationships with--including right many I never actually asked out--weren't good matches for one reason or another, as I eventually found out.  For a while, the presence of a single Christian woman made me go nuts; I'm over that now, but, I still love hanging out with my female friends...regardless of age, marital status, or whatever.  When it comes to what I currently look for in a relationship, it's actually more complex than most people would think.

So, what do I look for in a mate? First off: She must be of the same faith.  Everyone reading this knows I'm a Christian, and have been one since 2003.  However, I'm not just looking for a woman who calls herself a Christian; people say they identify with the faith, but have mouths like sailors, or regularly indulge in filthy media, or love to go out and get drunk.  Not only that, but, she must be a member of the Church of Christ specifically.  That may narrow the pool of potential mates greatly, but, I couldn't marry a Catholic or a Methodist, because I'd be afraid I'd end up converting to their faith, which is a big no-no.  You may say, "Well, why don't you try to convert her?" I have seen that happen before; I know a woman who was raised in the Church of Christ...but married a Catholic guy.  He had known for a while that he needed to get baptized in the right way, but dragged his feet about it...until she got serious with him and said, "If you walk out on that street and get hit by a car and killed, you would go to hell!" That Sunday, he was baptized.  However, I don't possess such a power; I have never been able to get anyone to do much of anything.  How many of you can say that you started watching Disney Channel or attending garage sales because I endorsed them regularly on Facebook? Didn't think so.  So, if she and I didn't agree on faith matters, it would just lead to endless squabbling...and who wants that?

Second off: She must believe in the value of media discernment.  Pretty much everyone I've ever known--including almost all of the Christians--would watch, play, listen to, read, etc., whatever, without any thought to its content.  Maybe they'd draw the line at hardcore pornography, but, that's about it.  However, my mom instilled the value of media discernment in me, and it's something I'll stick to for the rest of my life, even if I start living on my own, because it's what I believe God wants.  I can't see how people would think Jesus would be okay with his followers sitting through raunchy sex comedies or torture-porn flicks; if he were in a room where Christians were gathered watching such a thing, I'm pretty sure that room would eventually be in shambles.  However, nobody else seems to realize that.

I've noticed that entertainment is something people tend to take very seriously.  Back in February 2004, I was on the way to a youth retreat, and the driver of the church van saw a car with a spoiler, and jokingly called it "a fin".  Attempting to joke back, I said, "You watch too much Finding Nemo," a film that was insanely popular at the time.  The guy--who was usually the nicest, most easygoing sort of fellow--got a bit upset and said, "No, I don't watch any Finding Nemo!" He went on to say that he didn't care for the blockbuster animated film just because Ellen DeGeneres, an avowed lesbian, was the voice of Dory; other than some punk kid who was too "hard" for such a thing, that church van driver was the only person I knew who wasn't a fan of that movie.  Around the same time, I had a discussion with another guy about the live-action Cat in the Hat flick starring Mike Myers.  The guy didn't want to see it, because, to quote him, "Dr. Seuss books shouldn't be live-action"; I didn't want to, either, but I had different reasons. I told him what I'd read in the paper: that Audrey Geisel, the widow of the late children's book author, didn't care for the film because she couldn't believe that they got Myers, who is known for being crude, to play the title role.  My friend replied by saying, "Oh, I didn't know it was Mike Myers; I thought it was Doofus again," then added, "Yes, I know; Jim Carrey." Both of those individuals--and others I've known as well--take the entertainment they don't care for very seriously...and so do I; the difference is: I'm up for pretty much any entertainment that isn't morally offensive.  That's a broad spectrum, and most people probably like something that falls into it...but, they probably are also fans of right much that doesn't even come close to hitting that mark.  They could go from watching a Disney movie to an uncensored HBO special without even blinking.  If my friends want to do that, fine; I'll let God be your judge.  However, I can't be in a relationship with someone who does that...because, then, I'll be expected to join in, which would mean a one way ticket to Splitsville.

Third off: She must be willing to stick it to the status quo. If you've known me for a while, you probably know that I've identified as a rebel, and my heroes have been people such as Christian singer Kevin Max, late Apple founder Steve Jobs, and Nintendo bigwig Shigeru Miyamoto: those who thought differently.  My ideal mate would be one to join me in pursuits such as my week-long Disney marathon or reading four or five books every day for a month; even if nobody else is doing these things, she would be for my sake.

In about a week and a half, it's going to be Super Bowl Sunday.  I imagine most if not all of you are going to be watching the big game, and throwing or attending a party.  If you are, great...but, I won't be; as all of you probably already know, I despise sports, so, even if it is the biggest sporting event of the year, it doesn't thrill me one bit.  Think about it: Would you be excited about a Siobhan Magnus concert, or a Lizzie McGuire reunion, or a new 1 Girl Nation album? Didn't think so.  If I even bother staying up, I probably will do a marathon of reading and/or television watching...all by my lonesome.  If I get married, my hope is that my wife would join me in that pursuit, not watch the "big game" in the other room.  You may think that nobody would do that; you're probably right, which is why I'm likely doomed to remain single.

Fourth off: She must support my interests...for real! Few things break my heart more than believing that people support me and what I do, only to find out that they were faking the whole thing.  You all probably know the story of the former friend who seemingly supported my adoration of Victoria Justice, only to ask later on why my parents were "not concerned" about it.  Other people have done essentially the same thing, including via Facebook unfriending.  I don't expect all of my friends to do the same things I do...but, if they believe I shouldn't be doing it, that's a problem that should be squashed as soon as possible.  The last thing I want is a mate who sits there watching K.C. Undercover with me, all the while thinking about what she wouldn't do to be playing Grand Theft Auto or reading Fifty Shades of Grey instead.

It's getting late, so, here are the short versions of some of my other points:
  1.  She must never bring a pet home...especially a DOG! When we lost our dog Boxley in December of 2001, it was the first time our household had ever been sans a canine...and it was a serious weight lifted off my shoulders.  However, it didn't last very long, because my mom decided to bring home Sparky during the summer of 2002...which, to this day, I consider to be her biggest mistake in my lifetime.  I never did like him, and my experience with him and other dogs turned me off to the canine species in general.  I've always wanted a pet free home, and, if my wife ends up ruining that...hello, hotel room!
  2. She must be cool, calm, and collected during times of crisis.  When I was in fifth grade, there was an incident where a kid got his hand caught in a paper shredder...but the major crisis was averted because the teacher, a retired Air Force pilot, responded quickly by pulling the plug.  If he had panicked, it would have been much worse.  Unfortunately, other teachers I had freaked out over much less.  When I'm experiencing a crisis, I don't want someone who freaks out with me, or who makes fun of me; I want someone who will work with me calmly to resolve it as best as possible.  Unfortunately, people like that are far too hard to come by.
  3. She must help me figure out what to do and how to do it.  Recently, my mom taped a weekly list of chores to my wall; reason being that, lately, I hadn't been doing much at home but sitting around reading books and watching television shows.  The sad truth is: Left to my own devices, that's just what I'd do.  I need that guidance, or I'm not going to get much of anything done (at least, at home).
  4. She must be easy to respect.  When I was in school, I had too many teachers who fostered disrespect by the way they treated not just me, but the whole class.  School wasn't the best experience to begin with, but, they made it even worse.  The last thing I want is to be stuck with some woman who doles out disrespect while expecting love and respect in return.  If I was saddled with a wife like that, since divorce isn't an option, I'd probably shoot myself.  The problem there is: The whole feminism/women's liberation culture tells women that it's okay to disrespect their guys.  I've seen it countless times, even in Christian marriages.
 Now, for my conclusion: The biggest question is: Does such a woman like this exist? I can't say for sure...but, if I had to guess, I'd say no.  Most adults--of all ages--don't care for the Disney Channel, and, when you add in all the other criteria, you've got something no woman can match.  That's why I'm glad my parents won't let me onto Christian dating sites.  If I were on one, I'd be in one of two situations: Either I'd still be frustrated by my lack of a significant other, or I'd be stuck in a relationship I don't really want to be in, but entered into due to guilt and the feeling that I needed someone.   So, that's why I'll stick to my fictional superwomen, like Lizzie McGuire, Mindy McConnell, or the Pink Ranger; they may not exist, but they're the closest to my ideal partner that I'm ever going to get.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

...And You Are Not Me: An Addendum

I'm going to try to keep this short, so, all I'll say in the opening remarks is that you should read the original post if you haven't already.  Done? Then, here we go.

My first point: People often mistake me for a normal person because I have the appearance of one.  What do you like to do during the summer? Go to Water Country or Busch Gardens? Hang out at the beach or pool? Fire up the grill? Well, those just aren't my thing, and many of you reading this probably already knew that...but many others who would consider themselves my friends don't, or know it but choose not to apply that knowledge.  I've said for a while that it bugs me when people try to shove activities down my throat they know good and well I don't like.  More than one so-called friend attempted to teach me how to throw a football; did they seriously think I cared? If someone who obviously doesn't know me--a visitor at church, a random person at a garage sale, etc.--mentions sports to me, that's a different story; how would they know that I prefer Nickelodeon to the NFL? Still, too many times, it's people who had to know better...and, if I listed them, you'd be surprised exactly who those people were.

My second point: My difference has nothing to do with my condition.  I'm taking a risk by saying this, because I don't really like to talk about it...but, many of you know of my condition, and have for a while.  However, I'd say that, by now, I've actually recovered; though I still have some residual bad habits from it, you could find those in any number of others without it.  I've known more than one adult sans any "condition" who talked out loud to himself or herself, and who hasn't known someone with poor handwriting? You may be one of those people yourself! As for my oft-discussed obsession (or addiction, or fixation, or whatever you want to call it), while I have a passion for family-friendly and Christian entertainment, not only is that a broader topic than any of my big things in the past--in fact, it's much like pretty much all of them put together--but, it's much milder than it was back in the day.  If you knew me back then, you'd have to agree.  Truth be told, when I've hung out with other people with my condition or similar ones, we have nothing in common; they couldn't care less about Lizzie McGuire or dc Talk or garage sales or Mork & Mindy or any of the other things that make me...well, me.  That's probably because they weren't raised with the value of media discernment, as I was.  So, even among people who are supposed to be just like me, I'm still different.  It reminds me of the infamous Tigger quotation: "But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is that I'm the only one!"

My third point: Sometimes, people won't accept disagreement with their opinions about what I should do.  Many of my teachers, especially the special ed ones, had an agenda about me they were pushing big time.  One wanted me to go to a magnet school; another wanted me to go to Busch Gardens; and, more than one wanted me to get my driver's license.  These instructors were so pushy, it started to foster feelings of disrespect in me; couldn't they just let me and my mom make our own decisions? More recently, just look at this quotation from a message from a former friend:
But unless there is another medical concern I don’t know about, why haven’t you learned to drive? Even if you take the bus back and forth to work, you should learn to drive in case of an emergency. [...] Jerry, I truly believe you have the potential to hold down a job, live on your own, and have a happy, full life with friends and, God willing, a wife/family. I know that you have the rocky path of Asperger’s to deal with, but I think that if you are given the right guidance, you can overcome the obstacles in your way. It may take longer for you to reach, but that goal is attainable for you.
 Not long after reading those words, even though my friendship with the individual who wrote them went kaput, I started thinking: Why can't I get my driver's license? So, I studied, got my permit...and then got hit with one roadblock after another.  After my dad had to take an emergency flight to Houston because of his brother's death right after agreeing to give me lessons, I knew that it was a providential hindrance, and I'm not one to fool with the will of God.  Looking back at those words, it's hard to disagree with something worded that sweetly, and I can see why she got mad when I disagreed with her...but, that doesn't mean her words, regardless of the tone, weren't pure poppycock.  I'm even more sure that all that was a bunch of nonsense than I was five years ago, when it all happened.  Like many people, she just didn't understand that I was different.

My final point: Just because I'm different doesn't mean that I'm better than anyone else! It's tough being different, because people get the idea that I think I'm better than everyone else because I'm the only one who knows about something, or whatever.  If you're a Christian--and maybe even if you aren't--you have probably heard the verse from Psalms quoted where David says he is "fearfully and wonderfully made".  Yes, that applies to me...but it applies to all of you as well.  We are all divinely created individuals, and Jesus loves and died for all of us.  Even if you're not a fellow believer, you may know the words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal..." It goes on from there, but, that's enough to make my point.  I may be different, but that does not make me superior to anyone else.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

...And You Are Not Me

All the way back in 2006, it was time for that rite of passage: my senior prom.  Just like every other year, people paid big bucks for suits, dresses, limos, and what-not, and probably every member of my graduating class was there...except for me.  In fact, I never went to any of my school dances, neither in middle school nor in high school.  My friends back then thought I was crazy for not going to my prom--they told me I'd regret it one day, and that such an occasion would never come around again--but, over a decade later, I still don't; in fact, I'm all the more proud of the fact that I didn't go.  Why? Simply because I am now 100% sure of something I kind of knew all along, even before my senior year: Such a thing was/is not appropriate for me.

You may think, "But...everyone goes to their prom!" Many of you probably have fond memories of yours; you may still look back at pictures of it from time to time and reminisce.  Maybe you even married the person you went to prom with.  If so, great; I'm happy for you...but, you have to remember something: I'm not you, and you're not me.  Just because you had a blast at yours doesn't mean I wouldn't have suffered at mine.  In the years since graduating, some people have even agreed with me that I wouldn't have enjoyed it.

You probably know that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been one of my heroes for a while.  So have others who dared to think different, such as Nintendo bigwig Shigeru Miyamoto, Christian singer Kevin Max, American Idol contestant Siobhan Magnus, and, more importantly than anyone else who ever lived, Jesus Christ.  Jobs himself once said, "Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world...are the ones who do." I don't know if I'm capable of changing the world, but, I have always been one to think differently about things.  So, when people are telling me that I just have to do whatever--i.e., go to my senior prom--I would ask, "Why? Is this really necessary?" In my case, it wasn't.

People want to look for a one-size-fits-all solution.  You've probably seen advertisements that say that everyone should see some movie, or that all young males should join Boy Scouting, or that all women should check out some news story.  The problem is: You can't make such a statement, because all people are different.  What if somebody hates cinema with a passion? What if your young son despises camping? What if your wife couldn't care less about the subject of the report? If you make a blanket statement such as, "Everyone should _______," you're no doubt going to find someone that it doesn't apply to...and I would be a likely candidate.  You may think your solution is for everyone, but it probably won't be for me.

In the past, I did many activities that were inappropriate for me: Scouting, AVID, Camp Idlewild, playing football in my friends' backyard, swimming lessons, roller skating lessons, watching Hollywood Squares and Diff'rent Strokes, attending an assessment at Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center (which is not quite what it sounds like,) etc.  Most of those went against my better judgment, but, I did them because I was forced to or to keep someone else happy.  The problem was: The people who told me or encouraged me to do whatever meant completely well; they thought that, because I was a regular guy, I'd like it...but, I'm not, so, I didn't.  Over time, I learned that myself and refused to engage in activities that I knew weren't good for me, such as anything to do with sports.  I faced serious criticism, but, I didn't care; I knew what was good for me and what wasn't, and it wasn't for my peers to make that determination.

When I was in high school, the church I attended at the time took two trips every summer: a week-long retreat at Harding University in Searcy, AR, and a mission trip to Mexico.  I was the only kid in the group who wasn't allowed to go; everyone else in the group went every year and seemed to have a blast...but, I knew nothing of it, because my mom didn't think it was a good idea.  Many people disagreed with my mother; individuals ranging from extended family members to even some of the youth sponsors didn't understand why she would make me miss out on such an opportunity, and I didn't either...but, now, I do.  In fact, I now think it was ridiculous for those people to question my mom's judgment; who would know what's best for me better than the one who gave birth to me and raised me? Part of my problem was because I didn't really know what the trips were all about; I just wanted to travel, and didn't want to be the odd one out.  When it came to the Searcy trip, my mom asked me, "What is it?," and I couldn't answer her simple question.  My sister tried to explain to me why the Mexico trip wasn't appropriate for me, and I bashed her for it, accusing her of "twisting around the truth"...which was another mistake.  Looking back, it makes me feel dumb to have been so insistent about doing something when I didn't even know what that something was; then again, maybe I wouldn't have felt that way if everyone and their mother hadn't been begging me to go.

So, what does all this mean right now? Simply this: Over the past few months, I have been bombarded with news that coeval friends of mine have children on the way.  While I don't want kids, and never really have, it makes me feel like I'm being left in the dust; their big news is that they're bringing new life into the world, and my big news is that I'm having a marathon of Disney media during the last week of 2016.  The more friends of mine who get married and/or have kids, the more I feel like the odd one out for being single...but, I shouldn't feel that way.  If I can be different by not going to my prom, or refusing to watch sports, why not also by lacking a significant other? Just like the other things I mentioned, dating and relationships may work well for you...but, I'm not you, and you're not me! You say, "Look at what a happy family we are!", while I say, "Look at all these things I can do because I don't have to worry about keeping a significant other happy or chasing a kid around the house!" Seriously, with a relationship and kids, the things I do just wouldn't be, I'm staying single; call me crazy if you want.