This woman is one of my oldest, dearest friends. We’ve been friends for over a decade and I frequently pause and marvel at how undeserving I am of her continued forgiveness, patience, and acceptance. She’s forgiven a lot over the years, the gem that she is! I respect and admire her zest for life and her candor. Have I mentioned how much I love her? Okay enough of the sappiness! She’s currently a Fellow in Public Affairs at Coro Center for Civic Leadership and has so many fascinating thoughts to share.
HMHW: What do you look for in a group of friends at this age?
Bee: I don’t know that I’ve found that sweet spot with a group of friends. In looking at my friendship history, I haven’t really ever had that. In boarding school, I had friends because they were right there so I didn’t really have to think about looking for friends. But throughout college, I was always that person that knew a lot of people but didn’t have a core group of friends. Essentially, what I’m saying is that I don’t think I know how to intentionally look for friends. But the kind of people that I would like to surround myself with are people I connect with, people I don’t have to explain myself to, or explain my slang to, or consider rules and cultural norms when I’m around them – people who accept me as I am.
HMHW: Do you believe in types?
Bee: I feel like this is a question with multiple layers. Do I feel like there are certain traits that I’d appreciate in a man? Yes. But do I believe in society’s idealized version of what a man should be? No. I don’t believe in a type that is so defined that if I were to meet someone that wasn’t “my type”, I wouldn’t be interested in talking to them or dating them.
HMHW: Do you have career goals? Do you see yourself remaining in the same career for the rest of your life?
Bee: I have big picture goals – I want to work in development. I see development as such an exciting place to be in terms of doing work that matters in very real and tangible ways. Within that, I’m interested in education, because I see it as a driver of development. And within education, I’ve played with so many different ideas, from wanting to improve access to basic education to using education as a tool for civic engagement and for building citizens. I’ve definitely run the gamut in the ways I’m interested in using education and what capacities I want to work in. But the key thing for me is that I want to be at a point of impact – in whatever I do, I want to look for ways that I can have the biggest impact on people’s lives.
HMHW: What’s your definition of guarding your heart?
Bee: I guess guarding your heart is being aware of what you allow your heart to feel and be exposed to, what thoughts you let yourself experience, what people and relationships you expose yourself to. Guarding your heart is being aware of all the interactions you go through in life and how those affect you. It’s knowing who you are, and with that knowledge, choosing to not expose yourself to situations that are unhealthy for you. Guarding your heart is knowing yourself enough to realize that, while on the surface everyone else might think your friendship with a guy is harmless, you know that it’s not and you make the decision to stop. It’s a very personal thing; it depends on the individual. But basically, it’s knowing yourself in a way that no one else does, and being honest with yourself in a way that no one else can be.
HMHW: How valuable are your friendships with other women?
Bee: I have good women in my life and I value them. I value this idea of being comfortable and being able to talk about anything, being able to vent and not be PG about it. My life has been so transient, so while I definitely have those solid relationships that are always there, they’re not a part of my everyday life. And I really miss that – I really miss having real, consistent, everyday friendships.
HMHW: What about your friendships with guys?
Bee: Oh my goodness, I still haven’t decided whether men and women can be just friends. Just in general, when I’m talking to a guy, at the exact moment when we start to click, all of a sudden sparks start to fly! I thought I was doing really well with one of my friends – we were really connecting on certain topics, and all of a sudden, he’s like, “I like you.” And I’m thinking, “You’re kidding me!” I thought that for once in my life I was being really successful at having a [guy] friend. I’m just not sure that it’s possible. I mean, there are different levels of friendship – with friends that you see only once in a while, maybe it’s possible. But the moment you start connecting and realizing that you share similar ideals, things get really gray really quick.
Even with this guy that I was friends with a few summers ago, I was dating someone else at the time – someone who was committed to me and loved me so much. But can I say that a part of me wasn’t enjoying this other man’s company and attention a little too much? No, I can’t. It got to the point where I ended up asking my boyfriend whether he was passionate about me, because this other guy was always so full of life and passion every time he was around me. This was a man who loved me so much and proved time and time again how much he cared for me, yet I questioned his feelings for me because of my friendship with this other guy.
HMHW: So going off of that, what’s your opinion on boundaries in male and female relationships when you’re in a dating relationship yourself?
Bee: I don’t know that I have a golden answer to this one. I definitely don’t want to be one of those people who says that no one can be friends outside of their romantic relationships. And I don’t know if I’m holding onto that simply because I don’t want to be one of those Christianese-speaking Christians who make up all these rules for how every one should live. Even the word “boundaries” just makes me think of Joshua Harris!
HMHW: Oh come on! Okay, maybe you’re right…
Bee: Well, it’s true! I feel like there are some Christianese buzz words that I get really tired of, and “boundaries” is definitely one of them. And maybe that’s why I don’t want to admit that they’re a very real, important thing. For me, it’s more about the nuances in a particular situation rather than strict rules of what not to do. I think the boundary is yourself; at the end of the day, even though my boyfriend knew of all the interactions I had with [the guy mentioned above], I still had to be honest with myself about this other guy’s effect on me. No one else could’ve called it out, because left to the naked eye, it was fine.
HMHW: Do you believe in the one? If so, do you believe that they were chosen for you since the beginning of time, or do you believe they become the one when you choose them?
Bee: By virtue of saying that they become the one when you choose them, that nullifies every single rule of “the one”. The idea of the one is that right from time immemorial, they were destined for you. And I think that’s absolute bullshit. I believe in choice; I believe that you choose someone and you decide to make it work. When you meet someone, there are different levels of attraction and so forth. But the moment they become the one is the moment you commit to this thing that you have and share. Attraction and connection is all fun and exciting, and you can feel like they’re the one. But I think what makes them the one is that commitment to stick with them even when they don’t quite feel like the one. I think that’s why so many people “fall out of love” and break up – there will always be a more exciting, more beautiful, more attractive version of whatever you think makes someone “the one”. So, the one is just about commitment.
HMHW: How do you make decisions about your future in this season of life? Has that changed from before?
Bee: Oh my goodness, I really wish I prayed more; I really don’t. I google jobs and things, and if it’s exciting then I talk to people I know, and then do it. I’m realizing that a lot of my decisions come out of excitement. I’ve thought about other jobs more strategically, but it’s more out of logic and excitement than asking God what he wants for me. I know that God definitely speaks to us through the things he gives us passions for, but I do feel that He also wants to walk with us on a daily basis. And I certainly don’t acknowledge that enough in the way that I make decisions.
HMHW: Best/worst advice you’ve ever been given on the topic of love and relationships?
Bee: Best advice I’ve ever been given is to look for love in people that have a genuine relationship with God. Honestly, looking at my own dating experience in comparison to the dating experiences of others, I’m extremely appalled at the kinds of standards people have. I feel like conversations that I don’t need to have with a solid Christian man are the norm in other relationships. Things like “Are you going to cheat on me, or lie to me?” Really? We have bigger fish to fry. If I don’t have to worry about these big pictures things, then I can worry about where you see yourself in five years and whether or not I fit into your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Just because someone is Christian doesn’t mean they’re right for you, but that should eliminate some of these basic worries that I see in other relationships.
As far as worst advice, it’s this whole idea that men cheat and lie, and that in order to survive, I have to protect myself against them. You know, the idea of keeping a stash of money on the side just incase. Being honest, but not completely honest. Not giving him everything. I feel like the worst advice I’ve been given about men is to accept less than what the Godly standard is. Even Christian women don’t truly believe that a man who lives up to the Godly standard exists. Because so many Christian women have been exposed to even men within the church completely screwing up, no one actually believes it’s real. People think it’s just idealistic. It makes me feel privileged to have had the relationships that I’ve had – I’ve known good men who live up to that standard. They’re worth waiting for, I promise. Don’t make excuses and settle.
HMHW: What’s your perception of the differences between masculinity and femininity? Do you think it varies from gender to gender or person to person?
Bee: I absolutely believe that we’re different, except I just went to a seminar on gender that explored the reality of people who aren’t fully one way or the other. Even though on the outside, I can point to a person and say that he’s a man, on the inside, he might feel just as feminine as I do. So I want to validate that perspective; however, I don’t really know what to do with it. With regards to stereotypes, I feel like the danger with stereotypes is not that they’re untrue, but that they’re incomplete. (I stole that from Chimamanda Adichie.) I think that there is a reason why men and women typically fit into certain roles in our society, because a lot of times we’re more inclined to act or be a certain way. I think the area I’m not so sure about – and I don’t know if I’m fighting it because I don’t want it to be true or because it’s actually invalid – is the idea that women should stay at home and take care of the kids. I think our differences exist, and they’re a beautiful part of our humanity, and they can be expressed in many different ways.
HMHW: What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
Bee: There’s always more to a story, always more to a person than meets the eye. People behave differently in different situations and it’s easy to just react based on how you see them behave. But know that people have stories, and if you take a little time to ask questions, to better understand where they’re coming from, you’ll be amazed at how that changes the dynamic of that situation. I’ve just learned the importance of seeing things through other people’s lenses, and fully respecting that at the end of day, everyone has a story and everyone is fighting their own battle. Just because you can’t see it or your own experiences have never exposed you to that, does not give you the license to judge everybody through your own lens. The first step in foolishness is thinking you know it all or have it all figured out.
HMHW: Do you feel pressure to be thinking about/preparing for marriage? If so, is the pressure from within or without?
Bee: Does every Christian woman not struggle with this? For so long I’ve struggled with why I want to get married. There’s always the sex piece of it, but besides the physical aspect of it, the emotional connection is so appealing. I feel like we were made for relationship, and marriage is the most intimate form of relationship. So by virtue of the way we were made, we want that connection; we want to love and be loved, own and be owned. But sometimes I wonder, if marriage is supposed to glorify God, then is my desire for it selfish? Or am I just trying to find this deep, Christianese way of looking at marriage when [God] has allowed it to be this simple, beautiful thing? Am I trying to find excessive meaning that even I myself don’t believe, simply because I’m trying to be so super-Christian about this?
And then there’s the issue of actually wanting to get married. Somedays I want to get married soon, and some days I don’t want to get married till much later. And because I have such a transient life and I’m constantly moving, as much as there’s a part of me that wants marriage, I also don’t see how it fits into my dreams of traveling and pursuing my career. Also, I’m not the person I was last year. I’ve grown so much. So I wonder who I will be next year, and what that would mean if I decided to get married now. I feel like I have the rest of my life to be married, but there’s still this ache present today. But is that ache present just because we always want gratification now, or is it because it’s meant to happen now? So there are so many different questions and things to consider, and my heart feels like it’s in limbo.
HMHW: Do you think you’re making the most of your single life?
Bee: Definitely, in terms of pursuing my dreams and opportunities that come along. I’m casting my net wide and not letting myself be restricted by anything.
HMHW: What did you believe about romance and love a year ago that you don’t anymore?
Bee: I don’t know about a year ago, but one thing I realize now is that I was always looking after myself. It was always about how the other person made me feel. I realize how me-centered I was in my last relationship, yet how much grace I received from the other person. I’m realizing that if I can feel secure in who you are and how capable you are of love, not just in terms of the way you treat me, but the way you treat the people around you, then that’s far more important. Love is about how I see you interact with the people around me, people that can’t love you back.
This week I was at a private wine tasting at a restaurant owned by a young guy. This couple came in wanting to eat there – it was their favorite restaurant and it was her birthday. But they were closed. The owner said, “You know, I’m sorry but my kitchen’s closed. But hey, how about I offer you some champagne!” And he gave them champagne for free. That, to me, is love. So if I can feel secure in your character and the way you love other people, how much more secure will I feel in your love for me? At that point, I’m free to not look out for my own interests and pursue yours instead. If your focus is on them and their focus is on you, then you’re both taken care of in this ecosystem. I say that with a lot of caution, though, because I know that a lot of relationships are parasitic, so people still have to watch their own backs. There are definitely different levels of growth in relationship, and marriage is the place where you can full exercise this with abandon, but I’ve definitely learned to not be self-seeking and instead to seek the good of the other.
HMHW: What are your thoughts on modesty and its effect, or lack thereof, on daily life?
Bee: I think at the end of the day, it’s not just about you and what you feel comfortable in. It’s also about looking on the outside at how that affects other people. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I feel like I look sexy. Should I be going out looking sexy? Mm, I should probably wear a shirt under that or buy a different dress, etc. I feel like I’m getting convicted about this, but I don’t want to be because I don’t know what that would mean.
HMHW: Would you say though that there’s a line between wanting to feel confident and beautiful and sexy just for yourself? Because I don’t think any girl would deny ever thinking about the reaction a certain article of clothing would have on the people around her. But I’ve also bought things that made me feel good, just for me, not anyone else. Is there a line where it’s appropriate for me to like the fact that my butt looks good, and not have it be just about what the guy down the street thinks?
Bee: Feeling confident and beautiful are good things. But then there’s the, “I feel sexy; I could walk into a room and people would definitely pay attention to me” aspect.
HMHW: But is that a bad thing, though? Cause I’m not convinced that it is.
Bee: I think it’s all in the word “sexy”. I feel like that word has become so mainstream that we’ve almost lost the meaning of the word. When we talk about “sexy”, it’s insinuating sex, and I think that’s where it gets gray. You can wear things that make you feel confident and beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be “sexual”.
HMHW: Do you believe in the ability to be ready for marriage? Do you think you have factors that will indicate your readiness?
Bee: I feel like I’m struggling with this question right now. I’ve been socialized to think that marriage happens after a certain age, after you’ve gotten a certain number of degrees, after you’ve been through certain experiences. So right now, part of me still thinks of that as being “ready”. But part of me wonders if this genuine desire to love and be loved is also part of the readiness. I don’t know.
HMHW: What are your opinions on pursuing/being pursued with regards to gender roles?
Bee: I think it’s a stretch. I think that a lot of people who quote the “He who FINDS a wife FINDS a good thing,” are just making a big stretch. I mean, seriously? Come on! I do think that in looking at biblical principles on how a home is run, if a man is the head of the house then you want to see him take initiative. You want to see him risk. I mean, it’s hard for a man to come up to a girl and talk to her, but as a woman, you want to know that you’re worth that risk. Part of you feeling secure in this man’s love for you is knowing that he sought you out. And for me, that brings up a more poignant point on this whole idea of pursuing and being pursued. Because as a woman, I feel much more confident knowing that you came and initiated a conversation with me. And I think in general, men also enjoy the chase. I think women can pursue to the point of friendship, but past that, I personally think it says a lot about a man when he initiates.
HMHW: What’s been the hardest part of being a 20-something?
Bee: Coming out of a college and realizing that life up until then had been pretty regimented and now I have to figure it out. In general, the feeling of having to take responsibility, and not knowing how to, is frightening. I think I’m a fairly independent person, but there was still this huge pressure on me to get my act together. It felt like a bomb, and I didn’t feel prepared. Now, I feel like I’m becoming more and more comfortable in who I am and what I want. But the initial shock was huge.