Old accusation and stereotypes tossed at unmarried people, even if and when it’s not true: “You’re Bitter!” and “You Have Baggage!” (“And that’s why you’re still single!”)
Before I get to the purpose of the post, a couple of points:
1. Wooo! I am on a roll today! This must be my fourth post in a row today. I need to go jogging pretty soon, though, so I will have to leave the computer for that. But your married Christian bloggers can’t complain, since they say my one magical key in getting a husband is jogging regularly (men don’t want ugly fatties, I’m told).
2. As for the blog post’s heading.
I think Google weighs post titles more heavily than post tags, which is why some of my post headings are insanely long or appear strange.
I normally would not put both terms, “unmarried” and “single” in a post subject heading together, but I don’t know if a person out there will be doing a search using “unmarried” or “single.” Now for the post:
— Hey, since you are unmarried, you simply MUST be BITTER and have TOO MUCH BAGGAGE! —
I really intended on making this post after doing one about how Christians approach the issue of physical appearance, especially as it pertains to dating and marriage, before making this one, but I think that one will take longer to write than this one, and I’m not in the mood to write another long post today.
I’ve seen some Christian bloggers – usually married, male ones – who, when they write a blog post about dating and marriage aimed at unmarried people, if they engage with dissenters in their comment area, will invariably throw the word “bitter” at commentators who hold opposing views.
While it certainly may be true that some unmarried people are bitter – because they want to get married but remain single – I don’t think it’s true of all unmarried people.
I will address the topic of “bitterness” farther below, but I wanted to turn attention to the “I bet you have baggage!” stereotype first.
— BAGGAGE —
I think telling unmarried people they have “baggage,” as in, “the reason you are still single past the age of 35 is that potential suitors perceive someone of that age as having too much baggage” is an idea (and insult, really) that is over-used on blogs, in books, and in TV segments on Christian programs about dating and relationships. I have seen this term used on Christian sites and secular ones about dating and relationships on a somewhat recurring basis.
Again, it may be true that some people past 35 years old have a lot of “baggage,” and even that such “baggage” is prohibiting them from getting a partner, but it’s not true of all Christian (and Non Christian) people over the age of 35.
— BAGGAGE – who really has more of it —
If anything, it seems to me that divorced people over the age of 35 (well of any age, really) have more baggage to contend with than never-married people past the age of 35. (This is just my opinion, of course, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some divorced person wants to leave me an angry comment telling me I’m full of crap about this. Which I would understand, but I cannot guarantee you that I’d publish your comment.)
I feel this way because I’ve run across divorced people in person and online (some are Christian) who cannot and will not let go of slights by their ex-spouses. They continue to hold a grudge against an ex spouse, even many years later.
I’ve met Christian and Non Christian women who were divorced ten to fifteen (or more) years ago who are just as angry at their ex husband today as they were five minutes after the divorce happened. (So some divorcees are, yes, bitter.)
That goes for males too. I’ve seen divorced men, both Christian and Non, who are incredibly bitter against their ex wives and women in general as a result of one or two bad experiences with women.
Every person on the planet has “baggage.”
Nobody over the age of 12 or there-abouts is immune from “having baggage,” not married people, not never married, not divorced, male, female – we all have “baggage.” Therefore, it’s quite unfair to single out unmarried people for having “baggage.”
As for people as young as 12 having baggage: oh yes they do. I was bullied a lot beginning at age 11 and already developed very low self esteem and had poor coping skills at that age.
I have seen many testimonies by adult Christians who mentioned how messed up they were as young as age five, ten, twelve, or fifteen, because they were molested, raped, neglected, or emotionally abused as children.
Some of them have said they began sleeping around in their youth, abusing drugs, skipping classes, robbing people, or cutting their bodies with knives. Just because your childhood was relatively un-eventful or a fantasy doesn’t mean everyone else’s was.
— Having “Baggage” hasn’t impeded divorced people from re-marrying —
At any rate, divorced people – who tend to have a lot of baggage, as it appears to me after having seen many, many online rants by them against their ex spouses and after having listened to them gripe about their exes in person- they usually manage to go on and get re-married to someone else, someone new.
So obviously, having “baggage” is not some huge impediment to getting married. If having baggage is not an obstacle in getting re-married, I don’t know why so many secular and Christian sources claim it can keep an individual from getting married in the first place.
As a woman who has never married, it seems to me that I have “less baggage” than a divorced woman, since I have no ex-husband and all his let downs and failures to reflect upon.
As I have never been married, I don’t sit around daily dwelling on how the cheating ex husband ran off and left me for another woman, or how he didn’t meet my emotional needs, or what have you, and then ranting about these things to female friends about it.
— BAGGAGE – Men who think younger women lack baggage are totally deluded and misinformed–
I also find it completely untrue how some people (usually men of age 35 or older) say they want to date or marry a 20-something woman because, supposedly, 20-somethings “don’t have any baggage,” or because people of that age are “more innocent.”
I’m in my early 40s and am still waiting until marriage to have sex – so I am more innocent than, what is it, 75% of females in the culture today who have already had sex outside of marriage (or the figure may be higher than that; there was one figure I read that stated that 75% of conservative Christian males had engaged in fornication- maybe that’s where I’m getting the number from)?
I have never abused drugs or alcohol; I did not spend my teens or 20s bar hopping and night clubbing; I have never been in jail – I’m a lot more “innocent” than most 20-something women today, both Christian and Non Christian.
I suspect what a lot of these males mean by wanting an “innocent” woman – the males who say they’d rather date or marry 20- something women, or women in their 30s – is that women below the age of 40 are typically naive, guillible, easy to push around, and easy to control.
In that sense, yes, I suppose the majority of American women in their 20s and 30s are “innocent.”
Many women, when they reach their 40th birthday, and as they gaze back upon their life, realize that their upbringing and societal pressure – to be an accommodating, compliant doormat to everyone, especially to men – does them more harm than good, so they kick that crap to the curb and don’t allow themselves to be manipulated, used, controlled, or abused, as so many women under 40 do.
I think I’ve read in a few online articles lately that most divorces in the United States are initiated by women.
So it would appear that a lot of women are arriving at the conclusion that their husbands have “too much baggage” and are dumping them.
Therefore, it’s funny to me that a lot of single men, particularly the ones over the age of 35, are passing up perfectly loving, attractive single women ages 40 and up for an alleged “less baggage” 20- or 30- something model, only for that woman to turn around a year or five or ten later and divorce them.
Another factor that these knuckle-heads who desire “less baggage” (i.e., younger) women don’t realize:
Most women don’t figure out who they are until they reach the age of 40. It may begin to dawn on them a bit by the time they are 38 or 39.
Most of us women were socialized, especially if raised in Christian families, to be submissive, passive little wall flowers.
We were taught by churches, parents, teachers, and culture to look to meet the needs of other people. We were not taught to look inwards and figure out who we were, what we wanted, what our needs were, and what goals we wanted in life – we were taught that to consider our own needs or to get them met is the height of selfishness.
Consequently, we females never figure out who we are in our youth. We go through our teens, 20s, and 30s in a daze.
If you marry a woman at age 20, 25, or even 35, she will not remain the same. As she gets older and begins waking up and figuring out who she is, she will probably come to the shocking realization that the guy she is married to now (which is you) is all wrong for her and is not enough for her now- and walk out on you.
Now that I’m in my early 40s, I’m not perfect, but I’ve worked through a lot of psychological health issues and other things that were troubling me and holding me back since my adolescence.
If you date a 25 year old, she’s still stuck with all her hang ups from her childhood.
Your average 40-something, if she has worked on who she is, no longer has any, or much, baggage to deal with. Your under- 40s, however, will still be carrying a load of baggage and are still processing it. Some of them don’t even realize they have baggage, or don’t have a clue how to address it and fix it even if they suspect something is amiss.
You learn to be more comfortable with yourself as you age, more accepting and forgiving of yourself- you’re simply not going to find an under- age-40 woman who has arrived there yet (or not many)- and probably not many males, either.
— BITTERNESS —
–Goodness that if you ever, ever admit to being less than happy than being single at all times, or happy in how most churches ignore or insult singleness or celibacy, because if you do complain or mention not being euphoric about this stuff, why, you must be bitter!
Or, if you are single and express anything than utter joy at your single status, you are told by other Christians that you are “not content,” and the thinking is, if you’re “not content,” God will punish you by refusing to send you a spouse–
I think there may be a Bible verse which talks about staying away from, or not giving in to bitterness, but it’s understandable when people become bitter over certain circumstances in life.
I seldom see the “bitter” word used as a weapon or an insult, except on blogs and in magazine articles for singles (and possibly towards divorced people), even in Christian resources.
The most insulting and aggravating thing are the bloggers who spend most of their blog post putting down unmarried people, such as one blog I visited some time ago, where the married male Christian lectured Christian single females in one post that if they wanted a boyfriend or husband, they must exercise every day, lose weight, keep their hair fixed up real nice, and so on – and then bloggers such as that guy toss the word “bitter” at anyone who speaks up in protest.
On another separate post, this same male, married Christian blogger opined again about dating and marriage.
Some of his female readers referenced his previous post (the one where he lectured females to look more pretty to snag a man), and they asked him, ‘how can you expect us to take any thing you say to us in the post or in the comments seriously, when you were so sexist and repulsive in your last post, and you’re being just as insensitive in your comments now to some of us who are disagreeing with you?’
This male blogger responded by telling these female commentators that they were “being bitter,” or telling them they “sounded bitter.”
Okay, buddy, so if I spend an entire post saying married Christian men who write blogs dispensing advice to single Christians are all ugly, fat jerks who enjoy raping little girls, and you leave a comment protesting (as most guys would), how would you feel if I retorted with, ‘Oh someone sounds bitter! What can you expect from married men anyway. You sound bitter, fella.’
Yet, this scenario plays out quite a bit on various blogs, magazine articles, and Christian programs I’ve seen when the topic of dating and singlehood are brought up.
Are there in fact unmarried Christian (and Non Christian) people who are bitter – bitter about being unmarried, not having dates, or not being able to have sex? Absolutely.
In my experience, the bitter, unmarried folks are almost always men, though, ones under the age of 35, who complain that although they are super nice to their female buddy, she never falls in love with them. See (Link:) these posts for more on that issue.
I’d say by and large, most of the negative emotions that unmarried people express on blogs and in person are more due to anger, frustration, hurt, or disappointment than in run- of- the- mill bitterness.
Throwing the word “bitter” at an unhappy single is therefore not always accurate, and it serves as a Godwin’s Law of Relationship Discussion.
Much like yelling “you’re a Nazi” or “you’re no better than Hitler” at an online debate opponent in a heated political or religious exchange ends all meaningful dialogue, so too does accusing an unhappy single of being “bitter.”
Telling an unhappy single that she is “bitter” can also be a cheap shot.
If an unmarried person is in fact bitter, who are you to say he or she is not entitled to those feelings, depending on his or her particular circumstances? People have a right to feel what they want to feel.
Am I recommending that bitter people stay bitter? No, not at all.
What I am saying is that if an unmarried person is displaying signs of bitterness, sadness, hostility, anger, or disappointement and especially over the fact that she wants a spouse but is still unattached, he or she is free to feel and express those things, and perhaps has good reason for feeling that way.
I think a lot of time some Christians find it easier to out right dismiss legitimate negative views and feelings by tossing out the word “bitter” than in actually engaging with the person who is disagreeing with them about the topics of dating, singlehood, and marriage.
I think some Christians find it easier to tell unhappy singles they’re sounding “bitter” than it is in actually taking steps in correcting the epidemic of unwanted, protracted singleness that has struck many Christians today.
Just keep telling those pesky, unmarried Christians who keep expressing to you how lonely they are; how they are not always fine with being single; who keep bugging you about meeting their needs too; and how they repeatedly keep asking you or your church to hold more singles functions for older singles – that they sound “bitter” and remind them to “be content in their singleness,” and that will get them to shut up and get them out of your hair.
Yeah, that’s the trick. Don’t actually try to comfort or help upset unmarried Christians – just pass judgement on them and tell them in effect to shut up and go away.
There are occasions where some unmarried Christians are fairly stable and accepting of their singleness, (though we’d still like to marry), but what gets on our last nerve is not so much being single, but
- – the rude, condescending, or insulting “advice” on Christain blogs about dating and marriage, (the advice that assumes we can’t get a partner because we must be fat, ugly, or weird or “have too much baggage”); or
- -in the insulting attitudes or assumptions towards unmarried Christians on such blogs, or from the pulpits and Christian magazines and tele-evangelists, and
- -the insulting retort that “you’re bitter” when we confront these clueless Christians that their advice and assumptions are rude, painful, and derogatory.
You just cannot spend an entire TV show, blog post, radio program, or book insulting unmarried Christians and assume they will be fine with it and not object.
When and if unmarried Christians do object to what you’ve said or written on these issues, don’t tell them that they “sound bitter.” Be honest and admit that your “advice” or comments about Christian singlehood can be out of bounds, out of step, tacky, insulting, wrong, or presumptuous.
— BITTERNESS: Good and Justifiable reasons for being bitter–
I have written and written and written on this blog for a couple of years now just how neglected or insulted celibate, never-married Christians who are past the age of 35 are treated by the Christian culture and by Christian churches, and how no practical help is usually given to us in finding a mate (or in other areas of life), and you need to consider that in light of all that, unmarried Christians have a right to be bitter and to express it. It’s at least understandable why some Christians might feel bitter.
Many of us, such as myself, were fed this fairy tale since childhood, that if only we prayed to God, trusted in Him, and had faith in Him to send us a spouse, we would be granted our spouse by the time we reached 25 or 35 years of age. “Wait on God’s timing for a spouse” and “Wait for God’s best” were phrases one heard all the time while growing up in Christian circles.
Look at all the abstinence literature published by conservative Christian groups and churches to be handed out to teens, many of which are predicated on the assumption that all teens reading the literature will be married by the time they are in their early to late 20s – that if only they’d hold on until they get married at age 25, they will be able to have sex.
Christians in my generation were constantly told to “wait until marriage to have sex,” and we were assured that in God’s timing, we’d get Mr. Right in no time flat.
Some of us Christian ladies are in our 40s now and still waiting for our first Mr. Right. We’ve never married – and some of us have not had sex yet.
I’d say we have a right to be or feel bitter, or angry, lied to and disappointed.
Other than one or two books by Christian women such as myself, I’ve yet to see any Christians address this issue of women who followed the widely accepted Christian plan of “wait, pray, have faith, abstain, and you will get married soon” – but for whom a spouse never appeared.
The reality is, many of us sincere, physically attractive Christian women (who have no more baggage than anyone else) did the whole shtick – we prayed, had faith, served, attended church, tried eHarmony, stayed thin and attractive – and no spouse ever materialized. I’d say we have a good cause for feeling or being bitter, if some of us are.
Automatically charging any and all unmarried Christian people as being “bitter” the instant they express any upset over remaining single, or when they disagree with your dating or singleness advice, is uncalled for, deeply insulting and offensive, and in some cases, not true of the particular unmarried person to whom you are speaking. So knock it off. Drop the word “bitter” from your vocabulary when talking to unmarried Christians.
Also, drop the whole “baggage” rhetoric from your conversations with unmarried people, or in your posts, TV shows, radio shows, and books about them.
There are probably just as many, if not more, married people who have “baggage” than there are unmarried with baggage, yet we hardly ever hear marrieds who complain about marital conflict as being described as having “baggage” from Christian pastors, therapists, or lay persons on the internet. I’ve heard that point raised on occasion against marrieds, but not nearly as often as it is against unmarrieds.
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