Monday, April 18, 2011

Jane Eyre and other Romantic notions

I have been accused before of spending too much time thinking/blogging about my singleness, and I realize that lots of my posts are about this particular subject.  As a result I have been thinking about this post for a long time before finally deciding to post about.   If I was a mom and I posted about mom stuff a lot, no one would blink an eye.  If I was a police officer and I posted about crime a lot no one would blink an eye...This is where I am at in life right now, it's what is on my mind, so I am going to quit feeling like I need to apologize for blogging about what is happening in my world.

I made a mistake this weekend.  The mistake was thinking I could see a romantic movie and not have it stir up within me longings I do a really good job of suppressing most of the time. 

The movie was Jane Eyre, which I think is a widely enough read book and movie that I don't think I'll spoil any of the plot by talking about the movie.  The movie, set in the 1840s, is about a girl who goes to be a governess in a house after growing up under some pretty horrible circumstances.  Jane is a character I can relate to a lot.  She is described as "plain, and a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral."  She moves into the home of wealthy Mr. Rochester to teach his ward.  Rochester and Jane fall in love, as he is smitten with her straightforwardness, her lack of simpering towards him and her ability to stand her ground in conversations with him.  In short, he falls in love with her intellect and character. 

Now, Rochester is a capricious character, at best.  He fights his feelings for Jane by openly courting another woman in front of her, and he baits her into arguments.  However, the thing that strikes me most about this character, and the thing that makes this movie linger with me several days after seeing it is this: he is relentless in his pursuit of her in spite of convention.  He falls in love with her as his intellectual equal and does not seem to care about her plainness, lack of wealth or status.

I think in the heart of every women is an intense longing to be pursued.  I know that this is true of me.  The scenes that run through my head and pierce my heart are the ones in which Rochester cannot seem to help himself and runs after Jane, or the things he says to her, "You transfix me, quite."  There is a decided ache in my soul to be pursued in this way. 

I had a conversation with a good friend about a gentleman she had been seeing who was not pursuing her.  In fact, he was decidedly passive towards her in this area and she had decided to end things with him.  In this conversation she told me about a male friend of hers who had said that a "spirit of pursuit comes upon a man when he finds the one he is going to marry."  I feel as though I have observed this in many men around me who are now married....they saw and they pursued.

But, I'll be honest.  I struggle with knowing how much "being out there" is my responsibility too.  I wrestle with questions about what it looks like to put myself out there or how much I am supposed to initiate.  I certainly don't feel like I am a hermit, but I also know that I generally wait for guys to start conversations with me. 

I read a book called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye (and as a side-note, I HIGHLY recommend this book for older, single, Christian women.  Other than some interpretations of "singleness being a gift," it is a book I would have written on this subject if I was able!), and in it she has a quote: "Therefore, if you are in a room full of people and your eyeballs land on some guy who you think is awfully cute, you just need to keep that comment to yourself and keep right on stepping if he doesn't approach you.  Why? Because if he doesn't approach you, he wasn't moved enough by what he saw when he looked at you.  "Well, maybe he didn't notice me," you say.  Well, if he didn't notice you, all the more reason to leave him right where you found him!  If you have to make him notice you, you are starting off on the wrong foot already."

I get what the author is saying, and I have even myself written about how I feel like when a new guy comes around we single women can act like vultures hovering over some fresh road kill, but I still struggle with knowing how much of my longing to be pursued is wrapped up in some romantic notion a la Jane Eyre, how much of it is the Lord's heart for me, and what exactly my role is in the whole thing.  Clearly being some princess sitting on her tuffet waiting around for a knight in shining armor on a white horse to ride up and sweep her away, which so many movies and books portray, is not truth.  I also don't want to be some bra-burning "Sex and the City" have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too gal.  I am finding that there is a LOT of gray area to navigate in between these extremes, and I am finding it really hard to land on truth somewhere in there.

If only there were some "Dating for Dummies" book out there.  Maybe I should write one some day.


  1. I have so many reactions:
    1) You just continue to blog your heart Erin. As an unmarried 36yr old, I understand how often your thoughts turn to singleness. We have walked this road together. If that is what you want to share, then share it, and if the words of others are acting as conviction to share about that aspect less, then heed the conviction. :)

    2) I think the Longing in our hearts to be pursued in the way we see in Jane Eyre and other movies (and in some ways in Pride and Prejudice) is part and parcel of what it means to be a woman. Its why its hard for men - why it puts pressure on them - because they know that this is what women desire. And I think its why when we hear of that behavior, it is most often in men who have "found the woman they want to marry" - because at that point, maybe its worth risking that he can live up to the standard of our hearts?

    3) I think there is an appropriate middle ground. I read Dr. Townsend's "how to get a date worth keeping" and he had really good suggestions for helping a person to be "open" to men approaching - and some of that advice was if you see a guy, go talk to him - or at least start a conversation that is long enough that he would want to know more if he were interested. that advice has served me well in a number of situations and helped me to be more comfortable with being a little bit forward even in online dating.

    4) I would totally coauthor that book with you! Between us, I'm sure we have some helpful insight. :)

    5) Having recently met Curby, who I think may be the person the Lord has led me to, I can say this - being pursued is worth waiting for. It is way better than the other guys I let hang around me, sort of passively, hoping they would decide they liked me enough to make a move or that they would initiate. Not everyone who has success in dating or marriage has an experience where the man pursued the woman, but having had even a tiny taste of it so far, I say wait it out - wait for the man who will meet those needs (not the unrealistic ones, I agree - we all know our future husbands aren't really going to be like Darcy, but the realistic ones), wait for the man who will pursue.

    The desert time is hard. I'm glad you write about it.

    Love you! T

  2. Thanks, Tiff. On a hard day in so many other aspects of life, this was a balm to my soul. :) I like what you have to say in every way. Thank you for commenting.

  3. xoxo, Erin! Wish we were here and could lament and rejoice together over some good coffee!