Image by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

It has been very difficult for me to go on dates with men lately...and when I do go out with men….I am extremely picky about the type of men I go out with. When I was younger, my friends and I would talk about the kind of men we would like to end up with…(I think that might have even been the first time I understood what the word “criteria” meant).

What’s your criteria for the man you want to marry? my friends would ask and I would reply: handsome, successful, funny, kind, and God fearing.

Sometimes, I would skip handsome depending on how I was feeling because some handsome men could be pricks. Successful could also be substituted for rich and maybe ambitious (lol). Funny sometimes wouldn’t be included in the list. Kind sometimes wouldn’t be included because in my head, it could be under the umbrella of God fearing. There was never a time that I removed God fearing or Religious from the criteria of the man I would love to have ended up with. However, today, (to the disappointment of mom and dad) it is the one thing I scratch off with a knife.

How did I become this person? Would my younger self recognize the person I grew up to be? I think she actually would.

I remember the first time I dated a guy that told me he was an atheist. That night, we spoke about the reason that he was...well...an atheist. He told me he didn’t want to believe that there was a man up there in the sky that was always angry with the humans that he created. It was jokes...we had drinks...I never saw him again after that. I mean...why would I? He didn’t believe in God. I mean he was literally the devil...right?

As I grew older, and explored feminism, religion and began to think for myself and not regurgitate the normalized sayings that society feeds us everyday, (the norm), I came to realize that I as an individual was not a big fan of religion. You see, I had grown up in the church, went to Catholic school all my life(except for the 4 years in undergrad….yes I even went to a Catholic school for grad school), attended fellowships, hosted fellowships at home, was a dancer as a young girl for my church….and was even frequently taunted by my siblings that I would eventually become a nun. I was in all respects, a good Catholic girl.

In actuality however, I disliked a lot of things that involved church, but always felt a rush of guilt every single time that I felt myself getting angry that I had to do yet another church related activity. I felt like there was something wrong with me but my determination to appear good surpassed my innermost desire to rebel against the church. Lol. Also (and more importantly), with my parents being staunch Catholics, and me being the last of siblings who also appeared to be good Christian children, I didn’t dare to be the demon of the family.

So how did I get to this point...you might be wondering. I think the change in mindset happened one sunny afternoon day, when I decided to stop lying to myself and open my eyes to some of the religious people around me and just how sucky their characters where.

This bunch of people considered themselves to be “fairly religious to very religious” and I realized that none of them were examples of kind people. The ‘kind’ that I religiously tucked under the umbrella of God fearing or err religious was literally the one quality that I noticed a lot of these people were lacking. It seemed like being religious had become a performative quality in people that involved going to church and being able to dole out certain lines of scripture whenever they felt threatened by progressive beliefs of others. I said some y’all. Don’t choke on your food.

I of course had my own issues with the bible, pedophilia and rape in the church and of course the never ending running theme of misogyny in both the bible and church but I digress...we are here to talk about dating :)

When I think about dating a man and actually sharing my space and life with a man, I understand that I will have to listen to what said man is saying and actually like said man. Like I said, it has been difficult.

Therefore, I try to make my life easier by making sure to eliminate men based on certain qualities I already know will be a hassle in the near future. I’m at a time in my life where I will not go out with a man who considers himself a God fearing man because I know what to expect. I expect a man who is not progressive, and even if he argues that he is progressive….because he is tolerant (a word I have come to hate) of the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights, and maybe doesn’t consider himself a conservative... he will always be judgemental about a lot of my beliefs because it is against whatever his church says. I would also have to be privy to some of his archaic beliefs and that fills me with both fear and worry.

I do not have the time nor the energy to be involved with any man like this. If I were to date a man like this, it would mean that I have regressed in my growth as an individual and I love myself too much to be put in a dangerous situation like this. Ew.

By Joan Caven

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