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Last week I overheard one of my guy friends make the comment, “There’s just no good girls in town to date.” The ironic, and I think unfortunate, thing about this statement is that he said it in the company of several single, godly, perfectly lovely girls. Now, I don’t think he meant to be hurtful to the ladies in the group, and there could be legitimate reasons why he wasn’t interested in pursuing any of these women. But I ran into one of these girls a few days later, and she mentioned how hurtful it was when she heard his comment. “I feel totally overlooked and as though he must not consider me the kind of girl who he would date. Really? No good girls out there? What am I?”
I’ve heard my guy and girl friends say this kind of thing, and I’ve definitely vented this sentiment in a moment of dating angst. It can be frustrating to be ready to pursue marriage but to find yourself lacking anyone to actually pursue or who you hope will pursue you. But the thing is, this kind of over-generalization doesn’t help anyone. We end up hurting each other when we assume that just because we’re in a dating slump or haven’t met anyone who has caught our eye in a while, that there must be no one available.
I found myself nodding along as I read this post on LoveAndRespectNow.com (remember when Lisa interviewed Joy Eggerichs and they talked about unicorns?) In her post, Emily set a goal for herself to not make any negative over-generalizations. She explains, “I became aware of how often I’d casually throw in 'I hate how women are always…' or 'The problem with men is…' in everyday conversation. As much as I proclaimed hope for positive interaction between the sexes, or for healthy romance in my future, I wasn’t really speaking like I believed in it. It’s easy to be cynical. It’s not hard to find a few experiences that have really hurt you and draw conclusions based on those. But rather than saying, ‘This person’s behavior hurt me’ or ‘I need to set a boundary for my own health,’ or ‘I didn’t understand you, can you explain?’ we say, ‘Women are just too emotional’ or ‘Men don’t want to commit’ or ‘There aren’t any good guys/girls left out there!’”
I’ve found that dating is no different from any other relationship interaction in that it gives us the chance to believe the best about one another and offer grace when people hurt us. I wrote about this in a previous post and how what we put in the gap between our expectations and reality matters.
“Because dating, well, every interaction with humans, but especially dating, offers us many chances to grow up into healthy, mature, responsible people. There were times when a certain guy would say he would call me, then didn’t. That hurt. But when I made a tiny choice to say ‘it hurts to be rejected’ instead of ‘men just don’t follow through anymore,’ I was choosing to grow.”
Do you find yourself making generalizations that aren’t really true or fair about the opposite sex? Have you ever set a goal for yourself like Emily did?
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--What's that old saw? "The best ones are already taken". Yeah, that's pretty much the same thing said here.
--Would it be hypocritical to over-generalize about how conservative Christians LOVE over-generalizing men and women To. Death. And they've made a fortune selling over-generalized books? Yes, it probably would, so I won't.
--Just to clarify, the "and" was not supposed to be capitalized.
It's not just conservative Christians. Everyone generalizes. It's human nature. It's much easier to categorize and lump people together because it simplifies our thinking and decision processes, and because we have a tendency to gravitate to those "like us" either in appearance, mindset, culture, etc. Because of that, we generalize people who are "not like us".
--I always say I can't find a girl who would be a good fit FOR ME. This is more accurate and doesn't fall into the trap of generalizing such as simply saying there are no good girls out there. Just recently I met a sweet girl who was almost perfect in every way, but there was such a major disparity between our Christian beliefs that it wouldn't have worked out. Despite that she would still make an awesome wife for any guy whose spiritual walk and personality is more compatible with hers. So there are bad girls, good girls, and then good girls I'm a suitable match with. Learning to make those distinctions is a better way to express frustration when it comes to dating and courtship.
--Are you familiar with the mating habits of the black widow or the praying mantis? And folks wonder why I want to stay single for life.
--hehe. I love how all these responses are basically a defense of generalizing because we all generalize.
So yeah. I'm guilty. Actually I'll go one further:
Hi Everyone, my name is Ashley (Hi Ashley) And I am a chronic generalizer.
I generalize without even realizing it! I generalize women, men, the church, the un churched, athiests, muslims, coworkers, republicans, democrats, basically anybody I can put in a category, I'm going to generalize them. Someday. I've probably generalized you. And you know what?
I'm wrong. I'm always wrong about somebody. Always. There's always an exception. There's going to be a master's degree wielding guy who married a hairdresser not because she wasn't challenging but because he found her genuinely intellectually stimulating and she just really enjoys hair care and beauty products. There's going to be some woman out there who has done everything absolutely right and still isn't married not because she hasn't worked hard or tried change, and certainly not because she's been sitting on her hands, but just because the right person hasn't come along. Everyone is an individual. Everyone is different and everyone has a unique story.
Ashley is right and we're all (see how I generalized again?) wrong. I'm not even being tounge in cheek.
That being said, we're all going to do it. I'm going to generalize because it is MUCH easier to generalize than to caviot every sentence you ever say with "yes, of course their could be exceptions."
But I think we're also missing Ashley's point in our rush to defend our generalizing ways.
NEGATIVE generalizations. Is it true that a lot of guys don't initiate? maybe. Is it true that ALL guys don't initiate? definitely not. I rad an article about a week ago about how culturally accepted it is just dismiss your exes as "crazy." We don't even caviot the crazy, and then it's not a far step to go from "my ex is crazy" to "women are crazy" or "my ex was a jerk" to "all men are just jerks."
Once you start letting those things take root in your brain, they start growing, they're insidious and they start small, but soon you'll be assuming the worst of people for no reason, "Wow, she's really pretty, she must have really rediculously high standards, she probably wouldn't even talk to me if I said hello." "Wow, that guy just looked in my direction for no reason AGAIN, he's probably leering from over there because he's too insecure to start a conversation. ugh. typical." "Yeah, so you're 30 and single? Haven't had enough time enjoying leading all the single women you know around by the nose yet?"
I think it really can poison your mindset against the opposite gender if you let it. Next thing you know, you're posting on /r/mensrights and the jezebel blog and you're rejecting all attempts at niceness and reason because you've set your worldview with a stoneface to everyone being absolutely horrible to the core.
When really... they're probably just as nervous, shy, scared and frustrated as you are.
So why not give them the benefit of the doubt? Just say hello. :)
--That's a refreshing perspective, Ashley. Thanks for sharing it!
--to me it's less about generalizations and more about stopping to consider your audience. not long ago a woman in my community group who is 27 and married started complaining about how she really wanted to have kids, her biological clock was ticking, etc, but she and her hsuband couldn't have kids yet, as they were still pretty deep in debt. i couldn't believe it, because her audience consisted mostly of single women aged 33 to 41. she was absolutely clueless, as she hadn't stopped to consider her audience. same thing with the 'there's no good...." comments. if you're a girl, and you're venting to your girlfriends, fine, not a big deal. but in mixed company? saying something like that just makes you seem like a total insensitive jerk.
--Definitely make a lot of generalizations, usually just as a joke, but I do make over-dramatic statements like 'men suck' A LOT. But often based on real feelings like having another guy turn out to be a lying jerk, hearing that another friend has had her boyfriend cheat on her, or like recently finding out how a 'Christian' guy pursued my friend, forced himself on her, gets her pregnant, dumps her and then encourages her to have an abortion. Of course most guys aren't like that but it's just trying to keep perspective when you keep running into guys who are, ahem, not so great.
--I often use "women suck" and "all girls are gold diggers." I also hear a lot or horror stories about divorce cases almost always favoring the woman over the man, and I believe that I am 100% likely to end up divorced. I don't see how marriage could help me at all.
--Oh, yes! Thank you for this post! I haven't been burned by men--I guess I've only known a few very well, and they were nice ones :) So I'm not much tempted to negatively generalize the gender as a whole. Certain subculters, though . . . whom I think I know from comments on the internet . . . I'm guilty, there.
Despite my shortcomings, I LOVE the concept of speaking the truth to oneself about a particular case (this specific man/woman hurt me in this specific way), rather than letting the taint slide over a whole group of people. I am very tired of the way the genders sometimes snip and gnaw at each other. Seriously! Life is difficult--let's help each other live it, rather than making things tougher. Let's be allies!
--I find that part of the challenge is the language we use; I have substantially reduced the amount of absolute grammar I use, eg. always, never, smallest, best, etc., and per MDick's comment, try to take better account of my audience, particularly when talking about sensitive topics like family/pregnancy/illness/etc and *especially* relationships.
--How come everybody always generalizes?
--Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't see how exceptions to a generalization make it "wrong." I'll even go further and replace the word stereotype instead of generalization. Isn't a generalization by definition something that is simply more often true than not? I think generalizations are part of our language, and I would hope that we would be gracious enough to others to use our brains a little and interpret obvious generalizations for what they are. Blacks are better basketball players, Asians are short, college kids have smart phones, and Canadians say "eh" are all generalizations. Just because Steve Nash is white, Yao Ming is ginormous, a college kid in my church has a dumb phone, and a Canadian girl I went to school with never said "eh" doesn't make those generalizations false, because they are still more often true.
I'm not saying generalizations are always good. There are certainly appropriate times and places to use them, and times to avoid them. I guess I just don't see the point of getting overly upset over them when the meaning behind them is fairly clear. And I agree with Ashley about how annoying it would be to have to be qualify every statement for fear of being accused of misapplying a generalization.
Disclaimer: I'm probably not qualified to definitively affirm the "eh" stereotype, as I only know a limited number of Canadians, but hopefully my point was clear.
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