Actually, I owned Justin Lookadoo’s “R U Dateable?” book.

justin_lookadooAll the current uproar over Christian speaker Justin Lookadoo’s controversial dating message and speech to a Texan high school reminded me of a yet another reason why I write: I once owned his book  back in 2008 or so. It’s interesting to look back and see the subtle influencers in my life and how in many ways, I had to completely abandon them in order to be mentally & relationally healthy today. Christian dating books were bad influences in my life–maybe I read them too young, but they molded my mind and heart in unhealthy, incorrect ways.

EDIT: To learn more details (albeit biased perspective) about the current Lookadoo vs. Texas/the Internet debacle, go here

Growing up in a conservative (although on the scale of 1 to Duggar, we were probably a mere 4, equating to a strange paradoxical system of TV shows we weren’t allowed to watch [no Harry Potter, but yes to “Bewitched”?], True Love Waits rings, and many, many modesty talks [unfortunately even the most concealable of tops from Khols still showed that well, I’m in fact a girl]) household, the idea of “dating” was strange and almost exotic, like a marsupial or the state of Wyoming.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, a birthday that came & went without really doing anything to change my relationship status. (It’s not like 12:00AM on my birthday a godly and wonderful (but never “hot,” because as my friends and I would say, a person is not a temperature) boy showed up to profess his sudden interest in courting me. Nope. I was a laaaaaateeeee bloomer.)

But no matter. I wasn’t 100% sure if I was even allowed to date at 16 anyways, because when I’d broach the subject to my dad, conversations would always be a little like:

Me: So Dad, I’m almost 16 and all my friends are allowed to date then. Can I?

My Dad, the man who went to law school: Define dating. Define a boyfriend. Define a date. Define group dating.

Me: …nevermind.

But being excessively curious, I went to the only place I knew that would give me life-breathed, holy advice for this mystery called dating: the young adult aisle at Family Christian Bookstores.

I'd call it the mecca of Christian stuff, but that seems a little religiously contradictory.

I’d call it the mecca of Christian stuff, but that seems a little religiously contradictory.

Oh the young adult book aisle. Located conveniently next to Bible aisle, so whenever I’d be poring over the latest Christian dating fad  book like “Every Young Woman Needs to Know This About Men” or “Technical Virgin:How Far Is Too Far?” and some blessed little granny would walk by, I could NOT GET CAUGHT looking at a dating book! Me? The intended demographic for a book on dating actually seen READING IT!? NO. So with my lightning fast reflexes, I’d pretend to be looking at the spine of a random NKJV until the danger passed. Psh, me look at dating books? Who do you think I am, a boy crazy pop singer I wasn’t allowed to listen to?

Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco’s “B4UDate” was actually the first dating book I purchased (and is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle??), albeit still veryyyy nonchalantly.  I felt awkward and unwanted, but I hoped by getting this book, I could suddenly learn how to be wanted. Being dateable was the ultimate accolade and proof of worth. (Oh how I wish I could go back and talk to 15 year old me.)

I read a lot of dating books back then (before I even knew very many guys beyond the three weird ones in my homeschool group.) “B4UDate” as well as the countless others (including “Dateable” by the same authors), employ very subtle fear tactics. I was convinced–thanks to these books–that boys were basically untrustworthy, heartless sexual sociopaths. They would use you and then lose you–and of course, as a girl, your most valuable asset was virginity. Once one of these boys/sociopaths tricked you into having sex with him, you were like a useless piece of construction paper pulled apart from another: messed up, void, and unwanted.  So, boys were untrustworthy and suspicious. (Let me tell you, it took a really long time for that lie to be retaught into truth.)

One thing I definitely recall from the books that I tried super hard to replicate in my own life was consequently the big controversial bit today: being mysterious (aka shutting up.) Over and over again, I would read that in order for a boy to stay interested (presumably he’s not also trying to get in your pants) was to basically reveal close to nothing about yourself–ever. Be mysterious. Let him ask. Let him  talk.

I googled "How to Be Mysterious to Men" and this was the top result....

I googled “How to Be Mysterious to Men” and this was the top result….

Anyone who knows me also knows this concept has never really worked for me. I’m the most open book, heart on my sleeve person out there. Even if I’m not talking, you probably know what I think just by looking at me. I’m NOT mysterious. And thus in  being myself, I break the ultimate “dateable” rule.

R U Dateable? According to that standard, I sure am not.

And may I just say, thank the Lord for that. Books that hold impressionable young people to impossible (or in many cases, incorrect) gender standards and stereotypes are false teaching. As a society we ought to be better than that and as for the Christian community, come on. Enough is enough.

The truth sets you free. It set me free from that terrible mantle of relationships Christian dating books (here’s looking at you “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) established in my life and it continues to set me free daily.

Side note: I tried to sell my copy of “B4UDate” to a used bookstore a year or so ago…they wouldn’t take it at all. Hindsight’s 20/20…

You Suck at Art

The infamously botched "Ecce Homo" restoration

The infamously botched “Ecce Homo” fresco restoration

“I’m not creative.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say this to me during the last month. I’ve been working at possibly the best part time job ever, a pottery studio in downtown Franklin, and absolutely love it. It’s a fun environment and a truly great opportunity for me to practice patience and encouragement, namely with customers who come in already believing they will ruin any piece they try to paint because they’re “bad at art.”

We’ve got to stop believing the BS we say about ourselves.

“I’m not creative.” “I’m bad at running.” “I’m a poor communicator.” “I’m afraid of commitment.” “I can’t.” “I don’t.”

Despite the fact that we KNOW words have the power of life or death & the ability to encourage life or destruction, we don’t put that truth into practice in what we say to ourselves.

When you constantly buy into a label or belief, you become that. You get what you pay for!

In my own life, there have been SO many self-created labels that I have constantly had to unidentify with. I told myself I was awkward and weird. I convinced myself I hated things like dancing, concerts, running, outdoorsy things in general, etc. Mainly I didn’t want to give up control of others’ perceptions of me being cool or good enough.

But then I actually tried those things that I previously declared horrible. I loveeeee dancing and don’t care if I look like a total idiot (all thanks to this one time in a British nightclub…another story for another day). Concerts are so fun and in fact, I’m going to one this Friday! I’m training for a half-marathon in April and I kayaked this spring on a beautiful lake in England! And I’m not calling myself awkward anymore because, hey, I’ve outgrown that.

Point being, take what you’re afraid of, what you say you’re bad at, and just try it! Be free! As Brene Brown, sociologist and author of the incredible “The Gifts of Imperfection,” writes, “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the permission to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.”

Nobody ever forgets the sting of betrayal. Self-betrayal is much more numbing and subtle…but can often be located through the way you treat others pursuing their dream or trying something that leaves them a bit vulnerable . Do you criticize, shame, or make fun of them? That’s a sign of a heart broken by self-betrayal. In the end, it hurts worse than someone else’s jokes because chances are, they’re just jealous of your courage to be vulnerable.

You know what’s great about the customers who come in saying they’re awful with paint and don’t have a creative bone in their body? Two hours later or so, they’ve created a work of art they are truly proud of. And I’m even more proud of them for beating the odds they set up against themselves!

(Also, for those who consider themselves uncreative: Creativity is one of life’s biggest not-so-shocking secrets. Everybody has it, but not everyone knows or accepts this trait. We often relegate creativity to the world of arts & crafts, perfect for Pinterest moms or Public Relations majors but never scientists or accountants. Right brained people hold a monopoly on creativity, right? But actually, if you think about it, isn’t that such a lie? Why would a HUGE element of life, creativity, be only selectively enjoyed? You can be creative…maybe you just creative using cooking or accounting or logic! Art is made with the creator’s tools of choice…whether you use numbers, words, paint, spices, constructs, or choreography,give yourself the incredible freedom to say goodbye to self-imposed BS.)

S.D.G.

Soli_deo_gloriaI am a writer. And from what I’ve been told, a pretty good one.

It feels awfully strange to write those previous two sentences, because considering myself a “writer” never felt legitimate to me. When it’s something you’ve been doing for the majority of your life, “self-publishing” little books on construction paper & carrying around notebooks for short stories on the playground, it’s just what I do.

As time has passed, I’m beginning to realize that this thing called writing is in fact perhaps what I’m supposed to do. I might have been an accidental extrovert, but there’s no accidental talent in our lives. When you’re gifted at something, be in singing or public speaking or caring for others or calculations, it’s on purpose and for YOUR purpose.

Sometimes I get really tripped up with this blog, truth be told. I fall back into performance rather than praise and use my talents to give myself glory & prestige. That dang stats counter gets to me. If a post doesn’t have X amount of views, I feel like I failed & that my writing was just subpar. It’s not very healthy and definitely not fun.

As I learned at church this Sunday, prosperity does not mean excess. The purpose of this blog has ALWAYS been to just to provide a sometimes vulnerable, sometimes funny, always honest view of life. I want my writing to be used by God to speak to others (which, it’s quite funny. The more I strive for views, the less meaning the post actually has.) and based on all the kind, compassionate feedback I get, my purpose is being met. I don’t need to have 4985346 views a day. I don’t need a book deal. I don’t need to be popular. My goal is authenticity, not mass acceptance or approval.

Soli Deo gloria, Glory to God alone.

I’d like to take this moment to dedicate my writing once & forever to the Lord. (I should’ve done this ages ago, but hey, I was a little too focused on making my name increase at the time.) This work is dedicated solely to bringing Him glory and only for the reason of praising God.

And for the next month, I’m going to just write. Not look at the stats & flagellate myself for low views, not endlessly self-promote. Writing is one of my favorite forms of worship and I’m going to get back to that.

Aging Gracefully on Social Media

Good old days in my youth group...

Good old days in my youth group…

Taken in 2006 but tagged March 2007, this picture is the oldest tagged photo of me on Facebook. I’m with my childhood best friend Missie at our youth group’s summer beach retreat (yes, we were a posh megachurch. Our camps were at a resort) theme night.

I’ve been involved with Facebook for over seven years now, which is absolutely mind-blowing to me. That’s longer than I’ve EVER lived in one place (my family moved often), but hey, at least my little corner of Facebook’s been the same!

I jumped on board with Twitter in 2009, hated it, and then became addicted in 2010. Instagram I got in 2011 and have since deleted (as of this past June). I was crazy about Pinterest in fall 2011 but then got extremely tired of it three months later. Etc, etc, etc for all the other social media things. I try the new fads and then get over them.

Now, I’m a freelancing social media specialist and make money maintaining brands’ social media and connection to fan base. I get paid to write Facebook statuses, y’all. I CAN NEVER GET AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA.

This summer, my life has slowed down tremendously. I mean, when you go from traveling to 9 European countries in three months to considering traveling to Cleveland, TN exotic, what can you expect? And I’m not going to lie: social media has not helped.  It was hard to see everyone doing super awesome things in beautifully edited/filtered pictures in a constant stream. I felt really lame and hated that I was comparing myself, so I just eliminated that negative energy source(I’ve been going to yoga, can you tell?), aka Instagram. And I don’t miss it one bit! (I can’t delete my Facebook sadly, as it’s linked to my work accounts & I actually like Twitter.)

As I was despairing over how boring I thought my life was, my friend Katie reminded me of an incredible social media truth: People just share highlights! They’re not going to take a picture of normal life activities like sitting on the couch watching yet another marathon of Parks & Rec or practicing their best musical theater numbers in pajamas.

There’s no such thing as boring! Chances are that if you’re not sharing your ” life highlights” on Facebook, it’s because you’re too busy actually ENJOYING them and dare I say it: living!

I think that aging gracefully on social media means no longer feeling the compulsion to overshare. You don’t need to say where you are or who you’re with all the time because… honestly, who cares? Unless you’re Facebook friends with your future biographer or an obsessive stalker, nobody actually wants to know that much about your life.  Aging gracefully with social media encourages sharing fact rather than opinion.

Maybe you don’t buy this theory, which is totally okay. But if and when (because it will happen. Life isn’t a constant semester abroad in Europe.), you feel like a boring old person without awesome highlights, remember that you’re in control of that. If you feel the need to let all 8463 of your online friends know that you just went to dinner with Ursula or went on a run (and here are my shoes!), do it!

But if you want to maybe grow up a bit, remember that you’re the one who runs your accounts…not the other way around.

We Can’t Stop…the Double Standards: Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance

Miley-Cyrus---VMA-Promos-and-Behind-The-Scenes-(2013)-06-560x400Arguably the song of the summer (okay, maybe tied with “Blurred Lines”), I’ve been (secretly) somewhat obsessed with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.” My sister and I play it allll the time during our sporadic dance parties (although we don’t twerk–if I’m ever seen twerking, I’m probably actually dying of a stroke & get me to the ER stat.) What makes this song so catchy? I still don’t know…Maybe it’s the shock value of a former Disney star openly singing about cocaine, perhaps it’s the wildly disturbing music video, or possibly(? maybe?) the song itself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t sing along every time it comes on the radio.

But can we just talk about last night’s VMA performance? If you had the displeasure of seeing Miley’s tribute to “We Can’t Stop” or if you’ve just heard the aftermath hype about it online, one thing’s clear: everyone and their brother thought it was WEIRD as all get out.  (I’d link to a clip, but it was honestly so lewd and disgusting that you DON’T want to watch, trust me.  Just check out this article on the 15 Weirdest and Craziest Moments from her performance to get a feel for it.)

As “scandalous” as Miley’s performance was, I couldn’t help but see the total irony in the situation. Through both her music video and VMA performance, Miley is sending a very blatant message (through sexual imagery & winking at illegal activities like…I don’t know…hard drugs) to tell the world she’s not a Disney darling anymore. It all seems to desperately scream “Take me seriously–I have worth!” to me.

Why does Miley (and let’s face it, the majority of women portrayed in pop culture/maybe everywhere?) feel like dressing and acting provocatively leads to worth & acceptance? Could Miley Cyrus have achieved her message through other means & without ruining so many giant bears in the process? Maybe.

Unfortunately, the cultural formula  of “sex sells” seems to be the working paradigm. Just look at Katy Perry, one of the other big VMA performers of the night: she made it big with “I Kissed a Girl” and was known for having random stuff shooting out of her wonderbras all the time. Yeah, she’s taken a bit more seriously now, but would she be where she is today  without her “scandalous” beginning?

katy_perry(1)

Oh Katy…

Ready for the irony? Though Miley followed the current paradigm of using her sexuality to find worth, she went too far on the spectrum of what is “societally allowed” and  her attempt was met with disgust and negativity–NOT her desired goal of acceptance as a “new Miley.”  So basically if a one to ten scale, we’re comfortable with like up to a six (eight if you watch Game of Thrones, duh) and Miley totally brought a ten to play.

BUT. Society shouldn’t accept that paradigm at all anyway! No matter how gross her performance was, we are at fault for allowing sexuality to be cultural currency for value in the first place!! Not to go all feminist (God forbid that– right, conservative friends? 😉 ), but if women and girls did not have to operate by this paradigm, I’d like to think these travesties of human worth wouldn’t happen.

Let’s be clear: as cultural consumers, there’s no such thing as media victimization. American audiences are only as “bullied” by cultural stigmas and stereotypes  presented by the media as we allow. When we complain that the media is to blame for our distorted views on gender, discrimination, sexuality, religion, etc, etc., we’re setting an extremely illogical & hypocritical victim mentality for ourselves because WE enabled the media. WE gave them the voice (and money, which is in many cases THE main voice) & ultimately, permission to tell us what’s what (even if it’s untrue or we disagree).

If you don’t like the message, change the conversation. In this case with the over-sexualization and objectification of women & girls (and thinking that’s OKAY), we need to start a new message altogether, one of inherent value and equality.

“You’ll be a Cat Lady!”

At some point during my college career, something within my friend group snapped. Suddenly, midway through junior year, everybody and their brother was teasing me about becoming a crazy cat lady one day. Maybe the label was because I avoided dating all four years, maybe it was due to the cat sweater I sometimes wore (ironically!), but no matter the reason, it kind of sucked.

images

The idea of ending up alone and a cat lady terrified me, as so many people (including family members) already touted me as being “Ms. Career,” out to basically work myself into a Liz Lemon-esque life. I tried to explain that a) I hate cats, b) they hate me back, and c) Liz Lemon ends up getting married (spoiler alert), but whatever—if I was into having a cool job & making a difference, obviously relationships weren’t in the cards for me.  (The logical fallacies abound…)

Told you.

Told you.

When I told people what I wanted to do with my life, I would always get a pat on the back and worried advice: “That’s great and all, but don’t put relationships and love on the back burner.”

Bullshit. I refuse to believe that the purpose of life is EITHER relationships OR career. Think of Adam—God gave him a task (Genesis 1:15) AND someone to be with (Genesis 1:18) (…and then more tasks haha).

So often, when we relegate life to either/or, black/white existences, we truly miss out & settle for an off-brand, dowdy version of the life God has for us.

I know I’m not going to be a crazy cat lady. Cats hate me, remember? And I mean come on, I’ve got a lot going on for me.  But, I do know that if I end up single or married—no matter what my relationship status—I’ll be doing the awesome things God has planned for me. The people who God has in my life, both now and in the future, are a part of that awesomeness—but they aren’t the end all, be all for my life.

Maybe you’re in the same boat I was in or perhaps the opposite boat (but on the same river?), but no matter what, keep going! Whether you’re pursuing a cause that gets you really fired up or you’re striving to better yourself at something you truly feel MEANT to do, don’t stop!

God will bring people in your life who support you, love you, and have the same goals. If there’s nobody there, a) email me at kelsyblack04@gmail.com! I’m here for you! and b) they’re on the way. Trust me.

The buzz on alcohol (and other horrible puns) PART II

So, a couple of weeks ago I posted part one of my journey and thoughts regarding drinking. To recap, basically I was an extremely judgmental elitist who wasted a lot of energy on a subject which wasn’t half as big of a deal as I made it out to be.

Everyone was so kind in their comments and responses! I’m glad that my little thoughts were of good use. There’s nothing quite as powerful as hearing someone else say “Me too–I struggled with that also!” to feel community and support. (Looooove it!)

Without further hesitation, here’s part two, or “Get out of your house!”  Continue reading