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…

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?


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.

Don’t Call Me A Bitch.

(This post has been ruminating in my mind for a few weeks, but I finally feel like writing it out. To be honest, I was a little nervous about how it might be received, but now I don’t care.)

One of my passions (whatever that word even means) in life is both cultural and gender identity. It’s a constant personal struggle for me (mid-quarter life crisis, holla!), the reason I’m studying advertising, and a talking point that keeps coming up over and over again in sermons as of late.  It’s almost annoyingly relevant.

Recently, a slew of articles has been published criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For her policies? Or maybe for her recent trip to Bangladesh? Continue reading