Archives For Girls

If You Only Read One Love Story

Chris —  October 5, 2011

If you could only read one love story, you should read A Severe Mercy.  The book is the journey of Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, through romance,  courtship, marriage, infidelity, agnosticism, faith, and eventually death.  The book is best known for containing the author’s correspondance with C.S. Lewis on issues of faith and death.

The book begins with the couple’s meeting and romance in an ivy league college.  They define themselves as “high pagans,” seeking after the higher virtues of classical culture.  They believed that they could keep the “in love” feeling that couples experience early on when they share everything.  They share the details of their days, passionately explore the other’s interests, and even sail around the world together.  The uniqueness of their romance inspires Lewis’s words, and the title “A Severe Mercy.”

Unfortunately, Jesus messes this up.  As honest agnostics and intellectuals, they decide that someday they must look into the claims of Christianity.  When they move to Oxford they encounter intellectuals who also follow Christ, and they begin their investigation.  This result is a correspondance and friendship with C.S. Lewis, who helps personalize much that he his books discuss.  They both experience conversion, but their endless romance is never the same.  Vanauken candidly explains the strains this new faith took on their marriage, and how it took death to rebuild their relationship.

Much of the book grapples the illness and death of Davy, and how their new faith was affected.  Fascinatingly, the correspondence includes letters both before and after Lewis’s own experience with burying a wife.

It’s hard to capture in a blog post the beautiful, thought provoking and heart wrenching nature of this book.  It presents a picture of how faith can be intellectual, how romance can be meaningful, and how death can be accepted.  It is the story of a life well lived, and a love worth emulating.

How to Be a Good Date

Chris —  July 13, 2011

About a year ago it occurred to me that not only had I not been in a relationship for a few years, I hadn’t been on a halfway decent date in a few years.  I couldn’t shake the image of Neo right after he is released from the Matrix.  He lies motionless on a table because he’s never moved his muscles before.  My fear was that I was on the way to becoming relationally atrophied.

I set up profiles on a few dating websites, paid the outrageous fees, and dove in.  Since then I have been on dozens of first dates, a decreasing number of second dates and even less good dates.

Hopefully, I’m a good date.  I pick a fun place, ask her a lot of questions about herself, and even pay. I’ve found that some girls know how to be a good date, and some girls don’t.  If you’re a bad date, I’ll do my best to be respectful and get through it.  If you are a good date, you’ll have the chance for another free meal soon.

It’s shocking to me how so many people can be such bad dates.  It really just boils down to look nice, act nice, be interesting and be clear. Doing these four things doesn’t guarantee you’ll hit it off, but you up your chances.

1.  Look Nice. Let me be clear: I’m NOT saying you have to look hot, or stress out about getting ready.  Do the little bit of work it takes to bring attention to your best features.  I went out with one girl whose best feature was amazing, thick blonde hair.  Her hair looked great, so I didn’t even think about the fact that she was in jeans and a t-shirt.  I went out with another a girl was pretty disheveled.  Maybe that’s some Austin hipster value of hers, but it came off as not trying.

2.  Act Nice. There’s a lot of work before the date.  There are hours spent building a perfect profile, and  weeks of correspondence before you go out.  Yet you can sabotage it all by being a jerk.  One way to be a jerk is to show up late.  Another way is to cut things abruptly short without explanation.  If this a blind or online date you can wreck a date by being overly flirtatious.  More than anything, just be present.  Put your brain and phone on airplane mode. Whatever you do, don’t start using your budding psychotherapy skills to diagnose my problems.  (We’ll save that for a future worst dates ever post.)

3.  Be Interesting.  Being interesting doesn’t mean that you’ve traveled the world to steal statues from ancient burial grounds. (Although if you have done that, I would happily buy you dinner.)  Interesting people are reasonably self confident and can tell about their lives in a meaningful way.  Rather than talking about hating your job or why how your family is such a mess, tell a story that captures those experiences.

BEWARE talking about your job.  You spend 40+ hours a week there, so I’m sure it is interesting to you, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Stay positive.  My first ever online date wrecked it by spending the whole time talking about things she hated.

More than anything, interesting people are also interested. One girl I went out with had a fascinating story about an unorthodox way that her and her family travel and do life. But she didn’t ask anything about me.  Occasionally, I would try to interject with a similar story about myself.  This simply gave her time to catch her breath and keep talking about herself.

4. Be Clear.  Us guys are really dense.  If you’re interested, flirt a little and make it clear you want to go out again.  If you’re not, make that clear, too.  Yes it’s awkward, but not nearly as much as blowing a guy off when he tries to follow up.

Just being a good date doesn’t guarantee a successful date.  But I can promise you that if you’re not a good date, you’ll never have a successful date.

What would you add?  What, in your experience, makes for a good date?


“What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.”

Where Have the Good Men Gone – Wall Street Journal

Agree?  Disagree?  Insulted?

There may be some legitimate history to Valentine’s Day, but best I can tell it was a joint creation between 1-800-Flowers and the makers of predictably rom-coms with short lived starlets.

For the most part, our generation isn’t too crazy about marriage. We put it off, or substitute a series of common law arrangements. Add to our generational fear of commitment, there are those of us with the “late bloomer” personality.

My romantic history is mainly a series of stories of idealized women I pined for and never made a move, with the occasional fly-by-night heartbreaks that left me incapacitated for months afterwards. And then there’s the ones that got away. Perfectly wonderful women, beautiful, Jesus-luvin’ ladies, that I just didn’t make an effort to pursue.

For those of us who just can’t seem to make it happen, love seems like a constant mystery. There are some amazing guys who just can’t seem to click with a girl. Fantastic ladies who seem to always be ignored. We busy ourselves with good work and good friends. Privately, we obsess over the ones that got away, regretfully reliving the lost opportunities every time they pop up in conversation or on the Facebook feed.

What can we do differently? If only we knew. Until then, we do the best to get our lives together. Maybe therapy, or a good group of friends, or a hobby. We save up money, work out, travel, and try to have meaningful friendships. We put ourselves out there, trying speed dating or online dating or blind dating.

With a little work, asking out a total stranger that you have little in common with is easy. But when you get to know a pretty one whom you also respect, and suddenly curl up in a ball and start doing all that nice guy stuff that always lands you in the friend-zone.

But, if we’re smart, we take the chances we didn’t when we were younger.

If we’ve learned anything, we know that failure isn’t nearly as bad as watching another one get away.

A few months back I decided it was time to get back on the horse when it came to dating.  Over the previous two years I had been recovering from a break up, losing a job, and moving.  I had been on a few dates, but wasn’t actively seeking a relationship.  I was still kind of new in town, and my church community is small and mostly married, so I bit the bullet and asked OkCupid and eHarmony for help.  After a few months and more first dates than I can count, here’s what I’m thankful for, and a few suggestions for anyone who might give it a try:

1.  It forces you to be specific.  What do you want?  Why?  What does that really look like?  What are your deal breakers?  Imagine how many doomed-from-the-beginning relationships you could have avoided by answering a few questions.

2.  You learn to tell your story. Likewise, it’s important to quickly communicate what’s important to you.  Don’t share everything.  The worst dates I’ve been on is when a girl shared with her whole life story, including habits and mistakes that are less than appealing.  Let that come up in time.

3.  It’s like looking in the mirror.  Every time you present yourself to someone else, you get a glimpse of what they see.  I don’t come across nearly as self confident or merciful as I’d like.  I tend to get bogged down in painfully deep conversation.  I’d probably have more second dates if I loosened up on the first.

And a few tips for anyone that’s interested in giving it a try:

1.  Be honest. You might be able to hide your height or weight online, but not when you meet face to face.  Present yourself, both in pictures and description confidently, but not misleading.  Talk about what you really do and really love. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with the check after an evening with a person who was completely different than they presented themselves.

2.  Have low expectations.  When I started a friend warned me against it.  She was afraid the sheer numbers could be depressing.  Whereas in real life, you might get blown off, flaked out on, or have a disappointing encounter once every few months, this process means you might have those painful experiences a few times a week.  You can’t let it get you down.

3.  Don’t let it replace having a life.  I’m happy for those people that met the perfect someone on-line, but I’m not one of them.  Use the web as a tool to supplement your social life, not replace it.  People have been successfully meeting without profiles for thousands of years.  Plus, interesting stories and hobbies are required for a good profile or face to face conversation.

4.  Don’t do it if you don’t have room.  If you’re too busy, too caught up in your own drama, or just have a life too full of friends or family for a significant other, don’t waste someone else’s time.  Wait to seek a relationship until you want one, and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring someone else into your life.