Our campus tends to categorize people in one of three ways: single, Malone couple, and engaged. What a narrow way of thinking about a person! It is sad to be defined by one’s relationship status.
This is a problem. We (and, yes, I also have been guilty) are so quick to label someone in this way. I think this is a problem in and of itself, but we take it one step further. Not only are people blatantly defined by whether or not they are dating someone, but all three categories are seen in a negative light.
I have been a part of all three. I have been single, in a relationship (twice) and am now engaged. The fascinating thing is that I’ve felt marginalized in each group.
As a single woman, I felt like a leper. Singleness is treated like a disease on this campus. From chapel to floor events, the main focus is on relationships and marriage. How quickly the Apostle Paul’s words about singleness are forgotten and overlooked.
As someone who’s been in two very different relationships with two very different men, both Malone students, I have carried the label of a “Malone couple.” Once someone has shed the cancer of singleness and starts dating someone, people’s eyes begin to roll. Suddenly people see them as awkward and obviously afraid of being single.
And now, as someone who is engaged, I’m just a statistic. I’m counted among the “many” who have decided to take this step. And because I haven’t been dating my fiance for 7 years, I’m said to be rushing into it. Again, I’m cursed. Sure, people “ooh” and “aah” at the ring, say “congratulations,” and ask when the wedding is. But I’ve witnessed countless dinner conversations where people who are engaged are made fun of and judged for their decision.
Now I know that of the three categories, those who are engaged get the most direct criticism. I think that the criticism, especially from faculty, is due largely in part to people recognizing that it can lead to the idea of the “disease of singleness” as discussed earlier. I agree. Marrying someone is a great commitment and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It also shouldn’t be treated as a person’s greatest accomplishment.
The behavior of which I’m being critical is coming from students and usually people who don’t know the couple very well at all. It’s their life; you don’t know the conversation they’ve had and the council they’ve sought from family and friends.
So here’s my proposal, my request, my plea: Be joyful where you are. And be joyful for others where they are. If someone is single, rejoice in their singleness. If someone is dating a person, rejoice in their relationship. If someone is engaged, rejoice in this new step in their life. “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29.
Kayla Devitto is a junior communication arts major.