A few weeks ago, a good male friend of mine hailed me up with a text. He said, “Hey sis.” This surprised me because, to my recollection, he’s never called me that before. And despite the fact that we’ve been friends since university, I’ve never felt like his sister. His friend, yes; his sister, no. This isn’t because there were ever romantic feelings between us, because there have never been. It’s because I’ve never felt protected by him the way I imagine a brother protects his sister.
My friend’s two-word text got me thinking about the significant men – romantic and non-romantic – who have been in my life and I realise that, in fact, my friend is not a fluke. I’ve never felt protected by any of the significant men in my life. Not one. Not once. Not ever.
When I was younger, I badly wanted an older brother. As a child I remember asking my mom if I could have one; I don’t remember her answer but I figure she must have laughed to herself once she had answered me and sent me on my way. In my teen years, I continued to wish for an older brother but, attending an all-girls high school, could never have found someone in my school environment to be that surrogate for me. At church, I joined our youth group and I think that was the closest I ever came to finding a big brother in one of the young leaders there, but it still wasn’t that close. He migrated after a while and was never to be heard from again.
In the intervening years, I haven’t received that sense of protection from any of the men who I’ve granted the privilege of being important to me – romantic or non-romantic. In fact, I didn’t realise that until I was writing this post. I think I set out into adulthood with such a strong sense of self-sufficiency, and continued that way, that I’ve expected nothing from the men who have been important to me since I can take care of myself. And because I expected nothing, I’ve received exactly that.
Meanwhile, as I was busy taking care of myself and expecting nothing from the significant men in my life, I’ve been mistreated by them, I’ve allowed myself to be used by them, I’ve been ignored by them, and I’ve been let down by them. Through it all, not once have I been able to trust one to protect me from the world. Not one. Not once. Not ever. So while I’ve been busy being self-sufficient, I’ve also been busy recovering from the wounds I allowed them to inflict on me through their neglect or their passivity or their disrespect.
Remember I told you about my romance novel addiction? Well, I gravitated to a very specific type of romance novel; the type where the hero is a take-charge alpha male. No matter how strong the heroine is, no matter how accomplished she is, no matter how self-sufficient she is, the hero always sees it as his job to protect her and to make her life as smooth and as happy as possible, whatever it takes. He doesn’t let anyone mess with his woman and he has her back, no matter what. He doesn’t stand for anyone – male or female – disrespecting her, and he certainly doesn’t disrespect her himself. He provides for her and his family, takes his obligations and committments very seriously and meets his woman’s every need, as far as is possible, so that she has no reason to seek to have those needs met by anyone but him.
I was thinking about all of that this week, and I finally realised, in the context of my friend’s text, why I gravitated to this sub-genre of romance novel. It’s because, as self-sufficient as I’ve been, I yearn for that feeling of being protected and cherished. And I’ve never had it from any man in my life. Not one. Not once . Not ever. When I think further on it, I believe that this type of man is an earthly expression of how God feels about us and how He takes care of us. So I suppose I want even an imperfect earthly experience of that perfect heavenly condition.
I ask myself now, from this position of recognising the root of my own desire, if this type of man even exists, or if he only lives in the pages of romance novels. I don’t know the answer to that for sure but I’m still hopeful that somewhere out here in the wide, wide world, even one godly one of his type exists and I can find him or he can find me or we can find each other. I may have to turn in my independent woman card for saying these things but I won’t get what I want if I don’t acknowledge what I want, and I know that I want that type of man for myself. I think I’ve more than earned it and I know that I deserve it. Every woman does. And I find that I can’t give up on that dream the way I abandoned other dreams before. I won’t. Not now. Not ever.