The New Logic

To Owe A Man A Smile…

August 3, 2018

He calls me a bitch before he grabs his drink and thunders back into the belly of the bar. Instantly, a fever rises up in me hot like shame. I should have just been nice to him. I could have found a way to swallow the sternness. I owed him that…didn’t I?

I want to settle the restlessness and the firelike fury that’s just erupted between the two of us because I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I mean, that sounds absurd because I shouldn’t have to participate in conversations if I don’t want to, but the guilt sinks me like lead, all the same. I feel exposed and vulnerable. We were strangers, to be sure, but his anger feels intimate and knowing. I wonder if what he’s just seen in me, what he’s just spoken over me is who I truly am underneath it all. I wonder if the story he’s about to tell all his friends will be accurate even though my girlfriends say that it’s not.

He calls me a bitch before he grabs his drink and thunders back into the belly of the bar. Instantly, a fever rises up in me hot like shame. I should have just been nice to him

There will be no justice here. He’ll never apologize for what he said – I’ve never met a man who did. In his anger, he’ll tell his story with half-truths and leave my reputation in tatters even if it’s just my reputation in this bar. For most women, this phenomenon is our renaming ceremony; the day men stop identifying us as our mothers do, and begin referring to us as “that crazy bitch.” It’s the day we grow up, and it happens to most of us while we’re still little girls.

It would be easy to write men like this off as insufferable misogynists, but I’m a Christian – I’m not supposed to write anybody off. I’m supposed to love my neighbor and to make matters more confounding, most of the men who disregard me this way aren’t just my neighbors, they’re my brothers.

It would be easy to write these men off as insufferable misogynists, but I’m a Christian – I’m not supposed to write anybody off.

I find myself then, in an unacknowledged territory. For instance, what is the difference between being nice and being loving in the realm of womanhood? Do I owe a chance to every suitor that hedges in my direction? If he thrusts his hands up my dress, is there space for me to defend myself with righteous anger? What exactly does love require of me?

The lines between patriarchy and biblical womanhood move like serpents, and I am left begging the Almighty for discernment between what is a part of intelligent design, and what is a rotting pile of horse shit. And while it may seem obvious to women who walked this path many years before me, while it may be clear that some men are owed a slap in the face, some disrespect isn’t so blatant. Like getting a bill without the helpful gratuity calculations, most days I’m left trying to figure out what it is I owe them.

The lines between patriarchy and biblical womanhood move like serpents, and I am left begging the Almighty for discernment between what is a part of intelligent design, and what is a rotting pile of horse shit.

Most men seem to think I owe them all sorts of things: my time, a smile, my conversation, my company. Some men even think I owe them my body or, at least, whatever part of it they find most appealing. They grab, they gawk, they get pissed off if I tell them not to touch me. Men are convinced I owe them whatever they want from me simply because they want it, and I fall prey to their convictions because I can’t identify what love would do otherwise. I don’t know love without appeasement because while men were learning that love means being a provider, women were learning that love means being sweet. And what, dear friends, is sweeter than a yes?

I don’t get my answers from Evangelicalism. She’s so entrenched in the system of patriarchy that most of her members would call it the will of God, anyway. Instead, I reach for the scriptures. I run to the God-man who drew the curtains back on patriarchy, who rectified his daughters in the wake of the unveiling. Christ the Messiah came to liberate women like me from ever wondering what we owe men, so I run to him with all my worry and my frustration dribbling out of my mouth like sour wine.

Most men seem to think I owe them all sorts of things: my time, a smile, my conversation, my company. Some men even think I owe them my body or, at least, whatever part of it they find most appealing.

He dignifies me by listening to me. He humbles me because I matter. He calls me out on my sin, not so I’ll behave, but because he cares about my heart. He never patronizes when he looks me in the eye, and he never belittles when he asks me what I want. When he shows me the bill, when he honors me by sharing the important and the terrifying, I see that I owe nothing. My debt is just gone. Everything I owe for my namesake, for my reputation, for my identity, for my self-worth and value – he pays for it all. I don’t owe anybody anything.

I used to be afraid of the pictures men would paint of me in their group chats and Instagram stories if they became privy to the truth, that I didn’t give them my number because theirs was the company I didn’t want to keep. I’d grown afraid of the revenge stories that blow enough wind in the rumor mills to make hurricanes. I spent my life being so damn scared of what they’d say about me because there’s something about the casual verdicts men toss around that seem to stick to women like glue. But I don’t have to be afraid anymore because now, the stakes aren’t so high – who I am is no longer in question. I am already spoken for.

Everything I owe for my namesake, for my reputation, for my identity, for my self-worth and value – he pays for it all. I don’t owe anybody anything.

Now, because of the cross, when some guy calls me a bitch, I don’t have to take offense. I get a new naming day, and this time, my Father takes it upon himself to bestow on me, an identity that no man can override. On the certificate of my legitimacy, he scrawls, “Beloved” on the page, and suddenly everything I owed: every conversation, every minute of my time, everything I needed to do to prove I was good and kind and pure is wiped away; gone with the sin, and the death, and the striving.

My value as a woman doesn’t hinge on whether or not I put toxic masculinity in its place, or whether or not I put right what it’s done wrong. I am not loved only because I can convince men to love me. I am not valuable only when I’ve given them a lesson in human decency. I am not beautiful because they believe I am and I am not worthy only when I’ve proven myself good enough to be someone’s wife. I don’t owe their direct messages a response just to prove to them or myself that I am kind, or witty, or lovable, or decent. I am who I Am says I am, and my identity is irrefutable; sealed with the blood of the Lamb of Heaven.

Suddenly everything I owed, every response, every minute of my time, everything I needed to do to prove I was good and kind and pure is wiped away: gone with the sin, and the death, and the striving.

So don’t give him your number if you don’t want to. Don’t indulge him in pleasant conversation simply because he bought his chances with a drink and you think you owe him something for that. We don’t have to live up to or make up for or prove anything to anybody. We are free, hermanas. And if our freedom so offends the sinful hearts of men that they want to call us bitches then so be it. We are under no obligation to meet the little princes’ expectations when we have the approval of the King.

I am who I Am says that I am, and my identity is irrefutable; sealed with the blood of the Lamb of Heaven.

Be gracious as our Savior is gracious, but rule over the space around you with your God-given, image-bearing authority to do so. You are allowed to say no. It is, after all, your birthright, one you can trace all the way back to the Garden.

With love and no man,
Jess

 

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