Waiting for Boaz in St. Louis

bozoI’m in St. Louis now, visiting my sister and her family before this weekend’s board meetings for Christian Feminism Today. The city holds many emotional resonances for me; I got my master’s degree here, living for two years in various apartments with my sister, eating Ramen and creamed corn, and looking desperately for the man of my dreams.

You may demand my feminism card if I admit as much, but that’s really what my time in St. Louis was all about: not getting my degree per se, or launching my teaching career, but finding a mate. After all, everyone around me was getting married, including my siblings, who both had weddings (each to a German, no less) within several months’ time.

I was a lonely, lonely girl. Or woman, really.

So I spent every moment possible pursuing anyone possible. I developed a crush on the only single classmate in graduate school, only to find out—after he invited me to a St. Patrick’s parade—that he was engaged. (“I’d love to go with you to the parade,” I said when he asked. “Great!” he said. “Some of my other friends are coming too. You can meet my fiancé!” Cue sad trombone.)

On Sundays, I scanned the church crowd, looking for single guys. The Mennonite crowd being too small, I started going to an Episcopal Church, hoping an ecumenical approach might land me a man. No luck, even when I forced myself to mingle with Christians afterward, during coffee hour.

Without Christianmingle.com to help me find my match, I turned to the St. Louis arts weekly, which always had singles ads in the back. The men all seemed so potentially perfect, and I imagined we could walk through bookstores together! And attend theatre in the evenings! And go hiking on the weekends! But alas, I was a little too wary to actually call the numbers listed, or send a note of inquiry to the P.O. boxes.

It was a miserable time, in many ways. What I needed was some kind of encouragement that there were others like me out there, also lonely and looking for their Boaz, even in a world full of Bozos.

Lucky for folks today, such encouragement exists on Facebook with not one but two sites encouraging women to wait for their Boaz—which, in evangelical Christian parlance, means waiting for their Prince Charming to come. Because, of course, we all know Boaz—the Moabite who pre-existed Christ by several centuries—is absolutely the perfect Christian man, a biblical interpretation Kendra explores at length here.

At any rate, one “Waiting for Boaz” site has over 28,000 members at last count, and visitors to the site offer each other encouraging slogans while people linger in their singleness. A less popular site, “Boaz not Bozo,” had a name change recently to “Hesed of Boaz.” Maybe some guy with triangle hair was about to sue them.

To be honest, I can imagine how helpful it might be to other singles to realize how many like them also feel lonely. Still, the sites feel not only treacly in all their Christian sentiment and sloganeering, but also deeply problematic.

Although the sites promise to help people “pursue God relentlessly before and after the waiting process,” and although they suggest both men and women are each seeking their Boaz, the site’s intended purpose is clear: some day, you Boaz—that is, the perfect Christian man—will come. And until then, members of the Facebook pages are to “dance with God,” knowing that “he will let the perfect man cut in.”

Fundamentally, these sites tread the same tired ground about singles that evangelical culture has inculcated since—well, at least since I was single, but also long before that. The message goes something like this:

  1. Those who find their Mr. Right/Prince Charming/Boaz are truly blessed by God.
  2. The woman’s duty is to wait, quietly and passively, for Mr. Right to show up.
  3. God will bless the woman who waits.
  4. When Boaz does show up, the woman will know.
  5. Singleness is a special, special time. Singles get to hang with God and Jesus and stuff. Special! Blessed!
  6. Being married is awesome, and what God wants for God’s people.

Such were the messages that kept me on my never-ending quest for Prince Charming on the streets of St. Louis. As one “Waiting for Boaz” post proclaims, I had to date a lot of Bozos here before my Boaz showed up. And by “dating,” I really mean going out on painfully awkward first dates that never went anywhere. And by dates, I mean—on some occasions—study sessions in coffee shops, with a fiancé or girlfriend just a few steps away.

At any rate, the evangelical messaging about singles made me miserable in St. Louis. Sometimes, I wish I could live that time over without evangelicalism’s lies ringing in my ears, telling me I was worthless because I was single, even though being single is a special, special time. Somehow, I think my life here would have been far richer, had I not been waiting so desperately for my Boaz to come.