Hi there, folks! Time for some apologies. First, I’m sorry I missed last week’s post. I was really sick, and writing was out of the question. Second, I’m sorry this is several hours late. I could blame internet problems, but I honestly couldn’t have finished this before work even if my internet was working this morning. I’m afraid I got out of my blogging routine with everything that’s been going on. It’s actually harder to blog in the summer than during the school year—didn’t expect that to be the case, but it is. Thank you for your patience with me. Anyway, without further ado… here’s a post about something I’ve been mulling over a lot in the past couple months: singleness and supporting each other.
Ore Monogatari!! aka My Love Story!! might be the most surprising anime on my watching list. The fact I’m completely caught up with it is even more surprising. Sweet romance shows don’t usually keep my attention. But this one hasn’t lost me yet. It toes the line with cliches, then skips happily away. Best of all, there’s no ridiculous drama and misunderstandings, because Suna is always there to straighten the protagonists out.
At first glance, the title My Love Story!! seems to refer to Takeo’s relationship with Yamato. But I want to look at a different type of love story, a non-romantic type… because I don’t think that kind of love story gets as much attention as it should, especially in Christian circles. And, more selfishly, because my life resembles a platonic love story more than anything else right now. So, as sweet as the main couple is, let’s talk about Suna.
Sunakawa Makoto is the protagonist’s best friend. He keeps Takeo and Yamato from hurting each other or annoying me. Unlike many romance anime sidekicks, he’s sensible, introverted, and content being single. I can relate to him a lot… and we can all take a cue from the way he supports the main couple (and the way they support him).
Like Suna, I’m always happy to listen to my friends’ problems and offer advice if needed. But sometimes, I wonder if my singleness will keep people from listening to me, especially about relationships. My mom says they won’t—plenty of counselors are single, and they can still offer good relationship counseling. Still, it’s reassuring to see Suna helping Takeo and Yamato out. Any example, even a fictional one, is welcome. Because I want to help. I don’t have a significant other, and I don’t plan to have a family anytime in the near future, if ever. So I’m learning to support those around me… surprisingly, that’s not a topic I hear talked about a lot in church, unless it involves spouses supporting each other and their children. I see it acted out, at least, in meal trains and such, but not talked about.
This is important to me, because I don’t relate to Suna only because he’s introverted and people go to him for advice. Like him, I’m very much single. When I say “very much single,” I don’t just mean that I haven’t been on a single date, except with a guy my grandmother set me up with. I mean “single and content.” I’ve used the past couple months of summer break, away from the distracting array of Christian bachelors at my college, to compare my romantic dreams with reality. And the reality is… relationships sound exhausting.
There are other factors involved. But here’s the conclusion: singleness is best for me right now. It’s best for me as a writer, a student, and as a young woman about to embark on her post-undergraduate life. I’m not closing the door on all of this forever. Things can change, and they can change quickly when God’s involved. But for now, I’m in a very different place than I once expected to be.
It was freeing, once I realized that I need to be Single and Not Looking for the time being (not closed, but not looking either). But it’s required a big shift in thinking. I didn’t realize how much thought and energy went into being Single and Sort of Looking—thinking about showing up at co-ed events, thinking about whether I appear like the family type in front of men and matchmaking mothers. And I wasn’t even as consumed by it as many girls! When I approach possible long term singleness, though, there are other things to consider: how will I foster healthy friendship with the men and women in my life? How can I support other singles… and couples? And how can I get the support I need?
You can, perhaps, see why I’m so interested in Suna’s relationship with the main characters.
Maybe it’s a Christian thing, but it seems like everyone—pastors, professors, authors, relatives—assume there are two possible states for young people: Married (or on the way—engaged, etc.) or Looking (actively looking, nursing a broken heart, planning/hoping for a ring within five years). Talks about purity or relationships have two applications: the relationship you’re in, or the romantic relationship you’ll be in within a few years. There are exceptions to this, of course, but they usually feel tacked-on, like “P.S. It’s okay to be single Paul said so.”
I recently heard a sermon about women where the preacher forgot that some women aren’t wives and won’t be anytime in the next decade. He’s not a sexist—just forgetful of single young women, divorcees, widows, and conservative homosexuals who believe singleness is their only option. The sermon about men didn’t go much beyond family life, either.
Is it any wonder that, until recently, I didn’t even consider remaining single through my twenties, let alone my whole life? Or that singleness was my Plan B, and only that?
When I read the Bible, I don’t see singleness described as a waiting period. Just the opposite, actually. It’s described as an ideal state for active service to God and others. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul recommends that those who can avoid sexual temptation and remain single do so. Paul himself remained single his entire life:
Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am… And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, and how she may please her husband. And I say this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor 7:7a, 34-35)
That’s not to say that you can’t serve God well as a married woman or man, or rather, as a couple (or as a growing family). But it’s different. Personally, I doubt I’d have much energy left to serve anyone besides my immediate family if I was married—my social energy is pretty low.
There might eventually be romance in my life, but for now, my love story isn’t about eros. I’m more of a Suna than a Takeo. So I’m learning—and I want to remind all singles out there—that God calls us to love those around us, and without a significant other, we’re freer to help a broader range of people. I’m actually getting excited about it. Sure, part of me still likes the idea of a husband, a life partner to love and support, and who will love and support me. But there are so many others I can help, and I feel free to do so without worrying about someone attached to me.
Right now, I can support my sister and her husband by babysitting while they go on a date. I can also support them by watching what I say, voicing supportive things rather than pointing out Bro-in-Law’s flaws in private conversations with Sis (I admit, I can do better in this area).
I can support my single friends by listening, and by just enjoying our time together—often exchanging encouragements and advice.
We singles need support, too. And matchmaking isn’t always the right support.
Just like we should be encouraging our dating friends—and even more so our married friends—we need support in our singleness, including from our non-single friends and family. We don’t have an individual person who’s dedicated to loving and supporting us. We need intimate conversations (for me, that’s usually with Mom, but to some extent with other female friends and family). We need to be affirmed in our singleness, whether we chose to be single or not. We need affirmation in our identity as people and as Christians. And we need someone to notice and reach out when we need help.
That’s another thing I love about Ore Monogatari. Takeo doesn’t forget about Suna in his relationship with Yamato… and Yamato makes sure to encourage Takeo’s friendship with Suna. To them, Suna isn’t a third wheel, and they do everything they can to make sure he doesn’t feel that way. Together, they make sure his birthday is special. (I didn’t get a screenshot of that, but it was in a recent episode, and it was precious.) And earlier in the series, we saw that Takeo doesn’t shrug off any sense that Suna’s struggling. When Suna finally shares the problem with him, he and Yamato make sure Suna doesn’t face his father’s medial emergency by himself.
Basically, I appreciate the balance in this show. I think the way the characters look out for each other is something to learn from. I know that’s not a big, striking statement. It seems weak compared to my last couple post topics. But I can identify with Suna, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what singleness looks like. I figure we have fair chunk of single readers, and I hope you can glean something from all this, even if it’s just some sense of camaraderie and encouragement.