08 December 2009

Christian Boy Weird

I was having a drink with some friends the other night, and one girl was telling me about another friend of hers who had gone all “Christian boy weird” on her. I did my best to appear sagely and comforting by nodding my head with sympathetic understanding. Fortunately another girl who was party to the conversation was a little more honest than me, and immediately chirped in to ask her what the hell she was talking about.

Christian boy weird, it turns out, refers to the awkward social over-correction that frequently occurs when a young Christian guy and girl notice they’ve hung out with each other too many times in quick succession to call it coincidence. Whether they want to or not, eventually at least one of them will become aware of the unspoken Question: “What’s going on here?”

Now, if it’s the girl who first becomes aware of the Question, she will use her inherent female adeptness for relational understanding and correctly (in most cases) conclude “Probably nothing”.

However if it’s the guy who stumbles across the Question first, he will usually use his inherent male uselessness at all things interpersonal and immediately pose himself a series of subordinate questions, each of which becomes successively harder to express without violating subjacency rules:

“What do I want to be going on here?”
“What does she want to be going on here?”
“What does she think I want to be going on here?”
“What does she want me to want to be going on here?”
“What do I want her to think I want to be going on here?”

As you can see, this quickly results in an endless syntacto-semantic feedback loop (yep, that’s totally a legitimate technical linguistic term), which causes the analysis to time out and come to a screeching halt. At this point it is immediately supplanted by the other traditional male relational response: Panic.

Now the process up to this point probably isn’t unique to Christian circles; this could be true of young people hanging out in pubs all over the country. The CBW part starts when the guy stops panicking (a process taking between five minutes and five days, depending on the guy) and decides on a course of action. A normal single guy will generally just go with the flow and see what happens. A young Christian single guy, on the other hand, believes himself to bear the responsibility for lovingly making sure no-one is going to find themselves in a position to get hurt (believing Christian girls to be incapable of such feats of self-preservation).

He’s also cognizant of the huge risks associated with erring too far the other way by ignoring the Question and hoping it goes away. That ends up in an unholy mess that no-one ever wants to go through twice. It’s the all too familiar scene where the two young Christians in Question are out with a group of friends, and a well intentioned mate of the guy leans in and asks,
“So what’s going with you and Samantha* then?” The guy smiles disarmingly and says,
“Nothing’s going on. We’re just friends.” The girl overhears this remark and runs from the room in floods of tears, knocking over three bar stools and a glass collector on the way out, owing to not being able to see with her fingers in her eyes. The male onlookers mutter to themselves in perplexity, while the female onlookers stare daggers at the guy for his flagrant insensitivity. The guy realises his mistake far too late and goes after her to start the damage control. She sees him coming and, in a fit of impassioned rage, throws an unused photo frame at him, which whistles past his left temple and embeds itself in a nearby Carpentaria palm.

Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time that’s happened to me.

So to avoid potentially causing irreparable damage to an otherwise perfectly functional friendship (not to mention the poor palm tree), the guy will over-correct the other way and go Christian boy weird. He averts the risks involved in continuing to hang out with the girl by ceasing to hang out with the girl altogether. While this defuses the threat of having to dodge ornamental projectiles, it does tend to leave the girl either wondering what she’s done wrong, or shaking her head and saying “Oh good grief, not again,” depending on how well accustomed she is to Christian boy relational ineptitude.

Of course, what you’ve just read isn’t exactly the explanation I got from my friend in the bar. Her explanation was a little more concise, a little less sexist and not so well punctuated. We’d also had a couple drinks by this stage, so the whole conversation was slightly less cohesive (if you can believe that).

But she did leave me with the rather troubling question of how many girls I’ve gone CBW on in my time. I muttered off some nonsense excuse about being reasonably weird to start with, but it does make me wonder what I would learn if I could see myself through other people's eyes for a while.

And whether maybe, just maybe, I might sometimes over think these things.

Far from home




Garry with 2 Rs

*Samantha isn’t her real name. It couldn’t be, since this whole example is made up. But even her hypothetical name isn’t Samantha.
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