by Stephanie Logan
The day I went to lunch with two men – neither my significant other and one of them married – felt to me like a day that warranted a gold medal. That may sound a bit hyperbolic to some but hear me out.
As a former evangelical, I spent most of my life in very conservative churches. From childhood, I was taught what pretty much every American evangelical or fundamentalist woman is taught: my body was dirty, and I should hide it from men and boys; if a man looked and liked what he saw, it was my fault; if a girl got pregnant, then she was slutty; if a man cheated on his wife, then the wife must not have been satisfying him or a Jezebel lured him. I was also taught that to be alone in a room with a man who was not your spouse or a relative would be an impossible temptation – a cause for expulsion on my college campus; inappropriate advances made by men were my fault; I could not be friends with men; and work lunches between the sexes would become affairs. If you think this sounds a bit like what you hear oppressed Muslim women are told, you’d be right. If you think this sounds like victim blaming, you’d be right again.
Because I have always been very conscientious and a tad anxious and I was raised in that environment, by the time I was a full-grown woman I was continuously worried that I was a potential adulteress. For years I wore a minimum of neck to knee clothing and never a swimsuit. It didn’t matter that I am a homebody who has no interest in luring men in general. It didn’t matter that, practically speaking, I did not see any of this behavior play out in my life as I related to my own friends. It didn’t matter that I stayed faithful to a serial cheater even at my loneliest points in our marriage. I still viewed myself this way. The church taught me to, and I believed the church.
Now, I hear the “but…but…but”. Yes, affairs can develop in many of these scenarios. Let me be clear, I know cheating happens but when it happens, it happens first in the mind when both people make a conscious choice to do it. It isn’t a magical, irresistible force that happens when a man and a woman stand in the same room together – no matter what Billy Graham thought.
Now, back to that day.
Imagine my nervousness when the group of trainees I had been meeting with were going out to lunch together and it dwindled down to just three – me and two men. To say I was anxious is a very big understatement and I almost made an excuse about needing to run an errand so I could leave. But I had been working on not responding to the intrusive messages that my brain sends to me. And I knew I was going to have to adjust to life in a secular, professional environment. So, I messaged my significant other and told him that I was going to go out to lunch with two men. I did it because I try to be honest with him and because I knew he would totally understand just how big of a step this was for me.
The three of us agreed to walk to the deli across the street and after ordering, we sat down with the two of them on one side of the table and me on the other. And thus began a meal that I just might remember for the rest of my life, not because the food or conversation were particularly great, but for the battle that went on in my mind.
Here’s a small sample.
Brain: Oh, he mentioned his plans with his wife this weekend. He’s married. You might make him *stumble*.
Me: Ridiculous. I’m doing nothing to make him stumble. If he has an issue, it will be his own to deal with.
Brain: Did you button up the top button on your blouse?
Me: I’m dressed professionally.
Brain: But you could have an *affair*! Shame!
Me: Ridiculous. I love my partner.
Brain: But what about…
Me: Go away, thoughts! I’m in control here.
I slayed a giant that day and somehow, as that battle went on in my mind, I kept up with the conversation. We were professional; shared about our families and interests; explained our job history and responsibilities to each other; and built a little bit of healthy workplace camaraderie.
And wonder of wonders, there have been no suggestive glances from either of them even as we have continued to work together. I have not sought them out to lead them astray. All our clothing has always remained on when we’re in a room together. There have been only completely professional coworkers behaving completely professionally. Which is, I am learning, normal in the workplace though contrary to the images offered by my leaders over the years. We have never shared another meal, though I am sure that I could again with the exact same results.
I am a different woman today – at least usually. Occasionally, those nagging little devils of evangelical dogma rear their ugly heads. But I know how to handle them and myself now.
Former evangelical homeschool mom and one-time missionary and pastor’s wife, Stephanie Logan, aka Snicklefritz, writes from her life story and four decades of experience in the evangelical movement. Her views and stories are her own.
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