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Looking for INTJs in ALL OF THE PLACES

April 11, 2014

My first blog post specifically about my Myers-Briggs personality type is my most popular post of all time, generating tens of hits each day. This little blog is becoming a fairly popular stop for people searching for information about the mysterious, elusive, and complicated INTJ.

In scrolling through the various search terms that have led to my blog, I found a few gems. Others make me weep for the human race.

Some of the search terms are simple and obvious, like “intj relationships,” “intj personality,” “intj pet peeves,” and “intj blog.” Though it’s more than a little unsettling how often people put “INTJ” and “sociopath” in the same search.

Then there’s “how to convince an intj.”

(LOGIC! Why don’t they teach logic at these schools??)

Or “intj single forever.”

 

There is also “intj are cold.”

(And subject are singular.)

Two people have come to my blog after googling “british intj.”

 

There’s also “intjs are hot.”

 

I was intrigued by “can an intj become a christian,” hoping that my blog was able to convince him/her, with a little help from my friends.

I was slightly offended by “the care and feeding of an intj” because excuse me we are human beings not pets, thank you very much.

I was slightly less offended by “intj women are cold.”

 

I was also kind of terrified by “how are intj made.” Because what.

 

Perhaps the most horrifying of them all: “intj customer service.”

NO. JUST NO.

RUN.

FLEE.

When An INTJ Is Not An INTJ

April 5, 2014

95% of any description of INTJs makes me go, “YES! This is so me!” 

…but what about  that remaining 5 percent?

No man-made test is going to be 100% accurate, and there are only 16 Myers-Briggs types to go around among 7 billion people. Personality types are based on general observations and trends (sorry, S-types) and offer very large tents beneath which many people can crowd. No two people with the same M-B types are exactly the same. Other factors, such as learned behaviors in childhood, help shape one’s overall personality. I find this all fascinating.

Like every other group, different INTJs enjoy different things. Two INTJs may react differently to the same event, may use different coping strategies in grief, may reach opposite conclusions with the same evidence. Even though I am definitely an INTJ, there are things about me that are unusual or downright unheard-of for my type.

Because of my tendency to overanalyze, to be oddly perfectionist, and to figure out the whys of most situations, I can’t be satisfied with, “Well, people are just different.” Understanding the “why” of many things is often my first step toward action, toward improvement. Just like in an old-fashioned duel, I demand satisfaction!

So what is there about me that is very much not typical of an INTJ?

A few things, as it happens…

1. My Faith: Might as well start with a big one. INTJs are considered one of the personality types least likely to believe in a higher power. I suppose that’s because we are super-critical, skeptical, and rational, and it is assumed that faith and religion are…not. Fair enough, I suppose, but I think that does a disservice to the Higher Power Who gave man his reasoning abilities.

It’s hard to write about faith and reason without invoking my favorite Christian INTJ, but I probably ought to, since I was both an INTJ and a Christian long before I read Mere Christianity. Having attended church just about all my life, Christianity partly is a learned behavior for me. I was baptized at age 11 by my own choice, and would have called myself a Christian earlier than that, but only in the past few years have I really taken it seriously and questioned and doubted what I believe and why.

IMG_0245I have analyzed many other ideas that were instilled in me from childhood, including political beliefs, eating habits, perceptions of beauty, the importance of classroom-based higher education, and appropriate attire. I have altered or completely rejected many of those beliefs, but not Christianity. My faith has evolved with experience and research, but it is not only in my life, but central to it.

Funnily enough, though the Christian faith may seem contrary to the INTJ type, I approach it in a very INTJ way: individualized and difficult to communicate. This is closely tied to an INTJ’s dominant cognitive function of introverted intuition (Ni). I am confident in my faith, and it makes sense in my head, but not in a way I can easily explain. This is a nearly textbook definition of how an INTJ reaches conclusions (and may be why I suck at evangelism). No other faith–including no faith at all–makes sense to me like Christianity. I have experienced God and heard from Him in ways that have little alternative explanation. But a lack of explanation does not mean a lack of conviction. God is as real to me as any other person I have a relationship with.

2. People-Pleasing: The independent, rational, straightforward, brutally honest INTJ is the type least likely to be a people-pleaser. Yet this is something I struggle with. I would like to take the lead in many situations–such as deciding where to go for dinner–but I freak out and exhaust myself trying to accommodate everyone and make everyone happy. It has made me doubt being an INTJ and wonder if I am really an INFJ.

Over time, I have realized that this people-pleasing does not come from a natural desire for harmony and empathy, but is a learned behavior. It is, in fact, a survival trait from childhood. I learned to do exactly as I was told and keep quiet, all to keep my parents from yelling at me. (Well, my mom yelled, my dad silently seethed.) Even into adulthood, I often find it difficult to speak up for myself, to demand even what is within my rights, to rock the boat, to make a fuss, to face conflict. This all comes from a fear of making someone angry and getting yelled at. But I am working on it–and that is made easier now that I know where it comes from.

3. Appreciation, Affection, and Validation: According to one site, INTJs do not require or seek emotional validation, and they do not express their affection very openly. While I’m not very good with expressing affection in words (ironic for a writer, I suppose), my main love language is quality time, followed by physical touch. If I want to hang out with you, and if I respond to an invitation with a quick affirmative, take that as a compliment. If I like you in any way, to any extent, I will hug you. (Though if I don’t like someone, I don’t usually bother faking it.) You would think that a type known for being calm, cool, and confident would not need outside validation, especially of the emotional kind, but I do. I need positive feedback, compliments, and expressions of affection, some days more than others, even if it doesn’t seem like I do.

I think this is partly because my “feeling” side is well-developed for an INTJ, which makes me warmer and more open than the stereotype–at least in some situations, when I am comfortable. Childhood bullying probably made me a little more cautious about other peoples’ feelings. A love for art and literature probably helped develop that, as well. I have not yet come up with any other explanations, though. Except for the mere fact that I am human, and all humans, even INTJs, need nurturing and relationships in some form.

4. Chess: A stereotype of strategic, rational INTJs is that we all play chess. I don’t enjoy the game, though it’s for a very INTJ reason: I am not good at it. The perfectionist INTJ usually does not bother with an activity at which he (or she) knows he will not excel. Put a Monopoly board in front of me, though, and I will gut you like a fish, with a smile on my face.

5. Cute and Fuzzy: I haven’t found anything yet that specifically says INTJs are not overly fond of cute animals, but given the existing stereotypes, one might assume that we aren’t. However, any friend who has seen me come within fifty feet of a cat and heard the unholy pitch of my voice knows of my deep and abiding love for animals.

Everyone knows that reindeers animals are better than people. Plus, I have already established that being an INTJ does not mean you are a sociopath, and you have to be a sociopath not to go “Awww!” at least in your head at a big, fluffy, confused Pallas cat:

 

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Or at a pile of otters:

 

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Can any of my fellow INTJs related to these? Can you relate for different reasons?

What traits of yours seem to rebel against your Myers-Briggs type, INTJ or otherwise? Do you know where that comes from?

I Guess Life Has Its Own Plot Twists

March 31, 2014

Just shy of two months from now, I leave Columbus for my indefinite travels.

I really am excited. And when I tell other people about it, they (usually) get excited for me, and that refreshes my own excitement.

However, it does mean that a chapter of my life’s book is drawing to a close, and I’ve been reviewing the CliffsNotes summary.

One word that keeps coming up is “disappointed.”

My time in Columbus hasn’t turned out like I expected. I moved here mainly to be closer to family and work on my book. Then my book was finished, and it’s kind of just…there. My relationship with my parents is…well, let’s just say we’re not any closer than before.

I’d actually hoped I would get involved in a tight-knit church community and make a ton of new friends and host dinner parties and maybe lead a Bible study or otherwise find a way to make myself useful in the church. I thought this would be where I’d meet “someone” and get married and “settle down” and finally feel like functional grown-up.

Instead, it seems I folded up into myself more than ever. All that mainly happened is that I got so tired. And maybe a little bitter.

 

 

Now I’m packing up and paring down and getting ready to uproot myself because once again I find myself without a place in the world or without a space in peoples’ lives. Everyone has their families, their spouses, their kids, their siblings, and I’m just sort of…floating along, as always.

I’m glad I left DC, and I suppose there was a reason that God did nudge me toward Columbus, but this place has worn me out. I’ve been more lonely here than I have been in a good long while, and certainly more than I ever experienced in my adult life.

Part of the reason I’m disappointed is because I probably could have done more, got involved in more activities, reached out to more people more often. Maybe I could have left town with less of a feeling of failure, and more like I had a bigger impact–or any impact at all. Just thinking about it, though, makes me feel frustrated and exhausted.

 

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It doesn’t mean that nothing happened in the three years I’ve been here. Most of those things have been internal, and are difficult to explain. Regular readers of this blog might be able to identify a few–learning about my Myers-Briggs type and falling ridiculously in love with CS Lewis and finally pinning down some of the issues I had with my former church, to name examples. I learned more about my faith and myself, and deepened some existing relationships. I think I grew intellectually and I certainly found some new obsessions interests.

It’s not that I’m not glad I had those experiences–I am. They just weren’t what I had in mind when I decided to move back to my home state. And they’ve made me a bit wary of having expectations about whatever comes next.

I’m sure my next, as-yet-unwritten chapter will make for interesting reading. I just haven’t quite recovered from the plot twist in this one.

Female Sexuality in the Christian Church, Part Two: Modesty and Girl Power

March 19, 2014

(If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading Part One of this post before proceeding.)

Women—our bodies and minds—are powerful. This power should not be hidden away out of fear, guilt, or shame, but celebrated and exercised appropriately, with good stewardship. Examples of “strong female characters” exist in myth and legend, plays and books and movies, in the Bible and human history

The Lord chose to bring Jesus Christ into the world by way of Mary’s body. The intelligent and beautiful Abigail became David’s wife after using cunning, charm, and hospitality to convince him not to slaughter her husband Nabal and his men (leaving that to God). The Book of Esther centers on a young woman whose beauty wins her the favor of the king, which she then uses to save the people of Israel. Female missionaries such as Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, and Ann Hasseltine Judson demonstrated great strength of body and soul to serve God’s people and carry His Word across the world. Queen Elizabeth I of England never married, but used her many offers as leverage in foreign policy, and used her singleness to maintain political security at home. In 1936, the King of England abdicated the throne so that he could marry Wallis Simpson.

The Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata tells a story of women who use their sexual leverage to get men to agree to a peace treaty to end the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Helen’s beauty sparked a kidnapping that started the Trojan war. In Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Coriolanus’ wife and mother successfully convince him to change his mind when men previously failed. Game of Thrones’ Sansa Stark is an example of the power and strength of traditional femininity. (Link contains two-year-old spoilers.) Part of the plot of Disney’s Frozen involves Queen Elsa coming to terms with her body’s particular, magical powers. The movie Thor: The Dark World has several excellent examples of powerful women: Jane Foster drives the plot because of her scientific curiosity and intellect as well as Thor’s affection for her; Lady Sif uses armor and sword as well as any other warrior; Queen Frigga consoles, counsels, and protects as a wife and mother, using both brains and physical strength in a combination of gentleness and violence.

Unfortunately, discussion of female sexuality in the Church only seems to take place within the context of “modesty.” This is a heavily debated issue that often becomes nothing more than an argument over how short is too short of a skirt, or how much cleavage is too much cleavage. Women in Christian culture are told to be modest, and that modesty means to cover up, that their bodies are shameful and tempt men to sin, or that their bodies are powerful enough to control men’s thoughts, and this power must be concealed at all times.

You might expand standards of modesty to include excessive flirting or inappropriate touching, but that still fails to get at the heart of the matter. When you talk about outward things like clothing or flirting, it’s so easy to get legalistic, burdensome, and pharisaical. It’s hard to draw a line, especially when not everyone finds the same things distracting or tempting.

A lot of the burden of modesty has been placed on women because of the widespread belief that men struggle more with sexual lust, and thus women need to “help” them. But my Part One of this post pretty much dismisses that.

Perhaps, then, it’s not those actions that are most important, but the need to address the “inner man” (or woman) and focus on the heart and soul, where these issues are first planted. Rather than a discussion of modesty that focuses on one’s appearance, maybe it should instead turn to the more fundamental (ooh, dangerous word there!) concerns of chastity, charity, patience, thankfulness, and self-denial.

These basic virtues often go ignored in modern churches, whether out of fear of being puritanical, fear of seeming unrealistic, or maybe thinking that they go without saying. Concerns about correct thoughts and behavior have been suppressed. Too many Christians and churches nowadays avoid talking about sin, or calling things out as sinful, because no one wants to offend, or appear sanctimonious, or tell others how to live their lives. Yet these issues of the inner man, of the heart, are where our outward problems come from.

Maybe churches should have an attitude of, “We are all, male and female, God’s creation with bodies made for good things, like food and sex and exercise and sleep. Let’s discuss the proper use and context of those things, without forgetting that our actions originate in the heart, and put its condition first.”

There is a certain link between the conditions of our hearts and our actions. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

But modesty, chastity, and Christian sexuality should not involve guilt and shame. I can tell you from personal experience that these are the enemy’s tools, used to bring us down and keep us from living the abundant life that Christ offers. A little guilt and shame may prompt us to acknowledge and confess and turn from our sin and back toward God, but we’re not supposed to keep it. In Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape notes,

Even of his sins the Enemy goes not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.

What does modesty mean with the right sort of mindset, then?

Think less about what you’re doing and wearing and more about why. This doesn’t mean you must pray about every article of clothing or each time you put on lipstick. Just take some time to consider your motives. Are you leaving God out of the equation at all? Are you anxious or insecure about your appearance or trying to overcompensate, trying to get your self-worth from a source other than Christ? Are you dressing, styling, making-up, or behaving in a way that feeds your own Pride and self-reliance? Are you deliberately trying to stir up the sin of Lust in men, or Envy in women? Are you dressing or acting out of shame, in spite of the freedom that you have in Christ? If any of those are the case, maybe bring it before God before you bring it out in public.

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Are you dressing or acting with a clear conscience? Are you dressing with confidence and gratitude for the body and appearance that God has given you? Are you styling or acting a certain way out of a genuine desire to please your husband? Are you comfortable? Are you pleased with how you look, no matter who else notices? Flaunt that shit.

Consider Romans 14. Paul was originally writing about which foods were proper or clean, and which feast days could be observed. But I think the passage could cover the issue of modesty, as well.

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.…For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

If a Christian woman is wearing a skirt shorter than you’d be comfortable in, a two-piece swimsuit, bright red lipstick, or her shirt shows two centimeters of cleavage, and she wears those things innocently, don’t look down on her for it, don’t judge her, don’t assume she’s sinning or deliberately causing others to sin. (If it is somehow known that she is, then she should be admonished with love and gentleness.) Likewise, if you see a Christian woman dressed in a long skirt, a Tshirt layered under a low-cut dress, no makeup, or a one-piece swimsuit you’d consider matronly, and she does it without shame, believing that she’s fulfilling God’s will, then don’t tease her about it, don’t look down on her, don’t call her a prude.

Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory: “Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself: ‘it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.’”

But if love means putting the needs and desires of others before our own, that also means you might occasionally have to alter your usual style. For example, if you’re going to a dinner party and you’re the only single woman in a room full of couples, maybe exercise a little more coverage than you would if you were on a date, on a girls-only night, even at church. (Hey, I won’t presume to know what you normally wear.) Of course you don’t have to go to extremes, and you should remain comfortable and confident with your appearance. But out of awareness of the sanctity of marriage and respect for the specific men and women you’ll be spending time with, make extra-sure of your motives, and that your conscience is clear.

Keep in mind, though, that the only thing you can control is what you do. You cannot control the actions, thoughts, or feelings of others. Yes, Christians should look out for each other and act appropriately—that is the point of the passage in Romans. But each person is responsible only for his or her own behavior and thoughts.

A Christian woman should not dress with the intention of stirring up Envy in another woman, but that isn’t necessarily a guarantee against Envy—it may happen no matter what she does. Speaking as one who struggles daily, constantly with Envy, I can say that one woman can be envious of another without any assistance. Likewise, there are times when people will commit the sin of Lust without any help from the object. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care with your style—it means you should do what you can do.

You might be dressed with a clear conscience, appropriate to the occasion, and a man still might not keep his eyes focused in the right place or take captive his thoughts. Maybe your chest is well-endowed, and however much clothing you wear, it’s going to be noticed. Maybe you have a naturally winning, come-hither smile, or maybe your jeans are really flattering, or the smokey-eye look really works for you. Maybe it’s none of those things. But that’s his problem, not yours. You can’t predict and prepare for every possible thought that every man you might meet, might have.

Notice that I did not say that the man “might not be able to keep his eyes focused.” The “boys will be boys” attitude has removed a lot of responsibility, but men have more control over their gaze and thoughts than society would have us believe.

Jesus said in Matthew 5 that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He didn’t just say “everyone who looks at a woman.” Noticing an attractive woman is not Lust. Deliberately lingering, intentionally dwelling on inappropriate thoughts and desires, or purposely storing and summoning up images for later entertainment is where the danger lies. And notice that Christ did not place blame on the woman being lusted after—it was the man and the condition of his heart that He was interested in. If the hypothetical woman was not deliberately enticing him, then she was innocent.

I’m not a big fan—OK, I’m not any kind of fan—of Boundless.org. I confess that I went on that site specifically to find articles about modesty to get angry at. Instead, I found one written by a man, to men, that addresses this issue very, very well. He tells men what they need to be responsible for, and suggests that aspects of the modesty debate are damaging to women.

One lady blogger, whose heart is doubtless in the right place, in a post titled “Don’t Be The Bathsheba,” gives women a list of four ways to be modest: 1. Don’t be a temptation to other men, 2. Don’t instigate feelings of jealousy and competitiveness in other women, 3. Don’t inspire lustful thoughts in young men or boys (so middle-aged and old men are fair game?), and 4. Be a good example for young women and little girls.

There is only so much that one woman can do about this. Some women are going to be jealous no matter what you do; some men are going to be lustful no matter what you do. And you shouldn’t be making your decisions because of what a man (especially a random, anonymous stranger) might think of it. All Christian women, married or single, should put Christ first and foremost in their decisions.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” We should put the needs of others before our own desires, but God is our primary concern.

The other problem I have with that post, and others like it, is that the story of David and Bathsheba’s sin is not all because of Bathsheba. She was one-half of a couple who sinned. She suffered the loss of the child conceived in sin, and she was responsible for her actions. Should she have been bathing on the rooftop? Maybe not. Should she have said no to David’s “invitation” and fled temptation? Absolutely. But David should have done a lot of things too: should have looked away, should have turned his desire over to God, should not have summoned her, should have come clean to Uriah, should not have been in town. But the account in II Samuel 12 describes how the prophet Nathan came to David to call him out on his sin. He pointed out the seriousness of David’s sin, and informed him of God’s punishment, and held David responsible for his actions.

Bathsheba at the Bath, Sebastiano Ricci

Bathsheba suffered her share of consequences—the death of her husband and child, and witnessing the violence and political turmoil resulting from their sin. But she also was given the privilege of being the mother of Solomon, and being one of only five women named in the genealogy of Christ. Neither David nor Bathsheba made the best decisions, but their story is not only a story of terrible sin, but an example of how God holds individuals responsible for their own actions, and how He can redeem even the worst of those.

This well-meaning (and often correct) blogger also says, “There is a difference between confidence in your beauty vs. confidence in your body.” She says, “Confidence in your beauty comes from knowing who you are in Christ, emanating how God sees you, showing your natural beauty that comes from being who God made you to be.” I was curious to know how she defines confidence in one’s body, but she doesn’t.

I don’t think there’s necessarily a difference anyway, and even if there were, confidence in one’s body is not a bad thing. It becomes a sin when it becomes Pride, when the creation is more highly regarded than the Creator. But I’ve written before about my struggles with body image, and I think a woman’s confidence in her body—whether that comes out of her athletic ability, her sexual appeal, the ability to reproduce, good health, vocal talents, and so on—is perfectly acceptable in God’s kingdom, as long as it is kept to its proper place.

God made our bodies—He likes them, and He wants us to like them, too.

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Flapper sex symbol Clara Bow, showin’ us how it’s done

. . .

Helpful, Sex-Positive Christian Resources:

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, by Lauren F. Winner
The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts, by Shannon Ethridge
Intimacy in Marriage
Crosswalk.com: Should I Marry Without Romance and Attraction?
DesiringGod.org: Lust: Not for Men Only
Christianity Today: Confessions of a Lustful Christian Woman
Soulation.org: Lust: Alive and Well Among Women (Part One) (Part Two)
Converge: The 24-Year-Old Virgin
Boundless.org: Your Turn: Lust and Leggings

Secular Resources on Female Sexuality:

The Atlantic: How Strong Is The Female Sex Drive After All?
The Atlantic: Turns Out Women Have Really, Really Strong Sex Drives: Can Men Handle It?
Study: Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive?
NYMag “The Cut”: When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don’t Get It
University of Michigan: Women Like Casual Sex Just As Much As Men Do
NYT: What Do Women Want?
NYT: Unexcited? There May Be A Pill For That

Female Sexuality in the Christian Church, Part One: Drive and Desire

March 18, 2014

The unthinkable has happened: I got pissed off at C.S. Lewis.

For part of my Lenten activities, I’m reading through Yours, Jack, a chronological collection of Lewis’ letters. It has been a wonderful way to observe his spiritual development, gather more of his insight, and see the germs of ideas that would become some of his most famous works.

One night, though, I wanted to sit him down and give him a very stern talking-to. I often find his remarks about women silly and sexist, but usually I just roll my eyes and say “Ohhhh, Jack.” Not this time.

In 1940, a woman wrote to Lewis about the purpose of marriage and male headship in the household, fairly skeptical about the whole institution. I had no issue with the majority of Lewis’ response. I consider myself a Christian feminist, but agree that men should be the spiritual leaders of the household, and had little argument with Lewis’ explanations of why. I did not object when he reminded her of what the Book of Common Prayer lists as the reasons for marriage: 1. reproduction, 2. sexual outlet, and 3. partnership.

My disagreement came when I read his explanations for those reasons:

Then the second reason. Forgive me, but it is simply no good trying to explain this to a woman. The emotional temptations may be worse for women than for men: but the pressure of mere appetite on the male, they simply don’t understand. In this second reason, the Prayer Book is saying ‘If you can’t be chaste (and most of you can’t) the alternative is marriage.’ This may be brutal sense, but, to a man, it is sense and that’s that.

To a man—but not a woman? Is sexual outlet less important for women? This was a contentious issue for me long before I read much of Lewis’ work. I kept telling myself, “He’s still a bachelor at this point…he’s a product of his times…deep breaths…calm down…” But I was seeing red.

My anger is not all directed at Lewis, but at a Church and a society that perpetuates incorrect and potentially dangerous preconceptions about female sexuality.

The Christian church (at least in the United States, where my experience comes from) remains fairly backwards about female sexuality. This ignorance exists in the general, secular culture, too. There are assumptions that women don’t want or enjoy sex as much as men, that they aren’t as tempted as men, or aren’t as visually stimulated as men. This may apply to some women and some men, but I think it is wrong to attribute those things to the sexes in general. I think those preconceptions can be harmful, and can contribute to unnecessary guilt and anxiety, at the very least.

I’m just going to come out and say it:

Many women really enjoy and desire sex. Many women have strong, active sex drives. Many—gasp!Christian women struggle with lust and sexual temptation. Sometimes women are the ones who initiate sex with their partners. Many women are sexually aroused by visual input. Women are not naturally innocent, delicate flowers who are less interested in, or less tempted by, sex than men.

At least one study has suggested that men overall have stronger sex drives. The authors note, however, “The gender difference in sex drives should not be generalized to other constructs such as sexual or orgasmic capacity, enjoyment of sex, or extrinsically motivated sex.” Other sources suggest that the measurements used to determine sex drive may themselves be influenced by outside factors, like social pressures, and are thus inconclusive.

When I started doing research for this post, I learned about the book What Do Women Want?, released last year. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. The author wrote an adaptation for the New York Times, and this article from The Cut provides a review of sorts. Evidently, women may desire sexual pleasure about as much as men, but social pressures and miscommunication between the sexes have interfered.

Some Christians claim that men are “more sexual” than women. But what does that vague phrase even mean? This makes little sense to me by most any definition, when it is women’s bodies that are capable of conceiving, growing, delivering, and feeding a baby, and are the ones that possess an organ that has no purpose but sexual pleasure (link SFW). There are even resources available for Christian women who want better sex—they wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a demand.

My friend Kara, ever my faithful research assistant, helped me find lots of different sources—both Christian and secular—that address female sexuality. She pointed out that a lot may remain unknown to us because it hasn’t been considered or studied rigorously until fairly recently. One thing that even a little bit of research makes clear is that sexuality in general, and heterosexual female sexuality in particular, is really, really complicated.

What I am certain about is that it would be less harmful for everyone if the Christian church taught and behaved as though sexual desire were equal between the sexes. Yes, there are differences between the sexes, and I do believe that men and women generally are meant to fulfill different roles in marriage. (Though that looks different for different couples.) But I think both should be held to equal standards, in which men and women look out for each other.

scarletaIt’s widely accepted in the Western Christian church that men are more visually stimulated, that men struggle more with lustful thoughts, and that men desire sex more than women. This is a terrible misconception that has unfairly blamed women for men’s bad behavior, and creates a “boys will be boys” mentality that is a discredit to men. In centuries past, women were considered the sexually ravenous ones who could not control themselves, and who tempted men into sin. Sometimes sexually alluring women were believed to be witches, providing literal fuel for the fire. The tables may have turned, but it isn’t much of an improvement.

This is a passionate subject for me not just for the sake of Christian women in general, but because I have experienced some damage from incorrect, skewed ideas about female sexuality in Christian culture.

I fully support chastity. I believe that men and women who profess to follow Christ should keep sexual intercourse within marriage. I think dating/engaged couples should do what they believe necessary to avoid succumbing to sexual temptation. I’m against living together before marriage. I think pornography (a whole other issue that I’m unprepared to tackle) is deeply damaging to individuals and relationships. Practicing chastity—which not only means sexual abstinence before marriage, but monogamous fidelity after marriage—is difficult, but it is not impossible. It may not seem natural, but God calls His followers to do a lot of things that are not natural, such as loving our enemies and denying ourselves for the sake of Christ and others.

Celebrating sexuality does not mean we should overlook sin. What we do still matters. In the same letter that I took such issue with, Lewis wrote on the subject of chastity,

After all, if there is an eternal world and if our world is its manifestation, then you would expect bits of it to ‘stick through’ into ours. We are like children pulling the levers of a vast machine of which most is concealed. We see a few little wheels that buzz round on this side when we start it up—but what glorious or frightful processes we are initiating in there, we don’t know. That’s why it’s so important to do what we’re told.…

(I’m over-quoting Lewis in this piece just to show him I won’t hold a grudge!)

Compared to the experiences of many other Christian women, married or single, I seem to have gotten off easy (no pun intended). I’ve never experienced sexual abuse of any kind, I’ve overcome some hang-ups about my body, and at the ripe old age of 28 and some months, I’ve never been in a serious dating relationship, so I have comparatively little baggage there. When I think about it, I am genuinely thankful that God has spared me from a lot of pain. But it also means that, when I read Christian articles like “The 24-Year-Old Virgin,” even though I do agree with the content, I can’t help rolling my eyes and saying, “Yeah, sweetie, wait another five years or more and then we’ll talk.”

(I need to work on my compassion.)

But my lack of “experience” hasn’t spared me from sexual struggles. I haven’t been wholly innocent in heart or mind, or even actions. There have been guys about whom I thought, “If the opportunity presents itself, I will have sex with him.” Every time that has happened, God flat-out removed the guy in question from my life. (No, He didn’t kill them…I don’t think…) I Corinthians 10:13 is absolutely true. Movies and books that are innocent on the surface might easily become porn when filtered through my mind. (The fault lies with me, not the product.) Christian leaders make a big deal about women hiding their cleavage from leering men, but no one talks about the effect that a man in a crisp white button-up shirt can have on a less-than-innocent female mind.

The church so often emphasizes sexual struggles in men, as though women need hardly worry about how to rein in their sexual desires, to look properly at the opposite sex, to avoid masturbation and/or pornography. This has sometimes made me wonder if I was some perverted deviant because my sexual desires can get really, really strong, or because I can get turned on just by the way a man looks. It’s gone so far as to give me serious doubts about my femininity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Granted, these things are my responsibility, my cross to bear, or my sins to confess, but I think attitudes in the current Christian culture have made them worse.

One of the best things that has come out of writing this post is learning that I am not alone. This post from Soulation.org (a Christian summary and interpretation of this NYT article that I linked previously) was like a breath of fresh air. Jonalyn Fincher talks about how deeply women want to be desired, how women also can be turned on by what they see, and how lust is related to covetousness—wanting to possess something that is not yours to have. She talks about what healthy sexuality looks like, and even suggests that the proper context could make it okay for women and men to notice and admire the opposite sex! The writer’s description of how she and her husband carry this out is adorable:

Often, accountability guidelines for ending lust focus on guarding our eyes from even looking or noticing beauty. But this feels Gnostic to me, a method of denying the inherit beauty in healthy men (and women’s) bodies. I want to be free to notice beautiful men and I want Dale free to notice beautiful women. This allows me to thank God for his creativity.
Once I grabbed Dale’s arm and pointed at a nondescript guys’ amazing legs, “Oh my goodness, see that man’s calves? They were HUGE!” And he’ll notice and we’ll talk about how men with calves like that would have been chosen to be the leaders in of Scottish clans and how so many men do not have calves like that and how gladiators would have HAD to had big calves just like that guy’s. It’s actually pretty fun.
We’ll do the same if a woman with gorgeous legs walks by. Neither Dale nor I have stunning gams, but we love noticing others who do. And in the process, my lust isn’t incited. I’m observing the art of God around me and sharing it with my husband. God called us very good. I’d have to agree.

Other wonderful Christian women not only speak up and declare that yes, women also struggle with lust, but talk about how to address the problem. Carolyn McCulley points out how modern culture has affected female lust and sexual desire, and suggests how to help confused women in the church. Fincher, in a couple different posts, mentions female sexuality in a historical context, what lust really means, how lust can appear, and how to be disciplined in fighting off lustful desires. Julie Sibert writes extensively for wives who want more sex.

I especially love that these women often talk about visual stimulation. I have so many problems with the “men are more visual than women” myth.

Christian churches, books, articles, speakers, etc. are always talking about female beauty. It seems as though, because women are considered “less sexual” and “less visual” somehow, they aren’t expected to care what their significant other looks like. Don’t misunderstand me—physical attraction is a tiny, tiny part of a relationship. It’s also changeable—you might find someone more or less attractive as you get to know them. But is it wrong to want it at all?

From my church experiences, women are expected to look good for their men, and men are supposed to treat their women with love and respect. Those are good things to try to do. I am not saying they should be abandoned. But shouldn’t men also take care to look good for their wives/girlfriends? Shouldn’t women make sure their men feel love and respected? I would like to get married someday, and above all I want a Christian man of great integrity, strong in his faith. Am I wrong also to want him to be someone I enjoy looking at?

Based on the number of people who find my blog by googling “Josh Groban handsome,” I’d say ‘no’

I Samuel 16:7 (“man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”) is often cited as a reason why we should overlook someone’s physical appearance in favor of what is within. As well we should. But the passage is in reference to God choosing David—the youngest and least-promising of his brothers at the time—for the next King of Israel. The same chapter goes on to say that David “was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance.” Good character should take priority over good looks, but you can end up with both.

Based on the Christian articles out there that do celebrate physical attraction between spouses (or dating couples), I’m not wrong about wanting a handsome husband, as long as I keep it from being too high a priority. However, one of these articles, “Why Sexual Attraction Is Good,” is full of great ideas, and yet demonstrates the very problem I’m talking about:

Therefore, guys, don’t believe the lie that Christian men are supposed to marry pious, unattractive women. That doesn’t fit within the context of how Jesus loves you as His bride. You exhilarate Christ, so He wants you to be thrilled about the woman you choose to marry. He wants her unique beauty to satisfy you completely (Proverbs 5:18-19). Thus, if you have not met a Christian woman who possesses integrity and sexually attracts you, keep looking. … Likewise, ladies, treasure your beauty, femininity, and purity. To Jesus, you were worth His sacrifice, and He wants you to find a husband who will treat you in the same way. A man is not worth marrying if he will not cherish you and give himself up for you.

Do you see the issue? He tells guys to not be ashamed of wanting wives they’re attracted to, and he tells women to hold out for men who will love and treasure them. These are good, but it should go both ways. Women also should not be ashamed of wanting to marry men they’re attracted to, and from what I’ve read, men also want to marry women who think they’re attractive. The article seems an example of Christians acting as though women are less sexual and care less about visual pleasures.

Maybe now is the time for the Christian community to acknowledge that men and women have their differences, but their sexual drives and sources of stimulation may not be all that different. Let us also acknowledge that sexual temptation is a powerful problem for both men and women, and that we all need to be careful about what we do or say in that regard.

The good news, as always, is that there is freedom and power in Christ to overcome and redeem our temptations and mistakes. He is able, willing, and waiting to transform our lives and our selves. This might sound like empty encouragement, like I’m just reciting words that Christians have said over and over, but I have experienced this myself. There is such grace and joy and freedom in confessing your sins and sharing your struggles and hopes with God, and in placing them in His hands. It’s not always easy—some days are harder than others, and some days (or weeks, or months…) it will feel like you’re going backwards. You’ll have to keep putting things back in His hands after you take them out again. But however long it takes, whatever it takes, God will transform you into the new creation He intended.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. ~ Isaiah 58:10-12

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

Both male and female sexuality should be celebrated as a God-given pleasure. It is one more part of God’s creation to be enjoyed. As with all other pleasures, it should be enjoyed in its proper time and place—and without elevating it to the level of its Creator. Sin is what complicates sex and turns it into something shameful and/or oh so deadly serious, rather than the joyful act of intimacy that God intended.

photo by Vyacheslav Mishchenko

. . .

Part Two: Modesty

Helpful, Sex-Positive Christian Resources:

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, by Lauren F. Winner
The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts, by Shannon Ethridge
Intimacy in Marriage
Crosswalk.com: Should I Marry Without Romance and Attraction?
DesiringGod.org: Lust: Not for Men Only
Christianity Today: Confessions of a Lustful Christian Woman
Soulation.org: Lust: Alive and Well Among Women (Part One) (Part Two)
Converge: The 24-Year-Old Virgin
Boundless.org: Your Turn: Lust and Leggings

Secular Resources on Female Sexuality:

The Atlantic: How Strong Is The Female Sex Drive After All?
The Atlantic: Turns Out Women Have Really, Really Strong Sex Drives: Can Men Handle It?
Study: Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive?
NYMag “The Cut”: When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don’t Get It
University of Michigan: Women Like Casual Sex Just As Much As Men Do
NYT: What Do Women Want?
NYT: Unexcited? There May Be A Pill For That

Extroverted Adventure for an Introverted Mind

March 13, 2014

Some days, all I want to do is watch MST3K, eat cookies, and look at pictures of pretty British men.

Other days, my brain goes a million miles an hour, I can’t stop coming up with ideas to (over)analyze, and I want to have serious intellectual discussions until my voice gives out.

Today is one of the latter. This is when I am thankful to have intelligent friends who can prompt and participate in such discussions. I’m also glad I have a blog where I can get additional feedback.

This week, my friend Melissa sent me a fascinating series of questions about my upcoming travel adventures and how they relate to my INTJ personality, and introversion in general. She wrote,

I always linked my home-body tendencies to my introversion personality. It was surprising to me to read you were embarking on this homeless adventure! (I do also wonder if my home-body tendencies could just be a result of moving around A TON throughout my childhood.) Anyway, my biggest dislike about college was feeling like I didn’t have a home -the dorm/apartment? my parent’s house? my car? Where did I belong?! It made me very uncomfortable in the same way I feel uncomfortable socially because of being an introvert. So I connected the two. Anyway, I’m curious about your thoughts on this. … [And] if you’re visiting friends and staying with them, where will you introvert? (Yes, I just used introvert as a verb, not sure if that’s right, but whatever.) Do you not have a strong home-body tendency?…

As an introvert who needed time to process this, of course I thought about it, and thought about it, developed some ideas, reached some tentative conclusions, and wrote back.

When it comes to my specific type as an INTJ, I’m not sure if this whole road-trip idea is related. It might be. I wrote months ago about being naturally dissatisfied and unsettled, and that may be because of the tendency of INTJs to be hyper-critical and difficult to please. That trait may emerge in me as wanderlust. It may be because many INTJs are action-driven, wanting to implement their ideas, and my get-up-and-go could come from that. Much of my trip itinerary is coming from thoughts like, “I’ve always wanted to see this particular landmark…might as well do it!”

But like everyone in the general population, each INTJ is different.

(…every INTJ is great. If an INTJ is wasted, God gets quite irate.)

My dad is also an INTJ, and he tends to alternate between extensive travel and long periods at home, and I have followed that pattern at times. I have INTJ friends who have studied abroad and lived fairly uprooted lives. I have other INTJ friends who are very much homebodies who do not travel frequently or far. I have some INTJ friends who are risk-takers in areas I would never dare to tread, and others who find my own adventurous decisions remarkable.

At this point, I am convinced that a person’s Myers-Briggs type is not so much about their outward behavior, but about how they process information and view the world. Yes, the two may be related, but one does not necessarily predict the other.

While my road-trip adventuring may be related in part to my INTJ type, it also might be because my parents took me on a lot of trips when I was young, so I had a love of travel instilled in me from an early age. I also moved a lot starting in later childhood, and of course in college, going back and forth from dorms to home, and then moving to different cities after graduation. While Melissa had a similar experience, she reacted by going in the opposite direction, seeking stability, while I internalized it and developed a craving for change. I always think I want to be rooted somewhere, only to grow bored within a year and look for something else.

Neither reaction is right or wrong, better or worse, just an example of how two different people adapt to similar circumstances.

. . .

As to whether being a homebody is related to introversion, I’m not yet sure which conclusion I favor. Either

1. being a homebody or having wanderlust is not related to introversion/extroversion, but is dependent on other factors, such moving a lot as a child, or

2. being a homebody IS an introverted trait, but shows up in different degrees.

Just as no INTJs are exactly alike, no two introverts or extroverts are alike, either. Not every introvert likes to read; not every extrovert likes to go clubbing.

Intro/extroversion tends to fall on a scale, meaning that all introverts have a little bit of extroversion in them, and vice-versa. No one is 100% of either. Not to mention, different situations bring out different traits. I generally lean more extreme on the introvert scale, but I think that has changed a little with age. And I do have some traits that you might not expect of the typical introvert.

One of my closest friends is an extrovert who frequently enjoys solitary mountain hikes. This may be how her introversion, however small, manifests itself. I am a “typical” introvert in that like to be alone, I enjoy reading, I dislike small talk and loud, crowded environments. But I like to travel and not stay in one place for a while. This may be how my small bit of extroversion “comes out.”

Pictured: Not always me

I do look forward to periods of stability after I experience some kind of upheaval, but I get bored faster than I expect. Perhaps it is the introverted part of me that craves that stability and leans toward being a homebody, but other parts of my personality quickly overtake it.

As for fulfilling my other introverted needs on the road, I don’t think the traveling will be too challenging. Yes, I will need alone time, especially after days or weeks of staying with friends, but I can go without it better when I can see it coming over the horizon. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the car by myself, sightseeing alone, or staying in hotels on my own, so finding time to recharge my social batteries shouldn’t be an issue. A bigger challenge may be when I visit friends and my hosts get sick of me!

Here is where I open up discussion to readers, be they regular or passers-by (Googles-by?):

Are you a homebody? A nomadic type? Do you travel a lot? Do you go back and forth? Does it change based on your particular life phase, season, or stage?

Is this related to your personality type, or your introversion/extroversion, do you think?

I want to hear your thoughts!

TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS.

. . .

What’s All the Fuss About? — 10 Life-Ruining Obsessions I Just Happened Upon

March 10, 2014

Have you ever stumbled across a book that you didn’t realize would change your life? Has a friend ever recommended a show, and you watch one episode just to check it out, only to find yourself completely hooked? Congratulations: You’ve joined a fandom.

As someone who far prefers fantasy to reality, and who often has deeper feelings for fictional characters than people she has actually met, I cherish my fandoms. I thought this a rather self-indulgent idea for a blog post, but as Joy said, what are blogs for, if not self-indulgence? Besides, it might help introduce someone to new/new-to-them entertainment, and I live for that kind of stuff.

This is far from an exhaustive list of the fandoms and obsessions I have collected over the years. But it is in chronological order. I’ve chosen the ones that were either 1.) the most coincidental, 2.) the longest-lasting, or 3.) the most recent.

1. Alfred Hitchcock

Some readers may not realize I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, because it’s a more “inactive” fandom for me right now. After all, it’s not like he’s still making new movies. But I was obsessed with his films in middle school, I own a few books about him, and I will still enthusiastically participate in a discussion or viewing. He’s also at least partly responsible for my obsession with villains. It all began when I was about 8-9 years old. My dad said, “We’re going to watch The Birds.” I said, “OK.” Two hours later, I was fully traumatized. Yet somehow I still loved the movie, and I watched it repeatedly, followed by RebeccaRear Window, and more.

2. MST3K

This one has a hazy beginning, but my earliest memory of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 is being at my cousins’ house when they were watching it. I thought it was hilarious, even though I was about 9 and didn’t get all the jokes. This was when the show was still airing new episodes on Comedy Central, so I found out when it was on, and I would watch it on Saturday mornings (I think…it seemed to be Saturday mornings, anyway).

The basic premise of MST3K is: A man is trapped in a satellite in space and forced to watch terrible movies by a mad scientist who is seeking global domination.  The scientist hopes to find the ultimate bad movie to break the wills of everyone on the planet. Fortunately, the man survives these experiences by mocking the movies with two robot friends, Crow and Tom Servo.

The shorter version: A few guys make hilarious commentary while watching bad movies.

I introduced high-school friends to the Posture Pals. The obsession only gained momentum in college, when I got a lot of the DVDs for Christmas, I introduced many new friends to MST3K, and befriended others who already loved the show. It’s been off the air for 15 years, but at least we have Rifftrax now, by some of the same guys.

3. Phantom of the Opera

I have my dad to thank for this one, too. I was 11, and we were going on a trip to Toronto. My dad said, “We’re going to see Phantom of the Opera.” I knew absolutely nothing about it, but I said “OK.”

Now that I think about it, some of my favorite memories with my dad involve slightly-age-inappropriate entertainment.

I loved it, and saw it again. And again. And again. I memorized the soundtrack, I learned the songs on the piano, I read the novel, I read Susan Kay’s Phantom, I waited anxiously for the film version, I wrote fanfiction, and I watched all of the Phantom Reviewer‘s videos. If not for Phantom, I might not have published a novel yet. Writing the fanfic and posting it publicly helped me develop my creative writing and learn to deal better with criticism (positive and negative). Although I’m not a fan of their other stuff, I still owe a lot to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gaston Leroux.

4. Harry Potter

Harry Potter mania was in full swing the summer of 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out. During a trip to Borders (RIP), I literally thought, “I guess I’ll see what all the fuss is about,” and bought a paperback version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was hooked (before I was even an anglophile!) and devoured the next four books. Then I waited … and read … and waited … and read … and waited … and waited … and read.

I made and deepened a lot of friendships over Harry Potter. The books, with their magic and increasingly dark tones, also helped ease some of the more unnecessarily uptight aspects of my Christian faith. The movies introduced me to some of my favorite British actors. Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Now please, shut up about who Hermione should have married and let’s all move on.

5. North and South/Elizabeth Gaskell

“Emily, you’ll love it! The hero is a die-hard capitalist and he has a great nose!”

That was the first thing I ever heard about the BBC miniseries of North and South, and it did not disappoint. The story, which combined romance with British economic history, was exactly my kind of thing. And yes, the male romantic interest, Mr. Thornton, is a die-hard capitalist with a great nose. (I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my thing for noses on this blog, but I notice men’s noses the way other women notice the color of their hair, and I have specific “types” that I like most.) Mr. T didn’t make a good impression in his first scene, but after four hours, I was completely in love. I didn’t know about Myers-Briggs personality types at the time, and so I didn’t know that Mr. T and I were both INTJs. I would like to say that he was my first INTJ fictional crush, but I think Mr. Darcy and Dr. House got there before him.

I have to say, the bromance in this movie is more compelling than the romance.

6. Downton Abbey

I’m not a fan of Downton Abbey anymore, really. I still LOVE Season One, but every season after that just gets progressively worse, and I stopped watching it after season 2. Then I found out they killed my favorite characters, and…well, what was the point? But I had to list it because I was obsessed, and because of how I found out about it.

One of my favorite British history blogs mentioned a miniseries that was airing on Masterpiece Theatre, and I decided to watch the first episode online. I don’t remember what that miniseries was called, because I didn’t care for it. While I was on the website, though, I came across the first couple of episodes of Downton Abbey. I was obsessed with all things Titanic when I was 12-13, because I was a target demographic for the movie AND I love history and nautical things. So when I read the premise of DA, I got sucked right in. I loved it. I told other people about it and got them hooked. And, because it was a British production, I recognized two or three actors within the first five minutes.

(Kara and I like to play what we call “The IMDB Game,” where you watch a movie and go, “Where have I seen that actor before?” The challenge is to remember where else you’ve seen him/her before the movie ends and you have to go on IMDB.com.)

7. Avengers

Ohhhh, boy, where do I even start with this one? The movie has been out for almost 2 years now, and this obsession is still going strong. It began with Captain America. Actually, it began earlier than that, but CA is what I’m going with. I saw CA because I have a soft spot for Chris Evans, and because Richard Armitage (who plays Mr. Thornton in N&S) has a tiny role in it. So I saw Avengers because of Cap, but when the end credits were rolling, I turned to Bethany and said, “I thought Loki was hot.”

Then I went home and played the IMDB game. I learned 1. Tom Hiddleston’s name and 2. that he also played F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I thought, “Oh, I should see Midnight in Paris,” I knew that my life was pretty much over.

To be fair, though, The Avengers was witty, engaging, and ridiculously fun, and it also turned me into a fan of Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr., and gave me a greater appreciation of Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo.

But seriously, the amount of time I spend on this fandom, and related fandoms, is ridiculous. I may need a support group. Please send help.

IMG_0339

Take your time, though…I’ll be right here.

8. C.S. Lewis

There’s little I can say about dear, dear Jack that I haven’t already said in past posts. I bought a collection of his letters published under the title Yours, Jack a couple weeks ago and decided to make it part of my Lenten activities. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea. His insight has already been helpful spiritually, as always, but it’s only fueled my fandom insanity. I love him so much. Many times he wrote about struggles that I have had, and he identifies their underlying causes and solutions so clearly, it blows my mind. I want to take all of my Lewis books with me on my road trip, but since that would involve at least 17 separate volumes (if you count my hefty Narnia boxed set and the cosmic trilogy boxed set), it’s proooobably impractical.

9. Game of Thrones

(Or, as Joy called it, Game of Waiting for George R. R. Martin.)

If I lost interest in Downton Abbey for killing off my favorite characters, I can’t explain how I’ve made it through the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve never watched the HBO series, and I am really, really, really trying not to. I don’t enjoy watching graphic sex scenes, and I have trouble watching a lot of violence. I prefer to read about it, where I can kind of filter my imagination and decide how much to visualize and how much to leave blank.

With several of my friends watching the series, endless online references, and a whole summer of people freaking out about the Red Wedding, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I went, “Eh, I’ll see what all the fuss is about.” Now I know. Honestly, I was traumatized by the first book, A Game of Thrones. I don’t know if it was my emotional state (hormones?) at the time, or what. I already knew (uh, SPOILER ALERT, I guess) that Ned Stark was going to die, but it still broke my heart because he became my favorite character, despite efforts to stay unattached. (Is he an INTJ? I was wondering, and I think he might be. Someone else can weigh in on this.)

After the first book, I decided I wouldn’t read any more. But I still wanted to know what happens, so I went on Wikipedia to read the synopses of the sequels. I found out that, being very much pro-Stark, I was in for a world of heartbreak. This only traumatized me further. To make matters worse, I finished the first book the day before I had my surgery. The anesthesia screwed with my emotions and my mental state for a while, such that I was still sobbing over Ned and Robb on the way to my two-week follow-up. But a few weeks and a clearer head later, I decided I still wanted to read the rest. So I bought, read, and finished A Clash of Kings, and now I’m waiting for A Storm of Swords to arrive from Amazon.

We’ll see how I feel about reading the rest of them when I’m done with that.

10. Frozen

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

(Click to buy the tshirt)

It took me a while to see Frozen. The movie had been out for months already when I went to see it, and it wasn’t a high priority. I just kept hearing about it online and elsewhere, until I just had to find out … yup … what all the fuss was about.

I loved Frozen, but I don’t really know what to say about it. I already overanalyzed the movie’s villain (sort of). I grew up with Disney, I love musicals, I love snow and winter, and I. Love. Elsa. (Yes, SHE is an INTJ. I’m certain of it.) I love Olaf and Kristoff and Sven, because they are adorable. I haven’t stopped listening to “Let it Go” or “For the First Time In Forever” for weeks. I couldn’t wait for the dollar theater to see it a second time, but I will see it a third and fourth time too. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s touching, it’s cute, it’s dramatic, and it’s surprising.

. . .

And now, some Fandom Honorable Mentions. These are fandoms I can’t completely leave out, but they weren’t quite as coincidentally happened-upon.

– Sense & Sensibility/Jane Austen

My earliest memory of anything Jane Austen is watching the 1995 Sense and Sensibility with one of my stepsisters. It became one of my favorite movies, but the first time I saw it, I hated it. I couldn’t remember names and I lost track of what the heck was going on. All I remembered about it was that “Hugh Grant is in it, and Kate Winslet marries some old guy.” As a die-hard (hurr hurr) Alan Rickman fan, this is hilarious to me NOW.

I watched it again in college, loved it, and read the book, which I love a lot less. Then I took a Brit lit class in which we read Pride and Prejudice, I watched the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth, and my love for Jane Austen was solidified. Now, I’ve read all her novels except Mansfield Park, which I hated and couldn’t finish, and watched many, many film adaptations.

Unlike many Austen fans, I’ve never been that interested in the author’s real life. Then, in an unfortunate example of breaking the Benedict Cumberbatch rule (Tom Hiddleston is in it for about 5 minutes total), I watched the dreary and dreadful Miss Austen Regrets, and it almost put me off Jane Austen completely.

– Horatio Hornblower

Spring break of my senior year of college (2007), Kara and I went to see the movie Amazing Grace. I was interested because it was my favorite period of history  (18th century Britain) and because it centered on the abolition of slavery in Britain and the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” a favorite topic of my favorite history professor. This was the first time I had watched anything with Ioan Gruffudd, who played the lead role as William Wilberforce. I knew going into AG that Ioan had played Hornblower, but I’d never watched it. Once he became my latest actor crush, however, I watched the whole Horatio Hornblower series, and formed an obsession that inspired my first novel, several blog posts, and my England vacation last year.

– Sherlock

Because Benedict Cumberbatch has a small role as Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger in Amazing Grace, I found out about him the same time as I found out about Ioan Gruffudd. (And said, “Benedict Cumberbatch? What a great name!!“) With fewer credits under his belt, there was less of an opportunity to form an obsession, but I did manage to watch some more stuff. I claim major hipster points for knowing about his talent before he was cool. I wasn’t a huge fan, though, until Kara informed me that he was going to be in Sherlock. I’ve never been a fan of mysteries or crime-drama, though I do like some Agatha Christie and I was a fan of CSI: Miami for a few seasons. I’d also never read any original Holmes stories (and still haven’t). So Sherlock went on my “things to watch” list, but I didn’t watch the first series until I was sick of hearing how great it was from everyone else on the planet. (I had also seen and loved Martin Freeman and Rupert Graves in other roles too.) After that, of course, I was hooked.

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