Plus, the men in movies and on the sports fields and on television – my heroes, if you will (superficial, I know, but I still looked up to them as an adolescent) – all had beautiful girls in their lives. A beautiful girl makes you want to run faster than a speeding bullet. She makes you want sink the winning bucket or score the winning touchdown. She makes you want to lasso the moon for her. Like there is a direct link from doing something epic to winning her heart and getting to hold her close while slow dancing, getting to cuddle with her on a couch while watching a movie, getting to build a life with her all the while thinking that you’re the luckiest guy alive.
At this point, you might be wondering, how did it go for me – as a teenager…was I a ladies man? Did I have success with any beautiful girls back then? Did I go on a lot of dates, and woo a lot of hotties, and break a lot of hearts? Well, if you’re reading this blog, you probably know me in real life, and so you also probably know that the answer is a resounding no. It was awful. I didn’t know anything about girls, or relationships, or what to do. At all.
I remember all of my crushes. In third grade, Shelly. In fourth grade, Leah. In fifth grade, Mrs. Stanley (oh man, she was a looker. And she taught English really well). In sixth and seventh grade, Melissa. In eighth and ninth grade, Summer. In tenth and eleventh grade, Rachel. In twelfth grade, Lucy.
But I barely talked to any of them. I didn’t know how. Because they all felt completely out of my league. On a whole different level. I didn’t know what actually mattered at that age. And I didn’t know what actually matters long-term. And in retrospect, my ineptitude was actually a blessing, because it saved me from 1) being heartbroken a million times and 2) leaving a trail of broken hearts in my wake.
All of those beautiful girls were (obviously) pursued by all of the beautiful guys. The popular guys. The guys on the sports teams, the guys who exuded so much confidence and strength. The guys who were charismatic and incredibly charming, and made them laugh, and looked great with their shirt off. And that wasn’t me. But that’s what I thought it took. To land a girl. To be in a relationship. To make progress towards ‘happily ever after.’ And so I would try. In very feeble, awkward, contrived, and unnatural ways, I would try.
With Summer, in eighth and ninth grade, I knew she liked Nine Inch Nails, and so I started to listen to them. And adopt more of a dark, depressed, and mysterious air about me. I basically became emo. But that didn’t get her interested in me romantically. With Rachel, in tenth and eleventh grade, I could tell that she loved it when I made her laugh, and so I would seriously spend all sorts of time learning jokes and riddles and humorous anecdotes and puns so that I could share them with her (in an off-the-cuff manner) during Spanish class each day. Unfortunately, that didn’t work and I stayed stuck in the friend zone. Even though I had started to work out at this point, and even though I was starting to get ripped and pretty vascular. I really thought that would do it, but it didn’t. What the pez. I thought girls would swoon over bulging veins. Nope. Apparently it takes more than that.
Anyway, with Lucy in twelfth grade, I wrote her not one, not two, but THREE poems over the course of the school year, and had a very popular kid at my lunch table deliver them to her (because of course I couldn’t do it personally, I was incredibly self-conscious and shy). And while I did talk to her a couple of times, I never mustered up the courage to actually convey to her that her sapphire eyes seriously left me breathless, let alone ask her for her phone number or to hang out sometime. Now that I think about it, I would have probably done it in the wrong order. Dangit. (Be cool, Sameer, BE COOL. You’re not supposed to freak them out by coming on too strong too early.) Oh, the lessons I needed to learn….
I also should point out that I didn’t really think of girls as normal human beings. Now, I didn’t objectify them and want to possess them, but I definitely pedestalized them. To me, they were the tour de force of God’s handiwork, His most magnificent masterpiece. It never really occurred to me that they struggle in many of the same ways that I struggled, and that most everyone else struggles. With doubts, fears, bouts of loneliness, insecurities, needs for validation and affirmation, parental problems, money problems, and so much more. They just seemed perfect to me, and I wanted to be associated with that perfection, and delight and revel in that perfection. It was really that simple and that uncomplicated for me.
As I got older, though, my eyes slowly opened. And I started to see that while many girls were (naturally) drawn to beautiful guys, that wasn’t the most important thing necessary to win their hearts and – most importantly – to make the relationship last. Physical attractiveness, a sense of humor, and an abundance of charisma and charm was nice, but it was gravy. It was sprinkles. The cherry on top. And I started to learn that all the things my pastor and the other fatherly figures in my life were telling me were actually (and incredibly) true: what matters is not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside. For so long that seemed so cliché, and hollowly comforting – but as time went on and as everyone gets older and has to live out adulthood – it’s actually everything. It’s like the biggest truth ever. And so this made me think that wow, Sameer, you have a shot. You’re not destined to be alone forever, and God could actually give you your heart’s desire (a girl I was attracted to!!!! And, of course, who was really awesome).
My first glimpse of the reality of this was when I realized that God had made me a good listener. Because as I started to feel more comfortable around members of the opposite sex (you know, look them in the eye, sit next to them on a couch, give them hugs when I saw them), they would want to talk to me. I repeat: girls wanted to talk to me. A lot! And I would just listen, and give them the best of my attention. And they would really appreciate it, and keep coming back. And yes, I would remain encamped in the friend zone, and never ever demonstrate interest (for fear of creeping them out, which is rooted in a fear of rejection). But this would be good for me. It would be a very instructive revelation during this growing season of my life.
Time continued to march forward, and with me not being in any relationships and not really knowing what I was doing to even try to make one happen, God had lots (LOTS!) of time to work on my character. He broke my heart a million times so that I could feel the pain of others readily, viscerally, incessantly (and often too much, at times). He whittled down my sharp edges, and replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He pounded me in the crucible and thwarted the plans I made in my own strength and own efforts, so I could learn that unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). He taught me how to give grace to myself and to others who were trying but also failing. He made me dependent on Him for my validation, and confidence, and hope. And He gave me childlike faith, and restored my ability to see the world with awe and wonder (which, incidentally, I believe He can do for anyone, at any time of their life). And apparently, all of this made me attractive to the opposite sex. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Yes, it surprises me too. But then I landed the most beautiful woman I know to be my wife forever, and so I’m pretty sure it is true.
I feel that when a woman reaches adulthood on a both a “head” and “heart” level, and when the “teenage dream” relationship ideal of which Katy Perry so eloquently sings has unfortunately fallen short, they realize they would much rather have a man of substance rather than style. Style is a good thing – six pack abs, witty banter, hilarious cuteness, and all of that – but you can’t build a life and a marriage and a family on that. You can’t anchor deep into that, and hold fast through the storms that invariably will come your way. And I’ve learned that the converse is also true: I can’t be all about pretty eyes, and smooth skin, and curves, because I need a helpmate and a true partner for life so much more (desperately more!) than I need arm candy.
And so for all of these reasons, I believe that any guy can get any girl. There is no such thing as “out of your league.” You just need to work on being solid, and learning the many lessons He wants to teach you during this season of singleness and preparation. You just need to major in substance, and minor in style – rather than the other way around. Then, you will actually become God’s best, positioned to receive God’s best. I know it’s easy to say and to commend to others, but miserably difficult to walk out. I am currently trying to convey this to a couple of the teen guys I am mentoring, and I feel like they get it on a “head” level…but it’s so hard to wait and trust and prepare. Especially when nothing is happening, for years and years and years. It’s like, this is not working, why do I even bother…. And I’ve been there for what seemed like decades, so I completely get it. It sucks. But it’s all part of it. They know my journey, and they know how it worked out for me in the end. And how my life shouts out the truth of His promise that those who wait on the Lord will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:31).