Continuing the trend of comparing my field notes with those of others, I thought I’d get in touch with Max and Lauren Dubinsky. If you don’t know who they are, well, you must be new. Each half of the Dubinsky partnership has their mission aimed at helping their sex (as in gender) be better at what they do. A big part of what they advocate is cutting everybody some slack, and looking for the good in the different. That’s what I wanted to talk to them about — how things might change in the church if we lowered our pointer fingers a little. Or maybe they needed to prove me wrong, thinking this sexual competitiveness was a thing.
Max: I like church, for the record. I think it’s great.
Lauren: [laughs] We always have to say that.
Me: But it’s true. If we’re going to ask the church, or people in it, to stop pointing fingers, we have to stop, too.
Lauren: It’s an awesome thing to get to the place where they’re just people, and God made them the way He made them for their own life story, and it has nothing to do with what I’m doing with my life. It’s an amazing thing to participate in that life.
Max: The church is always going to be broken. You’re just talking to two people who came out of churches that were missing the mark. But they did a lot of things right. It just sucks that the wrong things they do sometimes take a personal toll. The same thing that encouraged one person really hurt me. That’s just a battle we have to face.
Me: Lauren recently wrote a blog that made me think about how women in the church view each other with suspicion, if one doesn’t seem to follow the same rules as the others. Is this just me?
Lauren: When you believe that your beauty and sexuality is the ticket to what you want most in life, you will pit yourself against anything that makes it harder for you to attain that. So when life is hard, your enemies are the prettier girls. Because in a professional sense, I know that men hire the prettiest girls. In a personal sense, I don’t want to always feel bad about myself around her. I don’t want any love interest in my life distracted by her.
Me: Max, is this exclusively a chick thing? Or do men operate this way, too?
Max: I can only speak for my personal experience. If I see men doing things I cannot do, and think I cannot pull off, I want to gravitate towards them, not push them away.
Lauren: Max is an extraordinarily nice person.
Max: I would like to think that’s the way most men are.
Lauren: So If you walk into a room … hypothetically, you’re single, so you can save face in this … and there’s a really attractive woman, and one other guy you think is more attractive than you, how do you process that? Do you feel insecure? Do you feel a competitive spirit towards him? Are you comparing yourself? Because if I walk into a room with another girl that I think is really beautiful, and there’s another really good looking guy in the room, I instantly have a sense of defeat.
Max: The guy who’s confident, who has a great one-liner to everything everyone says, who isn’t afraid of confrontation … I often fantasize “I wish that I had that. I wish I could be as brave as he is, to say those things.” But I never want to eliminate those people from my life. I see them as men to look up to.
Me: Max, maybe we need to fire you and bring in a guy that’s not as nice as you.
Lauren: Obviously, I know this can differ from guy to guy. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I know you are insecure about your looks.
Lauren: But secure about yourself as a person. They seem to be very separate things, to him. Whereas for me, they are much more closely tied to one another. One thing that has driven this concept home for me is getting married. If you go into marriage with the idea that you got your husband because you’re the prettiest girl he met, that puts you in a position where if your husband ever sees a girl that’s prettier than you, you’re in danger.
Me: Well … I know those women, don’t you?
Lauren: Women walk into church and see some girl with great legs, rocking a skirt that goes too short. Our thought is, “It’s not fair … I covered up more, to not be a slut at church.”
ME: Church becomes like high school.
Lauren: I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve talked to who grow up in church, get to their late 20s, and they think they’re still single because the girls who dress more provocatively in church are getting the guys. That lands you in a really complicated point — on one hand, they’re absolutely right. Every man wants to be with a confident woman, and ultimately that’s what dressing provocatively communicates. That they’re confident in their body.
Me: Max, you can’t tell me there’s not some guy version of this.
Max: Girls seem to be attracted to men who look super “Godly.” I had someone once tell me I looked really hot worshipping. That made me say “Okay, on Sunday, if I put my hands in the air and go down front, girls are going to notice me. Girls are going to look at me and think ‘Wow, that’s a godly man.’” When you’re a Christian guy who is serving and worshipping, women are attracted to you. I used that to my advantage, and tried to date them all. I couldn’t go to church if my hair didn’t look good, or my shirt didn’t fit right. I had to look my best.
Me: So we try to strike this weird balance between being both physically and spiritually appealing … and when someone else plays the game better than us, or refuses to play the game at all, we judge them. Is that fair to say?
Max: Before I married Lauren, a Christian man called me up on the phone and said, “If you’re serious about marrying Lauren, you need to get your act together. You need to be a man.” I felt exactly where God needed me to be, but I listened to this guy and was like “Oh crap. I need to be a man. I can’t marry this woman who told me she loved me, and we’ll be together no matter what happens.” As a man, you have to have everything together, and then God will bring you a wife.
Lauren: That’s relegating human beings into a role that you think all people in that gender have to fit into.
Max: As a man in the church, you have these credentials, your Godly performance. And then you’ll get a wife. But not before.
Me: I knew there had to be a guy version of this sexual competitive thing!
Lauren: The goal is to treat beauty and sexuality as something that we all have been inherently given. The beauty and sexuality in other people doesn’t negate ours. It’s not something that only one person can own. It’s a good thing, it’s not something that is bad, or has any ability to steal what God has given me. When I viewed everyone as competition, I had no close girlfriends. When I realized they had this potential to be my sisters, I became a magnet for awesome girls who were looking to really be intimate friends with other girls. It was a major shift in my life.
Max: Lauren is very approachable. I told her yesterday, we were walking down the street, and I told her she has a very friendly look. You are a very friendly person.
Lauren: That’s so not true! I’m the person everyone thinks is a bitch, and everyone talks to you because you look so nice.
Max: I just feel like when we’re out, people talk to you. I think you have a very comforting aura about you.
Lauren: That’s so nice of you to say.
Me: Um … I’m still here, you guys.
This article was originally published in the print edition of Converge, July-August Issue 13