Now 12 years ago when I was just 20, I was excited to join my best friend Joanie on a road trip to the mountains as she told me about our church's singles retreat. It was a 3 day weekend up in Warm Lake Idaho at the camp ground shared by other small churches in the valley who shared in the same biblical doctrine. This just so happened to be the year our small church grew with young adults, all of them friends, all of from a bible study Joanie and I attended. There was going to be a big group of us from our church to go. I asked Joanie as she took my money to pay for our places in the retreat. "Why can't married couples come too?" I was thinking of my beloved friend Tiffany who was married, she had once said that when you got married people treated you differently and suddenly you weren't allowed the same freedoms. I was alarmed by such a statement from Tiff, so I became aware of not wanting to loose my own freedoms. Joanie just rolled her eyes and shook her head in reply "You are such a dork Debby! Single people don't want the married people to tag along trying marry off all the single people." I stood there wondering even more about this retreat, but I simply said "OoooH OoooKay." I was about to embark on a new adventure into the world of silly single people!
The car was packed as Joanie's cousin Kessa joined us even our new guy friends had a sister visiting. So they asked us to befriend their sister Marie. The look Marie gave me at first introduction was obvious to me that she was looking for someone "Cooler" and I didn't take it as an insult for I had gotten THAT look my whole life! I just chuckled as I told my Joanie girl we would loose her friendship the first chance she could meet cooler people then us. Joanie was applaud by my quick discernment. She exclaimed "WE ARE COOL! Maybe we are the coolest people I know! I don't want her to leave us for someone better, I think you are crazy! WE ARE SO COOL!" I was giggling as Joanie sighed "Well we SHOULD be cool anyway!" I nodded with amusement still thinking maybe I was wrong in my assumption.
The small car with us four girls had "Ace of Base" playing as we sung along in our cut off jean short and flip flops. Joanie and I had been up late the night before painting our toes. I was always giving Joanie a hard time about not taking her old paint off when it broke or chipped off. "You look like you have toe nail fungus!" I would exclaim and she would push me playfully saying "Leave my feet alone!" and I would grab her small finger pointing out the longer then all other nails "Do you snort cocaine? I don't think so! Ya need to clip this down! What will people think?" I would roll my eyes and make all kinds of funny faces in the mirror at her as she curled her hair. She was my very best friend, I was always playful and happy to be around her! In our car of four girls Joanie and I bantered back and forth with Marie looking at us annoyingly, she ended up finding a better friend to ride home with at the end of the weekend (How ironic) Joanie said she tried to make friends with her but it was not a natural fit. I remember sitting in the back as Kessa drove and Joanie sang to the music, I just listened. I always thought Joanie was so gifted in music when it came to singing, she was really good at it! When we arrived at the camp grounds of cabins and trees, with the volleyball net, the fire pit and the dinning hall made me smile for I really truly deeply loved this place! It was where all our church family camps took place and years of memories had added up. It was a short lived happiness when the recognizable laughter of a guy I use to chase away from my beloved girl friends maybe four or five years earlier came out of the dinning hall. "OH, HELL NO!" was all I could stop to say as Joanie's eyes widen too. We both gave each other the " What do we do?" look in alarm. Joanie's cousin snorted saying it was no big deal. But Joanie agreed with me the pervy guy was back! I really liked having a friend who saw right through his bull shit also! That first night he and I got into a huge argument then he spent the rest of the time avoiding me as I him. He said I had changed, that I wasn't as nice as I use to be, then I said he was still as creepy as always. (Poor guy, he was raised that way) The Singles Retreat was all together a foreign place for me, It only took that first few hours to figure out what was REALLY going on!
" Could it be we came here to be better friends? To be happy in our youth? To praise God for unconditional love and develop strong character? To be healthier for relaxing a weekend far away from our busy world? Maybe we all came here to admire nature and be one with the earth in the Holy spirit with the power of God?"
Sadly none of the above! Unless you did that on your own time and in your own growth. Singles Retreat was a joke or a slap in the face to me when it came to what was really going on...The counselors went around asking what boy or girl you liked and who you would want to date or court in marriage. I sat stunned and ashamed by this ridiculousness, I felt like we had re-entered Junior high! Kessa soon made fun of all the guys and girls, she amused herself with asking "Are they a couple or not?" I realized she had come up with a perfect title for this trip on that very first night. There were many girls around all of whom I knew or understood they didn't like me. When I would say something bold or challenging there was a ripple among those girls whispering about me. I would smirk thinking...
(Nothing like a bunch of catty bitches to keep you on your toes!) Joanie warned me that I was now walking around with a huge target on my back as an "Improper woman" Automatically making me a "Black Sheep" in this christian flock. With Kessa and Joanie I usually hid out away from what I clearly did not want to play, Couples or not. YET I grew bolder realizing there wasn't much more I could do or say around the other girls they still chatted about me and gasped in unison when I had declared that women had every right to play football too. (I do look back realizing I did lack tack and humbleness) Back then I was proud to tell my counselor that I had come to Singles Retreat to be with my friends NOT to get engaged! While some people chuckled at me, others stared in horror. I stood up saying "And I'll be damned if I miss out on this nice sunny afternoon, just sitting here talking about marriage!" Another group of girls gasp in shock as I left...and I didn't care.
Joanie had her own troubles with this retreat, now we weren't always together. Our friendship was wonderful like that, we didn't cling to each other the way others would. She could be playing basketball with a group, I could be out walking or writing in the woods, we were still friends no matter who we saw or what we did. I would play volleyball and she would wave at me as she ran by kicking the soccer ball. When we met up again it was as if we never ran out of something to talk about. "Debby I am so worried what should I do?" Joanie exclaimed once we met up. (Now she was just as bad as I was in telling guys to back off and keep to the friend only conduct.) Since arriving at this retreat I had noticed instantly all our new guy friends were competitive with each other, some of them got down right aggressive! Even approaching the girls boldly. By the second night most of the guys had paired up with a girl, I found myself thinking it was all so creepy! I didn't find it fun to talk about match making or flirting. I was never like that actually. So instead I asked my guy friends directly "What is your problem? why can't you just be real?" This back fired as the guys joked about me being "On the rag" when they didn't think I could hear their jokes, so they didn't take me seriously. Joanie and I found each other both annoyed by everything going on. "He keeps touching me for no real reason! Like when I was playing volleyball he came up behind me with his hands on my back then he slid them down my arms to "Teach me how to serve the ball better." I was so stunned and terrified but I didn't want him to hurt his feelings if I reacted by pulling away from him! what do I do??" She asked me with a deep sigh throwing herself on her sleeping bag. I felt a sudden rush of anger towards this guy, he hadn't been friends with us very long but he did stare after Joanie every where she went in church. I became aware of it shooting him a straight up glare when he saw me. (We will call him "H") he was on the look out for a wife there was no denying it. Yet I knew he didn't stand a chance with Joanie ever! Not even once for a second did he ever have a hope. I tried to tell him that nicely all the time, but then we would end up in argument over the fact he thought I didn't know my place as a woman. Such a phrase like that would send me over the edge in suddenly getting loud and mad, then he would push aside my advice to leave my best friend alone, because I was an emotional woman. "What do I do! It's getting worse he is touching me all the time now and running up from behind throwing me up in air! CRAZY! I am going CRAZY!" Joanie moaned into her pillow as I sat on the floor by her bed eating my favorite peanut M&Ms. "WELL....I could go kick his ass for ya." I joked around in reply. We both liked talking big and tough yet when the actual moment came we worried over if we would hurt the desperate guy's feelings. That first night Joanie and I walked through the starry wide open field out by the dinning hall, laying on our backs on the cold ground talking about what God thinks of us and how big the universe really is. It was 4:30am when she and I slipped into our beds. The other single girls got up at 5am to shower and put on their make up. I had exclaimed at the dinner table "It takes 3 HOURS to put your makeup on!!!???" (I made NO NEW FRIENDS by that reaction) It was 7:30am when H drove his pick-up to our cabin door and yelled into his speaker phone of his truck. "WAKE UP GIRLS!" over and over with some obnoxious music playing too. I shot awake from a deep cozy sleep with such terror at the sound of H's voice. I had sat straight up in my top bunk startled to death hissing out "That dumb ass! I am going to kick the shit out of him!" then I realized I was still at a church camp my language needed to stay in check. "NOT before I get to him!" was Joanie's response and I burst out laughing as my heart slowed down again. Joanie looked way more mad then I did which rarely happened. "I was having a wonderful romantic dream then HIS voice ruined it all!" She explained and we laid there under the booming noise he was making for we had stop listening, we were trying to calm down from the shock. I got down to slip on my shoes, when I suddenly notice our cabin. "OH MY! Where are we sleeping?!" I asked trying to not step on someone's makeup bag slipping open every color of lipstick that was ever made, the floor had deodorants, lotions and perfume bottles every where like some beauty parlor! I had never seen so many curling irons of every shape and size, curlers to sleep in and clothes piled high every where! Joanie got out her bed just as reluctantly as I had. "Hells Bells! what happened to this place!" She exclaimed as we both looked at each other in alarm. All of the girls had gotten up early to "LOOK GOOD." for the rest of the day! One of them even brought 3 suit cases, I sighed rolling my eyes thinking once again I didn't relate to the female sex very well. Now I did think it was important to look good, even care about body odor, but not at the price of sleep. I walked into breakfast time having put my bra on under my big sweater in my pajama pants, I thought I was descent enough for coffee and eggs. I put my hand up in H's face as he yelled his good morning at me and I stated quietly "Don't give me your shit." He hissed back "Don't say bad words." and I knew I had enough anger in me that needed to be guarded, Or I could picture myself punching him in the face only for myself to feel better. That same day he and I had many run-ins, I hadn't forgave him for rudely waking Joanie and I up. He finally moved in on Joanie cornering her on a walk that evening. I saw his hands move all over her as she shot me a startled look as if to say " What do we do?" I ran up next to her wedging myself between H and her in hopes to help her feel safe. Then H shove me back telling me to leave. H always acted like he thought I was completely out of line. I always thought of him as a big bully so we weren't going any where in our friendship. He grabbed Joanie by the side of her chest to move her away from me and she squealed out her protest. He didn't stop man handling her all the way back on the walk. I of course was applauded when she cried out and he STILL hung onto her sides pushing her into him as a full body hug. I grew beyond angry , shouting at him "Did you NOT hear her! LET GO!" He turned on me saying I should leave them alone again, He said I was pulling on Joanie like she was a rope. I lost it right then, I went off "I am not the one grabbing her by the boobs! and smoothing her! She doesn't like to be touched and I KNOW that I am her BEST friend!" He rolled his eyes saying I was over reacting. Then I yelled out "NO! YOU BACK OFF" I shoved him back, then he came at me pulling me back away from Joanie and I turned my elbow into his side. He was surprised swing me away then I kicked him in his leg...it grew into a real fight from there, I was wild with kicking and slapping, Joanie was waving us away from each other as a new group of people arrived on the scene, I was fuming! He yelled back that I was a brat and didn't know my place. I flipped him off so easily as Joanie took my arm almost crying. "I was so scared Debby! I want you to stay close to me until we get back to our cabin." I cooled down nodding and glaring back at the aggressive H guy. When we got to our cabin, we stayed in for awhile. Joanie and I talked it all out what was really happening, "Debby you are going to get into trouble for flipping him off, he might even be telling everyone what you did right now!" I sat there realizing my temper had won out and I wish I could of handle the whole situation better. I sighed helplessly "Like I could give a shit." She smiled shaking her head while rubbing her wrist where he had pulled her down to him against her will. I had wander away from those 2 for a second and came back to their struggle on the slope of the mountain. To me, from my point of view, I was a warrior of virtue, to him I had interrupted his romance of stealing a kiss. I know what I saw, how a surge of anger flew through me and how I realized it was time to fight back. Joanie and I spent the rest of the night together laughing and joking. We told her dad the next day how invaded Joanie had felt and he said next time I should use my knee. I think in moments like that we learn how to be bold. I was both surprised and completely pissed off, I had lost my temper! Joanie and I spent that last night of singles retreat being goofy by the fire pit, acting out movie lines, singing modern song lyrics and feeling relieved to just simply be. For we were proud to be single after all!