Here is what I know about myself, I like my churches like I like my men--intellectual, small and quirky. I moved recently which puts me in the church-hunting scene and I don’t know that I ever realized before how very similar the process can be to blind dating. I give each church a try based on the information that I have from a friend, a group that I belong to or, let’s face it, maybe just based on outward appearances. I think I have a good gut for what I want, but I still always try a few that aren’t my type thinking that perhaps my tastes have changed or that I should just find a few places to pass the time for a while. After all, my perfect church home is only really going to plop itself down in front of me when I stop looking, right?
That is, by the way, what married Christians are always telling single people about “church” searches.
“You’re only going to find a church when you stop expecting to find one. Good churches always pop up when you least expect it.”
“God will bring you a “church” when you stop wanting one so badly. That’s what happened with me and First Baptist, here.” (Cue, oozing condescension)
AND, finally, “Did you ever think maybe this is a gift from God that you haven’t found a “church”? Now you are free just to concentrate on HIM and not get confused with the love and support and fun that you would be having if you did have one.”
Wait, that all sounds stupid in this context doesn’t it? Same goes when we’re talking relationships. If you are a married person who uses one or more of these canned lines, on your poor vulnerable, single friends, get in the bathroom, rinse that filthy mouth out with a bar of soap and immediately send those phrases to your conversational graveyard!
Now as I was saying, on my church-finding journey I always want to visit a couple of places that are refined and traditional, but after one or two “dates” I am like “Am I ever going to be able to dance around you” and “Why are all of your friends geriatric?”
Then, occasionally I visit a small, home-grown-country church because my grandmother wants me to. Always a horrible idea. She has an agenda.
Most recently, I blind-church- dated the popular one. This is the church that everyone in town talks about excitedly, assuming it is just what you want. This church is big and strong, has money and always has a lot going on every week. That’s all good, of course except that big and strong makes me feel little and fearful, rich makes me feel awkward like when I go to the Save Haiti Dinner and I have to ask which one is the salad fork. And, when, in the past I have church-dated the congregation that has the most stuff going on every week, I have found that it doesn’t seem to have a lot of time for me. I once went to talk to the pastor at a popular church that I attended at the time. I was crying, confused and in need of a little TLC. So I asked the pastor when I could come in and talk with him about some important issues I was facing and he told me he was booked for the next 3 months. “Look, you can either talk to me right here, right now, find an elder to get with later this week or get on my schedule for 3 months out. But it seems like you’ve got a lot going on here, so I would set up an appt with an elder if I were you, so that you can get the most out of your time." I do not enjoy being pawned off. We "broke up", a few weeks later.
So, in the spirit of success in both church and romance searching, I have created a list of tips for finding your dream church/partner.
1. Seek Divine Counsel. God has good things in store for our futures, period. There is no need to fret when parents are sending pamphlets for every church in town or rambling on about grandchildren. Use the pamphlets for a decoupage project and remind them that you only get to be a grandparent after you really truly stop wanting it. God loves us and is the author and finisher of our faith. If you want to know what happens next, check with the writer.
2. Know Thyself. If you want to puke when someone argues that God is a registered Republican, maybe stay away from First Republican Church in smalltown, USA and the singles group that meets there. You will never agree with everything a person or church says or does, of course but when you sense a profound disconnect (vaguely racist or sexist comments, odd money spending habits, over-emphasis on outer appearances) ask a few clarifying questions and if you aren’t pleased with the answers move on. Life is too short.
3. Be open. Although a gal (or guy) has to know what she or (he) wants, I think all of us can probably think of a time when we scoffed at someone or something and that object of our ridicule ultimately turned out to be the very best thing for us. You will never get to participate in God’s raucous cinematic adventures for your life if you insist on replaying the same stale VHS tape for the next 25 years. Maybe you hated blond hair when you were 12 but you’re 32 now dude, take a risk. Or perhaps you have historically experienced acute sleepyheadedness singing hymns in a liturgical service. But it could it be that these old hymns might have new life for the one who has ears to hear? Seek God. Know Thyself. Be open. Wacky though the journey may be, God has big plans.
** Side Note, I have been trying to post my 50th essay for the past two weekends and kept having technical difficulties, this is not that article, but maybe one day in the near future I will be able to paste that one as well.
I am a woman of many neuroses as evidenced by the following scenarios:
1. I believe inanimate objects to have feelings such that when I was a child I lost sleep over whether it was a privilege for ice-cubes to be selected to cool my drink or a horrifying death for the poor little icey guys and gals.
2. Ever since I learned of its existence in the ninth grade, I cringe when people misuse the subjunctive tense, even though English classes have not done a great job at getting’ the word out. If I WERE a grammar teacher you can bet people would know about it! (See, since I am not a grammar teacher I have to use were rather than was…that is the main subjunctive rule, consider yourself SCHOOLED).
3. I am constantly inappropriately, unfairly and unnecessarily ranking people and things on my various mediums for list-creation,
4. I am known to go for days without showering but still cannot stand the thought of dust on my feet . (Don’t even get me started about long walks on the beach, as I would sooner take up cannibalism as a regular pastime than the foot-rape that occurs on the gravelly shores of Texas.)
So, I could be wrong, but I just have a feeling that having a partner in life might whittle some of these neuroses down to a level that I like to think might be barely recognizable to my eventual DSM-wielding Shrink. Let me be clear about something though, when I say a husband could help,I do not mean through some romantic and spiritual process of sharing a space and a life with another human being--the two of us gently sanding down each other’s rough edges like iron sharpening iron. That, sounds horrible! Sandpaper?! Iron!? C’mon people, I am more of a “Kill ‘em with kindness kind of girl.” But, I digress.
My current neurosis fueled dilemma comes as a result of having just bought a book of funny essays by comedian, Jack Handey (that is his real name by the way). And here is my problem. I find it really unsavory when I go into someone’s bathroom and they seem to have a permanent collection of reading material in there. Call me crazy, but do you really want to advertise to the world that your bathroom habits afford you the kind of time to breeze through East of Eden? Why not just walk around in a T-shirt that you have bedazzled with the words “boweltastic” or “I’d rather be pooping”. I myself, have an unhealthy desire to be preoccupied at all times, but when I am in the bathroom I tend to be pretty goal-oriented, not looking for anything to potentially prolong my stay in the room where people go to do everything with their bodies that they are not allowed to do in front of others.
But this book of essays is the perfect bathroom book. The chapters are just a few pages each and it is light-hearted and mostly meaningless. (You do not want to read serious stuff in the bathroom. What happens if you have the most important epiphany of your life but then you can’t share it with anyone because it would involve them getting a mental image of your underwear hanging down around your feet while you sit on the toilet? Don’t do that to yourself, dude.) Anyway, I am standing there today, gazing into my restroom, hands trembling as I tried to figure out whether or not I cared so little about Jack Handey as an artist that I could take the chance of exposing his work to the invisible but certain cloud of bacteria that is sure to linger in that room, just to give my (apparently) soft-stomached friends a chuckle. But my pride would not let me do it. I cannot have people thinking that I am in the bathroom frequently and enduringly enough to need diversion.
But, if on the other hand, I had a husband, I could just roll my eyes when it came up in conversation like I am always seeing wives do. “Oh, the Jack Handey Book”, I would say condescendingly when it came up in conversation. “I have told Mr. Gosling how unseemly that looks but you gotta let’em win sometimes, am I right ladies?” Then me and all my snotty wife friends would have a laugh at our poor husbands’ expense and go back to playing canasta. I am not sure why I picture myself married in 1958 but I just do sometimes, especially when I am feeling particularly sexist. Plus, I always picture myself using the catch phrase “am I right ladies” a lot more liberally as I will finally have more things in common with my gender about which to commiserate.
But since I am not married, I have some decisions to make about this bathroom turned library debacle, so, Should I:
A. Elope with a Stranger providing he is willing to take the rap for my Jack Handey Book Sitting next to the toilet.
B. Fashion a stand that sits just outside the bathroom door, allowing guests to self-select whether they take the book inside with them.
C. Put the book in the bathroom with a huge-fake- sticky note on the front that says this: Hey Girl, I got this book and thought of you, but I left it here in the bathroom just to get under your skin. I know both your tastes and your pet peeves so well. Don’t you dare take this book out of the bathroom or I will break up with you. Love, Your Totally Real Boyfriend, Leif Luke Tyler McRealenstein
We created The Independent Woman’s Association (IWA) when I was a Freshman in high school, because , as I am sure you know, one doesn’t just wakeup angsty one day-- at least I didn’t. For me, angst is genetic—it has been a part of my DNA since before I was born. When I was a child I had traditional worries like being kidnapped or experiencing the death of a parent. I also had less traditional concerns like a nagging suspicion that I was a social experiment dropped into a fake family being paid to feign some level of affection for me while scientists outside the home watched my every move through the windows of our double-wide trailer. And of course, I always, always have had plenty of worries about boys. In first grade I was in love with my neighbor, Fred Savage. He was a fifth-grader and I worried that he would let the age difference come between us. In third grade, there was a new boy at school who looked like an eight year old Bill Clinton—thankfully his escapades were nothing like that of the President’s, but he did have his charm. We were all head-over-heels in love with him but obviously only one of us could have him. This worried me. In fifth grade I was the only one of my friends who did not have a “date” to the annual Country and Western Dance at my elementary school so I began to think, and this is a direct quote from my journal , that I was “ugly as a gorilla and fat as a pig”.
By seventh grade, I was certain that there had never been another individual on God’s green earth who had waited this long for a suitor and I hate to be catty but some girls who were even uglier than me were already pregnant by eighth grade. The world can really be unfair sometimes.
And when the world is unfair, we as humans have to make meaning of it all somehow—it is our only shot at angst management. So it makes sense that one day, while all of our friends were presumably busy making out with their fancy junior and senior boyfriends and as Amanda and I sat there in world geography bemoaning our single ladyness we had a shared stroke of genius.
Shouldn’t we get a little credit for this consistent demonstration of feminine independence—a lifetime achievement award of sorts? I mean for all of our able-bodied lives we had been the type of women who carried our own books, picked our own flowers, bought our own stuff and taught our own selves how to kiss (shout out to all of our old pillows and stuffed animals, btw).
Yes, we should be awarded! We should get to be just as proud of ourselves for abstaining (by default) from romantic relationships as our girlfriends who nabbed that hot tuba player or chess club vice pres.. (We weren’t the absolute coolest group in the world.) And thus the IWA was created.
1. Each of our girlfriends, having at one time been an independent woman can be members 2. ONLY those of us without boyfriends can hold office in the IWA 3. Offices will be determined by length of time since the candidate’s last relationship. Ex: President=August Angst: No boyfriend ever Vice President= Amanda: Boyfriendless since Kinder Treasurer= Liv Tyler, No BF since eighth grade. Members= Amy , Juliette Lewis and eventually Gwyneth P.
This silly little club gave us lunchroom fodder, something to be mock-proud of when we were single and some crumb of happiness to offer each other when one of us got our heart’s broken: “Well at least you will move up in the IWA ranks,” we would say each time we heard about the dissolution of one of our friends’ relationships. It was the perfect existential expression for our teenager dilemmas.
It should come as no surprise though that as soon as Amanda and I finally got boyfriends we included rule 4.
4. Boys are allowed to me honorary members of the IWA if they are single and committed to its aims OR if they are dating one of the members.
Both of those boyfriends did turn out to be gay and everything, but at the time they did wonders not only for our confidence but for our wardrobe and hair choices as well.
Today the IWA status looks like this:
Liv, Amanda, Gwyneth- Husbands
Juliette: Divorced with Boyfriend
Amy : Cohabitating with Boyfriend
And if I was still 14 or if I didn’t have some way to make meaning of it all—It might really suck. But writing for you all each week makes this time of life practically angstless. And for that reason I proudly sign this essay with my full blog name and the credentials I have worked hard (by default) to earn,
Ms. August Angst, President IWA Established: 1996
And I just decided we are now taking New Members, so if you think you meet the qualifications, please "throw yo' hands up at me" in the comments section!
Also, in the mood for something a little more serious from August Angst? Check out my recent review of The Help on a new Spiritual Cinema Page or just click here.
A few weeks ago I visited an old church of mine, I’d say I was a member there about a decade ago. I love visiting old friends, especially those who have guided me on my faith journey, but in all honesty sometimes it gets a little awkward when a defining characteristic of the relationship is hell avoidance. Here’s why…
So I walk back into this old church-building and in almost no time the correspondence secretary has found me. She needs my new email she says so that she can add me once again to the church email prayer list. Panic Strikes! I cannot be on another prayer list I scream to myself! Then again I also have too much pride to decline, I should really pray about that pride issue, but after I only if I figure out how to get out of this prayer nightmare!!!! I subtlety survey the room just to see how many people here I even know and to determine how frequently the people that I don ’t know are going to have requests.
He looks depressed about something She is a broken hip waiting to happen They are probably trying to get pregnant Those four will be going off to college soon and will leave behind panicky parents.
Email lady sensed my hesitation.
I don’t send any junkmail she assured me, no jokes, no riddles, just our prayer digests, I think she gave a time-line too like “its about once a month or once a week.” It didn’t matter because I know there is no such thing as efficient prayer digests because the nature of a request is that it is new and urgent. No one says, I won’t need any divine intervention for the next 3 weeks but pencil me in for a quick one-liner around the 18th.
I can’t tell you the number of ways I’ve tried to organize my prayer life…I’ve tried “spirit-led” aka pray for one person and then fall asleep. I’ve tried day-of-the-week-prayers where Monday is family prayer day. Tuesday is work prayer day, Wednesday is church prayer day, etc. etc. I’ve tried keeping a prayer board where I pull out the names of several people from several categories of life each day until everyone is prayed for at the end of the week. And I have tried general, “protect my family, church, friends and precarious sitcom programming from all danger.” I have disappointed myself in every one of these prayer methods.
Currently these are the prayer numbers I am working with:
Church Family: around 60
Ministries I work with: Around 60
Friends who don’t fit in other categories: Around 30
So what is a well-meaning, Christian girl supposed to do when someone asks her to be on their prayer team? I can tell you what I wanted to do: I wanted to say no thank you I think you guys have it covered, I already have a lot of other people to pray for and unlike that show-off God, time is limited for me, you might have thought from my chaste lifestyle that I have become a nun, I assure you this is not the case though I understand the confusion.Thank you for considering me worthy of approaching God on behalf of this group but for now I’ll pass. Please don’t make me feel like I am a devil-worshipper for responding in this way. But if you do think my soul is corrupted, maybe you could add me in with all those other requests? (Flash Adorable Smile).
And I can tell you what I actually did: “Sure, of course, How can you turn down prayer opportunities, but NO jokes right? ‘Cause I hate jokes, I just want the prayer. (Flash adorable smile)
That was 5 weeks ago, I have received 26 emails. This is the problem with prayer. Has anyone out there solved this problem? Or does everyone else just have a way better relationship with JChrizzy (Jesus’ rap name) than me? LMK.
You know that thing where you use all your single-lady freedom to purposefully transport all of your belongings 4 hours away from most of your friends and family, making it only logical to go ahead and get a job nearer to all of your things and then to have the mail forwarded to this new , but out of the way storage facility? Yeah, well, that’s the situation I got goin’ here right now and if you’re not prepared, it can kinda suck.Which is why, I find It very important in times like these to have a few fictional friends on which you can rely at the end of the day when you might otherwise, were it not for their company, be found writhing around on the floor in a vat of all your old, but newly tear-stained, photos of your real-life compadres.
So, I have a sort of “sista’s are doin’ it for themeselves” television programming theme to provide these little imaginary and purgatorical friendships offering me a good laugh or cry whilst my soul is being torn between two real communities—the one that I look longingly back on and the one I look eagerly toward.
Below are my 3 most current recommendations for girl-power boxed sets sure to make you feel like you have friends you can count on even whenyou’ve abandoned all your friends.
You might be thinking to yourself “didn’t that show come on the CW?” You are correct oh snobby one and I was right there with ya until I moved in with my friend Taylor Swift a few years ago. Taylor was a huge GG fan and I was a huge Swift fan so I dialed down my sense of television selection superiority only to find that this little gem of a show had stolen my heart with its small town charm, bad boy love interestslike Milo Ventimiglia and a tribute to the deep affections, mild annoyances and shades and shades of crazy that characterize intimate female relationships. Is the witty banter a little over-the-top? Yes. Is the mother-daughter relationship a little suspect and even off-putting? Yes. Will you fall in love with the show anyway? Yes. If you give it a fair shake I think you will find that Lorelai and Rori Gilmore might just become your new, fake besties.
2.Golden Girls& Designing Women
I think we all know that the original girls were Golden not Gilmore and when I was a child I wanted to pattern my life after one Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women. You can catch reruns of both on lifetime if you can’t spring for the boxed set, making this the economical choice when it comes to your development of faux-friendships. But just because they are the cheapest doesn’t mean they don’t come through for a girl. You don’t think Betty White earned her fame doing Lake Placid do ya? And if you have not recently delighted in the comedic timing of Bea Arthur it is time to do so. Take a trip down eighties lane every now and again. Have fun with the ladies and see how many guest stars you can spot with old wacky hair-dos. I’m lookin’ at you Mario Lopez.
I said the day would never come.When my sister announced that she was a fan of the show, I catapulted right onto the pedastool that I had affixed atop my high horse so that I could really do the most thorough job of looking down my nose at her. “This is exactly what is wrong with America” I screamed psychotically.“What is soooooo desperate about being a housewife? We are all just supposed to feel sorry for the hellish existence of staying home to take care of your kids and husband? I will NEVER watch a show with such an offensive title. N-E-V-E-R.”
Funny thing about “never”…it is probably always an overstatement when you are talking about something as inconsequential as primetime television programming.And so, a few months ago when I was beginningto pre-mourn my move away frombff and landlord Laura, I started plopping down on the couch next to her despite her seeming approval of the breakdown of American society as it pertains to honoring and respecting domestic and family-centered work as a fulfilling role for women in today’s society. As it turns out. D.H. is a beautifully written character dramedy from a fresh, unique and woman-honoring perspective.I contend that it is more about the desperation of being human than being a wife and mother but it is well done all the same. The girls of Wisteria lane are keeping me laughing and thinking this week as I come home to an otherwise companionless space.
So, check out these programs if you haven’t already.Or if you still live in the same town as your gal pals have a girls night with them--celebrate one another.Throw a party! And if you did throw this party and invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say,
I hate painting walls--especially the edging, AND I am a horrible driver-- especially in vehicles that accommodate more than 4 bodies comfortably AND I avoid shopping, especially when the products are things like engineered wood and throw pillows.
In these and many other ways I am pretty much useless. And the problem with that is that I have no default…
And by default, I mean partner.
And by partner, I mean person who ultimately feels responsible for me and to me…
I have been noticing recently how often people are on the phone with their spouses. The conversations are exhausting but beautiful, because no matter what is happening in their life, their default needs and wants to know about it.
Toilet overflows, call your default.
You’re thinking about going on an Alaskan Cruise? Check the dates with your default.
Had the worst day at work and could use a shoulder rub, default at your service!
But for me it is different because I never really know who is going to come through for me in all my plumbing, travel and “everything is going to be alright” sort of needs. There is no one on this planet for whom, I am their number one concern.
This used to really depress me.
After all, I am the girl who, at times, finds it difficult to be in a relationship with God because I know that I am not his favorite. But recently as I have been preparing to move, I have also been noticing something else. In my defaultlessness there has been this wave of me-centered husbandry. People have:
Put me up in their home
Given me their furniture
Painted my walls
Cleaned my toilets
Jumped up and down at my good news
Saved materials for me
Thrown me parties
Written letters of reference
Bought me Stuff
Driven four hours for me
Toted my things from here to there, and
Said, “Please Don’t Go.”
And all of a sudden I find myself wondering if I haven’t been misinterpreting life for all these single years. Because in this moment it seems not like God doesn’t love me enough. But rather, that his love is so abundant toward me that it wouldn’t even fit it one frail little human body ( I do like my men pretty skinny, after all). So vast are his affections toward me, it would seem, that they require an abundance of human vessels to be demonstrated appropriately. So today I am saying T.G.I.S. --Thank God I’m Single so that I might know and receive this depth and breadth of love.
And, Thank God it is Sunday, the day each week when I practice remembering to be thankful for all that I have and all that I am spared.
So I have this beautiful, sage-ish single-lady friend who tells me that she thinks my single-lady days might be coming to a close in the not-so-distant future. I know the appropriate response is to back-handspring myself into joyous oblivion until I vomit-up and out all of the anxious and despairing remnant of singleness’ bitter footprint in my life, but the analytical side of me believes a more measured response is worth some consideration. So, here it is, my pre-emptive PRO –CON list for starting a romantic relationship should this as of yet still imaginary dream-man waltz into my life as per the prediction.
Con # 1 “Talking”
I know this term was at the time, short-lived and at present completely archaic, but it is the only term I know to describe the variable time-period of testicle less (that is me trying to church up “no-balls”) Bull-manure (I think you know what I mean) that young men put young women through as they try and decipher if they are willing to fulfill the astonishing commitments of young love including: some amount of talking on the phone, saying feelings out loud occasionally and declining to make-out with other people should the opportunity arise. These decisions take time, understandably. But, I am hoping that in the adult world this stage is pretty much bypassed. On the other hand…
Pro # 1 “Talking”
There is something to not knowing exactly where things stand. I know that makes me a horrible woman, childish even-- but how much time can you really spend wistfully analyzing a statement like, “I am completely interested in you, have no reservations about starting a dating relationship and in the appropriate amount of time I will be eager to discuss marriage which I see as a likely conclusion to this relationship.” Pardon my bawdiness, but that just isn’t very sexy. Instead, it seems that the tension between, “he loves me, he loves me not” is part of the satisfaction. Possibly even something to look forward to, so I suppose the concept of “talking” is ultimately a draw. On to the next con, then
Con #2 Listening to, Watching and Participation in “Boy Stuff”
I am just going to say it. In my opinion, sexist though it may be, a lot of boys like a lot of stupid stuff. These are things I do not look forward to when I think about committing to a dude: Video games, listening to him describe “sweet chord progressions”, camping, more video games, basketball seasons, action movies, hiking, and debates about the merits of video games. But then again…
Pro # 2 Guys are Friggin’ Hilarious.
In high school I dated a guy (kinda-sorta), we’ll call him Joe Jonas. Jonas used to leave messages on my private phone line each night. He would talk in phoney voices and say things like, “ Yeah, I’m Hiram bates down at the air-conditioner store, uh yeah I been getting a lot of complaints round your parts sayin’ that you been getting’ all heated up, bustin’ out air-conditioner units and such ‘cause of all that heat you’re putting out thinkin’ about a boy named Joe in your Spanish class.”
It was sooooo stupid.
But it made me laugh—the commitment was funny more than anything else, 3 or 4 messages in a row each far longer than they needed to be.
Then there was D.J. Qualls who I’ve mentioned before, he was famous (in my mind) for his ability to publicly and charmingly humiliate me with classic tricks like backing his butt into my and hand and then yelling with mock incredulity, “Kerri, that is wildly inappropriate . I am saving myself ma’am. Please take your hand of my left buttock, Walmart is not the place for that kind of forward behavior.”
Again, I am not saying, they are all geniuses, but a lot of ‘em seem do seem to make me giggle. So the pros have it on this one, but…
Con # 3 Single-Lady Cred
A major con that I cannot deny, when it comes to considering commitment is this: What about my persona as a single-lady-extraordinaire? This blog, for example, would take a drastic turn if I started falling-in-like. It would put me in a bit of comedic-limbo because there just isn’t a lot of funny stuff about having a boyfriend. New marriage seems pretty funny, kids are hilarious, having a boyfriend, not so much. So I kinda need to stay single for the good of my writing—this is bad news! However,
Pro # 3 Good Writing Does Come From Passion
Being in a relationship might not be particularly novel, but it does seem to bring forth a full-spectrum of emotions—and emotions create stories, which stewarding writers bring forth into the world. And, there is so much more opportunity for all manner of bringing forth within the context of collaboration. So, maybe I give up a little independent credibility for the chance at interdependent procreation. That doesn’t sound so bad, which means the scale is tipped slightly in favor of love.
But, in case the oracle is right, I should be humble enough to seek guidance on this issue. You should weigh-in. What do you think are the pros and cons of love? Desperately seeking your commentary,