June 5th is my birthday. A lot has happened since the last time I celebrated another year of life. There have been some challenging moments, to be sure. I continue learning how to navigate through episodes of depression and anxiety attacks. I’ve experienced disappointments both personal and professional. But as I look back on the last year, the positives far outnumber the negatives. I think it’s safe to say that 37 really has been one of my best years yet! Continue reading “37 in Pictures”
It’s my birthday. I will celebrate with friends today, and tomorrow as well. But to be honest, I have mixed feelings about birthdays the last few years. I know it has something to do with not being where I am “supposed to be” at this point in my life, as I was reminded by a list a friend posted to Facebook the other day about differences between your 20s and 30s. At least half the things on the list assumed that everyone in their 30s has a spouse and children. And I always thought I would. But now I’m nearing the end of my 30s, and the likelihood that I will be a wife and mother before I’m 40, if ever, seems smaller all the time. Continue reading “My Birthday Wish”
“It’s your turn next!” my friend told me, less than a week after her wedding. I was amazed at the speed with which one can go from Singleton to Smug Married. (Sorry if much of my vocabulary in this arena is informed by the Bridget Jones books and movies. Okay, I’m not really sorry; I love them.) I wanted to remind her of how much we hated it when other people said such things to us back when we were both single, but I bit my tongue. “Have you tried that website?” she asked, and proceeded to tell me about a Christian dating site. You know the one. You’ve seen their commercials, in which ridiculously photogenic couples hold hands and frolic chastely and talk about how God meant for them to find one another, all to the sound of a song which is actually about falling in love with Jesus, not finding your schmoopie. No, I told her. I haven’t and will not try that one. Based on the commercials and what I’ve heard from friends who have tried it, I don’t think their particular brand of Christianity fits me at all. I deplore the idea of “finding God’s match for me,” as if there’s one guy out there God designed to fit me, and my ultimate purpose in life is to find him. I don’t buy that. Continue reading “On Not Finding God’s Match For Me”
The dating world can be tough when you have a job that quite literally scares the hell out of some men, and makes it hard to meet people “the old-fashioned way.” Guys I work with are out of the question, because I am their minister. Sure, there are some cute young doctors, but what if I date one, then he has a rough night in the ER and finds himself in need of the kind of support often provided by the chaplain? How awkward would it be if the chaplain on duty were his girlfriend, or worse yet, his ex-girlfriend? I think my no-dating-guys-I-work-with rule is a pretty good one. I spend a lot of time at church, which is often suggested to me as a good place to meet like-minded individuals. Yet I’m sorry to say there are absolutely no single men at this particular church.
When meeting someone new, one of the first questions is usually, “What do you do for a living?” You know how it isn’t polite to discuss politics or religion with strangers? Talking about my career brings up religion, whether I want it to or not. I can sense discomfort from the other side of the table, as the man across from me tells me about his devout parents who make yearly trips to Israel, or reminisces about the church camp he went to as a kid, or jokingly confesses all the reasons he is certain he’s going to hell. Then there was the guy who responded with, “A minister? Ooh, that’s hot. I went to Catholic school, and there was this one nun . . .” I don’t remember the rest of his story. I’m sure my brain blocked it out as part of some anti-creepy defense mechanism.
Bars aren’t my usual scene, and even when I am in one (on a rare night away from work), I mostly stick with my friends. Not being of the female body type that most often gets attention in bars anyway — I am instead “short and stout” as one guy bluntly told me not long ago, which made me feel like a damned teapot — I rarely have to contend with questions from strange men. There are exceptions, however, like the time I was part of a bachelorette party last year. I left my table of party girls to go order us some more drinks, and a man approached me at the bar. “Are you one of the bachelorettes?” he shouted over the loud music. I nodded. “What are you, like a bridesmaid?” he smiled. “No,” I yelled back, “I’m the officiating minister.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and was gone before the bartender finished mixing our drinks.
So, like a lot of twenty-first century singletons, I turned to online dating sites. At first, I was upfront about my vocation. That got me a few very strange emails. Some were from Christians who felt the need to share with me their belief that women couldn’t be ministers. Their messages were made up mainly of quotations from the apostle Paul about women keeping silent. It was tempting to thank them for enlightening me and sarcastically tell them that I had never heard those Bible verses before. But since silence was what they felt God had intended for me, I thought not replying was my best option. Another email was short and to the point (so much so that he didn’t waste time with punctuation): “It’s okay you’re a minister but I’m a f—ing atheist myself. You’re still kinda cute so if you don’t have too many sexual hangups hit me back girl!” I could not make this stuff up if I tried.
Eventually, I decided to be a bit more vague about my job description in my online profile. I was still honest about my beliefs, just not about the fact that I work for God full-time. I got more responses this way, and exchanged emails with several men. Of course, then there was the question of when to drop the Jesus bomb. I found it was best to wait until some initial communication had taken place. If a guy doesn’t get to know me at least a little bit before he learns what I do, then I’m forced to compete with his preconceived notions of Christians and ministers, and it seems I always lose. Waiting until the first date (or at least the first phone call) to lay this on him gives him a better chance of seeing me as a whole person. The results have been mixed. Sharing with one guy about my sense of calling nearly made him choke on his beer. “What’s that like?” he laughed. “God just showed up and said, ‘Hey, Stacy, get off your ass and work for me’?” We didn’t have a second date. Another man was okay with my being a chaplain, but was horrified to learn that I’d done mission work. From the look on his face, you would’ve thought I’d told him I strangled puppies for fun. One guy said he was very impressed by what I wrote in my profile about my theological beliefs, which were quite different from his own. So I went ahead and laid out for him what I do and how being a chaplain has affected my understanding of God. His response was simply, “Wow. That is pretty damned cool.” (“He’s a keeper,” I thought.)
One of my colleagues told me, “You’re a woman before you’re a chaplain.” And she’s right. I work so hard trying to make sure potential romantic partners see me as more than my job that I can lose sight of that fact myself. Yes, I’m a minister, and an intelligent woman, a slow but determined runner, a sci-fi geek, a caring and loyal friend, a voracious reader, a kickass team trivia player, an aspiring author, and lots of other things. All of them add up to an awesomely unique dating experience, for the guys brave enough to see more than just the “Rev.”