“If you think there are no new frontiers, watch a boy ring the front doorbell on his first date.” (Olin Miller)
Or try re-entering the dating scene after being married, and out of it, for 20 years!
The day after my first date (not the first date of my life, when I turned 16 in 1983 and saw the movie “Strange Brew” with a boy I’d liked since I was 15 years old)–the first date of my newly single, unexpected life in 2009, my pastor and his family invited my children and I over for Sunday dinner.
After we were seated around the table and the food had been blessed, he turned to me and asked what I had been up to. I decided then was as good a time as any to be honest about my foray into dating, so I said, “You won’t believe it, but I went on a date last night!”
I don’t think that is what my pastor expected to hear. He choked on his soup!
When he recovered, he asked me what I’d done for my date. I told him I’d gone to a singles dance at a local university. He and his wife exchanged a look across the table…and BOTH of them choked on their soup!
The conversation turned to other things, but after the children finished eating and left the table, they told me to be careful. As part of their church assignment, they said they had chaperoned those types of activities and had heard a lot of scary things went on at those type of gatherings. My pastor admonished me to never go alone as the parking lots were especially “dangerous” for single women.
Instead, he encouraged me to try a different type of single activity–Sunday night meetings where guest speakers presented spiritual messages to the singles group and everyone stayed afterward to eat refreshments and mingle. He said the type of people who attended those activities were a better caliber of people. He made me promise I would try one of those.
If there is one thing about me, it’s that I am committed. When I give my word, I follow through. That promise nagged at the back of my mind for a few weeks until I finally decided to try one of the Sunday night meetings, just so I wouldn’t have anything hanging over my head. One night, on impulse (there I go again!) I went to a Sunday night gathering. But instead, afterward, I was the one who wanted to choke!
I went alone. Although I was meeting some single men, the online thing wasn’t helpful for meeting single women. I researched the location on the internet and drove off to the building. I wasn’t expecting much. I imagined the gathering would take place in a small room of a church building, with maybe 13 people in attendance. I planned to sit through the talk and then leave as soon as it was over. I was shocked when I pulled up to the building and saw the parking lot was full, and that cars were parked on the streets too! I saw several people walking in. Clearly, it was going to be more than I anticipated.
I walked toward the entrance, alone, in the dark. I could see a man actually running toward the building. I started to wonder what I was doing. I felt 12 years old again, watching a boy RUN to not be late to an important event. I started to shake my head and laugh that this was my new life at the same moment the man ran past me. Then he stopped, turned around, walked back to me, shook my hand, introduced himself, and turned and ran into the building! The door slammed behind him just as I arrived at it. I opened the door for myself and went in.
The meeting was not being held in a small room of the church building. Instead, it was in the chapel and overflow area and it was packed with people. “Are there this many single people in my city?” I wondered. I was shocked. (I found out later that Utah County has approximately 40,000-50,000 singles. I guess I moved to the right place to meet single people. I just had to figure out how!) The next thing that shocked me was the age of the crowd. It seemed like everyone was older, gray-haired, and looked like a grandma or a grandpa. I thought of my mom, who had been widowed and single for 20 years–NOT of myself! I felt like the youngest person there, and I could have been (or it could have been that whole age denial thing going on there too.)
I sat on the back row and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. Every time I looked up I saw people quickly look away. Every time the outside door opened, I noticed a sea of heads turn in the direction of the door to check out who was entering the room! I wondered if people were there for the message or to people watch instead! I was betting on the latter. The expression from the 1980s, “meat market,” came to mind. Weird to see grandmas and grandpas doing that though!
The message was about marriage. The speaker said he had gotten married because he had worked to make that a possibility, and that marriage was possible for everyone if they just wanted it bad enough and worked hard enough to make it happen. He was a lot older and more experienced than I am, so he may know more than I do about that, but I had only one thought as I sat there: what about those people who were married, and did all they could to love and serve and support and trust their spouse, and ended up single through no fault or plan of their own? I wondered where I fit in. Or, if I even “fit” at all.
I didn’t feel like I did.
As soon as the meeting was over, I escaped out the door as quickly as I could and drove home. Alone. In the dark. I had kept my promise but I have to say, I didn’t leave feeling encouraged. The message had only raised questions that I’d never thought of. As much as I try to keep my chin up and remain optimistic, my thoughts as I drove home that night were this: I was destined to be single the rest of my life, and so was everyone else I’d seen at the meeting. Nothing made me feel more hopeless about remarriage than that Sunday meeting, my initial impression of the people in attendance, and the message…unless it was a singles dance!
But I’m not a quitter. I believe you can’t judge something by your first impression. I felt I owed my pastor one more shot at a singles gathering before I made up my mind about it.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a glutton for punishment.