I grew up in The Catholic Church. I went to public school, but my dad made sure my butt was in a pew every Sunday, and I was not allowed to miss CCD. I was baptized as a baby, received my First Reconciliation and Communion in the 2nd grade, and in the 8th grade I made my Confirmation. Even though I didn’t go to Catholic school, I learned to fear nuns during my First Communion. Sister Mary Adolph seemed to be missing a part of her name.
My parents divorced right before my Confirmation, so I wasn’t all that into it. I was mostly a self-absorbed, but polite, teenager. I kept to myself, had my small friend group, and mostly stayed out of trouble. My dad ensured we went to church when we were with him. My mom did not. She would waiver. It depended on who she was dating at the time. Overall, I made it out of high school without making any negative life-altering choices. To this day, I credit my father with being a great male role model, even though I hated being dragged to church. I took it as an opportunity to check out boys as they walked up to communion. Why not?
I moved in with my dad my senior year of high school. I couldn’t handle my mom’s irrational decision-making (see: her new husband’s ridiculous rules, like telling me I had a bedtime at 17 years old). No thank you. I chose my own rational biological father’s strict religious household over my step dad’s ego-driven rule book from hell. My senior year was fun, peaceful, and I didn’t do anything stupid. I left for college, looking forward to an even brighter future.
When I got to college, my roommate all but declared she was an atheist. I think she didn’t say the word out loud out of respect for me. I found a Catholic church to attend right off campus and I went a few times during my freshman year. I’m not sure that I went anymore after that. I was too caught up in myself and school and friends and parties. I always believed in God, but church was reserved for when I went home during the holidays.
I met my ex-husband my senior year of college, and he was confirmed in the Catholic church. However, we didn’t go to church unless he came home with me for the holidays. When he proposed, it was a no-brainer that we’d get married in the Catholic church. Once we bought a house, we became members at the nearby Catholic church. We did our Pre-Cana classes there with a priest who could never remember my first name. Finally, we got married at my childhood church. It was an elaborate Catholic mass followed by one drunken reception.
My ex-husband wanted nothing to do with church if it wasn’t a major holiday or a wedding. Sometimes I could get him to go to mass with me on a Sunday here or there, but not often. I mostly gave up on dragging us to church, especially once the kids were born. I had them baptized when the time came. My daughter went to Catholic grade school, and she even got her First Communion. After getting divorced, I just checked out. I wanted nothing more to do with church. I didn’t have the energy to keep my son quiet at church, and my daughter was just “over” being forced to do anymore church after attending Catholic grade school. I chose to do nothing.
In 2018, my kids and I moved in with my religious dad and stepmom and we almost never went to church with them. We lived there for 1 1/2 years and maybe went to church only a handful of times. To me, it wasn’t a good use of time. It felt like I was going to an old people’s club. I had turned my attention to astrology and online tarot readings in the couple of years leading up to that. It was interesting, gave me comfort, didn’t feel so hard, and I “wasn’t sure if it was real anyway”. I had heard that these things weren’t “approved” of by Christianity, but I never opened the Bible or took any steps to lift my ignorance. Ignorance was bliss. I wanted to be left alone.
Fast forward to my past year of Adventures in Online Dating, and I’m brought back to religion. On almost every dating profile, there’s a line item for religion. You can state your religious preference and usually you can filter by it. I’ve selected everything from Christian to Catholic to Spiritual as my label and/or filter. I’ve become more and more aware of how many people identify as Atheist or Agnostic. And I’ve become more aware of how many men state they are Christian, but when it comes to their daily life, they might as well be living in the pits of hell.
When you tighten up the filters on a dating site, you are left with very few if anyone to choose from. It’s made me realize that I’m really missing something in my life: an actual relationship with God and like-minded people. All I’ve ever known is being forced to go to church, not why it was important. Now that I’m trying NOT to mess up the second half of my life, I’m discovering all of these God-less men. I don’t want that again. Been there, done that.
A few weeks ago, I went back to church. I enrolled my kids in Bible study (they aren’t happy, but they’ll thank me later). I also deleted any astrology or tarot card related links, apps, or YouTube subscriptions I had. And I suddenly have an urge to understand Bible readings.
In the midst of all this, I started chatting with a guy who seemed to check off all of the ideal dating boxes… except he doesn’t have church in his life at all. I always ask a new guy if they believe in God. His answer was “absolutely!” and he left it at that. It’s literally the only thing “wrong” with him (well, that and he seems to have a slight obsession with county fairs). If you know me, I don’t do country fairs, ever. We’ve been texting for a few days now, and he left me hangin’ last night. No more responses after we had a short discussion about what was for dinner. It’s been almost 24 hours. I have a clue that this one is over before it started, like many others. He never asked to talk on the phone and never officially asked me on a date. After the exciting “get to know you” phase fizzled out, we didn’t really click. Text messages felt forced. And he already told me he’d be going to a county fair tractor pull this weekend.
I’m sincerely not broken up about this one. He was a pretty positive individual, so that’s rare these days, but I was already trying to figure out my escape route. I had a feeling that Last Call guy wasn’t going to stick. I think he was my Last Wake Up Call to prioritize my dating standards further. Geez, and I thought I couldn’t get any pickier, but here I am: God first, Godless men get to the back of the line.
I usually have all kinds of anxiety when I decide to make a life change like this, but I feel nothing but calm. Calm and confident actually. I guess I’m circling back to where I started.
Stifle Me Not