Not Ready to Be a Cat Lady

In a weak moment, I posted on FB a week or two ago:

“I am not a cat person. I am thinking of getting a cat. Please, advise.”

 Well, truth be told I am not really much an animal person of any kind.

Bailey, my youngest son’s half-Collie/half-Golden, lived out the latter of his fifteen years under my roof. My divorce decreed me all three animals – my children’s pets. Along with Bailey, there were two cats: Lucy and Katrina who preceded him to heaven.

And at each pet’s passing, I had to admit that I was a whole lot more attached to these fur-coated creatures than I imagined. Well, not nearly so much to the cats as to Bailey.

Bailey and I had this quiet comfortable roommate thing going on. And then he was gone.

It has been three years now. It is Bailey I miss. That particular golden-haired member of my household. Bailey who was afraid of soda cans and squeaky toys. Bailey who I used to drag around the block. Bailey, the dog who barely knew his name.

But with Bailey’s departure, I have discovered the particular pleasures of the single life.

After work, I now go wherever I please. No need to rush home. On rainy mornings, I stay dry in my pajamas. No need to get drenched outdoors. Wardrobe wise, I can wear black and no longer need to stash lint rollers all over the place. No vet bills. No boarding costs. I have both the freedom and the funds to travel as I please.

Yes, I still get a little misty eyed when I think about Bailey.

But I do not miss having a dog.

Well, mostly I do not miss having a dog.

Rebounding from the election, I briefly reconsidered. I was tempted by a little Bichon Frise pup named “Posh.” But someone else rescued him before I got there. The timing of which may have rescued us both from the canine equivalent of a one night stand.

My desire dissipated like vapor. Faded in the blink of an eye.

You see, I delight in the solitude of my sacred space. The freedom to walk through every room dressed as I please. Curled up on my couch, befriended by books and accompanied by thoughts delicious and dark.  And visitors of the human kind, are welcomed from time to time.

I live on my own but that does mean that I am  lonesome.

Living alone is not the same thing as being lonely.

Yet even the Queen in her Castle, craves companionship of the intimate kind from time to time.

On the human side of this equation, for the past year, I have posted my endeavors here at Sex & the Single Vicar. Blog worthy. Humorous, disastrous and less than successful.

Meanwhile, well-meaning people, keep encouraging me to get a companion of the four-footed kind.

“Get a cat. They are so easy!”

“A cat to keep you warm!”

 So, a couple of weeks ago, I surfed the SPCA sites looking for a cat. Maybe a cat would better fit my “swinging singles” lifestyle. Ha!

 

Crowdsourcing feedback on Facebook, I posted:

“I am not a cat person. I am thinking of getting a cat. Please, advise.”

 And friends I did not know were friends – or friends I did not even know I had – commented, reacted, liked, and commented on the comments.

There was no shortage of replies:

  • Adopt a kitten.
  • No, kittens tear up your house.
  • Adopt a rescue cat.
  • Adopt a two year-old cat, already housebroken.
  • No adopt an old cat.
  • No, they have urinary tract problems.
  • Adopt a black cat because they get left behind.
  • No, adopt a special needs cat.
  • A deaf cat, a blind cat.
  • A cat with FIV (poor thing).
  • Better yet, get two cats. To keep each other company.
  • (Uh, aren’t two cats twice as expensive as one?)
  • Or adopt a Maine Coon cat, it’s almost like a dog.
  • Or a British Short Hair, Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat.
  • Or maybe, just take my cat.
  • No, for heavens’ sake just get a kitten.
  • So cute.
  • So cuddly.

Hmmmm, no I don’t think so.

That’s really not the kind of cuddling I had in mind.

Apologies to all my cat loving friends BUT — getting a cat, feels kind of like giving up.

And I am cautiously confident that it is way, way, way too soon to give up.

So, One Fish. Two Fish. I might get a gold fish.

Or I might borrow a dog to walk once in a while – so that I can flirt with guys at the park.

Or I might just ask my friends to fix me up with a stray brother or coworker or a reasonably handsome (and stable) male friend they might recommend.

Such creatures have to exist somewhere, right? Though rare they might be.

If you find one, please send him to me.

I am not ready to be a cat lady.

Yet.

Singularly Yours:

Rev:Joani

The Last Man on the Plan(et)

“Do I have to go?” I plaintively ask.

“Yes,” Colleen, my life coach, says. “You have to give him a chance.”

“Him” is “Don” — the last man on my six man plan with DCSingles.

My matchmaker, Kelly gives me a heads up.

“He didn’t go to college.”

“That’s okay,” I say. “I like a man who works with his hands.”

“For politics he checked ‘other'”.

“‘Other’ indicates an open mind,” I opine.

“But just beware,” Kelly warns me. “He’s just a tad overly enthusiastic.”

“Okay, what the hey! I am game.”

Bring him on!

First phone call, Don describes in great detail his bout with the flu. So totally whoa is he, his world is just a nose blow away from coming to an end. Recovering in his recliner, he binge watches game shows in his basement.

(Hmmmm, not exactly intellectually curious, is he? But I do confess I have a Hulu binge habit myself.)

And so whiny. Why are men so whiny when they are sick? A doctor’s daughter, I have zero desire to play nursemaid to this guy.

Second phone call goes to message. I call him back. Not there to answer, his recording plays: Big Bad John possibly from an old eight track tape.

Sort of humorous, right?

Feeling better, his voice brighter, he asks me out to brunch. Maybe a walk in the city?

That’s better, right?

Okay. Sunday next. 2:00 PM, we will meet in the middle at the Eastern Market LPQ.

Saturday I text: “I’ll be wearing red glasses. And my hand is decorated! Will explain tomorrow.” Against the rules, I send him my red spectacled, right handed henna selfie — so he will recognize me.

“Such pretty red nails,” he texts back. “All the better to scratch my back” to which I have no response.

The Last Man on Earth movie poster

Creepy, right?

Unsolicited he sends me his: a framed photo of half a dozen clowns.

“Hysterical! Will you be the one with the red rubber nose?” I kid him, thinking this is a joke.

“Would you like me to wear my clown suit?

OMG, he is serious.  This clown really is a real live clown!

“Uh, no,” I reply.

“Funny, right? I am funny, right?”

“Uh, no. Not funny,” I reply silently to myself.

Weird, but harmless. Right?

guess I will still go. So I text simply: “See you at two at LPQ.”

But then it gets weirder still.

Out of the blue, a late night text: “Take a bubble bath. Have a glass of wine. Put on your PJ’s. Relax.”

Ew, right?

I make an emergency call to my life coach, Colleen. She puts me on speaker phone along with housemate and assistant coach Katie.

“Hmmmm, yes, that does sound inappropriate,” the two concur.  “But maybe just out of practice? You should give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s just brunch, right?”

“Okay, I’ll go.”

So today, up at sunrise, Sunday came. After a Holy Eucharist or two, I plopped myself down in the rector’s office: exhausted, hungry, and caffeine deprived. I was feeling nothing but dread for the date ahead.

Chuck, my colleague, listened to my litany of complaints: “He’s whiny. He’s goofy. A bit creepy. And quite literally, he’s a clown.”

“Hmmmm,” Chuck says. “Sounds like you don’t want to go.”

“NOOOOOOO, I don’t want to go.”

“Listen to your gut,” Chuck says.

“YES, my gut screams NO.”

Sorry, Don,

Last Man on the Plan,

I text:

“I am canceling.

I can’t go out with you.”

And even if Don were the Last Man on the Plan(et), I still would not want to go.

I far prefer my own company and conversation, the comforts of my sacred space and the singular luxury of the time I call my own.

It’s really quite splendid, you see.

But I am still quite open to find just the right man who might like to share this with me.

So stay tuned to S&TSV! Maybe crowd sourcing next? We’ll see!

Singularly  yours:

The Rev: Joani

 

The Man on the Plan & The Uber Driver

DCSingles.

Six man plan.

Expensive.

Man #5.

Mark with a “k”, not to be confused with Marc with a “c” – who was Man #4.

Confusing, I know. As texts for coffee flew back and forth, I nearly blew off the fifth before I had even met him.

“Ooooooooo! January Mark with a ‘k’. Sorry, I got you mixed up with December Marc with a ‘c’ — a Debbie Downer, who I had decided, did not merit date #2.

(Date #2 is a planet, I have yet to visit.)

Now here is the wisdom of DCSingles  — for a woman of my alluring demographic.

They match you with an actual man, who has an actual job, who has no actual felonies on his actual record, and he is actually the guy pictured on his actual driver’s license.

Background checked. Actually.

BUT, no photos, are exchanged, so we meet sight unseen for coffee after a friendly phone call and a text or two.

So Mark with a “k”, Man #5 on my six man plan: Funny. New Yorker. Proud father of three. Catholic. Volunteer. Top secret clearance. Homeland Security.

Did I mention funny?

What’s not to like?

Poor guy, his right hand is in a cast and being right handed, he tells me he is not able to drive.

“No problem,” I say, “I will come your way! It’s on my calendar for Sunday next.”

The night before, he confirms with a funny little text message about the dress code: “Casual/neat. I’ll be the one in the overalls with a straw hat. My goat will be parked out front.”

Double, double points for making me laugh.

Psyched, a little.  Decked out in adorable Anthropologie red, I Uber over, to the other side of town, for Sunday brunch. Twenty minutes early, I take a seat in a corner booth with a clear view of the front door. I order sparkling water and a cup of decaf coffee.

Waiting coquettishly for Man #5.

Please, please, please, be easy on my eyes!

Hmmmm…..

The hostess escorts Mark with a “k” to my table.

He’s short. He’s round. He’s bald.

Hmmmm…

But so was George Constanza on Seinfeld, I tell myself. And I LOVED George Constanza. So let the conversation begin.

Mark with a “k” settles into the booth, adjusting the table for his girth. For some bizarre reason, he unbuttons and buttons the middle button on his button down shirt — no undershirt — flashing his hairy, pink midriff.

Looking anywhere but there, I avert my eyes, as he tells me, he just came from working out at the gym.

Hmmmm. Really?  Yuck! Let’s move on.

“Walking is my exercise,” I tell him. “I’ve done a couple of half marathons. I am planning on signing up for another one soon.”

The waitress takes his drink order.

“I’ll have an Irish coffee with Jamison whiskey – the good stuff.” He pauses. “But maybe I shouldn’t?” he says.

“Well, you didn’t drive, so no problem, right?” I say.

“Well, I actually did,” he tells me. “So maybe just one.”

Hmmm. Okay. Fib number one.Let the small talk begin.

He tells me about his three children. I tell him about mine. Catholic, he tells me about his parish. Episcopal priest, I tell him about my job.

We order food: breakfast burrito for him, scrambled eggs for me.

He tells me about his ex: bipolar, alcoholic, a mess!

“I am really sorry to hear about that, I am. I know all about that. Because — surprise, surprise, I am bipolar too! The healthy, bouncy, balanced, and non-alcoholic kind.”

He orders his second Irish coffee with Jamison whisky.

The waitress tops off my decaf.

“Sooooo? Homeland Security? Top Secret clearance? I guess, you can’t tell me what you do? But with the Muslim ban and the craziness at the airports, it must be very challenging.”

“Well, I am in procurement,” he tells me.

So Mark with a “k” is not an actual spy or intelligence guy.

Sigh.

“So what about that award you received for your volunteer service? Wow! What an honor!”

Hmmmm….

Turns out he got an honorable mention in the company newsletter and a lapel pin for his lapel — later misplaced in a taxicab long ago.

Not exactly the august accolades he had boasted of. Fib number two.

My scrambled eggs have grown very cold. The hour is up. I pay my half of the check.

It is definitely time to go.

He wonders aloud if he can take his second Irish coffee, with Jamison whisky, with him in a to-go cup.

People don’t do that, do they? Take their leftover alcohol home with them? That’s not a thing, is it?

He sinks back into the booth to finish his drink.

It is definitely time to go.

I pull out my phone and tap on the app.

UBER DRIVER!

UBER DRIVER!

TAKE ME AWAY!

Four minutes later, I climb into the backseat of Alfredo’s Toyota.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

“Thank you for picking me up, Alfredo!  I just love Uber. You know actually  who is picking you up. You know actually who is getting in your car. And I have met so many interesting Uber drivers: artists, entrepreneurs, students.”

Buckling up in the back seat, I can see from the rear view mirror, that Alfredo is long and lean, bearded and distinguished.

Yes, Alfredo is easy on my eyes.

Let the conversation begin.

He tells me about his three children. I tell him about mine. All the same ages. What a surprise.

Just three years in the States and from the Dominican Republic, his accented English is easy on my ears. I use the Spanish, I learned from three year olds, to flirt with him in his native tongue.

My life sounds almost exotic — described in a foreign language.

“Yo soy una sacerdote de la iglesia Episcopal.”

“Yo trabajo en Alexandria.”

“Me gusta leer libros.”

“Me gusta mucho bibliotecas.”

“Me gusta caminar en la ciudad.”

“Esta casado?”

“No.” he answers.

“Esta divorciado?”

“Si,” he answers.

“Yes! I say and in English he flirts in return.

Alfredo tells me, he is a retired engineer, a university professor in the DR, and a professional photographer, a reader, a tennis player, who loves the theater and drinking coffee.

What’s not to like?

(“What the hell!” I say silently to myself. “Go ahead and ask him out!)

“How about a cup of coffee with me sometime, Alfredo?”

I give him my card with my cell number scribbled on the back.

He gives me his, listing his website, email, and phone.

“Alfredo Marquez Rodriguez, Photographer.”

I like the sound of that.

So coffee, at Starbucks, this Friday, 10 o’clock sharp!

ALL — thanks to Uber —

the ride sharing,

friend making,

man locating,

latest, greatest,

dating app.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

Clueless

clue-game-cardsCatching my therapist up on my not so successful DCSingles dates, Sondra pauses and thoughtfully poses the obvious question:

“So, Joani, what do you want?”

“What do I want?”

Well, not Bernie Sanders. I already wrote about him.

And not the guy who is afraid of his own shadow — who I met for coffee on Friday — who has barely been out of his neighborhood for the past forty years.

And not the thrice married widower of just one year who I met last week. A sixty-eight year old guy who has no idea how to be on his own.

My social experiments — so far — are a net negative — negatively defining what I desire in a date.

I am not looking for Friday evenings at home in front of the TV.

I am not looking for someone to keep me company.

I am not hoping to set up house.

I am not looking to couple up monogamously  anytime soon.

I am just looking for someone who can keep up with me.

And there is nothing I find sexier and more attractive in a man  than the organ found between the ears.

So, let me describe an acceptable gentleman.

Intellectually curious, reads real books.

Forward looking, hope filled, expansive world view.

Funny, laughs freely, and delights in the absurd.

Earthy and unorthodox.

Open to surprise.

Hungry for life.

Someone who can light up all of my little gray cells,

and for whom I can do likewise,

like fireflies.

“Go on,” says my therapist.

Not a spouse.

Not a housemate.

Not a guy friend.

Not all the time.

Someone with their own house, their own life.

Happy and whole.

An intimate,

available for adventure,

available for dinner,

available for a weekend.

Someone who loves a good argument.

Someone who makes me very happy behind closed doors.

Someone who gets back in his car and goes home —

until I summon him back again.

Yes, that sounds heavenly.

“Hmmmm,” Sondra says. “Is that really possible? Most ‘older’ men are looking for something more comfy and conventional.”

“Well, someone younger then! But how crazy is that?”

Sondra is not telling me to settle but she does encourage me to think this through.

The depths of my desire add up to  having a mad affair — while dates in my demographic double down on domestic bliss.

Which leaves me feeling clueless, somewhat unsettled, and unsure of myself.

I definitely don’t want “that”.

Maybe I don’t want “this” at all.

And I will be damned — if I ever let some nonexistent man — make me second guess myself.

Matchmaking is madness!

It makes my manic mind spiral and spin, trying to puzzle this f*ing thing out.

The smartest girl in the class waves her hands in the air but she has no answers.

Navigating an ocean of emotion.

Unmoored.

Without a compass.

At sea.

And I guess for now, that is just how it has to be.

For now, I remain

incredibly

clueless.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

 

The Pseudo-Librarian, the Priest & Her Wardrobe

img_12891963. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Brown courdouroy smocked dress and white puffy blouse. Navy blue polka dot shift and  striped Danskins.  Parochial school uniform and Peter Pan collars.  Mary Janes, saddle shoes, and Keds.

1973. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Peasant dresses, halter tops, and army jacket. Denim cutoffs, bellbottom pants, and macrame belts. Parochial school uniform and Oxford cloth shirts. Platforms, flip flops, and saddle shoes.

1983. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Pleated skirts and cardigan sweaters. Padded shoulders and tailored slacks. Designer jeans, and tasteful flats.

1993. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Khaki trousers, corduroy jumpers, and denim overalls.  Cotton turtlenecks, kilts and tights. Embroidered vests and cable knit sweaters. Black flats, brown flats, and tennis shoes.

2003. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Target basics and Talbot’s work clothes. Cotton sweats and running suits. Clergy shirts and clerical collars. Random flats, Birkenstocks, and flip flops  — in every color under the sun.

And thirteen years on.

2016. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Funky tunics and interesting tops. Comfy leggings and skinny jeans. Prints, patterns, and primary colors. Autumn hues and basic black. Dressy dresses and dresses just for fun. Lululemon trousers and button down shirts. Bits of ribbon and bits of lace. TOMS, saddle shoes, ASICS, and a multitude of multicolored flats.

I have both lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Middle child, parochial school girl, head of the class.

Flower child, high school nerd, and rebel without a cause.

Computer programmer, working mom, sometimes a wife.

Seminary student, kindergarten volunteer, and Del Ray mom.

Parish priest, divorcee, and mostly manic.

Half marathoner, storyteller, blogger, irreverent reverend, and pseudo-libarian.

I have lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Clothes are the window dressing of the soul. Spiritual expressions of our psyches and personalities. Creative expressions of our passions and our moods.

In my darker days, my wardrobe was all solid colors. No prints. Basic and boring. I would buy three colors of the same pants and the same sweater.

All the better to hide in. All the better to disappear.

Those dark days are long — and hopefully forever — gone.

How do I know?

Because my wardrobe therapist tells me so.

My therapeutic fashion consultant, Stephanie Hernandez, helped me work through my closet issues.

Stephie is a very good friend of my awesome daughter Colleen. Stephie is a young LCSW with a passion for style and an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s the founder of  “Look Good, Feel Good”— “a therapeutic approach to finding your personal style.”

A brilliant idea! This bipolar soul signed herself up right away!

Personable, warm, and observant, Stephie first sat down on my couch and we had a chat. I walked her through a “regular day” so she could learn about my bipolar life — both at work and at play. I gave her a one minute tour of my condo and then we took a thirty minute walk through my wardrobe.

And then for the next half hour, we played dress up. Mixing and matching funky and flattering combos, Stephie helped me come up with outfits that  I can wear just about anywhere:  @LOC, @EEC,  walking Del Ray, or strolling DC.

Working with Stephie made me feel so much cooler and so much cuter than I actually am!

It was very therapeutic.

It was so much fun.

“Look Good, Feel Good Style”

It’s not just a catchy slogan, it’s fashion philosophy.

I recommend Stephanie Hernandez and her new enterprise most happily!

So friends, what’s in your wardrobe?

Singularly yours:

The Rev: Joani

Note: Also posted on Unorthodox & Unhinged: Tales of a Manic Christian

 

 

 

Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows

IMG_1234

Looking for bromance?

It seems Trump and Putin have been playing footsie under the table.

Putin flirts with Trump and Trump’s heart is all aflutter.

Tweet, tweet, Vladimir, strong leader. So handsome, shirtless and mounted on your horse.

Of course, we have much in common.

So Trump, a rank neophyte narcissistically plays the game — courting the love of a KGB thug.

Don’t cry over me, Crimea. The Ukraine? Take it. It’s yours!

NATO? You’re right. Too expensive. We don’t need it. Where is Estonia anyway?

The DNC and Hillary? Hack away, hack away. The server is in the basement.

What we won’t do for love.

Setting up my dating profile, my matchmaker asks me about my politics.

Liberal.

Definitely liberal.

Bleeding heart liberal.

Definitely a Democrat.

And in a mate, what would I find simpatico?

Definitely similar but not necessarily the same.

So in addition to all the above I add:

Moderates.

Centrists.

Slightly right of center.

Libertarians and reasonable Republicans are also welcome to apply.

“But NO Trump supporters,” I emphatically reply.

That would be a bridge too far, beyond the pale. A Hillary-Donald ticket is bound to fail.

My religious preferences, I should note, were broader than my political ones. This lady vicar checked “yes” next to:

Jewish. Check.

Buddhist. Check.

Christian. Check.

Muslim. Check.

Mormon. Check.

Spiritual but not religious. Check.

Atheist and/or Agnostic. Check.

I drew the line, however, at what I considered the outer limits.

Fundamentalist. No check.

It seemed best to steer clear of extremes.

Which, of course, leads me back to Trump — or should I say “Trumpism” – a blind faith that many embrace with xenophobic zeal.

Here I draw my line in the sand, so gentleman, please, play the political card early in the game. In this election cycle, there is no easier way for me to separate the sheep from the goats.

But my own choices make me wonder (Mary Matlin and James Carville aside) how is this election season  going down for all of those already coupled people out there.

The Civil War drove families apart: father against son; brother against brother; husband against wife.

Certainly the Hillary-Donald divide is putting a strain on relationships.

My therapist, without telling tales, of course, has confirmed that this is true. So who can I talk to? Who can I interview? It’s not like I am an actual journalist.

So, thank  you New York Times for putting a real reporter on the job. In the August 13th edition there was a great piece by Sridihar Pappu: He Likes Trump. She Doesn’t. Can This Marriage Be Saved?

This is the divisive tale of Dr. Stossel and Dr Maguire — husband and wife.

“If you vote for Trump, I will divorce you and move to Canada,” she tells her husband.

“He tried to laugh it off.”

“I am serious,” she replies.

“Before this spat for nearly twenty years of marriage, politics had never caused such friction. Then came the 2016 election, a political season that has made for some hot debates in the pubic arena has also seeped into private lives…”

In 2012, Dr. Maguire and Dr. Stossel planted opposing placards on their front lawn: one for Obama; one for Romney.

No problem.

Politics were very low on the list of priorities when we met,” Dr. Stossel says.”Therapists say you have the best relationships when you are clearly separate people. And I like to think we are emotionally centered, so that we can have a major disagreement and it’s not a big problem.”

But Trump? Trump is proving to be an insurmountable problem — a downright deal breaker, you might say, relationally speaking.

(I am pretty sure the supposed author of The Art of the Deal would not like being called “a deal breaker”.)

As a woman, I cannot even entertain the thought of dating a man who would vote for a man so misogynistic and vile. A man  who reduces women to their physical features. A man who has hurled at women the ugliest of epithets. A man who has alluded “to doing his daughter” if she were not his daughter.  A man who belittles his opponent as “not sounding presidential” or “not looking presidential” or “playing the woman card.”

This week Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, was promoted to the top tier of Trump’s campaign. Part of her impossible job is to increase Trump’s desirability to women voters.

“The more people keep repeating the same insults, the more it invites him to very legitimately defend himself. Women, look at the full measure of the man and not just one comment.”

So a New York Times commentator, Anna North in Taking Note, did just that.

“In the last month, Mr. Trump has not publicly called women ‘pigs’ or insinuated that they treated him poorly because they were menstruating.”

He has, however, asked Russian hackers to break into Hillary Clinton’s email, doubled down on the insinuation that Ted Cruz’s father was friends with Lee Harvey Oswald, implied that gun-rights activists could respond with armed rebellion (or assassination) if they don’t like Clinton’s Supreme Court picks, and called President Obama the founder of ISIS.”

“It’s not that Mr. Trump’s insulting remarks about women don’t matter anymore. Rather they now look like evidence, not only of sexism, but of a broader tendency to malign anyone he sees as standing in his way — with no regard for the truth or the consequences of his statements.”

Trump is most definitely a deal breaker for both myself and my country.

Politics makes for the strangest of bedfellows…

or no bedfellows at all.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

Bipolar Love: The Tale of Archie & Amelie

archie and amelie book cover

“On December 5, 1900, the New York Herald headlines screamed:”

 

“CHANLER ESCAPES

Amelie Rives First Husband

IS OUT OF ASYLUM

Search Fails to Find Wealthy Demented Man

Who Left Bloomingdale Institution…

Former Wife, Princess Troubetzkoy, Also Insane.”

This is the dark and delicious tale of doomed passion: meticulously researched and wonderfully told in Archie and Amelie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age by Donna M. Lucey.

 Archie is John Armstrong Chanler, born in 1862, and heir to the estate of his great –grandfather John Jacob Astor of New York.

Amelie Rives, born in 1863, is the goddaughter of Robert E. Lee and descendant of a storied first family of Virginia.

Archie’s family fortune was built on the fur trade, clear-eyed capitalism, and Presbyterian rectitude. Orphaned at a tender age, Archie and his siblings were raised by committee. “A wild and willful bunch” they were tamed by “nannies, tutors, and distant guardians.”

The eldest and legally responsible for his younger siblings, Archie, at Eton honed a refined and reasonable self-control — while underneath simmered his literary and artistic appetites.

A nephew of Julia Ward Howe, a progressive scion of the salon, Archie was intellectually curious and cautiously broad-minded. A romantic and eccentric soul, he was also an inventive young man full of ideas and boundless generosity.

Amelie Rives of Castle Hill was a gifted young writer  — gifted — with a dark sensuality. The provocative prose of her first novel, The Quick or the Dead?, garnered her both notoriety and the notice of the literary lions of her day – including the likes of Oscar Wilde and Willa Cather.

Amelie’s Virginia home had “an air of civilized taste and ancient leisure.” Her noble ancestors included revolutionary war heroes and ambassadors to France. But the “War between the States” left the family homestead in tatters. Her father, a civil engineer, like a nomad wandered from post to post to keep his family financially afloat.

And so women, strong women, ruled the roost at Castle Hill. Captured in an 1880 photograph “Amelie, a young beauty at seventeen, stands behind the powerful figures of her grandmother and her granite faced Aunt Ella – as if she were next in line in a dynasty.”

Seductively, Ameilie wielded both her pen and her person to woo the men in her life. Though a woman of the Gilded Age, she boldly bucked the constricting conventions of her time.

Amelie cast aside her corset and wore exotic flowing gowns. Described as “a sizzling vessel of molten lava”, she was also surprisingly religiously devout. Most passionate and erotic in her prose, she made her reviewers blush and made her suitors swoon.

Archie madly, deeply, hopelessly pursued her. After three persistent marriage proposals, Amelie accepted and they were engaged.

Hot and cold, like fire and ice, their eight-year love affair was doomed to failure. The first two years the couple skipped across Europe — settling down long enough only to become unsettled.

Amelie seemed to love Archie the most when he was absent. And when he was absent, Archie was a tortured soul never quite knowing how to rekindle Amelie’s ardor.

Eight years after their nuptials at Castle Hill, Amelie runs off with a dashing and penniless prince, a Russian royal named Troubetzkoy.

Divorced and disgraced, Archie, still hopelessly in love with Amelie, supports her  until the day he dies.

The truth be told, they drove each other mad.

Separately they suffer bouts of insanity. Some real and some feigned.

Amelie is prone to melancholy and takes up some unusual cures in the sanitariums of the Gilded Age.

Archie, wrongly committed by his scheming siblings for seven years, escapes the asylum only to descend deeper into a manic kind of madness. He becomes a prolific automatic writer of the self-published kind. A most generous and penniless philanthropist, he ends his days scribbling his name on the walls.

Bipolar love.

Archie, posthumously, is believed to have come by his bipolar disorder quite honestly. It runs in the family. A gift that keeps giving.

Amelie’s madness is of a similar kind. Euphoric, grandiose, verbose, and highly creative, she cannot help but crash from time to time.

Their marriage was both heaven and hell: Brief episodes of bliss, bright bursts of passion. Disrupted by storms, overwhelmed by sadness.

It could not possibly last. And indeed, it did not.

The madness of such love, is it worth it?

My sensible side says “NO!”, of course. Who wants to end up on the shores of life an emotional wreck?

But my bipolar soul, the manic-depressive me, screams “YES!”

Let me have a mad, deep, intoxicating, engaging, infuriating, invigorating, reckless, mad, mad love affair…

at least one, or two, or three.

Good for a novel, a movie, a play, a memoir. Good for some crazy tall tales to tell my grandchildren some day.

And maybe good for a blog post — or two, or three.

Who knows? Stay tuned.

I’ll keep you up to date one week at a time – right here – at Sex & The Single Vicar.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani