Four Weddings & a Christening

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Hatch. Match. Dispatch.

Twenty-two years, I have been in the baptizing, marrying, and burying business.

Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1994, I have long lost count of how many people I have sprinkled, laid to rest, or joined in Holy Matrimony. It is a rare privilege to be with people at such junctures – both the most joyous and the most grief filled times in their lives.

Married, myself, most happily for twenty-eight years, and happily divorced for thirteen, wedding bells do not in the least bit tempt me. I would much rather wear cassock and surplice than a wedding gown at a wedding, any day.

Three weeks ago, a picture of priestly me doing just this – presiding at someone else’s wedding – showed up in the Sunday morning Washington Post! Where? In the LOVE section, of course, on page E14. A total surprise to me!

At Saint Paul’s Memorial, in Charlottesville, Virginia, there I am vested and standing at the altar between Andrew and Kelly: in the photo beneath the fold.

I LOVE presiding over LOVE.

Andrew and Kelly’s ceremony, though large, was intimate, lovely, and tender. Having written their own vows and being close friends of my daughter Colleen, it felt very personal to me.

And personal is that mystical and magical word that describes the most meaningful weddings I have done – regardless of the number of bridesmaids, or guests, or dinner courses at the reception. Weddings with a personal and intimate touch are the ones that I cherish.

Sarah and Nate’s wedding, Valentine’s Day a year ago was a parish wedding.  Together with my rocking colleague, Chuck, we celebrated the “SOHO” marriage, at a lovely little Virginia golf club.  So many Emmanuel friends were gathered round the tables, it felt like family.

At least, the way I think family weddings should feel:

The way, very much, my brother. Joseph and his partner, John’s wedding felt three brief weeks ago. Quite a love story, Joseph and John reconnected on Facebook after having dated way back in the ‘70’s and again in the 80’s.

Deeply touched, I was invited to officiate. They set the date for June 3rd, 2017 – what would have been our Mary Lou and Bernard’s – our parents’ — 66th wedding anniversary.

But then November 8th happened. The election results bode the possibility that newly won LGBTQ rights to marry might be overturned. So on December 18th, in Hyattsville, Maryland, in my baby brother’s dining room, in his adorable little house, I joined Joseph and his beloved partner John in Holy Matrimony.

Just seven (a very biblical number!) people in attendance, it is just about the loveliest wedding I have been a part of — so far.

And now, my own firstborn son, Zachariah, over Thanksgiving, proposed to his seven-year beloved, Jen. (Again, a biblical number!) The date has been set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving next.

It too, will be a very small and intimate affair, maybe on a boat at sunset, somewhere on the water. Defying tradition, it will still be a sacred occasion but of a more secular kind.

Zach is an atheist who does not darken the door of a church (though he is very proud of his mom!)

Home over Christmas, I ask him gingerly,

“So, Zach, what kind of ceremony are you going to have?”

 And I get a most unexpected answer:

“Well, mom, we were wondering if you could do it. But with two conditions.”

 Knowing him well, I blurt out,

“No mention of God, right? YES! I can say whatever you want me to say!”

 “And the second condition, mom, is can you do it without crying?”

 “Whoa! That will be really hard. But, YES, YES, of course, I can!”

 And now, of course, I am crying like a baby; happy, crazy tears.

So, by my count, that is four weddings. And this week, I have a Christening.

Misty eyed, I am jumping on an Amtrak train to New York City, to baptize my first great-niece – little Virginia – firstborn daughter of my niece, Lauren and her husband, Gordon; firstborn granddaughter of my brother, Tim and his wife, Martha.

I LOVE presiding over LOVE.

The love of these four weddings and this Christening blesses me. It blesses all who share in the celebration. It blesses all the souls connected by these sacred (and sometimes secular) rituals.

Be it in good times or bad times. Be it in hello times or goodbye times. In all the ups and downs, of this mystical magical thing we call life, such love can bless us all.

At little Virginia’s baptism, we will read the same sacred scripture that was read at her parents’ wedding: good old First Corinthians 13 – read at thousands of weddings for hundreds of years.

And though, I have heard it a million times, I pray, I never tire of hearing it or reading it.

God bless you, Saint Paul.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Faith, hope, and love abide. And the greatest of these is love.

Yes, the greatest of these is love.

 

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

 

 

Dating Bernie Sanders

bernie sanders with champagne cartoon

First date advice from DCSingles:

Dress up. Keep it short. Don’t talk about politics, religion, or your ex.

Hmmm…not talking about politics is a bit of a challenge especially when you live inside the Beltway. And not talking about it in this Trumpian election cycle seems really hard. A political  junkie, with seven news apps on my iPhone, this is going to be almost impossible. But I will give it a try.

Hmmm…religion is off the table too. So what kind of kabuki theater will this single vicar have to perform to avoid this topic? Well, I will obviously have to state the obvious about my profession.  But I will try to table the religious debate as I am able.

And not talk about my ex?  This one is way easy for me. William and I parted ways amicably more than a decade ago. Since then Joani has cherished her independence, loves being mistress of her own domain and master of her time and space. Joani also thoroughly enjoys her own company.

Only men of a similar ilk need apply.

This week, my DCSingles matchmaker matched me up with my very first match: a guy named Glenn.

5 foot 8 inches, dark brown hair, a retired environmentalist, Jewish, and age appropriate.

What’s not to like?

A quick conversation on the phone, we make a Starbucks date and to coffee we will go.

Guardedly optimistic and game for my new sport, I consult my fashionista- dating coach daughter Colleen. She passes muster on my chosen dress and flats.

“Necklace or no necklace?” I text her.

“Necklace.” she decrees.

I Uber downtown to case out the joint and grab a table near the door.  I try to look nonchalant as I read my book and also as attractive as I can. I sit and wait for this first blind date.

There is a Santa Claus looking guy checking his phone anxiously by the door. “Waiting for someone?”  I ask. “And you might be?” “Steve,” he says. And in my head I say, “Thank God, I thought that was him.”

And then right on time, in walks Glenn.

The date is blind. So sight unseen, I was not sure what to expect.

But I wasn’t expecting Bernie Sanders.

First impressions matter most they say.

Uh oh, so here we go.

I am pretty sure he slept in his clothes: grunge jeans, baggy shirt, shoes older than my children. He sported a fisherman’s cap and carried a grocery bag that looked like it had washed up on the beach. If he hadn’t been my date, I would have mistaken him for a homeless guy. To call him rumpled would have been a compliment.

“Okay, Joani,” I tell myself, “Bernie Sanders is awesome! Don’t judge the book by his cover. Maybe this guy is riveting. So yeah, let the conversation begin.”

An environmentalist, maybe his clothes are recycled? Hmmmm….no. Maybe he drives a Prius? Hmmmm….no. Solar power in his house? Hmmm…no. But he did once work on a solar project for water treatment plants. The globe is way too short of fresh water so this is a very good thing.

Do-gooders are definitely up my alley.

Okay, my turn.

“Well, I serve a local church,” I tell him. “It’s a happening, progressive parish.” Being a lady vicar is a tough sell, you know, so I give Bernie points for just showing up. His being Jewish though, I knew he would have questions. But I wasn’t expecting this.

“You know I am a biologist and we believe in evolution,” he says somewhat condescendingly.

“Well guess what? So do I. Episcopalians believe in science.”

Surprised by my answer, it seemed he had never met an enlightened Christian before. Possibly  he thought we were some rare species that had gone extinct.

Wow, Bernie, this is going great! Let’s move on.

“So now that you are retired, Bernie, what do you do?”

He leans forward in his chair smiling and definitely trying to impress.

“Well, I go the the gym twice a week and I swim half a mile, turn around and in an hour and a half I am back home!”

Satisfied with his answer, he leans back in his chair.

“Well, Bernie, I’ve walked two half marathons and am getting ready for my next at Nagshead in November.”

“You have to go out of town for those?” he asks.

“Yes, Bernie, I love going new places.”

“Hmmm, well, I don’t get much out of my neighborhood anymore.”

“Well, Bernie, good luck with that.”

I don’t want to belabor the point but  Bernie proved to be quite a suburban fellow for my urban tastes. He had never heard of Uber, SXSW, or the Rock n Roll Marathon. Though in his favor, I am pretty sure he did know how to use the Internet.

By this time, I am definitely eyeing the exit. Keep it short, remember?

Bernie slides his card across the table, not so subtly asking for a second date.

I in turn do not slide mine. Not so subtly telling him no.

“Thank you for the conversation,” I say shaking his hand. “Gotta go to meet my daughter Colleen.” (Yes, Colleen, you were my made up escape plan.)

Tucking out the door, I duck into the book store down the block. Ah, in here I can breathe. I order a latte at the coffee bar, sit down, and think.

If nothing else, it was interesting. A social experiment. A learning experience. A good first try.

But bye-bye, Bernie, you’re not getting my vote. You lost the primaries.

One candidate down. There’s five more in my plan.

Its still early in this election season.

Let’s see where it goes.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

Truth or Consequences

 

vintage-dating-game-board-game-tv-show-1967-39536de1cb4709f405743f90b74693b6-2

I am dating myself in more ways than one.

A child of the sixties, I grew up in the heyday of game shows. Before Match.dot.com,  Cupid worked his magic on The Dating Game.

 Remember?

Three handsome, groovy guys sitting on stools behind a screen; one wide eyed young woman in mini-skirt and go-go boots; a list of cute questions written down on index cards.

Bachelor #1 “First date: burgers, barbecue, or beef bourguignon?”

Bachelor #2 “Which describes you best: knight in shining armor, handyman, or boy next door?”

Bachelor #3 “Tell me about a time when you were a bad, bad boy?”

Cue the fizzy pop music and the tick and the tock of the clock. Sixty seconds later, she chooses and its love at first sight.

From the technology of TV to the app on your phone, the dating business is still pretty much a game show.

So pick up your TV Guide, friends, and come along for the ride. I am filing my field report for the last seven days.

To Tell the Truth aired first in 1956. Remember? Three guys claim to be astronauts. Two are lying. One is not. Hmmmm, dating app, how do I tell the difference?

Well, read between the lines.

The profile says he lives in DC but he messages you from LA. FAKE.

The profile is erudite, witty, and well written but in his messages he can barely write a sentence. FAKE.

His profile picture appears to be clipped from a Calvin Klein ad in GQ. FAKE.

Will the real astronaut, please, stand up?

Uh, oh. Sorry, he never showed up. He was never really here at all. FAKE.

Queen for a Day was first a radio and then a TV show. One lucky lady gets flattered , and pampered, and showered with gifts. And we all know that flattery will get you ___________?

“Hey Beautiful. Hi Gorgeous. You look younger than your age. How is it possible that you are still single?”

“So you’ve looked at my picture, I see, but have not read my profile.”

“O yes I have and we have so much in common.”

“Really? What?”

And they respond with adjectives and generalities copied and pasted from a script somewhere.

They pledge their undying love after a text or two.

Flattery will get you NOWHERE.

FAKE.

The Gong Show was an amateur hour that first aired in 1976. Remember?

Contestants get up on stage and it starts out well. And then very, very quickly it goes south. Very, very quickly, the act gets really, really bad.

Attractive, well read, doctor guy goes from attractive to creepy to scary in just three texts. GONG! BLOCKED!

Middle school music teacher and bandleader turns out to be just a sleazy guy looking for sex. GONG! BLOCKED!

Soldier guy serving in Kabul is really a sixteen year old on his computer in his basement. GONG! BLOCKED!

As I said at the beginning, I am dating myself. Not just showing my age, but I am learning to know and value the datable me.

I am learning very quickly to weed out the scammers, to discern who is genuine and who is not. Sadly it seems that equates to practically everyone on these sites. You’re left pretty much left scraping the bottom of the barrel to discover anyone real at all.

The bar gets set very, very low.

This kabuki theater is not worth my time.

There is virtually no TRUTH here but the potential for dangerous CONSEQUENCES is very, very real – especially for romantic types in my demographic.

The Internet is full of “Digital Lotharios”. To learn this, you need only go the Internet and Google it.

Read all about it at Consumer Affairs or at The Huffington Post.

“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” scripture says.

Face the truth.

Avoid the consequences.

Love is not a game.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

Practice Makes Imperfect

Sorry to disappoint but S&TSV is not about “kiss and tell”.

Hopefully you will find it wickedly funny, brutally honest, but not indiscreet.

And well, so far there has been no kissing so there is no need for telling.

But I have been practicing. No, I have not been practicing kissing myself in the mirror! I have been practicing communicating with the opposite sex.

Online mostly at OKCupid and Zoosk.

First Zoosk.

Advertised as the dating site for the over 50 crowd, Zoosk might better be described as the senior site for the over the hill crowd.

On the up side, Zoosk verifies profile pictures via your smartphone.Via Facebook, it verifies  your identity – if you can call that verification.

On the down side, their clientele seems to be older than dirt. That’s not very nice of me, I admit. I know that I am 61 and I am totally down with that.  The men they match me up with though are definitely from the geriatric demographic. Grandfatherly types, some use stock photos from central casting or pictures of themselves golfing on the green. Others take scary selfies of themselves reflected in restroom mirrors or with their buddies drinking a beer at the bar.

So attractive.

While these gentlemen may be genuine and appear to be real, they are really not what I am looking for at all.

Zoosk, you disappoint me.  I want my money back. I am breaking up with you.

Ok, off to OKCupid.

In seven days on OKCupid, I have had more success than in all my  earlier attempts combined.

And by more success, I mean more practice: the more imperfect art of practice.

And so far, who have been my practice partners?

The Rabid Libertarian. In a stream of very long texts, he  made the case for small government and argued for fiscal restraint. He debated the culture wars and quoted Ayn Rand. A compassionate conservative, he cited facts and figures against the welfare state.

Such a romantic.

Okay, I see that you are very passionate in your beliefs which I passionately do not share. Bye-bye and thank you for the conversation.

The Eager Evangelical. As an Episcopal vicar, I am sworn to love Jesus. And yes, I do love Jesus but this guy loved Jesus way too much. He loved singing about Jesus. He loved teaching about Jesus. He loved volunteering for Jesus. There wasn’t much room in the conversation for anybody but Jesus.

While I work for Jesus, in my free time the last thing I want to talk about is Jesus. (Sorry Lord!) And I am pretty sure that his Jesus was not the same as mine.

Okay.  Bye-bye and thank you for the conversation.

The Flirty Egyptian. Now he happens to be Muslim, so I know he doesn’t love Jesus too much. Handsome and just 47, he is both a flatterer and a gentleman. After friendly texting for a week, I am definitely intrigued. I am not naive and I am certain he flirts with all kinds of older women online. I really have no expectations of any kind but I DO want to lay eyes on this man. So yes, I said yes to coffee at Carluccio’s.

If it doesn’t go well, I will let you know how it goes.

If it does go well, I won’t.

One week down.

Practice makes imperfect.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

 

Anonymous Advice

the winning dating formula book cover

What is a bibliophile to do who knows zilch about dating?

She reads a book, of course.

So bibiliographically, I do a little research to discern who is the current expert in the field.

Which means I googled: “book dating over 50.”

Up pops a popular blogger on the Huffington Post: Lisa Copeland  of www.FindAQualityMan.com. On my Kindle account, I happily download her e-book for free. Good thing because  “Spoiler Alert!”  this reviewer counts it not worth a dime.

And what is the name of this best selling book?  “The Winning Dating Formula for Women Over 50: 7 Steps to Attracting Quality Men”.

Published in 2013, it’s schlocky; it’s simplistic; and its retro advice rings of 1970’s sensibilities. Or maybe the 1950’s.

I confess I have only read a quarter of the book (24% according to my Kindle) and I am not sure I can stomach the rest. It seems to be written for women who have not poked their heads out of their houses since they first dated in their teens.

Here’s sort of how it goes.

Ladies, set aside your worn out wardrobe and freshen yourselves up. This includes ditching your K-Mart underwear and your Crocs, of course. (If you ever catch me wearing the latter just take me out and shoot me. I have totally given up.)

Step #1. Long done.

Feminists, you need to get in touch with your frilly feminine side. If you are an Alpha at the office, you need to play Beta to snag an Alpha man. He needs to know he is needed so play a little helpless if you can. (Yuck, I am not making this up.)

Step #2. Ew.

Okay, this is as far as I have gotten and it’s really as far as I think I will get. But glancing over the table of contents, the final step, Step #7 stymies me. In part it’s about the etiquette of whether a woman over 50 can email a man! Apparently you have to read the entire book to find out. You have got to be kidding me!

I am not sure what Lisa Copeland’s credentials are. There are no impressive letters after her name like LCSW or Ph.D. She styles herself as a professional dating coach, dishing out  expert advice. She has a considerable following on the Huffington Post.

Interesting because many of the experts she quotes are anonymous — “author unknown.” For good reason I believe. No self respecting author would lay claim to some of these quotes.

“The Perfect Guy is the not the one who has the most money or the most handsome one you’ll meet. He’s the one who how to make you smile and will take care of you each and every day until the end of time.”

Gag! I think I just threw up a little.

Your worth does not revolve around what others think. Your worth is what you put in yourself and know in your heart.”

Thank you, anonymous. I already knew that.

“We were given two hands to hold, two legs to walk, two eyes to see, two ears to listen, but why only one heart? Because the other one was given to someone for us to find.”

Cue the violins. Disneyesque, don’t you think?

Okay, not all of of anonymous’s advice is so bad. Here is one which I like very much:

“There’s a guy out there who’s going to be really happy that you didn’t get back together with your crappy ex-boyfriend.”

I would like that one on a t-shirt. Yes, that one is gold.

But I do doubt some of Ms. Copeland’s anonymous sources. They don’t seem to come from scholars of the human heart or even from Psychology Today. They sound a lot like she looked them up in “1001 Inspirational Quotes on Life, Love, Work, Truth and Motivations With Questions to Ponder”.

It’s also available for 99 cents on Amazon Prime.

And while I am far from being the expert here, I think it might prove a better investment.

At least that’s my anonymous advice.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

Reach out and touch…

Reach out and touch someone ad

Professional cuddling.

No, I did not make this up.

Yes, this is a real thing. How do I know?

No, not from personal experience.

I know because I read it in the June 19th New York Times: Pillow Talk with a Professional Cuddler.

Besides dog walker, barista, and bookshop clerk, this apparently is the latest and greatest way for newcomers to make their way in NYC.

“…billed as therapeutic, nonsexual touch on sites like the Snuggle Buddies and Cuddlist — professional cuddling has become the latest thing in wellness, beyond yoga and meditation.”

News to me, the movement dates back more than a decade. The nonprofit group Cuddle Party, organizer of snuggle mixers, “has morphed into a cuddle-for-hire industry of one-on-one sessions.”

“For $79, practitioners who sign up receive about 10 hours of training.”

Yes, for less than $80 and in less than a day, you too could become a Professional Cuddler.

And what do you do exactly?

“Once trained, pro cuddlers promise a physical and psychic salve through spooning, arm tickling and deep embraces. Think of it as a blend of talk therapy, yoga and improvisational bodywork, the free jazz equivalent of massage.”

Full body, totally clothed, on a yoga mat, with pillows and blankets.

And what does this cost?

About $80 an hour.

And where does this happen?

In yoga studios, conference centers, hotel rooms, and people’s bedrooms.

So just about anybody can hang out a shingle and call themselves: a “Professional Cuddler”. No background checks. No regulations. No accreditation of any kind.

Trendy, treacherous, and sad, yes? But I believe it’s also very believable.

Alone and lonely in a city of eight million strangers, one’s desire for intimacy can long go unfulfilled. Yet the simple longing for human touch, a basic human need, is the same everywhere. Its as real in small-town Mannassass as it is in downtown Manhattan.

“Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own professional touchers and body arts teachers – chiropractors, physical therapists, Gestalt therapists, Rolfers, the Alexander-technique and Feldenkrais people, massage therapists, martial arts and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructors,” writes Sharon K. Faber, Ph.D. in Psychology Today.

“And some even wait in physician’s offices for a physical examination for ailments with no organic cause – they wait to be touched.”

I don’t know what all of those things listed above are. I, like you, will have to go to Google to figure that out. But I do know that many of these make sense: physical therapy for wounded shoulders; a deep tissue massage to decompress from stress; a chiropractic adjustment for an aching back.

Supportive, therapeutic touch.

But professional touch is not the same as personal touch. The former does not suffice to satisfy the human heart. All God’s children have a deep-seated need to reach out and touch that special someone’s hand.

Personal, intimate, relational —  human touch is sacramental and sacred.

I am not talking about marriage but I am talking about something deep and holy – something that I believe I wholly deserve:

Something that no “Professional Cuddler” could ever deliver.

So this woman is on a quest. I will be borrowing a friend’s dog to hang out at the dog park. I am signing up for “Book Talks” at Mount Vernon and wine tastings at Grape and Bean. I started volunteering on occasion for Story District and also on Saturdays @LOC. I am changing my traffic patterns. I have uploaded my profile to Zoosk.

”Sex & The Single Vicar” is a very personal quest that I will very publicly post one week at a time.

A personal quest maybe not unlike your own? So dear readers,  I invite you to click “follow” and come along on the search.

I promise not to disappoint — at least I’ll try.

Singularly yours,

 The Rev: Joani