The problem I am facing now is the weekends. I look forward to each weekend as a chance to both relax and get some things done that I couldn’t during the week. But each weekend ends up being disappointing. Last weekend I had a bit of a meltdown as the following things transpired.
To begin at the beginning, one of the reasons I targeted metro D.C. when I was looking for work was that I wanted to see all that the area has to offer. I’ve never been to the capital, so everything here is new to me. When I first got here, I reached out to an acquaintance in the area, asking if they’d be willing to show me around. They, apparently, are either incredibly busy or not particularly hospitable because I have yet to hear from them. By last Saturday, I finally felt caught up enough at work that I decided I could use my Saturday to explore on my own. I set my GPS for the national historical museum and set out. An hour (and about ten miles) later, I had been inching my way through terrible traffic in the capital, dealing with multiple street closures and, therefore, multiple “recalculations” on my GPS. I am sometimes not a particularly patient person, and by the end of this hour of absolute futility I said “screw it” and made my way back home, which was not a smooth venture either with the road closures. I was fighting tears and let them unleash when I was safely in my apartment, completely depressed that after a month here I had yet to form any sort of social network to dip into when planning such excursions. People here are just not as friendly as in other places. Within a week of moving to Nevada, I already had a best friend. Same thing when I moved to college and when I entered the Peace Corps. People here are not mean, per se, but I would not describe them as particularly warm or thoughtful.
If someone familiar with the area would offer to show me around, it would make things so much easier. After a week of teaching and grading papers and working on feathering my nest, I find the idea of doing all the work for a solo excursion into the capital to be a little overwhelming. Sure, I can do it if I enter the infamous Stubborn Maresha Zone, a la my Bodie excursion, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to do that.
At the same time, I’ve been trying to, as I say, feather my nest. I’m still lacking basic furniture like a dining table and anything comfortable to sit on in the living room. (I currently sit on a pile of folded blankets.) Since I’m living in an expensive part of the country and am just a humble teacher who had considerable upfront moving costs, I’m trying to furnish my apartment almost entirely with free finds from Craigslist. Since this area is rife with transients who move at the drop of a hat and have to get rid of all their stuff quickly, you can find legitimately good stuff for free here. My dresser is one such nab. That same weekend, I found a table listed and contacted the owner. They sent an email asking when I could come pick it up. About ten minutes later they sent another email saying “never mind, someone just said they’d come pick up all of the items. I’ll let you know if they don’t want the table.” Um, excuse me? Does that strike anyone else as a total d-bag move?
By Sunday, I was ready for something good to happen. I got up and went for a run, fixed myself a nice breakfast and went to the later service at the church I’d been checking out. I usually go to the earlier one because I like to have a longer stretch of day afterwards, but this Sunday was different because they were going to have their semi-annual small group formation extravaganza that afternoon. Since that church is a forty minute drive away, I decided to go to the later service, bring my laptop to eat lunch at a wi-fi hotspot and then return to the church in hopes of meeting some people (read: guys) my age with whom I could talk theology and flirt shamelessly. After instruction on how the whole thing worked, we broke up into the types of studies we wanted: men’s, women’s, married, “mixed”/married no kids, or “mixed”/married with kids (I’m not sure why married people were allowed to sequester themselves into an exclusive group but singles were not).
We then started to mingle based on the location-indicating colored dot on our name tags. I was looking for other yellows, something inside the “Beltway” so that I wouldn’t have to travel an hour on a weeknight to Bible study and end up getting home at 10pm when I had to be up at 5:30 the next morning. As all the yellows in “mixed”/married no kids gathered, this is the demographic breakdown that formed: 11 single women, two married couples and one single guy who looked like he spent his life in a state of perpetual befuddlement. In a church of 3,000, that was the best I would get for a small group Bible study. I left without joining a group.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have done that. I would have stayed and told myself, “the important thing is getting into a Bible study; it doesn’t matter who’s in it.” But with that church being a forty minute drive away, with less than inspiring worship, there’s no reason for me to go out of my way to join a small group there that also doesn’t fit my needs at the time. Even if I wasn’t “on the prowl” as a less sensitive person might suggest, I still wouldn’t want a group so heavy on the estrogen. (One day, I may tell you of my adventures at Girls’ State.) I’ve always abhorred gender segregation in churches which seems to suggest we can’t learn anything from the other sex in a Bible study. Yes, there are times when it’s appropriate to hang out with just other Christian women, but, for me, that’s not necessary or helpful in a Bible study setting. My problems aren’t unique to women, they are human problems. Anyway, I had already determined that when I moved out here, I would be intentional about meeting a man of God that I can partner with. That’s not going to happen if I guilt myself into staying at a place just because discounting a church with a dearth of testosterone seems “less spiritual” or shallow.
[At this point, I want to take a moment to nip in the bud any criticism that might come from my determination as mentioned above. I know that there are people out there who, upon reading this, might think “you should be trusting God to send you a husband.” This is not about not trusting God; this is about doing my part. I believe that we have a part to play in our lives and that playing that part is not a denial of God’s sovereignty, but an affirmation of His gift of free will and rational minds with which to use it. About a week after being scolded by a fellow Christian about both my job search methodology and approach to dating, my pastor, whom I deeply respect, preached a sermon about Ruth. He talked about her intentionality in going with Naomi and her intentionality in pursuing Boaz, rather than hoping that good things would just happen to her. It was so timely that I almost started crying in church as I felt the Holy Spirit reaffirming my choice to actively pursue both employment in this area and an intentional attitude toward dating. I understand that people with Calvinist leanings will disagree with me on some things, and that’s okay, but don’t chastise me for making decisions based on my Arminianism.]
Following my disappointment with that church, including the frustrating realization that I was now officially church shopping, which is one of my least favorite things to do, I headed to the mall to look for a pair of sandals to replace the ones that had broken (yup) a couple days before. I noticed a Christmas store and thought, as I always do, ‘I wonder if they have any camel ornaments?’ Sure enough, upon inspection, I discovered a quirky, colorful glass camel just begging for me to take him home. When I got to the checkout, however, I discovered that they were only taking cash that day, something I had a shortage of. So, the camel I thought would be just the pick-me-up I needed went back on the shelf, and I wandered though the mall to various shoe purveyors looking for something that wasn’t hideous or out of my price range.
As I wandered, I was stopped by a saleswoman handing out small packets of lotion. Then she asked me to come inside her store where she would “do one of my eyes” and I could see the miracle she was selling. I was in a bit of a haze from the day’s previous events because I didn’t even really think about it. As I followed her into the store, she asked, “are you Jewish?” and suddenly it was the bizarre experience of the week. “No,” I replied, thinking, ‘are you anti-Semitic?’ She sat me down in a chair and proceeded to put some lotions and potions on my left eye while talking about how the creams were recommended by Dr. Oz and had minerals from the Dead Sea in them (‘Is that why she asked if I was Jewish?’, I wondered, ‘because Dead Sea means Israel, and Israel means Jewish even though there are people of other religions and ethnicities there?’). She asked if I was brave and wanted to look in the magnified side of the mirror. “Sure,” I said. She showed me and asked me to compare my eyes. “They look the same to me,” I said. She put on her best shocked face and asked if I needed to borrow her glasses. I shrugged. She went on with her spiel and the next product, some kind of cleanser, which she applied to my inner forearm. As she went through the steps she explained how to apply it and said, at one point, “we only use a little bit, not because we are Jews and cheap, but because we only need a little.” I was completely dumbfounded. Did she mean she was a Jew and was making a self-deprecating remark? Did she mean “we” as in “you” and didn’t believe I wasn’t Jewish? Either way, I found it completely distasteful, but so out of left field that I was too shocked to even say anything before she went on with her sales pitch. She did her best to make me feel inadequate, saying I have pores (don’t we all) and rosacea (um, no, my cheeks might be pink from being out in the sun, or because you just made a crack about Jews being cheap, but I don’t have rosacea, Miss Not-a-Dermatologist).
By the end of the encounter, she was getting visibly frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t falling for her crap. She asked, “if you had this cream for free at your house, would you use it because it was free or because it helps your face?” “Because it was free.” “Really?” (shocked face, again) “Yeah, I’m okay with my face.” At that point, she gave up and asked if I wanted her business card in case I changed my mind. I said yes to be nice. For a few days afterward I was still baffled by the Jewish thing. Why would you ask that of a total stranger, and why would you make the quip she did? Now when I look back at the whole interaction, I think it’s funny, because I focus on her frustration and the fact that salespeople really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they try to sell to me. I look like the sort of person who would be a soft-sell. Oh, the looks on their faces when they discover I’m not!
Eventually I found some sandals which, while more than I wanted to spend, weren’t a depressing purchase. Thus, my weekend ended. This weekend was a little better, but still a disappointment in terms of another douchey Craigslist person. (This time they specified that if the ad was still up, the item was still available. Imagine my consternation when I drove to their place only to discover that, no, the table was not available and it wasn’t because someone had just beat me to it by a few minutes. Maybe you should take your post down, then, genius.) And the church I checked out today was not one I’ll be making my home church. But at least I got a run in, got some chores done, and, oh yeah, went back to the Christmas store and got my camel ornament on credit.
Next weekend is a three day weekend. I’m thinking of taking a trip to Baltimore. Regardless, I’m determined that it will be good.