If you’ve known me for a while you will know that I actually cover very few topics here. Obviously my photography is my most-blogged-about subject, and then we have the posts about my relational challenges and failings.
So, if these kinds of things irritate you, stop reading now! You have been warned.
You probably also know by now that I am very involved at church and have travelled extensively to serve in churches around the world. In all of these travels I have encountered one constant – the desire for married couples in the church to see me married off. Yes, at the age of 44, I am a bit of an enigma – single, never married, interested in women (believe it or not), desiring marriage but not desperate for it …
My first bit of advice from a well-meaning family friend way way back in the 1990s went something like, “Join a church. There are always more women than men there and you are sure to find a wife. If you can’t find someone to marry you in a church, then you will never find anyone!” Very helpful. Not.
Then a happily-married guy gave me this sage advice: “Pursue Damsel A. She may be a bit aloof now but she is just waiting for a knight in shining armour to sweep her off her feet. Woo her. You can’t go wrong.” I broke my budget on flowers, dinners, chocolates, dates, popcorn and movies … His was excellent advice, to be sure, but it turns out real life is not as simple as a Disney movie, and all my wooing and knighting did nothing. Apart from irritate her, I suspect. And make her fat.
And so my life as a single, rapidly-ageing person in the church continued. Then I went to Mongolia, where there weren’t many single females my age, let alone ones with whom I could communicate even vaguely. There was one very pleasant lass from the States, who just happened to be blind. “Mmmmmm, you’re in your late twenties and not married. What about so-and-so?” I was asked after a month or so in the country. “Wouldn’t you be perfect together?” Well, yes, I guess. If being perfect included her not being able to see my ugly mug, and me needing to help lead her around the strange streets. Don’t get me wrong, she was absolutely delightful and played a killer game of Risk – I just was not attracted to her – and I don’t think being delightful and a champion Risk player should be the deciding factors for a life-long commitment.
After that, similar incidents followed in Africa, France, Madagascar, and in my home churches in South Africa. Every time nothing came of anything, I was asked, “What’s wrong with you?” incredulously, as if everything hinged on me and my social inadequacies. Forget about the fact that I had asked at least two young women to marry me in this time, and both had said no.
Yet all the arguments I had heard, for example, “We know of at least half a dozen women who are head-over-heels for you. Just open your eyes to see them!” or “You and such-and-such are perfect for each other. She’s not married, she has children, you love children, you get along well …” and “Have you noticed so-and-so. She’s beautiful,” didn’t prepare me for the proposition I received a few weeks ago here in Canuckistan.
I was at a large social event one evening, dressed in my sandals (as usual), Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and with a lei on my head to camouflage my baldness. “You look awfully handsome tonight,” one of the women in the church said out of the blue, as I passed by her table to clean away the dirty dishes. The paper plates and plastic cutlery I was holding clattered to the floor (well, if paper and plastic could “clatter”), so taken-aback was I at her forwardness. “I think we should go on a date sometime,” she followed up.
My chin hit the floor amid the dirty dishes and I stammered something about it being way past my bedtime … I scurried away and for the following few weeks didn’t see her at church. Her family members and other friends, having heard of the incident, kept asking if we had been on our date. “Her daughter loves you,” they would say. “In fact, her whole family loves you. She’s practically the same age as you, and she’s really special.”
“No,” I would answer, “I haven’t spoken to her since.” And then they would ask if we had at least been texting, if there was hope for the relationship and what her kids would call me if we ever did get married. They were audacious enough to suggest, that even if I didn’t love her at first, that marrying her would help me to stay in Canada (with all those visa issues and all, you know.)
And, as much as the whole situation terrified me, secretly I was devastated that she hadn’t called.
I was having sleepless nights; struggling to breathe. I felt like running away, so unsure of how to deal with the situation was I. Until this last Sunday, when I cornered her at church as she was leaving with her daughter.
“Grandma Sterling. I’m angry and confused. Why did you never follow-up with me about that date?!?”
Yes, Grandma Sterling. Great grandmother to my twin sister. 84-years-old (and old enough to really be my grandma). A lady with a wicked sense of humour.
Now I’m paraphrasing her reply, of course: “My boy, you were just too dashingly-handsome for me. I don’t think my heart could have taken it.”
By that one simple sentence the assurance of my eligibility was restored and I went to get some coffee. Of course, I don’t expect my friends to stop trying to match-make me with girls “of a similar age.” And yes, time may well be running out for me to find my perfect life mate. But hey, I’m still waiting. Patiently. With eyes wide open.