50 First Dates…

Stacy– So you must be Lucy’s friend. The one who made the tape.

Lucy– I think he’s more than my friend. You’re my boyfriend, right?

Henry– Yes ma’am.

Stacy– So everyday you help her realize what happened and wait patiently for her to be okay with it, then you get her to fall in love with you again?

Henry– Yes ma’am.

Stacy– Gosh… (a longing sigh, then slaps her husband in the chest) You asshole! You don’t even open the fricking car door for me anymore!


Ah, first dates… They are fascinating creatures. It’s your first impression of someone, so both people are on their very best behavior hoping to impress this stranger who could potentially be A) your next sexual partner, B) your soul mate or C) a complete psychopath who you will wish you had never met, but unfortunately, didn’t figure that out until date number three or four.

Unlike Henry (Adam Sandler) in 50 First Dates, who has to convince his beloved with short term memory loss (Drew Barrymore), to go out with him all over again every day, most people are lucky enough that they only have to go through a first date with a particular person one time. This is a good thing, as first dates can be nerve-wracking. With that being said, then you have the completely insane like me who schedule three first dates, with three different guys, all within a 30 hour time frame.

Go big or go home, my friends. Go big or go home.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t plan for it to happen this way, it just sorta did. I am discovering that I am apparently a hot commodity on OkCupid. I even got an email from the website yesterday saying, “Congrats! Based on the number of clicks on your profile and user ratings, you are one of the most attractive people on this site! Don’t let it go to your head…” (I proceeded to laugh hysterically and delete it.)

I have contacted, and been contacted, by several guys over the last few weeks and it all just culminated into them asking me out all at the same time, for the same weekend. I considered trying to spread it out over the course of the following week, but due to my lack of dating experience I figured I would lose my nerve, (and almost did to be frank), and should just bite the bullet and get it over with. As a result, my weekend could have been aptly named “Dateapaloosa!” I ended up with one date on Saturday and two on Sunday…

Date Number One- The Dog Lover
I was most anxious about this one, mostly because it was really my first official date in almost a decade (no pressure or anything). We met at a coffee shop to chat for a few hours. It was a little awkward at first, because I get the impression he’s pretty shy, and we were both nervous, but conversation soon relaxed once we began talking about our jobs and our dogs. He’s was very sweet in a quiet sort of way, which I am not used to shy guys so it took some adjusting to. He actually gave me a really wonderful compliment by calling me a “renaissance woman.” (Meaning I am good at many things, and have a variety of interests. A nicer way of saying “jack of all trades” I suppose.) Never really thought of myself that way, but the title is rather appropriate the more I think about it.

Date Number Two- The Scientist
Date number two was another coffee date, though this one was at one of my favorite local places that I frequent. I think between the familiar locale and already having one date under my belt significantly helped my confidence. Didn’t really need it though, the Scientist was anything but shy. In fact, sometimes it was hard getting a word in edge wise! That really didn’t bother me much though, it gave me a chance to practice active listening skills and let someone else be the center of attention for once, which is something I need to work on more in personal relationships. Morning coffee turned into lunch and we talked about his research on cancer treatments and my work with holistic medicine, family, sports, pets, you name it. He was bubbly and enthusiastic and I really enjoyed chatting with him over yummy food.

Date Number Three- The Traveler
Save the best for last, this date was the one I was most looking forward to because I had contacted him first, and after talking via email we just had so much in common. We decided to meet at the art museum, which was exciting to me because I love art. I was freaking out a little before our appointed time to meet because I was super early and because I wanted to make a good first impression. I wandered around the gift shop for awhile and then hung up my coat. When I came back, there he was waiting in the lobby and all my nervousness disappeared. Conversation as we walked around looking at the art was friendly and comfortable, an easy give and take that felt very natural. At one point we were stopped by a group of older women remarking on how “nice we looked together,” because our outfits matched “perfectly,” and “did we plan it that way?” All the while we are laughing because this was literally the first time we had ever met in person. After the museum we went and got coffee and talked for another hour or more. I left for the night with a huge grin on my face, I had had a great time.

Looking back, I am glad I made it through my dating marathon in one piece, I had been really worried about it all the previous week. I consulted many of my dating savvy friends and got a lot of mixed advice such as, “one night stands are okay,” and “don’t tell them you are getting divorced on the first date.” After stressing about it for a few days, I ultimately decided to throw “conventional” wisdom out the window and do things MY way, which meant really listening to my heart to decide what was right for me in any given moment.

And you know what? That worked for me. Each date ended with a hug and nothing more and I was totally fine with that. I don’t believe that you have to hop into bed with someone, or even swap spit on a first date. If that’s your thing, and you have a willing partner, great- more power to you. It’s just not for me. Don’t get me wrong, if I really like someone I would be willing to push boundaries after a couple of dates, but I am in no hurry. If my date can’t understand and accept this then they are not the man for me.

Update: At the time I started writing this post I hadn’t heard back from any of the dates yet, but have since been contacted by all three. The Dog Lover declined going out again because I was honest and said I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship right now. He apparently was, and I totally respect that. Best of luck to him, he is a genuinely nice guy. The Scientist asked me out again and I think we are going to do something this weekend. The Traveler bowed out gracefully under the excuse that I wasn’t “technically” divorced yet and he was uncomfortable with that. Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? Maybe a little, but to be perfectly honest I am not sure it would have worked anyway. He just celebrated ten years of being a vegetarian and with my diet there is absolutely no way I can cut out meat and stay healthy. (Besides why would I want to? Meat is delicious! I may or may not have cooked a half pack of bacon and a full package of chicken tenderloins in silent protest after receiving his email. Not that I was bitter or anything…) Does it suck? Of course, but I would rather be open and honest about who I am rather than lie to make someone like me. Loving someone means loving the whole person, not just the parts that are cute or convenient.

While a little extreme, in 50 First Dates, Henry loved Lucy despite the fact that he knew she would forget about him every night and wake up the next morning completely oblivious to their relationship. He really loved her at her core, for who she was as a human being.

So with that in mind, and in the words of yet another excellent movie… To all you fellas out there-

“Take me for what I am,
Who I was meant to be.
And if you give a damn, 
Take me baby, or leave me…”

Switching gears, this is my last post for the month. February has definitely been memorable… From the adult toy party to the strip club, online dating to being propositioned to be part of a threesome, (yes, that really happened and no, I didn’t do it), I am almost sad to see February go. I almost feel like everything else is going to pale in comparison. March’s theme, though not as exciting, is going to be really challenging for me. It might even be my most difficult month out of the whole year. I am going to be tackling mindfulness and patience. I can’t tell you how many times in a day I zone out and get lost in my own little world. I also have this nasty habit of wanting to manhandle life and then getting frustrated when it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to. So next month I am going to attempt to let go of control and let stuff just roll off my back.
Yeah, that could be interesting. Stay tuned my friends…
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Strip Tease

A few weeks ago I had the most epic conversation with my friend John via text…

Me- So this is the random conversation in my head while I’m making curry tonight… If I was a stripper I wouldn’t go by “Ginger” or “Cinnamon” I would totally be “Cumin”… LOL!

…wow…Win…but wow.

Haha yeah. That’s the sort of shit that I think about when I am alone.

…you do see the pun in the name right? That was intentional?

Ummm yeah, the pun is why it’s funny give me a little credit.

I figured, I was just making sure. Because if you had picked a spice at random and it just HAPPENED to be that I may have passed out from laughter lol.

Nope, there was irony there.

What was even more ironic was that less than a month after having this conversation I would be making my very first trip to a strip club.

When I first started planning my adventure year and decided to make February “sexuality” month, everyone started chiming in with ideas. My friend Amber jokingly suggested that I go see the Chippendale dancers and I thought to myself, “Oh yeah! The strip club! That could be interesting…incredibly awkward, but interesting… After all, this year is about pushing myself and being open to new experiences. It could be fun, right?” So last Friday night, (I feel like this is an intro to a bad Katy Perry song…), as sort of an “Alternative Valentine’s Day Extravaganza,”a group of friends and I went out and popped my strip club cherry.

I was right, it was awkward. REALLY AWKWARD.

I don’t think I have blushed that much since the sixth grade when they sat all of the girls down and gave us the talk about menstrual cycles. (I believe the book they handed out was called “Growing Up and Liking It!” I don’t know about you, but I always thought that title was a little disturbing and ominous…)

To my friends who had been to a strip club before, me being embarrassed was quality entertainment in and of itself. Who needs dancing naked women when your friend is making a complete ass out of herself?! (I’ll give them credit though, they were very supportive and did their best to help me relax even as they teased me mercilessly…) As for a couple of my other friends who were also strip club virgins, I was in good company as far as being nervous went. I think they spent the majority of the night analyzing costume choices and the lighting effects haha.

As the evening wore on, and I grew less uncomfortable, I was told it was time move stage side if I wanted the full experience. Prior to this we had been sitting in the back of the room, so I gathered my singles and my courage and went into the belly of the beast- front row seats where boobies and booty where flying free.

This is where I got a real education. My strip club savvy friends explained that when a stripper “pays attention”  to you, you stick a dollar in their g-string. “Pay attention” to you? Okay, like what are they going to do? Say “Top of the morning to ya!” and dance a jig? Sadly, I think I would have found that more entertaining. NO. Instead they shove their triple D breasts in your face and make you motorboat them whether you want to or not.

I must have had a deer in the headlights look, or been giving off some pretty strong scared little bunny pheromones that they picked up with their super stripper senses, because for the most part they left me alone. That is unless my friend Mike, who felt he needed to be my strip club concierge, would sick them on me with a malicious grin. That resulted in my ear lobe being molested by a Russian in a body sock, and an orange oompa loompa Malibu Barbie giving me this weird butt dance with her glute muscles. (I almost didn’t want to fork over a dollar for that one, it was disturbing…) We had been sitting front row for awhile when I was told to “pick my stripper.” I  was informed I wasn’t allowed to leave the place without getting a lap dance first, courtesy of my friends.

What did I say when I took my vows back in October? Oh yeah- “Go big, or go home.” Fuck me. I didn’t think I would be eating my own words… So I picked the most non-threatening stripper I could find, which let me tell ya, wasn’t easy.

She was actually very pretty, about my age, maybe a little younger, with long red hair and a Monroe piercing. Mike being the excellent wing man that he was tracked her down and propositioned her for me. She, of course, agreed. So Ember, (I am assuming that was her stage name, hence the red hair and red costume), grabbed my hand and lead me back to the hall of lap dance rooms and sat me down in a booth. At this point I am so freaked out about the idea of a strange person gyrating their mostly naked body on me, that I would have gladly traded places with a root canal patient. (Become one with the furniture, become one with the furniture…) Of course by then I was past the point of no return, so I did what I always do when I am nervous- I word vomited all over the poor stripper and this was the resulting conversation…

*Some information has been changed to protect Ember’s identity…

“So this is your first time at a strip club? Are you just turning 21?”

No, I am actually 25.

“So strip clubs probably scare you shitless then, huh?”

Uh, yeah pretty much.

“But this is the best place on earth!” Pause as she shakes her ass a little closer to my face than I am comfortable with, and I am bracing myself against the back of the booth trying to avoid her g-string… “So what do you do for a living?”

I’m a social worker.

“Oh, boy…”

Yeah I know, I am not judging though I promise.

“So what do you do as a social worker?”

I work with elementary school kids in name of school district.

“Oh! I went to Pickerington High School!”

So you probably get asked this a lot, but why did you start dancing?

“Well, I am trying to work my way through school.”

What are you going to school for?

“Design.”

Oh, that’s cool.

“Yeah, I sorta screwed up my life, and I know this isn’t the best way to fix it, but I am trying to get back on track.”

Well good for you! That’s awesome! I have to say though, I wish I was a fraction as comfortable with my body as you are with yours.

“What are you talking about?! You’re skinny as shit!” Pause as she wiggles her nipple pasties in my face… “I was down to about ninety pounds when I was still doing drugs, but I have been clean for awhile.”

That’s great! I am really glad you are healthy now!

As she was putting her shoes back on… “I’m so glad you were a girl, I am getting really tired of giving lap dances to men with erections tonight…”

Thanks?

“Well I hope it was good for your first time.”

(What exactly was I supposed to say to that? So I said-) Yeah, you did a really good job, thanks a lot.

Dazed and confused, coming out of the backroom felt like a walk of shame. As I slunk back to my cheering friends, I was blushing so hard I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me was I was purple. Shortly after they took pity on me and took me home.

In the end, however, I can say I came away with several things from the experience…

1) I learned that despite my facade of being “open and sexually accepting” I am much more of a prude than I care to admit. Although to be fair, seeing mostly naked people didn’t bother me as much as those mostly naked people touching me did. However, I have a feeling that had more to do with my issue of not wanting strangers in general to touch me, than the fact that they were strippers.

2) (Weird as it might sound considering I was at a strip club of all places…) I really believe my idea of beauty was challenged and expanded. There were girls of all shapes and sizes- tall, short, thick, thin, black, white, blonde, brunette, small breasts, large breasts, completely unnatural breasts… but every single woman moved gracefully and with such confidence. Hell, I can’t even do that half the time with my clothes on, so in a way I guess I sort of admired them for it.

3) Some of the girls could SERIOUSLY work a pole, holy shit. These were the girls I wouldn’t want to tangle with on the street, because anyone who can hang upside down ten feet off the ground with nothing but their legs could probably crush my skull like a watermelon between their thighs… Not to mention they made it look so stinkin sexy at the same time. It put my feeble attempts at Carmen Electra’s strip tease workouts back in college to shame.

All in all, I can now officially say I have been to a strip club and survived. (Okay, I might even admit that it really wasn’t bad at all and I actually had a lot of fun…) Despite one of my particularly naughty friends suggesting in a facetious way that I should come back for “amateur night,” I doubt Cumin will be making an appearance at a strip club any time soon, and to be perfectly honest, that’s fine with me. I am okay with being who I am, a “skinny as shit,” (high praise coming from a stripper), word vomiting social worker, who blushes easily, and is trying to learn to loosen up a bit sexually. Hats off to you ladies! You definitely helped me go a long way in just one night on that particular stand point…

It’s Raining Men!

Hallelujah? I am still undecided on the topic, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

It all started this weekend when I had to meet my soon to be ex-husband to do 2012 taxes (yay tax season!) I was really anxious because I had absolutely no idea how it would go. It was the first time I had seen him in the three months since I moved out. After the initial awkwardness had passed, we feel into our old familiar banter and ended up spending the afternoon together catching up. This was actually very cathartic and healing. I think it helped clear the air and allowed us to take our first baby steps towards being friends after the divorce. I’m glad because, despite the fact that I think we made terrible spouses, I really missed him and his ridiculous sense of humor. Neither of us regret our decision, and even after everything that has happened he’s still one of the few people in this world who knows almost everything about me. I hope we remain close because we did, and really do still care about each other. Many of you might be thinking, “Okay this is weird, two people who are getting divorced are actually nice to to each other? That’s not how it’s supposed to work!”

You’re right, we are probably the exception rather than the rule when it comes to divorces, and for that I feel very blessed. Besides, for those of you who actually know me, when have I ever done anything the “normal” way? You think hanging out with your ex is weird? What if I told you that not only did we spend time together without wanting to strangle each other, but we traded dating tips? Then you’d probably think we were bat shit crazy…

But it’s true. We joked for at least a good hour about our feeble attempts at dating, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was during the course of this discussion he told me one of the kindest and most sincere things anyone has ever said to me…

“Someday we will both find our soul-mates.”

I know, I want us both to be happy.

“Just do me one favor…” 

What’s that?

“Don’t settle. Don’t settle for anything less than the best because you deserve it.”

I cry every time I think of that conversation. This is the man I married years ago, this is the man, excruciatingly difficult as it is, that I am giving up. Despite our incompatibility,  he’s a sweet and wonderful man and I love him dearly (and he’s single ladies!! *wink*wink).

Anyway, to make a long back story short, he was the one who suggested trying out OkCupid.com, a free online dating website. Oh boy…

Now, I have always said I would never date men I met online. I have nothing against it per say  it just never really felt my “style”. But, I figured what the hell, I’ll check it out anyway, not like I have anything better to do. So Saturday night I started working on a profile. Before I was even finished filling the damn thing out I already had three guys leaving me messages. Within twelve hours I had seventeen more messages waiting for me in my inbox. All of them telling me I’m “beautiful,” “funny,” or “seemed really sweet.” At first I felt like Scarlet O’Hara and the belle of the ball! All these guys were talking about little ole me! You can’t help but feel like you are oozing sexuality when so many men are fighting for your attention. Then I started to realize, “Shit, sifting through all these emails is going to be extremely tedious and annoying…” And believe me I have had some real winners…

My very first email was from a guy named *Dave (names have been changed to protect the pervy…), and it consisted of-

“Hi, my name is Dave, 44. If you secretly like old guys you should message me…”

Yeeeaaahhhh…. Not the best pick up line my friend. Although it’s better than the message I got from some caveman whose name I can’t even remember because I deleted it so fast, which in its entirety read-

“Hmmmm….”

Hmmm, what? You find me interesting? Pretty? Repulsive? Hmmm, you’re a moron and wasting my time? My vote is for the last one.

The other thing that kills me are the guys who message me and clearly have not read my profile, (which is a shame because it’s a beautifully written, somewhat sarcastic masterpiece in the world of on-line dating profiles). For example I had an Indian vegetarian contact me when I clearly listed “bacon” as one of my six things I couldn’t live without. In fact, if he bothered to read my profile at all he would have noticed this little gem under “Favorite Foods”…

If it includes bacon, I will eat it. If you can wrap it in bacon, I will eat it. Not to go on a tangent or anything, but I firmly believe that bacon is a gift from the gods and should not be squandered. If I could win a lifetime supply of bacon I would die a happy woman… probably of congestive heart failure, but happy none the less.

So please, please, explain to me in what alternate universe would a vegetarian and myself be able to coexist peacefully when pork products are being consumed in large amounts on a weekly, sometimes daily basis at my house? Read My Damn Profile!

Oh, and ninety percent of the guys who apparently do read my profile are creepy mouth breathers who get all hot and bothered by my Game of Thrones references, or the comment under “Favorite Movies” which states- I’m a huge fan of StarWars. If you don’t know who Admiral Ackbar is then I’m sorry but, “This is not the girl you are looking for…” (I personally thought this was witty and amusing. Aforementioned mouth breathers apparently find it a good excuse to picture me with Princess Leia buns and masturbate in front of their computers… Eww.)

Unfortunately for me in this particular instance, that is who I am- a bacon loving, card carrying sci-fi fanatic, who can nerd rage with the best of them as to why Timothy Zahn’s “The Hand of Thrawn” series should be the next StarWars trilogy. (Did you hear that Disney?!) I am not going to misrepresent myself online to make me more attractive to the kinds of people who aren’t still virgins at age thirty-five.

I realize at this point I probably sound really superficial and that’s one thing I am discovering about online dating, is you really have no other choice. Unless I want to wade through a dozen or more emails a day and respond to each one, I have weed out the “undesirables.” To do so means to literally judge them based on their (usually crappy) profile photo and the scant amount of information they provide. This makes me feel horribly guilty because I am sure some of these men are truly lovely people and would much better represent themselves if they were able to string together more than a couple of sentences under their personal info.

This is why I am “undecided” as to whether I am glad to be getting all this attention, because it forces me to be judgmental of people I barely know and I hate that. Do I think I am going to find my soul mate online? Probably not. More likely I am going to find a bunch of guys who look at my photos and just want to get into my pants. However, there is at least one or two promising prospects and we will have to see how they pan out. For now, however, grab you umbrellas and flip on your windshield wipers, it’s raining men my friends-AMEN!

Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations…

Monday, January 28, 2013 was a tragic day. One that will live on in infamy for as long as I shall live. That was the day that I opened the bathroom door after my typical morning shower, only to discover my dogs had turned B.O.B. (my battery operated boyfriend), into their new favorite chew toy. I silently mourned our parting as I cursed my naughty puppies, and gently laid BOB to rest in the trash can. He was a good friend, and will be sorely missed.

Melodramatics aside, this event was seriously depressing. When you are a fabulously single lady, there are certain things in life that are an absolute necessity… a good vibrator is one of them. After pouring out my woes to her via text, my friend Amber tried to console me with the following-

“…Could just be a new texture…lol.”

“Yeeaahh… not really a fan of ‘cheese grater’.”

When informed that my dog ate my mechanical playmate, my friend Jordan’s response was not quite as helpful-

“Oh my god! Is he ok?! Does he vibrate?!”

For those of you who are wondering, yes, the dogs are fine… I wish I could say the same about my libido.

The only good thing about the whole situation was the timing, for it just so happened that the Saturday after BOB’s demise was my kick off for February, my “Superbowl” so to speak of sexuality month- a PureRomance ladies night. I guess if you want to look at it from a more positive perspective, (which I am trying really hard to practice more often), maybe this was the Universe’s way of saying “Girlfriend, you need an upgrade!”

This whole adventure year is about trying new things and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, and one thing I have never had the pleasure of doing is attend an adult toy party. I have been invited to several, but for whatever reason was never able to go, so I decided to throw my own sexy soiree.

I have to say ladies- if you’ve never gone to a party like this then you need to add it to your “to-do” list asap. It makes for a fantastic evening. (Sorry gentlemen, no boys allowed due to solicitation laws. I know, I know, this is sexist and grossly unfair…here’s a tissue, get over it.) I had a great turnout, 12 women including myself, yummy food, alcoholic beverages for those who were able to partake, good conversation, and a gun case full of sex toys! No seriously, she carried the vibrators in a gun case. If you don’t believe me, here is photographic evidence…

Imagine getting pulled over with this bad boy in your backseat!

Maiya, our consultant, was awesome. She made it so funny and entertaining; I actually learned a lot. Like the fact that you can apparently have a “nipple orgasm.” Who knew?! As the evening wore down and everything was said and done, between money I saved up for the occasion, and the money I earned from the party’s sales for being the hostess, I was able to get almost $200 in new goodies! (Needless to say I was able to get several replacements for dearly departed BOB…)

After all the other guests left, Amber and I met up with some guy friends to go dancing. As a mom with a young child, Amber doesn’t get many free evenings, so we decided to make the most of it, and made our way downtown to Skully’s where we could shake our groove thing. I haven’t been dancing in a long time, in fact, I think the last time I went dancing was for a Bachelorette party in 2009. Now, I recognize that means I haven’t been to a club in almost four years, but I didn’t think the rules of etiquette had changed THAT much. So either things have changed, or the men at Skully’s are absolute cretins, I’m not sure which.

For example, since when has it ever been okay for a strange man to sneak up behind a woman, grab her uterus and grind their junk all up in her business? When did we go from, “Hi, can I buy you a drink?” to silent, surprise, derriere molestations? I know some women like this, I am not judging I promise, but one of the things I recognized I needed to do from the outset of this project, and have been trying very hard to accomplish, is to love and respect myself, mind, body, and soul. With that being said, I personally do not appreciate people violating my personal space without my explicit permission. If you are a total stranger, don’t fucking touch me unless you want me to break you in half like a twig. I had to wrest a couple of morons off my backside at several points throughout the night, and came very close to elbowing one in the face, who felt it was necessary to grab my nether-regions from behind. (Thanks to Kung Fu I could have punched him eight different ways!) Fortunately for him, peeling his fingers off and giving a firm “No thanks,” was all that was needed. However, I was subjected for at least another five minutes to comments such as, “Damn gurl! Shake that thang…Mmmhmm! Yeah, that’s the stuff…” as Mr. Gropey Hands watched me from the bar several feet away. Nothing like sexual harassment to make you feel like a real lady. It seriously reminded me of the Dane Cook comedy skit about guys at the club (if you’ve never heard it before check it out here).

I left the club feeling slightly dejected. Where has chivalry gone? My standards might be pretty high, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a man to treat you with respect as a human being, rather than a piece of meat that is simply there for his amusement. How would they like it if someone treated their mothers, sisters, or daughters that way?

Maybe someday I will meet a man who, when he looks at me, doesn’t just see a pretty face or “assets,” but sees me, down to my soul and truly understands me from the inside out. Someone who is respectful and kind, loving, empathetic, sexy and supportive. Someone who I will actually want plastered to my side. Someone where personal boundaries stop being so much of an issue, and “my space” becomes “ours.” Maybe someday he will make an appearance. I hope he does, with every fiber of my being, I truly hope he does…

But on the bright side, at least for the interim I have a BOB replacement. T.O.M (my triple orgasm machine, haha) will keep me busy until Mr. Right does decide to waltz into my life and into my waiting arms…

Really crappy picture of Amber and me at the club. It’s just bad lighting, I promise you we weren’t in the red light district!

Comparative Religion 101

During the second semester of my Freshman year of college, I had to take a religion class. Being a student at a liberal arts college this was mandatory. Quite frankly, I had been absolutely dreading it. After being ostracized through most of high school about my beliefs (or lack there of), I had this preconceived notion that college would be the same way. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong.

I think what saved the day for me was I had the privilege to be in a Dr. Bussie class, and any one who went to Capital knows, either through personal experience or by reputation, that Dr. Bussie is an amazing teacher. She created a non-judgmental educational atmosphere where I felt safe to share my beliefs without the fear of being made an outcast. I went on to take several of her other classes, for the simple fact that I enjoyed them so much.

One of my favorite memories from undergrad came from Dr. Bussie’s Intro to World Religions. As an entire class, we took a trip to OSU’s campus to celebrate the breaking of the fast/feast of Ramadan. We got to sit down and talk with practicing Muslims about their beliefs and customs. I remember watching them go through their evening prayers thinking it sounded so beautiful, even if I couldn’t understand what they were saying. (This is also where I discovered a love for dates, which are the traditional food to break the fast with.) This was the first really multicultural experience I had ever had and it has stuck with me after all these years. I had this memory in mind when I decided to make January spirituality month. I wanted to have the opportunity to experience other cultural and spiritual beliefs outside of my own, and see how they compared and differed from one another. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to this month, some of it due to my own poor planning, and some of it was out of my hands, but I did get quite a lot of accomplished so here is my spirituality month in summary…

St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Catholic Church)
When planning out my destinations for the month, I chose St. Joseph’s because I have seen pictures of cathedrals, but never actually been in one before. Architecturally, it didn’t disappoint. The frescoes and stained glass were gorgeous, as were the vaulted ceilings and the gilded ornaments adorning the walls.

However, this little gem early on in the service reminded why I never enjoyed going to church with Catholic friends growing up…

(Excerpt from the mass bulletin…)
“I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. (And, Striking their breast, they say:) Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault, therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Yeah… I already have enough guilt on my own without my religion dishing out another heaping spoonful.
The Verdict: I loved the echoing organ music and breath-taking environment, but probably would have enjoyed it more if I could have prayed alone in the empty cathedral rather than attending a service.
The Magical Druid Grand Opening
Immediately following my trip to the Cathedral, I went to the grand opening of a new spiritual resource center started by some pagan friends of mine. I found it amusing because the pamphlet from the Cathedral talked about the “Wise men journeying out of the pagan lands,” so the joke that night was I made the journey out of the “Christian lands into pagan territory” (hahaha witty pagans). 
Seriously though, I am really proud of my friends and Three Cranes Grove, they are so active in educating the public and making paganism accessible in central Ohio. Mike and Seamus have been working for months to make their online shop a physical reality. The location is awesome, they have a wide range of products available, and they even feature works by local artists and craftsmen. Click here to visit their site!
The Verdict: No contest, I love my pagan friends and they have always accepted me unconditionally without question. Spending time with them is like coming home to family, even if I don’t believe some of the same things they do anymore.

Universal Unitarian Church
The weekend I went to the UUCE, I actually went early in the morning because they were supposed to be doing meditation practice… apparently I should have called ahead, because when I got there the place was empty save one of the guys who helps with maintenance around the place. So I ended up sitting and talking with him for awhile. He was an interesting fellow- he is a self proclaimed “atheist” who sings in a Lutheran choir. Eventually people did show up for the “service” (members take turns presenting topics, as a result lectures can be a bit eclectic). That week they focused on a 2012 review and what members would like to accomplish in their lives for 2013, which was an interesting concept, but we didn’t really have a lot of time to talk about it in detail.

The Verdict: Interesting and friendly group of people, they wanted to know more about my adventure year and possibly have me do a lecture about it when I am all done. I would like to go back someday. They also sent me a lovely hand-written card thanking me for coming, which I thought was amazingly sweet.

Tao Te Ching
There really aren’t any “Taoist temples” in Columbus, (I think it gets lumped in a lot with Buddhism), but I did read the Tao Te Ching, which Taoism is based on. Written by Lao Tzu and comprised of 81 verses, it’s actually quite beautiful and chock full of practical wisdom. One of my favorites…

“The best way to live is to be like water
For water benefits all things and goes against none of them.
It provides for all people and even cleanses the places a man is loath to go.
In this way it is just like Tao.”
Verse 8
The Verdict: Breathtaking. I would like to find a copy of this translation (by Jonathan Star) for myself.
Religulous (Movie)
Ah, Religulous, how very entertaining you are. Atheist comic- Bill Maher goes to town interviewing various religious groups and institutions in this particular documentary. Needless to say hilarity ensues. Some of my favorite moments include- him getting thrown out of the Vatican, getting thrown off the Mormon church property in Salt Lake, talking to a “reformed homosexual,” and chatting up a fake Jesus at a “biblical” Disneyland before getting thrown out of there too. (Fake Jesus actually said one of the more interesting things of the movie, he likened the Trinity to the phases of water- solid, liquid and vapor. Wish they would have explained it that way in confirmation, would have made a hell of a lot more sense!)
The Verdict: Absolutely nutty, but it makes you question your own beliefs and assumptions, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Homechurch (Christian Non-denominational)
I went with my friend John to his “church,” which is run out of the various member’s houses (hence the name). It’s an interesting concept and made for a more intimate experience. It reminded me a lot of the bible studies I used to go to in high school, rather than a traditional church “service.” The leader made the lesson very down to earth and relevant to today’s world, which I thought was very helpful.
The Verdict: Despite the Bible not being my cup of tea, this was definitely the most interesting group of people I met this month. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, and I enjoyed talking to people of many different backgrounds, which was pretty cool.
The KTC (Buddhist Meditation Center)
I did this one pretty late in the month and now I wish I had done it first, because it was amazing! I went for the introduction to meditation class, where the instructor- Ed, was very informative and entertaining. I learned how to hold my body so it wouldn’t hurt while meditating, as well as strategies to tame my “monkey mind.” Later on during the day, Lama Kathy did a teaching on suffering and patience. I was very happily surprised to discover I couldn’t find one thing she talked about that I disagreed with.

The Vedict: I’d like to order whatever they’re having! Everyone was really friendly and so freaken peaceful and calm…Must be all the meditation. I will definitely be back, I think there is a lot I can learn from this place.

Queer Yoga (Seriously, that was what it was called…)
Last, but not least, I was supposed to do Yoga at the Vedic Temple, but due to poor planning (I didn’t realize it was in Delaware as opposed to Columbus), I ended up not being able to go. As a substitute, my friend Jordan suggested I do Yoga with him… at a gay yoga studio. If you can’t do yoga with the Hindu’s, homosexuals are the next best thing right? That’s what I thought.

Honestly though, the yoga class itself wasn’t as eventful as simply trying to purchase my yoga mat yesterday at Meijer’s was. Makesh’s eyes lit up, (Makesh being the little old Indian man who was bagging groceries), when he saw my mat and proceeded to hug it to his chest as he enthusiastically spent the next 5 to 10 minutes talking at length about the virtues of yoga, and how if I really wanted to learn yoga I needed a Hindu teacher. I smiled and nodded politely as he continued to clutch my yoga mat in a death grip, and I was seriously hoping that I wouldn’t have to wrestle this little old man with no teeth to get my mat back, when luck would have it he got distracted by another customer and dropped my mat to verbally molest them instead. (Apparently Makesh, sweet, friendly, little old man that his was, has the attention span of a squirrel… this worked to my advantage and I got the hell out of Dodge before he could snatch up my mat again.)

The Verdict: The yoga class was amazing. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, and the instructor was very knowledgeable. I have done yoga DVDs before, but the experience of an instructor giving personal feedback was really cool. My body felt fantastic afterwards and, while it wasn’t what I would necessarily call “spiritual,” I was able to tune into, and listen to my body and what it needed to say during practice. I would definitely go again, if nothing more than for the physical benefits.

I think the lesson learned this month can be summed up in the simple sentence, “Many paths lead to the same destination.” In all of my various experiences it seemed the same universal truths came up again and again… love, kindness, and compassion, for others and ourselves. If more people would realize that their religion isn’t that much different than their neighbor’s then maybe we could finally stop killing each other over “who’s right and who’s wrong.” Maybe someday…

But, as you all are well aware I am sure, today is the last day of January so tomorrow starts a new month and a new focus, and let me tell you, it’s going to be crazy. In honor of Valentine’s Day, which occurs during the month of February, I am dedicating the next 28 days to “sexuality.” I have been simultaneously looking forward to, and dreading this month since I started this project. I’ve been looking forward to it because I think it’s going to be awesomely fun with all the stuff I have in store, and dreading it because I think it’s going to be the most awkward month to write about. For my family’s sake (and for my own privacy) I will do my best to try and keep things PG 13, but I make no promises. Stay tuned for my antics this month, I am confident they will be quite entertaining 😉