There’s snow on the ground here, and it’s cold, and I am cursing my tendency to be early for public transportation since it means I have ample time to freeze while waiting for Trax. But! I finally bought myself a good winter coat, the sun shines most days, and I can put on these pajamas once I get home, so all in all, I’m on the good side of the “I hate winter” thing (at least for now). I’m even more optimistic than Eeyore, which, you know, is nice for a change.
Some of you will know that I have a host of thoughts and feelings about being single, and especially being single in church. I came across this article, and found myself nodding at a lot of the points. Like these:
–Stop pretending you know what it’s like.
A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity. As a result, married people sometimes mistakenly believe that they know something about singleness when in fact they don’t. Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport – and if you haven’t played it, you haven’t mastered it. The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women. If you got married before these ages, then it makes sense to acknowledge that your experience as a single adult is below average. In other words, you don’t know a lot about singleness. This calls for humility.
This one always really gets me. If you’re with your high school sweetheart or got married in college, you have no idea what it’s like to navigate adulthood alone. So stop giving me advice, well-meant or not. I don’t tell you how to parent your kids, you don’t tell me how to be single.
–pastors that only talk about being single in terms of abstinence.
the pastor (who is quite the scholar) gave a profound, rousing sermon on the beauty and holiness of marriage. Even as a single person, I was inspired by his sophisticated, lovely depiction of a Christ-centered marriage. It was that good!
At the end of the 40 minute sermon, the pastor looked up from his notes and began to ad lib: “I know that over 40% of you are single, so I should probably say something about singleness as well.”
My ears perked up. Since this pastor was such a scholarly guy and since he had just given an exceptionally thoughtful sermon on marriage, I just knew that his brief thoughts on singleness would be equally profound. I leaned forward.
“Here’s what I want to say to all you single people: Don’t have sex before you get married. Then when you get married, make up for lost time. [wink, wink]”
Once the laughter died down, the pastor gave a benediction and returned to the pew where his wife awaited him.
Having your whole being, your hopes and dreams and ambitions and talents and all the things you’re doing right now, reduced to whether or not you’re sexually active? No. Just no.
–marriage as the norm.
Marriage is the norm, the gold standard. If you don’t adhere to it, people ask questions. Case in point: I’m out-and-about in the Christian world a lot these days. As a result, I meet new people all of the time. The fact that we’ve just met doesn’t stop Christians from asking me why I’m not married. Out of the blue, and with a quizzical look, they’re like, “How come you’re not married?” It’s my most frequently asked question. Seriously.
When I first got to Salt Lake City, one of the leaders of the small group asked me if I was in SLC by myself. (In her defense, I think she was trying to be tactful.) When I said yes, the conversation stopped. Because once you know I’m not married or partnered, there’s obviously nothing left to ask me about myself.
Or, the other day at church, when the minister talked about the importance of connections in a Christian life, and only offered up the sacrament of marriage as an example. Sure, because those of us not married are floating around, unconnected to other people.
–I’ll add one of my own: singleness is often talked about as a state you should end as soon as possible. You know, as much as I’d like to find my special someone (why else am I going on all these dates?), I have a pretty great life. I get to travel, I love what I do for a living, the library here is amazing, and I’m not living in Germany any more. All awesome things I wouldn’t give up for the world. And I’m not willing to partner up with someone who can’t keep up with me, even if that means waiting for a while longer. In the meantime, I can buy myself that KitchenAid, thank you very much. (Well, I could, if I weren’t a poor grad student. But you know what I mean.)
(Another great post about being single in church can be found here. I’d add my thoughts about her article to this list but this is long enough as it is.)
I do not like winter. But do you know what I do like? Winter pajamas. (Although actually I like all kinds of pajamas. One of the things OKCupid asks you is what you wear to bed, and I’m always slightly sad when people answer “underwear” because they are missing out on all kinds of awesome patterns and colors and just general comfiness.)
In fact, the first thing I do when I come home in the winter (and the fall and spring, too) is take off whatever I’m wearing and put on yoga pants or, even better, pajama pants. So between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I made sure to stock up on new sleepwear. My order was delivered today, and included these leggings, which have already been designated as my new favorite thing to wear in bed.
Now that it has started snowing here, it looks like it’s time to brush up on my hibernation skills. If you need me, I’ll be in bed, wearing these.
I spent the end of November on the East Coast, first attending the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore and then spending some time with E. in her new environment in College Park, also in Maryland.
AAR was great, because it’s not that often that I get to spend time with people that work on religion and attend panels that are actually relevant to my dissertation. I attended some pretty good sessions, most in the realm of Mormon Studies, but managed to include one on the global impact of Pope Francis. An impassioned nun gave a speech on the need for feminism in the c/Church. She got a standing ovation and it was well deserved.
Obviously seeing E. again was great (no surprises there!). I hadn’t seen her since she left the Netherlands in July, so a visit was long overdue.
We made sure to make time for:
–trips into DC that include coffee houses and book stores (and the buying of books, even though we’d sworn we were too broke to do so)
–a visit to her lab and wonderfully cluttered office (and can I just say, the U is arguably a prettier campus than Dortmund, but Maryland has that old world academic charm going on. I’m jealous)
–baking pumpkin pie and sweet potato cake for Thanksgiving, both Smitten Kitchen recipes (of course). The sweet potato cake needed a blowtorch to caramelize the frosting. E. and I thought we were out of luck, but luckily her friends are awesome and E. managed to borrow a blowtorch from one of their labs. (How come we never have cool gadgets in the humanities?)
–having to walk on the shoulder of the road to get to the grocery store because why would you want to use a sidewalk? Don’t we know we’re supposed to be in a car?
–reuniting with Dino, who we temporarily lost but then luckily turned up again and now is seeing what Utah has to offer extinct and/pr stuffed dinosaurs. He’s very excited for the snow that is apparently coming our way.
–sadness when I had to leave, but tempered by the knowledge that I’ll be back in December. Our entire family is coming over to DC for Christmas (two whole weeks. That has to be the longest we’ve all been together since what, 2002?). Being away from my family actually has me looking forward to it. (I did, however, find a conference I “have” to attend the second week, just in case all the family togetherness kills me.)
–oh, and do you know how I know I’ve gotten used to Utah? I kept looking around College Park and DC and thinking, ‘where are all the Mormon churches?’
The library here has pretty extensive opening hours, except on Friday, when they close at six. Apparently most people think there are better things to do on a Friday night than pick up new books for the weekend. I’m trying not to judge them.
Yesterday, I got a package from my sister in the mail that made me laugh out of sheer delight. It was filled with kruidnoten, both the chocolate and the plain kind, and accompanied by a Sinterklaas poem and a card. The poem was pretty brilliant, so I’m going to share it here, with the caveat that it’s in Dutch. But it was too good not to post. Thanks, A. and F. You’re the best.
De Sint zat hevig te denken
wat hij Saskia nou eens zou schenken
Ons land verruild voor Mormoons grondgebied
het Sinterklaas feest missen, dat gaat zo maar niet!
Gelukkig kwam de Sint op een lumineus idee
en beveelde Piloot-Piet, “Vlieg mij in mijn privé jet eens over de zee”.
Zo gezegd zo gedaan en toen stond Sinterklaas ineens aan wal
van de Amerikaanse taal snapte hij alleen geen bal!
Helaas was de Vertaal-Piet er niet bij om de weg naar ***** Ct te vragen
maar gelukkig was Tom Tom-Piet mee dus had de Sint niets te klagen.
Onderweg probeerde de Pieten snoepgoed uit te delen
maar geen kind te bekennen die op straat zat te spelen.
“I’m not allowed to talk to strangers” riepen de kinderen door het sleutelgat
maa zonder Vertaal-Piet was er niemand die dat begrepen had
De Sint dacht “In de zak met die ondankbare kinderen zeg!”
maar toen zag hij het huis van Sas aan het einde van de weg
Het is maar goed dat Amerikanen niet houden van het Sinterklaas feest
want dan was deze doos allang leeg geweest!
Geen tempel maar de bibliotheek is jouw heiligdom
elke dag drie blokken lopen naar de bieb is geen straf maar rijkdom.
Of pak je tegenwoordig de fiets, een prachtig instrument
de Sint heeft vernomen dat je sinds kort hiervan de trotse eigendom bent.
Ook sta je heden ten dagen bekend als een echte avonturier
over de rotsen van Utah klauteren doe je met veel plezier
En dat je dan valt en een hersenschudding oploopt neem je voor lief
wat jij ook allemaal wel niet over hebt voor een potentiële hartendief!
Wat de Sint brengt bij het hoofdstuk daten
want inmiddels heb je flink wat mannen daar versleten
Een koffietje hier een koffietje daar
en af en toe zit je met je handen in het haar
Gelukkig blijf je kritisch as hell
en denk je dus geregeld, wil ik hen wel??
Ja de Sint snapt het wel, het bewonen van Salt Lake City is geen straf
wordt er ook nog gewerkt vraagt de Sint zich wel eens af…
Maar dan, denkt hij weer aan jouw sterke werk ethos
jij speelt het wel klaar hoe groot ook de chaos.
Met andere woorden, hij is trots op wat je onderneemt daar
en is stiekem ook blij dat je weer gezellig thuiskomt na dit jaar.
On Thursday, I thought I’d go try out the American health care system, in the guise of Instacare. (Urgent care for less urgent stuff.) I had been dizzy all week, with blurry vision thrown in, and so much fatigue. I almost fainted on Monday (while I was volunteering) and Thursday (during my American Religions class). I’m not sure what would have been more fun: hitting the floor in front of thirty fourth-graders or seventy undergrads. Luckily, I was spared both, but I did decide to seek out health care instead of waiting for it all to magically get better (my preferred strategy).
A fun side effect of whatever it is that is happening in my brain is that I’m having trouble processing information. So whenever anyone asked me anything, not only would there be a time lag and would I be slow to respond, I’d also have to concentrate really hard to respond in the right language. It makes answering questions about my medical history a lot more interesting, I can tell you.
Anyway, they gave me a CT scan, which turned out normal. (I felt just like my mom, having my brain scanned. Except it was a CT scan and not an MRI and it was over in a couple of minutes and it was not to determine whether I needed surgery again. So not really like my mom, after all.) I also do not have mono, which is really good news, or anything wrong with my thyroid. I think they tested for other stuff but I can’t remember (see trouble processing information, above).
When I left, they told me to make a follow-up appointment with internal medicine. Which I did, only to hear that the earliest I can be seen is December 10th. So it looks like I’m just going to hope it magically gets better, after all. (Does this totally reinforce my idea that I shouldn’t go see a doctor until I’m at death’s door? Yes, yes it does.)
When I started looking for housing in Salt Lake, it became pretty clear I’d need a roommate. (The holy grail of a furnished apartment in a safe neighborhood with a ten-month lease and within walking distance of groceries and public transportation just wasn’t happening within my price range.) I had my own apartment in Dortmund, but before that, I’ve had some good and not-so-good roommate experiences, from the nosy landlords to the single fridge shared by nine people (and one bread-thief) to my Berkeley experience of sharing a tiny, tiny room, to the awesomeness that was sharing an apartment with F. and M. when I came back to Nijmegen to finish up my MA. I remembered all the downsides of sharing a house: shared bathroom and kitchen, less privacy, having to be careful not to disturb others too much, being startled by house guests you weren’t expecting and weren’t dressed for in the mornings…but I forgot the unique thing about me and roommates: I tend to be prone to peer pressure, especially the imaginary kind.
My roommate is a postdoc at a cancer research institute here. She works long hours, and it makes me feel like such a sloth to not do the same, so I make sure to get up at a reasonable hour every day and go to work, instead of putting on yoga pants and typing on the couch. (Plus, there’s the whole, “I’m off curing cancer while you read books about Mormons” thing to make me feel inadequate.) So clearly her presence is a good thing when it comes to actually hopefully one day finishing the dissertation.
But then, there’s peer pressure take two. In the first couple weeks/months, when she’d come home, I’d be on the couch, reading or Netflixing and very definitely not hanging out with anyone non-fictional. If you leave me to my own devices, I’m perfectly happy to not go out of the house until I run out of books to read or food to eat (or, gasp, both), so I can pretty much credit that self-inflicted peer pressure for me joining a small group, as it gets me out of the house at least one night a week and allows me to pretend I have a social life outside of Skype and the internet. (The rest of the credit for my social life should be divided between my mom, who tends to very carefully ask if I’ve interacted with people lately, and OKCupid, in case you wanted to know.)
Which makes it all the more disappointing that sometimes, when I get home from social activities, my roommate isn’t home to notice that I wasn’t home. Being social(ish) seems like such a waste when there’s no one there to see you do it…
If I had known how happy biking would make me, I would have bought a bike the second I got to SLC. Seriously. My three favorite things of this city now include my library card, my office, and my bike.
It reminds me of when we first moved to the Netherlands: the only upside I remember to no longer living in the States was that I no longer needed an adult to take me to the library, but I could hop on my bike and just go there myself. (For a look at what a slightly more optimistic and certainly better adjusted me had to say about biking, go here.)
I’m doing just fine without a car here, but oh my, did I enjoy not waiting for public transportation on Saturday on my way to the mall. I am kind of thankful for the many bike paths in downtown Salt Lake though, as I’m not quite sure yet of the proper American procedure for navigating traffic. Which is one of the reasons I’m wearing a helmet. The other is how accident prone I am, even on a good day, as my recent concussion once again illustrated. (Sigh.)
Anyway, thanks, T., for making me buy a bike. I’ll be on that thing right up until it really starts to snow. Then I’ll have to go back to honing my patiently waiting for public transportation skills. (They’re already quite excellent, you’ll be happy to know.)
On Friday, I picked up T. from the airport. She and I go way back: we met in sixth grade, went to the same high school, and stayed in touch through college. And despite the fact that our moms live within ten minutes driving distance of each other, we never meet at home, but rather at airports, in Houston, San Francisco, and now here in Salt Lake.
Anyway, I mentioned that I was thinking of getting a bike, and what do you know, twenty-four hours later, I had one. Apparently I’m going to be biking to work now.
We spent the rest of her time here visiting with her friends (T. spent a year or so here, years ago), eating Cheerios and Halloween candy, and walking all over downtown Salt Lake City. We also talked a lot about the joys and heartbreaks of being so uprooted all the time, and how nice it is going to be to hopefully one day live somewhere for more than a year, and how neither of us had any idea of what we were getting into when we decided to go get that PhD. (Or MD/PhD, in her case, definitely not in mine. Plain old PhD for me.)
This is us on our way to the Trax on Tuesday morning, where we discussed the possibility of us perhaps both actually living in the Netherlands next year. Exciting stuff. (Please excuse my tiny eyes, it was a bit bright out.) Anyway, great fun was had by all and I loved having her come visit. Who wants to be next?