Blessings & Booty
All of the answers I ever gave to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” were lies. It wasn’t doctor or writer or photographer that attracted me. I aspired to holiness. I wanted to be a saint. I once admitted this to a friend. Her reaction—Don’t you have to be good or holy to be a saint?—confirmed what I already knew. I fall way short on the holiness scale.
The evidence is everywhere. I am selfish and arrogant. I have an under-developed sense of guilt and an over-developed sense of entitlement. I talk too much. I arrive at pot-lucks without a pot and don’t bother to explain. I wrecked my mother’s car and, rather than confessing, let her believe she was responsible. I once stole rosary beads from a monastery. As a form of revenge, I filled out a change-of-address form for a friend’s ex so that, among other inconveniences, he received his tax refund late and got no 40th birthday cards. I let almost all my calls go to voicemail. I rarely RSVP. I am hopelessly inconsistent with my children. I refuse to act pleased when someone’s hairy and slobbering dog greets me by jumping up on me. I don’t say “It’s ok” when people show up late. I don’t say “I’m sorry” enough. I’m not sorry enough. I’ve shown up for Easter sunrise services drunk. I have a tendency to fantasize.
It happened again this week, on Sunday. I went to the church that my kids describe as “not a real church” because it preaches tolerance and love and has few visible rules. I was in a particularly “love your neighbor” kind of mood, so as the congregation started its procession down the middle aisle to receive bread and wine, I resolved to bless everybody who passed by. It started out just fine. God bless you, God bless you, may God bless you, bless you, God bless you…
Suddenly, I realized that I was no longer blessing people. A change had taken place. I was assessing, not blessing. And only the men. As sex partners. No, I wouldn’t want to have sex with him. No, too old. No, married. He wouldn’t have enough energy. His movements are too choppy. Umm. Yes, he has that European look I like. No. No. Yes.
Oh my God. What was I doing? I didn’t stop myself. No, I refined my search. What had begun automatically, I now made intentional.
Though it was proof I will never be a saint, I felt no shame. I long ago reconciled my interests in sex and God. After all, there were years when sex was the only time I uttered God’s name. I think of good sex a lot like good prayer. I lose myself in it, truly in the moment. I am focused on someone other than myself. Thank you God, for sex and prayer—they are my way of loving God and my fellow man.
All my yeses were, I soon discovered, men in their 30s. I had to admit to myself that though I wanted to see them naked, they would probably be repulsed at the idea of seeing me that way. I am about to turn 50. Even in my prime, I was less than beautiful. Now, with wrinkles, rolls of fat, and hormonal shifts that cause wild mood swings and facial hairs to grow inches overnight, I recognize that men are more likely to flee me than to lust after me.
These particular men were young and handsome and years away from having to compromise their standards. I had absolutely no chance. I turned to a handful of older men, stunning in a different way with their silver hair, flat abs, tans, and designer jackets. But they too I deemed out of my league. They were still attracting the young, flat bellied, blonde, wrinkle-less women that get to skip the line at clubs I don’t even own the right shoes to stand in line for.
I could have slid into a depression, but I am resilient, practical, and focused. I changed my criteria once more. I assessed who among the communicants—my age or older, without a wedding ring, and mediocre-looking enough that I’d have a real chance—I would want to have sex with.
There were two men who fit these exacting standards. Next week I’ll go back to that church and sit next to whichever one I see first.