Amanda Chatel recounts a not-so-great religious first date in Brooklyn
I have never, ever been on a religious date in any way, shape or form (unless you count going on Search as a 16-year-old in a bid to make-out with my high school crush, which I don’t). That said, I never want to. I’m not, by nature, a religious person so a date to church, synagogue or temple would be a huge turn-off. If you’re both super religious, it’s still kind of a weird date idea. I’m not on board. Maybe you’ll agree with me after reading dating columnist Amanda Chatel‘s tale of religious woe in Williamsburg.
Heath was trying to find himself. Fresh from London, where he had spent the last year studying at Oxford, he moved upstairs from me. I’d run into him from time to time in the hallway, and between him upstairs and Carlos D. (formerly of Interpol) directly downstairs, I would never ever dare to leave my apartment without making some sort of effort. In a dream world, one of them was going to fall for me. Although since this was about the time that Carlos started rocking full mustaches and those ugly bolo ties, I was leaning toward Heath. I didn’t care how much Hubbell loved his dog, Gaius.
I remember the first time I saw Heath: he was breathless. I have only felt this during the first sighting of two people in my life: Heath; then some looker at a Brooklyn brunch spot in Williamsburg just a couple weeks ago (it was a very strange moment that made me think of Heath.) Both were the type that have you walking into walls and tripping over yourself; I like to pretend this is endearing, but mostly it’s just ridiculous. It wasn’t just their looks, but their overall presence. I can’t explain it.
Heath and I started spending time together. Although there was obvious chemistry, he was adamant about “finding himself” and any relationship (sexual in nature) would interfere with this journey of self-discovery. It was somewhere between arriving at JFK from London and the day he moved into my building that Heath had been approached by one of those religious types who peddles the word of god on the street in the hopes of converting as many people as possible. As a lost soul looking for direction, Heath ate it all up and started attending masses and bible study groups. When I met him he was already a few weeks into this new part of his life, but he never pushed it on me. Most of the time it never came up.
After weeks of heavy duty flirting and G-Rated “cuddling,” Heath decided we should go on a proper date. Well where does one trying to find himself take a girl on a proper first day? To his church, of course. Normally this is something I would roll my eyes at, then move on; but Heath was so charming and darling, and seemingly sane and in control of the situation, that I went.
The church was in a strip mall not in the city. It was an empty space that had probably once been a Fashion Bug or Pizza Hut, but now was just a ripped-up floor full of folding metal chairs and wooden crosses on the wall. As Heath explained, the parish used to meet at a Holiday Inn in one of the conference rooms, but had since been asked to leave. As one who is not religious at all, but is amazed by religion’s effect on people, I assumed they were kicked out for screaming, jumping around and yelling “amen!” at the top of their lungs. That was, after all, what the baptist church behind my apartment building did every Sunday morning, and I loved waking up to it. However, there would be no screaming and jumping around at Heath’s church.
There could not have been more than 50 people in the group, and I was immediately welcomed in the opening lines of the mass; then things went south. The entire sermon turned into how there are many enemies among us (them) rejecting god, and it was our (their) duty, our (their) obligation as Christians to show these “confused children of god the way.” I couldn’t help but wonder if this was because I was there, or if this just happened to be the day that they covered this particular topic. I had already felt uncomfortable as it was, but with everything seeming to be about people like me (heathens!), I actually became a bit nervous. Then it happened…
Yes, there was a laying of hands and those hands were on me. Everyone within reaching distance was touching me as Heath held my hand. There were muffled voices reciting scriptures, and what I swear was even some soft weeping. If if wasn’t for the fact that one of the parishioners had picked us up at the train station, and I was dependent on that ride back to the city, I would have run like hell out of there — and probably crying the whole way, too.
After a few minutes, they stopped touching me, the mass wrapped up and everyone converged on the coffee and donuts on the back table like everything that had just happened, had not. People talked about their jobs, the weather and stuff that normal conversations involve.
On the way back to the city, as we sat on the train with our arms interlocked, Heath asked me what I thought. I was honest and told him I was terrified. He just smiled. He started to devote more and more time to the church, and less time to me. Eventually the only time we saw each other was in the hallway where we awkwardly stumbled over small talk. Although I have since moved out of that building to an apartment a few blocks away, I still see him every once in awhile in the neighborhood. Of course these times usually involve me darting to hide behind a parked car or lamp post before he sees me, because that’s how I like to deal with things.
I still think if the timing had been different and he wasn’t in search of something bigger than himself, Heath and I would have been amazing together. We were so compatible in many ways and he was one of the few who truly understood my sarcasm, my deadpan expressions and my sick sense of humor. And like I said, he was breathless; and that’s an adjective I don’t use lightly.