Post Author: Kristin Rice
One day, not too long ago, I saw this article titled “I’m 33 and Have Never Been Kissed” reposted on Huffington Post. The heading intrigued me and as I read on and on, an all-too-familiar feeling settled in my soul. See, I, too, am 33 and have never been kissed. And it’s only in the last couple of years that I have (hesitantly) shared that in very limited circles. One of those circles was the Single YCW group, a Facebook subgroup of The Young Clergy Women Project. It didn’t take too long to realize that one of the things that has made me feel so alone and isolated is not actually something I struggle with alone.
As a pastor, I often fall into the trap of holding up the ideal for a healthy, happy life as one that is partnered with 2.5 children. I often put aside my sadness and grief over a life of perpetual loneliness so that I can focus on ministry with family units who appear to have the life I want. It’s easier to do that than to try and figure out how to do this very real ministry with people like me who need to know that they are part of the community, too, as single people.
Perhaps it’s my own feelings of shame around the reality that I am not just a single 33 year old, but I have never been on a date, never kissed a romantic interest, never even had the chance to say “I’m waiting for marriage” (which, by the way, was never actually a vocalized value of my family-of-origin) and struggle with deciding about sex. Notice that I can’t even totally say the word that I really am. Yeah – I just took a big sigh to say it – I’m a virgin. In every sense.
It’s hard to talk about with friends. Of my closest friends, only a few share my single-solidarity, although they’ve at least been on dates and kissed boys. I’ve only recently decided to try to be more open with my friends about my life as a virgin-not-by-choice. It’s always awkward, and there’s a shuffling around of feet and staring at hands because no one knows how to respond, at least not well, as the Huffington Post article describes.
It’s even more challenging to try to navigate this conversation with the people I serve. I don’t need to fully tell my own story to do ministry, but I value honesty and transparency. If I truly want to live into the gospel, the story of God’s good news through Jesus Christ for the sake of the world, then I need to remember that it means good news for all people, me included.
My good news is not in the hope that someday, someone will look at me or ask me to dinner or click on my OkCupid profile. My good news rests in the promise of a God who loves and cares for me and whose expectations for my life exceed even my wildest of imaginations. And that may never include dates, kisses, or marriage.
I don’t know if I will ever know what it is like to have the butterflies of a first date, or if I will ever stop thinking there’s something “wrong” with me that I’m apparently Undesirable Number One. Those perpetual thoughts dissipate in time. While my high school and college journals were filled with musings around this “wrongness,” most of my energy now is spent in the ministry I’m trying to do for my congregation. Most of my thoughts drift to the areas of my life that could actually be changed through my own choices along with the abiding presence of God.
I don’t want to lose any more sleep wondering why I’m 33 and single-for-life. I don’t want to give up the hope of someday meeting a person who could be a lover and a life-long partner. Instead, I’ll hold that grief and allow myself to honor the sadness therein. I’ll continue to wrestle with how to tell my story and be true to my story as I walk with my kids, youth, and adults who will experience things I never have. I’ll wish that I could talk more openly with my friends without feeling their pity or hearing their empty despairing of “but you’re so awesome, surely God has someone for you.”
All I can do is continue learning how to love me for me, with the heart of God that I preach about to so many on Sundays, believing that same God’s heart for me. There isn’t anything wrong with me. I can’t be anyone but me. I’m 33 and never been kissed, but I’m more than that. I’m also a beloved woman of God who still gets goosebumps at the Easter Vigil, who hopes in the resurrection for this day and all days, who is giddy at presiding over the Eucharist and sharing a holy meal for God’s holy people. I’m a beloved woman of God who has an obsessive and snobbish love for coffee, who enjoys belting out musicals and, well, all music. I’m a beloved woman of God who is profoundly grateful to be part of a community of other beloved women of God who are also trying to figure out what it means to be both pastor and person, even when the person parts leave us desiring and wanting.
Kristin Rice is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Cross Lutheran in 'Chocolate City' Burlington WI. She is a musical-obsessed coffee fanatic with wanderlust.
Image by: Harsha K R
Used with permission