Not What You Might Expect

Post Author: Elsa Peters

“So, what’s your favorite movie?”

It is probably best that this was a phone conversation so he couldn’t see my eyes roll with the exasperated gesture that accompanied it. He asked this exact question three times – in our three previous phone conversations. The fates hadn’t aligned as his first email contact arrived in my inbox days before Christmas. Though he was heading out of town to see family, my schedule was more of a nightmare. Our casual emails drifted as New Year’s arrived. We had graduated to the phone by then. It was clumsy. And yet, our conversations had always had this tone of silence.

So when he asked this question for the third time, I didn’t play it cool. I called him on it. “I think I answered this before,” I said. “Remember?” More silence on the other end of the phone as I made another annoyed gesture into thin air.

The truth was: he didn’t seem all that bright, while claiming to be an intellectual type. Nothing about his personality seemed to have all that much depth – especially if interesting conversation for him was limited to what my favorite movie was and how much it had snowed. I was bored.

I was mind-numbingly bored of our conversation. This realization made me wonder why I was even carrying on this fantasy of meeting someone on the Internet. If this was what was out there, I’m wasting my time. I didn’t articulate any of this. I opted to be cute and girlish because there seemed to be no other way that I was meeting someone that could offer the possibility of romantic interest. So I giggled through my boredom. I wasn’t sure if he believed my attempt at being coy anymore than I did. It was unclear what he was thinking when he announced that he was tired. We said goodnight and made plans to meet for a drink the following night.

However, I only needed to read the first three sentences of his email to learn that our plans were not firm. It arrived before I had even awoken from my slumber. And yet, these were the words that greeted me that morning:

I’ve been thinking it over and listening to my inner voice in regards to whether I should move forward with you or not and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably not a good idea after all. We’re worlds apart. You’re religious, I’m not, and that would be the major stumbling block for us…

This dribble went on for six paragraphs as this intellectual gentleman recounted all of my faults, including that I’m not well-read and narrow-minded. Of course, these are minor infractions that pale to the fact that I am clergy.

I thought mean things about him as I read his six self-involved paragraphs. Though I wanted to curse
him into a pillar of salt, I wrote back a cordial reply explaining that I’m sorry that he felt incapable of seeing beyond his own assumptions of what being well-read, narrow-minded and clergy might be. I hit send. Then I got angry.

I hate that others assume what it means to be religious. I hate that this is a barrier in dating. Ask me, I wanted to tell him. I wondered how I could make this more explicit in my dating profile. I had assumed that a headline reading “Not What You Might Expect” might infer this truth about who I was as a woman and clergy. With this simple headline in my dating profile, I had assumed that I was asking these would-be suitors to not make assumptions. I’m not so naïve to think that there are not assumptions that we all make in dating. I’m not oblivious to the fact that I read certain things into the profiles I browse online. I’m not dumb. I’m just guessing there is more to you than you can fill into a two-paragraph introduction and a series of photos in your dating profile.

I may be mistaken. This may be the problem of being an open-minded woman that challenges her own assumptions of people. Even though I was bored on the phone, I was willing to risk the possibility that this man was just terrible at the phone. I was ready to step out into the unknown searching for romance and perhaps some interesting conversation (though I wasn’t yet convinced). Instead, I greeted the day by washing this man out of my hair and sent myself on my way to meet with a lesbian couple about their love and marriage.

The Rev. Elsa A. Peters is an ordained member of the United Church of Christ serving in Maine where she wades through a dating pool of men that all know each other.

Image by: andreas160578
Used with permission
6 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    What a story!! I am not young anymore, 53, am in my 31st year of ordained minister of the UMC (currently a district superintendent) and although I married and divorced in the middle of those years, I have been single for 17 of those years. I have tried internet dating off and on and have had not much luck–the only man I met whom I cared for ended up being separated, not divorced from his wife. Not a good situation to be in dating wise. Anyway, I am so glad for younger clergywomen that this site is here. Thanks

  2. jayme
    jayme says:

    i just want to say that i understand what you’re saying. i’ve been there. but don’t give up hope. as a theologian/minister, i had given up hope of finding anyone that could “get” me and just kept up with online dating for the distraction, if nothing else.
    and yet, i met the most wonderful man on on 26 december 2007 and we have no doubts – in march 2008 – that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together. he’s not religious – never has been and doesn’t know any of the language – and yet he’s interested (as opposed to hostile or uninterested), he asks me really great questions, loves to hear me preach and give lectures, and wants to know. he’s a chef – and it’s such a delight to know that when i come home to him, i won’t have to solve the problems of the world but if i want to talk about it, he’s happy to hear it and help me think it through. i know that our home will be a haven, a place of rest and nourishment, even if it’s not what i had expected when i was envisioning a future with someone. i think this whole process has been a lesson for me in learning that your dreams don’t always turn out to be what you expected them to be.
    so hang in there. it’s possible. if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. i don’t know what the secret is – or if there is one at all – but don’t allow these experiences to make you cynical.

  3. Heidi K
    Heidi K says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and thanks too, for jayme’s encouragement. I’m in my late 30s and have almost given up meeting someone who really gets me and respects and honours the things that matter to me. Thought I’d found one a few years ago, but he turned out to be an alcoholic
    🙁 I’ve tried on-line dating and everyone who’s come up as a potential match has been a conservative Christian; I don’t really think there are any non-conservative Christian straight single men out there – at least in the under 50 age range. They’re certainly not in any of the churches I’ve been in! My hope is to find a guy who is non-religious but interested – so it’s great to hear Jayme’s story.
    By the way, I was checking out threads on this site to see if there was one regarding dating as clergy, and I couldn’t find one – though I expect there MUST be one, seeing what an issue it is for many of us. Could someone point me in the right direction?

  4. rev amy
    rev amy says:

    i can’t tell you the many plethora of times i’ve had these same interactions on so many dating websites…its nice to know i’m not alone……thanks, it’s such a pain sometimes isn’t it?


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