So What Do You Do?

Post Author: Name Withheld

Wine GlassWe met on a Saturday night just before Christmas. It’s something I never do. I usually tuck my little preacher self safely into bed at an early hour on Saturday night. But, for some reason, I suggested that we meet at the local wine bar for a drink on a Saturday night. Just one drink. Perhaps this Saturday risk was motivated by that same little preacher self awaking in a hot sweat from one too many nightmares where I have died fat and alone only to be discovered three weeks later half-eaten by dogs a la Bridget Jones.  It’s depressing how much I relate to Bridget.

So, of course, I went on a date on Saturday night. We had one glass of wine and he was absolutely delightful. It’s always a risk when you meet someone online. You never really know if he will be even remotely as charming as his profile. But, he was. He was lovely.

Before this first date, we had only exchanged a few messages through the online dating site. We’d talked about travel dreams and the city we both call home. We talked about places we like to eat and how we spent our days off, but neither one of us ever asked what the other did for work.

Every young clergywoman knows very well that this is the second question asked in common conversation. You get each other’s names. And then, maybe you ask where the other is from. And then, we always want to know what you do as if being able to picture the cubicle you spend 40 hours each week will define all that we might ever need to know about you. Except that I don’t have a cubicle. I have a congregation. I don’t really want to think that this defines everything there is to know about me. But, like every young clergywoman, I know that once he learns that I don’t work in a cubicle and instead work for the church, the date might be over.

He might actually race out the door and leave me to pay for the drink. What a charmer.

But, that’s not what happened.

On that Saturday night, sipping glasses of wine, I realized that that dreaded question hadn’t come up. He hadn’t asked. I didn’t offer. And this just made me want to know even more. It turns out that I’m a big old paradox. I don’t want anyone else to define me by the work that I do, but I really want to know what everyone else does. I’ll admit it. I needed to know where his cubicle was. So, I flipped my hair and coyly asked, “So what do you do?”

His eyes widened and he took a sip of wine.

He was procrastinating. It was obvious. And then, I realized that I do the same thing which required that I take a sip of wine. Oh dear God! Is that what I look like when I’m asked that question? No wonder people are freaked out. Now, I get it. I am actually tempted to race for the door and leave him to pay for the drinks. I am mortified.

And then, he finally answers, “Well, I’m actually in the military.”

In those few words, I hear all of the same hesitations that I usually offer. The way he starts with “Well” as if to soften the blow. The insertion of “actually” as if it needs to be justified. But, I am newly mortified with this new self-revelation. So, I won’t respond with the same repulsion that has been offered to me in the past. I won’t be as quick to assert that I’m a pacifist like every atheist has done to me. I will simply reply, as I flip my hair again, “Oh really? Tell me about that.”

Name Withheld

Photo by real name not given,, March 11,2013. Used by Creative Common License.

5 replies
  1. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Oh, this is SUCH a familiar experience! I am with you in the struggle–not knowing how or when to tell people I’m a pastor, worried that they’ll go running out the door if I do. I usually try to put it off until the second date if I possibly can, even though I love my vocation and am proud of the work I am privileged to do. I appreciate your wisdom and openness. Blessings on your journey!

  2. Kelsey
    Kelsey says:

    Love this. I have never avoided the question of what I do, but I’m often left wondering if he didn’t ask for my number because of ME or because of my job. Your reflection made me think about how defensive I am when I answer “what do you do” questions.


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  1. […] banter without ever asking that persistent question that single young clergy women hate so much, “So what do you do?” It turns out that young clergy women really aren’t the only ones who do this. This man in […]

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