The Whirl of Gaiety

After such a tremendous first date, with hearts thumping and brains buzzing with excitement, our hero and heroine could not help to plan a next adventure. They had to wait. A week. The tailor is also an Assistant Scout Master. His troop had summer camp that following week in the sticks of North Carolina. He packed up his gear, including his cell phone, for those brief interludes when he could reach a service area and text out his adventures to the lady. Thus the week passed, with the librarian sighing and giggling with her phone like an infatuated school girl. They hatched plans for another date the following Saturday, when the tailor would return from the wilds.

For this date (and I won’t outline every date, unless you want more), we headed out to lunch, then to the North Carolina Museum of Art, and closed the evening with a homemade dinner at Anna’s place. The dress theme was 1950’s retro, as you can see below. Funnily, there was a Lolita meet up at the museum that day. Their group gushed about how cute we were and took pictures. The most memorable part of the museum visit, for me, was when Drew took us aside to sit in front of a large 17th century painting of the Virgin Mary. It was a moment of kinship and of blessing.

Marcus Aurelius photobomb!

For dinner, I made my old standby – lentil soup, which well nigh everyone likes, along with homemade whole wheat bread. Drew jumped in to help peel & chop the veggies. He marveled at how I just knew how to cook without a recipe. The old adage goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. He told me several months later that he knew that night I was ‘the one’. Ladies, if you want my lentil soup recipe for a date night, just ask!

As for my knowing whether this vegan, Catholic, historical tailor was also the one I had hoped & prayed for, that took a few months for me to figure out. On that second date night, I told Drew that I was excited to be with him and truly happy to spend time with him, however, I was like a nervous woodland creature. Because of my past, I was very, very cautious. I had to take time to build trust. No sudden movements. No loud noises. Lots of treats. I also had the Theotokos watching out for me, so, there could have been the heavenly, “No!” at any moment.

Drew, to his immense credit, knew exactly what to do to achieve this ‘life time merit badge’. He calmed my fears that we would go slowly and just enjoy getting to know each other. Since that day, he called me his ‘trash panda’ or raccoon, which is rather true. I like snack and can get myself into mischief.

About two weeks later, Drew asked if he could visit my Church. My parish is like a large, boisterous Italian family. I said, “You are brave!” He jumped in with both feet. After the second liturgy, he was helping wash dishes from coffee hour. He began reading books, listening to podcasts, and asking my priest questions. We spent time discussing the similarities and contrasts between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths. My parish family accepted him with open arms. Every day that passed, I could see that my prayers were being answered with a ‘YES’!

History Nerd Who Likes to Play Dress Up

I was off to the races in the dating app that evening, swiping left countless times and only swiped right a few times. I had little expectation anyone who caught my eye would even respond. When you are nearing 40, the odds may be good but the goods are odd. Then I found a profile that made me swipe right immediately. Blue eyes. Tweed suit. WWII Navy uniform. Intro tag line: “History Nerd Who Likes to Play Dress Up”. He had joined the app on the same day, also with the same low expectations of finding anyone interesting.

Mr. History Nerd and I began chatting the next morning. We shared witty and flirty repartee. (Mr. Darcy and a wet linen shirt were mentioned.) We also quickly broached two important topics. He said he was Catholic and Vegan. I said I was Orthodox and was mostly Vegan. When those phrases went past in text…I thought to myself, “This could work. This could actually work.” A new relationship would ‘work’, of course, if the Theotokos would allow it. I made an my usual intercession, “Protect me, Mother of God!” I also put in a few heartfelt phrases of a plaintive child that wanted to keep a found kitten. “Please, let me keep him!”

On Friday, we hatched a plan to meet on Saturday afternoon, at his workplace, which is a historic site and open to the public. If we didn’t hit it off, at least I saw a new history place and I was in a safe zone. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If He asked what he should wear – I replied, “A suit!” At this point, dear readers, let me share an important detail: He likes to dress up because he is a historical tailor. Another incredibly fantastic point of commonality! The suit, then, was a dark green wool worsted affair, with a cravat and cuff links, circa 1770, comfortable for a gentleman in all weathers. I wore a modern linen and skirt outfit I had made.

We spent a lovely & sultry July afternoon talking and touring the grounds. He brought down original examples of waistcoats from his collection that I could look over and we geeked about the construction details. By the end of his work day, he asked if we could have dinner at the local Greek restaurant? Why yes, that would be great! While at dinner (not wearing his 18th century suit, just regular street clothes), he said something that made me about choke on my falafel. He described how he became close to the Virgin Mary when he had converted to Catholicism a few years previously. Big Glaring Neon Sign. Silent prayers began to ascend, “OH PLEASE THEOTOKOS! He is SO CUTE.”

The Tailor

After dinner, we still had time before he had to skitter off to his part-time gig. Would I like to take a little walk in the community park? Why yes, I would. We drove over separately. I arrived first. As he pulled up, I got out of the car, close the door, and made a cry of dismay, “EEEEK!” I had locked my keys inside. One of the best uses of money is a AAA membership, let me tell you. I called them up to get help, while feeling deadly embarrassed. To this day, he found this to be an ‘adorkable’ moment, on of many I seem to do. We took a couple turns around the park…and held hands. Alas, alack, he had to leave me, still waiting for AAA to bail me out…which didn’t take long. On my way home, I stopped by his coffee shop, where he gave me a London Fog and another hug. I drove eastward in a romantic swoon…

[This was just the first date! How does this end?!? Check back again tomorrow for part three…or maybe this needs another 7 installments…]

Happily Ever After Takes Work

We all love a happy ending to a story, with all the threads of action tied up a neat bow. We have confidence the beloved characters will continue on in our imagination with everything they deserve in life. Villains receive justice. Broken things are renewed; curses are broken. A village rejoices. True love comes to those who wanted it most.

In the last 18 months, I have been living a real-world fairy tale. Characters in fairy tales rarely write it out as it happens. They don’t know quite how it will turn out and who wants to be a disappointment? At some point, however, there has to be a period at the end of the sentence, a chapter, when you can tell the story to the satisfaction of everyone. We all know, however, as we are still alive to tell the tale, that it goes on and builds and twists and gains even more details. I learned that happily ever after is HARD WORK. That is where I have been instead of writing – making the life where I can write again.

If you had asked if I were happy in life when I began writing for the Brown Dress Project, I would have said yes. I was happier than I had been in a long time. I had career direction, an avenue for creative outlet, an amazing church family, friends, and a well-organized life. I didn’t hate myself or brooded on the past. I liked this version of Anna. She was a better person.

Yet, I was lonely. Even worse – I was lonely without having hope of it ever going away. All my attempts at remedying the situation had come to naught. The Orthodox dating scene, especially for older singles, is slim chance to none. From my tiny perspective, the happy life I had was all I would get. In order to fend off despair, I had to stop all romantic activity completely.

I turned my focus to prayer, especially in building a relationship with the Theotokos. I asked her for two things. First, protect me from the situations or people I should not associate with. Second, show me who I should get to know. As with any mother, the overwhelming word she used was, “NO!” It was uncanny – usually within 24-48 hours – an interesting scenario would quickly go sideways. I felt like I was three years old again. All the “No”. Nothing fun. Nobody. For a year.

On the 4th of July, 2018, I was bored, at home, on a day off. I baked cookies for a friend. I decided to join a dating app. My cynical nature told me the best I would experience was maybe a nice dinner and a handshake. My hopeful nature thought, well, perhaps you could find a companion to go see museums and theater shows. Just do fun things? No pressure? Add some spice to life? There had to be someone out there who wouldn’t mind my peculiar nerdiness. I certainly did not expect what came next…

[Thanks to Melinda Johnson for kicking off the #bloginstead three day challenge! I needed a way to just get started again. Stay tuned for the rest of the story tomorrow and Friday.]