I Hate Books on Christian Dating…
A memoir journey towards a mysterious God
Chapter 1: False Planets
My mom always wanted me to join a sorority. She also wanted to buy me condoms before I left for Spring Break my senior year of high school. At a Wal-Mart, she stopped me in front of the Trojan section and asked, “Are you sure you’re not going to need any of these?” I felt awkward, especially since I was raised to believe sex is for honeymooning. My mom now claims to have been joking. Joking or not, I wasn’t interested in sex; I just wanted a tan. So I requested tanning oil instead and when I returned home from Daytona Beach, Florida I was still a virgin—a virgin with a nice tan.
Although I passed on the Spring Break sex, I was still interested in joining a sorority. My older cousin Jana joined a sorority when she went to college and for many years I believed I ought to do the same. After all, big cousins are the coolest and I wanted to be just like her.
I still remember when she took me to my first fraternity party. I was in eighth grade and it was smelly— a blend of beer and the stench of a male-saturated living environment. My nose was not yet accustomed to the smell of pot so I can’t tell you whether or not it was being smoked. But there was cigarette smoke—the kind that sticks to your clothes and your hair so that when you return home at night it transfers to your pillowcase, kind of like lice.
We didn’t stay at the fraternity house for very long: just long enough to see a keg stand, a few beer bongs and of course, the dancing. It was my first exposure to live dirty dancing. Until then I thought it was only a movie. But it was real. And it was dirty.
On move-in day, my freshman year at the University of Michigan, I was still trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go Greek. I thought it couldn’t hurt to attend an informational meeting to further explore the possibility. But I was wrong. It did hurt–literally. I tripped and fell on the front steps of the student union as I was on my way to the meeting room. Thankfully, there was no blood. But there was embarrassment, lots of it, which I suppose means blood was involved because I’m certain I was blushing as I picked myself up off the ground. Mortified, I scurried away from the gawkers to find a restroom where I could regain my composure.
As I entered the ladies’ room, I prayed to Jesus that I hadn’t prematurely jeopardized my chances of being invited to join a sorority. And, in the safety of a stall, I took great care to conceal my identity as “the girl who fell.” Luckily I was wearing a reversible coat (it was the ‘90s), so I was able to turn it inside out. And I was able to pull my long brown hair back into a ponytail. After my mini-makeover I exited the bathroom stall, certain no one would be able to put two and two together. (But in case someone did, I decided I would make up some lie about having a klutzy twin sister named Filinda Blank who should not be invited to join any sorority due to her severe health conditions, which include narcolepsy and lactose intolerancy.)
The Greek colloquium proved to be extremely educational. I learned that the sorority rush process at U of M is insanely time-consuming and that I’d have to take out additional student loans in order to join one. I was also tipped off by the girl sitting beside me that many of the sororities on Michigan’s campus prefer Jewish girls from New York. I had only visited New York once and since I grew up in a Midwest farm community I knew nothing about being Jewish. Except that Jesus was. (Religious diversity in my county consisted of those who went to church, those who didn’t, and those who got gypped out of presents on birthdays and Christmas: the Jehovah Witnesses.)
On my walk back to my dorm I decided it would probably be better for me to forgo sorority life and to join a Christian group instead. But my friend George (who is not Jewish, but is from New York) joined both the Greek system and a Christian group. A few of us from the Christian group would occasionally go to George’s fraternity parties hoping to attract other party-goers to our faith. We thought we could be good Jesus salesmen by having a good time without the assistance of alcohol. Looking back, I don’t think anyone really cared—maybe because George’s fraternity brothers were too drunk to notice we were not. Or maybe because we stayed in our own little clique the entire time and made little to no effort to get to know George’s friends. Or maybe because following Jesus has little to do with whether or not you drink beer on a Saturday night.
During our sophomore year, George invited me, and only me, to a different sort of party. My cousin Jana informed me that Greeks call these parties “date parties.” Now, I didn’t like, like George, but since we were good friends I agreed to go with him to his fraternity’s annual barn dance.
The evening started at his fraternity house, where we were given special beverage holders called botabags. Most filled their botabags with beer, but George and I opted to fill ours with apple cider instead. We and the other couples boarded a chartered bus, with our botabags, bound for a farm located just outside of Ann Arbor.
After a hayride and a few rounds of roasted marshmallows, George and I joined the dancing in the barn. There was plenty of room on the floor, but George pulled me up on top of a picnic table to dance. You would think the drunken kids would end up dancing on top of a table, but nope, it was the sober Christian kids. Then again, maybe the cider we had been given was fermented; either way, it sure did taste good.
I mention the barn dance because it is one of maybe three official dates I went on while I was in college. I would have liked to have gone on more, but a certain book on Christian dating started circulating throughout Christian circles in the late 1990s, and by 1998, many good Christians had declared dating a sin. I never read the book while I was in college (or ever for that matter), but my friend Will did, and he tried to convince me that it should be added to the Bible’s canon, right after the book of Revelation. Perhaps if he had known that the author had been home schooled he would have thought twice before accepting the book as Biblical truth.
It’s funny, sad, and scary to me what we readily accept as truth. I didn’t own a pair of flip-flops until I was twenty-one because my mom convinced me early on in life that flip-flops are dangerous. She told me I would stub my toe if I wore them. I believed her, and didn’t pester her for a pair, but I’ll admit – I was a bit jealous of my friends who owned several pairs. I especially liked the neat-o flopping noise the shoes made. All I had was a lousy pair of jelly shoes— that produced no noise, only sweat, and left strange imprints on my feet when I took them off at night.
My senior year of college I got a little wild on Spring Break and picked up a pair of flip-flops at an Old Navy in Fort Lauderdale. I think my mom was more disturbed by the flip-flops than she was by the nose ring I also acquired while vacationing in Florida. But I’ve learned that my mom is wrong about flip-flops; I’ve been flopping for over ten years now and I have never stubbed a toe while wearing a pair. To think, all those years I missed out on as a kid. I might need counseling. And as I talk to my therapist I’ll tell her not only do I feel cheated by my mom, but by our educational system as well.
You see, when I was in fourth grade I made a model of the solar system for the school science fair. I included the nine planets I had been learning about in class: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (the planet the boys always laugh about), Neptune, and Pluto. For over 75 years teachers and science books insisted Pluto was the ninth planet in the Solar System. But suddenly, in 2006, astronomers declared it was no longer a planet, and I was a bit perturbed. As it turns out, Pluto is nothing more than a “dwarf planet” – whatever that means. All I know is that the science community had lied to little kids for years, and I can’t help but wonder how Walt Disney would feel knowing Mickey’s dog—named in honor of the planet’s discovery—is a phony.
The lies I have believed about flips-flops and Pluto make me wonder: if my well-intentioned parents sometimes say things that are not true, if science sometimes teaches what is not true, then maybe, just maybe, people who appear to know a bit about Jesus sometimes fall short in presenting what is true.
Thanks for taking time to read the first chapter of my book!
To read the rest, send a $20 or more friend gift toward medical expenses and I’ll mail a copy your way.
P a y p a l katrinablank (at) g m a i l (dot) c o m
V e n m o katrinablanknyc
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