This past Sunday was one of the best days I’ve had, I celebrated the fellowship of new friends, shared deep thoughts on food, life and the future of a wonderful atheist community I am privileged to be part of. Over an above that, I had a first date that same evening with an interesting woman I had met on a dating site. This was my first date since my last break up almost 10 months ago (depending who you ask).
I was as excited as a little kid buying his first toy.
I was late for the date by ten minutes, but late… I had called earlier and she sounded alright about it. As I walked into the mall and arrived just outside the restaurant, I called her to tell her I had arrived. I had seen her picture on the dating site, I thought she was pretty, but as she came up to me she was beautiful and elegant. I made a very conscious reminder not to stare or ogle. She smiled at me and I felt less anxious about my late arrival. We started chatting immediately, as if we had known each other far longer than a week.
A waiter saw us coming, he smiled and rushed over to welcome us in. We took a table at the back. Her energy and vibrance was instant, we were off talking about our day and how rushed it was. She mentioned she went to church, and when I asked, she responded by saying she was Roman Catholic. I wasn’t phased, I can respect someone’s belief, and she knew I was an Atheist – She must have considered it before coming out on a date with me.
The conversation moved quickly into telling stories about our past. Her passion for art and culture expressed with hand gestures as she spoke with her whole body. I could see the soldiers trudging passed her on her morning run up the mountains around Seoul, and hear the city sounds drift up against its steep cliff like edge – imagining the shamans of old had used that place for that acoustic reason. I could feel the texture of the rust blackened walls of an old factory converted into an art studio, and smell the mix of metallic dust, paint and wood and stone being used in new artworks. I felt her ecstasy watching a young, South Korea woman sing and dance to a hard rock rhythm, rebelling against the stodgy South Korean culture. And wanted to dance with her in the little bar-dance club, hidden between two little shops on a back street, with just an open door and a single sign above it showing that it existed.
I was taken by her expressive nature.
I relished every moment. Felt connected as we both leaned into the table and whispered the rest of a tale, and then laughed out loud. We had crossed over the intellectual attraction phase synonymous with online dating and entered the physical, the real world stuff. The date was going well!
We spoke on for a bit about travelling more and where else we’d like to go. She said she was considering taking a job in the UK, so she could tour Europe and explore the art scene there. It sounded like that would happen soon – I was a little disappointed. My previous relationship turned ‘long distance’, and that was an utter crash-and-burn experience I didn’t want to repeat.
This is the first challenge, but it’s quite a normal dating challenge, and I think anyone could sympathise/empathise; Atheist or not.
I mentioned a trip to Holland, where I had the opportunity to work in buildings along the canals. I told her about the time I had visited a ship monitoring station built on the bank of a canal. The building extended four levels below the bank’s surface and as I walked down the stairs to the first sub-level where we were working, there was a glow coming from further down the stairwell which seemed too bright. Water had filled the other three sub-level floors up to half a flight of stairs below the first.
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!” I said.
She cringed, “I couldn’t look at that! I don’t want to see spirits!”
I know my facial muscles pulled into a ‘What the heck!?!’ expression.
In the moment it took her to uncringe, I was taken back to being 7 and sitting in an empty church pew on my own at a service for the dead. Seeing the spirit of a girl my age. I felt pity for her; still being trapped in a place for those unsaved, uncleansed souls. I felt a vague sense of relief that this was the right time for her to appear, because the “priest” was about to – through me – give her salvation. And then… the sleepless nights I had as a teenager around the same time each year, looking out from my bed as I saw a stairway leading up from the passage outside my room, watching as droves of ghosts moved up towards their salvation… To the utter, debilitating fear and anxiety at 19 as I felt the dark, evil souls trying to possess me – because I did not heed my parents’ warning about researching the occult and being clairvoyant.
I have grown out of that!
I now know that I have an over active imagination, that I am intuitive to people’s emotions because I have a keen talent for observation… I have tamed my imagination by focusing on creating fictional narratives and writing them out for others to read and enjoy, and by doing work in design, where imagination drives logical processes. I’ve honed my observation and skilled myself in conversation, so that I can achieve more in business and connect at a more personal level with others. By embracing my rational mind, I have overcome the indoctrination of my childhood – I’m better for it.
I hid my expression before she might see it, deciding not to say anything. The logic is simple : –
- I’m with this beautiful, intriguing woman having more fun than I’ve had in months.
- I really want to hear more of her stories.
- I can recover from being too hesitant and aloof.
- An assault on her superstitions of demons and spirits would end this date and all potential others. DEAD!!
This is the second challenge, and one I believe is more specific to non-believers, sceptics and atheists. Here was someone who I just started liking (A LOT) and had accepted as being intelligent and rational, and I felt that moving forward could only happen after a real discussion around these beliefs.
The date went on…
I was still interested… But now I was hesitant to commit any further. I walked her to her car, opened her door and we spoke a few extra minutes as she stood at the back door. Even though I was certain her lingering there was an invite to end this evening on a super high with a delicate, affectionate and deliberate kiss – I fought the wonderful hormones coursing through me, I couldn’t offer that kind of promise.
I hugged her… she seemed surprised, but not thrilled.
She climbed in, we spoke a couple more minutes…and then she was off.
I’m getting older, I don’t have the time or inclination to string someone along just for company. I know what I want and will put in the effort to find and keep that. I can respect, even accept someone I’m interested in’s belief in a religion… but I fear that any discussions on someone’s rooted superstitions which could bring so strong an emotional response, not only them but to me, would turn any promising love interest, into a casualty of my own determination to never return to that dark life. I refuse to expose my own children to such a twisted reality, that they become afraid of their own imaginations, or are made to believe it is normal to be afraid of the mythical, unseen, always present dangers of the unreal supernatural.
What are your experiences?