We should all be ready and willing to settle, because nobody is going to be perfect. But we're also entitled to a few deal-breakers.
On the subject of good, available men, single women in their thirties don't need to be reminded that the pickings are slim. Many of us have accepted that if we want to have a child with a partner -- while our clocks are ticking like the bells of Westminster Abbey -- we may have to compromise instead of waiting around for the elusive Mr. Perfect. But just how much settling is too much?
I never thought I would be 34, sharing a cheese soufflé and a bottle of Chablis over dinner with a cherub-like guy who occasionally quotes Jesus. I really thought by now I'd be married to my childhood fantasy (Mr. Tall Dark Handsome), and my only stress would be dealing with the woes of getting my nearly-perfect children into the right schools.
But like many women, I always knew I had some things I needed to do on my own before I even considered crossing the altar with someone (travel the world, kiss a girl, learn a romance language), but I never thought I'd be at the point where I'd have to actively look for love the way I have been over the last few years.
And I certainly never thought I'd end up in a threesome.
Unfortunately, I don't mean a ménage-a-trois in that sexy French way. I mean, I'm in a relationship with my boyfriend and God. Well, his Christian God (a God I don't believe in).
It started out as one of those close friendships that blossomed into something deeper over a three-year period (don't they say those are the best kinds?), but the deeper we went, the more I realized how much value he places on the Christian community from which he sprung, and just how important his faith is to him. Or, as he likes to say, "I am my faith. You can't love me and not love my faith."
He is funny and kind. He speaks better French than I do and lets me win at Scrabble. He is a great kisser, a great conversationalist -- he even writes me poems.
I grew up in a household where religion was non-existent. Dad is a staunch atheist, mom a wayward Hindu (she eats Big Macs and never prays). There was a short period when I was around eight or nine when I was convinced I would "be doomed to hell" if I did anything bad, like, for example, putting Jell-O in my brother's bed (even if he did deserve it). I don't even know when I first came across the notion of a god or hell, probably from evangelicals on daytime television. I eventually outgrew that fear since I felt that putting solidified fructose in my brother's blanket was too good to pass up, and it didn't have any immediate repercussions. When I was in high school -- a moderate episcopalian school which I ended up in by chance -- I skipped the weekly chapel most Wednesdays without paying penance. I spent those mornings happily hanging out at the local doughnut shop instead of listening to an hour of sermons before algebra.
My past boyfriends have been atheists or, like me, vaguely spiritual, but without subscribing to any organized religion. I like to believe there's something out there, some mysterious universal power, but it's not anything I try to define or pretend to understand. In fact, I embrace the enigma of it all and, as my best friend -- a self-described Buddhist -- likes to say, "all we know is that we just don't know." Can't we just embrace the mystery of life, simply be good and hope for the best?
For some, though, that's not enough. My Christian boyfriend jokingly calls me an imp -- and I call him a fruitcake. I know that's not very nice, but it's my way of venting my frustration. He thinks marriage is the union between a man and a woman and God and I think it's an archaic institution that conveniently provides a legal framework should the unfortunate circumstances of divorce occur and there's children and teakwood furniture to fight over. (It's also a great excuse to throw a fancy party with all the people you love.) He thinks pre-marital sex is unholy, and I don't think I can marry someone without having a trial run. He has conversations with God every day, all day long (so he says), and I scroll through my Twitter feed and re-tweet tweets from "Shit Girls Say" and Mindy Kaling.
When I first told my friends I was dating an actual Christian, they were all uppity about it: "Well, you have to respect someone's religious views." But when I mentioned he was abstaining from bedroom business for devout reasons, all of a sudden he was a total weirdo in their eyes (I'm patting myself on the back right now for being so open-minded). At first, it was a refreshing -- almost romantic! -- change from the norm, which usually involves the guy trying to seal that deal as soon as possible. But slowly, a feeling of insecurity started creeping over me:
Do I have a double chin?
Is he gay?
Am I really dating a 40-year-old virgin?
I know this all sounds rather hopeless, but the thing is, I love him. We can talk for hours about anything. He is funny and kind. He speaks better French than I do and lets me win at Scrabble. He is a great kisser, a great conversationalist -- he even writes me poems. He watched Twilight with me sans complaint and gets what I see in Edward. He is communicative and sensitive (ladies, isn't this what we want?) and treats me like I'm something sacred. He would be a loving, patient father and says he will work hard for the rest of his life so that I can live like a princess.
Some days, when we ignore the elephant in the room, I think, wow, this is it. But then, somehow, his Christianity will snake back into our relationship, resulting in heated, teary discussions about how we'd raise children. He wants to take them to church every Sunday to "help them understand the love of God." I tell him I don't want our children to be brainwashed and if he takes them to church one Sunday, he has to take them to a mosque the next weekend, and then to a temple, etc. -- to expose them to all the world's religions so they can decide for themselves what they believe in, if anything at all.