One of the fascinating byproducts of the dating biz is that you can get a read on how others see you. This can be helpful if you wish to grow and keep learning about yourself. The problem is, people tend to see you from their own perspectives-and in a way that is not, cannot be disinterested.
I'll give you a few "for-instances." When I told one potential date I thought I was demure, he agreed-and told me I shared that characteristic with his ex-wife. More happily, he also said, with some apparent surprise, that he felt I was non-judgmental. But even this characteristic can have its shadow side.
In my former job, this trait would have been close to the kiss of death. In fact, perhaps my poor ability to hold fast to one dogmatic position or another-or, more accurately, my ardent desire to explore other positions- probably had something to do with my traumatic departure from that post.
Someone else termed me introverted-which is at least partly true half of the time!
Recently I was told I was opaque. Since I tend to think of myself as quite open, this took me aback a bit. On further reflection, however, I realized that my friend might be on to something. But aren't we all opaque, to one degree or another?
All of us have places we protect, whether we are aware of them or not. Being aware of them helps us figure out how much we want to expose, and to whom. The feedback was a helpful hint to this writer that possibly she needs to rethink how she characterizes herself to potential swains...open with a touch of mystery? Mysterious with a tantalizing hint of openness?
Yeah, yeah, I know I sound silly. I am silly.
Then there are the extremely discerning fellows who have told me I'm 'hot'-extra credit, guys, for being such quick learners.
It was in this context that I read an article on Pope Benedict and went...yo, wait a minute!
You don't see an immediate link between a writer and single mom living in exurban Pennsylvania and the Bavarian and celibate leader of the world's Catholics?
Bear with me.
Entitled "Keeping the Faith," the New York Times Magazine essay, by a writer named Russell Shorto, is not only a snapshot of the current Pope, but also of the state of European Christianity in general and of European Catholicism in particular.
Setting the groundwork for his lengthy analysis, Shorto quoted from a speech Benedict (the former Cardinal Ratzinger) gave two years ago. "The mistaken conviction that reason and faith are two distinct realms has weakened Europe and has brought it to the verge of catastrophic collapse. As he said in a speech in 2004: “There exist pathologies in religion that are extremely dangerous and that make it necessary to see the divine light of reason as a ‘controlling organ.’ . . . However . . . there are also pathologies of reason . . . there is a hubris of reason that is no less dangerous.”
Here are words to which I can give enthusiastic assent. Like Benedict, I believe that reason and faith can work together. Like him, I have seen even those who term themselves Christian practitioners dumb down faith to make it palatable. Like him, I am concerned by the steep drop in those who profess themselves faithful Christians in Europe.
Unlike him, apparently, I think that the Roman Catholic church has could do more to reform itself in the wake of the sex abuse scandals, or to give laypeople an effective voice-let alone to be open to the voices of those who are gay or divorced but hunger to remain practicing Catholics.
But does that mean that I think Benedict is a hopeless troglodyte?
What I have come to realize is how much I did not see. Put in other words, I saw little enough to be capable of being quite wrong.
Ask me what I thought about Cardinal Ratzinger three years ago, and my judgement would have been unfavorable in the extreme. From what little I had read, I got the sense that he must be a dictatorial, almost sinister character, committed to keeping Roman Catholicism in the Dark Ages.
But what I have read since then has convinced me that this Pope is so much more than a bulldog, a capo, an enforcer. He is a man of God, evolving yet in his eightieth year, able to lead the Church in new directions. Yes, we can be critical. But even those of us who criticize must allow him room to be himself.
Getting back to my search for dating bliss... As I wrestle with the feelings evoked by feedback from my guy pals (already a mystery thanks to the fact of their gender), I realize that they, too, see only in part. I am so much more (and sometimes maybe less) than what they see when they look at me. But does that mean I don't take their ideas seriously?
Far from it.
Today (or at least for today) I resolve that I am going to do my best to see them the way I'd hope they see me.
I hope that I get better at listening, less prone to leap to conclusions, gentler and wiser and more compassionate in my judgments-so that in time, I see both more, and more profoundly.