...becoming single again has been a tremendous eye opener. For a start, expectations about sex have moved on a lot since I was last single, I have been very surprised. Having said that, I started dating my future husband when I was fourteen, married when I was twenty and stayed married for twenty years. So perhaps I was never typical. The other thing is I have been really flattered that quite a few men have asked me out, which after having three kids and feeling old and haggard has been a real boost to my confidence.
However, as Astrid points out, the issue of sex gets raised on the first date, and the answer to the question affects whether there will be a second date. Seriously. Astrid recommends ambiguity, at least if you manage to be vague for a while then the dating might turn into friendship, and priests need friends, she says. Unfortunately, I think I am truly rubbish at ambiguity - I did try a bit of vagueness and got myself dumped twice in a month, and my pleadings of 'can't we just be friends' were also rebuffed. I remember sending a rather self-pitying email to my Archdeacon on the subject. Fortunately, I am now dating a priest!
The truth is, almost all the people I meet who are dating are sexually active, and I don't raise an eyebrow. The only times I am shocked are when they tell me they are abstaining, and then I sometimes find out that they only told me that because they thought it was what I wanted to hear. Personally, I don't find anything inherently bad or sinful about sex in the context of a loving and faithful relationship. So I find that the expectations we have about clergy and abstinence differ from my expectations for lay people, and I hate having double standards. But then maybe that conversation is far too difficult to have, and none of us want to talk about it.
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