He’s Still Got It

Silver FoxApparently I attract Middle Eastern men well into their 50s.

I stopped by a convenience store on my way home from work yesterday, and as the cashier made his way to the front so I could pay, I observed that he was about twice my age but had kept himself up nicely. He had bright eyes, fluid movements and a neatly trimmed beard.

I was so struck by his attractiveness despite his age – this man was definitely a Silver Fox – that I had to re-engage when he asked me, “Do you have a CVS card?”

I had left mine at home, but cashiers can usually look up your member ID using a phone number, so I asked, “Can I give you my phone number?”

He looked up from the register keypad and asked with a twinkle in his eye, “So that I can call you?”

Taken completely aback, I threw my head back with full-throttled, genuine laughter. He started chuckling, too, almost shy now. “Do you use that line a lot?” I teased him with a grin.

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head, “No, never before. I am surprised at myself! I usually say to customers, ‘Sorry, but I am married.'”

We laughed, I swiped my credit card, and he handed me the receipt with a wink and, “Thanks for the joke.”

Oh, Mirza, you ol’ rascal. You’ve still got it.

Authentically Aurora

Organized Religion

Church MosqueMany of us have been wounded by organized religion. Many of us have been hurt, insulted and offended by the Christian church. And as a result, many of us carry bitterness toward pastors, elders, bible study leaders and other fellow Christians. I count myself among those who have spent the past several months angry with God, largely because I am angry with His people.

In the midst of my depression, my most recent bible study leader told me that she wasn’t sure I was really a Christian. “You have a lot of head knowledge about God, but you don’t seem to have ‘heart’ knowledge. If you really believed that God is good and sovereign like you claim to believe, you wouldn’t still be depressed.”  Psalm 42, lady. Our emotions don’t always follow the rationale of our minds.

And then there are those Christians who try to guilt you into changing your attitude (you think I want to feel this way?) by asking you in a sickeningly sweet and often condescending voice, “Aurora, what would Jesus do?” Clearly they have forgotten that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.

WWJDPast church leadership wouldn’t allow me to sing in the choir because I hadn’t been baptized by immersion as an adult. After confirming that they don’t believe baptism is necessary for salvation, I retorted, “So I can be a member of the Kingdom of Heaven but not a member of your church choir?” They had no response, but I still wasn’t permitted to participate.

Since my broken engagement, I have visited three different churches. One was comprised almost exclusively of married couples. One had the compassionless bible study leader mentioned above. And at the third, I was invisible; no one noticed if I came or not on a given Sunday. So I have largely stopped going to church. I know deep down that it’s not a long term solution, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to suffer the throes of organized religion again just yet.

As hurtful as the church can be, I know that staying away because I’ve been hurt is a false excuse because people are messy, and pain is inevitable. Churches are filled with sinful, fallen, broken people because we are all sinful, fallen, broken people. The very message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that you don’t have to clean yourself up before you come to Him; He meets us right where we are, in the midst of all our mess.

I believe that we were created for fellowship. I believe that Satan wants to isolate us. I believe that lies become louder and bitterness becomes more deeply entrenched the longer we withdraw from community. So I have known all along that I would return to church services someday. I have just been taking my time, nursing my wounds. And today, God sent someone to tap me on the shoulder, saying it’s time to get involved again. I know it was God tapping me on the shoulder, because it was a Muslim inviting me to a Christian church.

Wait, what?

Alim was born in Iran (no surprise, given that I am a Middle Eastern magnet) and moved to Canada as a boy. He recently came to the United States for a job at the same company where I work, and he and I have run into each other at a couple of networking events in the past, although I never seem to remember his name. He saw me in the cafeteria this afternoon and came over to talk. He remembered that I am a Christian, so he asked me where I’m going to church. When I explained that I’m not actively involved in church right now, he said, “You should come to church with me. Want to come this Sunday?”

Alim was raised Muslim but, upon moving to the Bible Belt of America, couldn’t help but be curious about Christianity, so he started visiting churches as a part of his self-described “exploratory phase.” And so God used this Muslim-turned-Christian-church-attender to invite His wayward Daughter to attend church services again.

God certainly works in mysterious ways.

Authentically Aurora

“Princess Almond Eyes” the Stoic

It’s a wonder I don’t get stopped by airport security more often, because apparently all Middle Eastern men take one look at me and assume that I, too, am from the Middle East. Either that or, “You look like you are from my country” is the most popular pick up line from that region of the world.

Col MustardThree weeks ago, it was the Lebanese man by the milk cartons in the grocery store. Ten minutes ago, it was an Iranian man by the elevators in my office building. Who will it be next week – Colonel Mustafa with the candlestick in the library?

I get it, people. I have almond eyes and a long, regal nose. But all my ancestry points to Germany and Great Britain, not India (yes, I get that one, too).

I asked the Iranian man if it was my nose that made him think I was from his country (my schnoz is usually the culprit). Surprisingly, he said it was my eyes coupled with my voice. When he’d held the door open for me and I had thanked him, he said that my voice was “low, flat and even”.

Whatever, dude. That’s not my inner Iranian. It’s my INTJ stoicism. Genetically, I may be European, but socially, I’m all Vulcan.

Authentically Aurora

The OJ Observer

Mediterranean faces

Ridiculously attractive through I am, even I have a hard time understanding how in the world I get hit on everywhere I go, including places like the gas station and grocery store. Some days, like yesterday, I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

I went grocery shopping after work last night to pick up some ingredients for sugar cookies. I planned to bake some as a surprise for a friend who is a new mom. While picking out what flavor of Greek yogurt I want to eat for breakfast every morning next week, I felt someone watching me. I glanced behind me and saw a man in a white dress shirt and black slacks observing me from his position near the orange juice.

I moved on to the milk section of the store and, when I turned around to put my selected carton in my grocery cart, I bumped into someone. “Excuse me,” I said, looking up. It was the OJ Observer. I smiled politely and continued on my way.

After picking out my chosen brand of butter, I saw the man start to approach me. I figured he must be the store manager or something, so I prepared to tell him that yes, I was finding everything that I needed (it’s true; their chocolate banana yogurt is stupendous). Instead, when he opened his mouth, the words that came out were, “Are you Middle Eastern?”

I get that a lot. I’m actually almost full-blooded German, but when I was in Italy, all the locals thought I was Italian. In Greece, everyone came up to me and started speaking Greek, thinking that I was the translator for my group of fellow Americans. I swear, it’s the nose. I’ve got a honker of a nose.

Based on his accent and dark features, the OJ Observer was clearly Middle Eastern himself, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me, “I’m Lebanese. You look like you are from my country.” He then proceeded to ask if we could “be friends.” Friends… riiiight.

I tilted my head to the side and said coyly, “Could I ask you a personal question? What religion would you consider yourself?”

Instead of answering, he smiled and asked me, “What religion do you consider yourself?” Hm, smarter than I gave him credit for.

After I told him that I was a Christian, he told me, “My parents are Muslim, but I am an atheist.”

I explained that we could be friends, but I only date fellow Christians. His tone instantly changed from sweet and obliging to aggressive and angry. “You don’t even know me. Why would you already decide not to date me, just because I am an atheist?!”

I gently told him that everything I do in this life, I try to do to bring God glory. “I will love God more than I love my husband, and I believe that even my marriage is intended to equip me to better serve God than I could in singleness, so it’s important that my husband shares that vision.”

The OJ Observer looked curious and thoughtful. “You seem very passionate about your faith. I would like to hear more about this God you serve.”

I’m doubtful that he really wants to hear more about Jesus, but I agreed to meet him at a public, well-lit coffee shop next week to talk about “this God [I] serve.” An opportunity to share my faith came up, so I’m taking it. But I’m also asking my parents for a DNA test this Christmas.

Authentically Aurora

Around the World in 80 Minutes

Love Around the World

Last night I attended my first speed dating event, put on by an organization that either does great diversity marketing or simply happens to be in a city full of transplants looking to meet new people. I didn’t have my passport but seemingly went around the world in 80 minutes nonetheless.

In just over an hour, I met men from Venezuela, Poland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mongolia and more! Unfortunately, I contracted proverbial travelers’ diarrhea from the nauseating conversations that transpired.

When the Colombian architect sat down, his first comment was, “You’re hot.” He proceeded to stare at my chest and tell me that I should date him. “Go out with me,” he urged. Maybe if I were into creepers, I’d give him my blueprints.

The American IT technician’s lead-off question was, “What’s your favorite movie?” After I told him, I returned the question. He stared blankly at his bottle of hard cider for a moment before looking back at me and saying, “I think I’ve had too much to drink. I can’t think of any movie titles.” I hope his AppleScript is better than his AppleSip.

The gentleman from India really liked my earrings. And my dress. And my shoes. In fact, I think he was too busy admiring the contents of my closet to bother coming out of his, so to speak.

I don’t know much of anything about the Mongolian man because I couldn’t understand his english.

The Project Manager from Pakistan was actually very intelligent and well spoken, but I was not physically attracted to him. We share a love of ballroom dancing, but he also talked a lot about yoga and meditation, so I got the impression he practiced Buddhism, and marrying a fellow Christian is important to me. Apparently the reservations were not mutual because he made a beeline for me as soon as the event was over.

“In case it wasn’t obvious,” he smiled at me, which made his oversized ears lift a bit, “I really like you a lot and would love to get to know you better.” He looked so hopeful that I hated to crush his spirits, but the attraction just wasn’t there for me. His nose made made him look like Dr. Gru from Despicable Me, so I imagined him speaking in a Hungarian accent, and that made me feel better.

I figured he would appreciate having a viable reason for being let down, so I explained that my Christian faith is important to me. His response, surprisingly, was that he considers himself Christian. When he dated a Catholic girl, he went to Mass with her, and he recently dated a Baptist and attended services with her. This Pakistani claimed that he didn’t discriminate and “would be happy to raise [his] children in a Christian home” if that’s what I wanted. He didn’t understand that I want a man who has an intrinsic desire to have a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than someone who just follows his woman wherever she wants to go.

Interestingly, it was the Filipino who caught my attention. He had one of those smiles that lights up a room, and he just finished residency and works as a physician at a nearby hospital. We had great personality chemistry, and he made me laugh nonstop during our allotted five minutes together. His name – Victor – was the only one I circled on my feedback form. I’ll know in three days if he was entranced by me as I was by him. I’m hoping it’s “blue skies ahead” for our cross-cultural romance!

Authentically Aurora