Monday, April 19, 2010

For The Love Of (There Is No) God Part II

Here is the thrilling conclusion to the story I started last week. Don't read this part if you haven't read part one yet...

For The Love Of (There Is No) God Part II


The Williams Christian Fellowship and I, for obvious reasons, had almost never crossed each other's paths in the 3 years prior to my dating Annie. I may have stumbled into a church at some point during my freshman year desperately looking for a classroom (true story!), but before this moment in time my relationship with the WCF was the same as it was with every single sports team, publication, a cappella group, as well as the math, economics, art history, language, philosophy, computer science, gender and asian studies and 75% of the science departments: we pretty much ignored each other. But our relationship brought me to the center of their attention. And so, they decided to have a meeting about me. That's right - A meeting. About me.

Now, as I was not present at this meeting, the details are lost on me (in fact, I can't say with absolute certainty that the meeting that took place was entirely about me , and not something more along the lines of a "Spring Bake Sale Update / Matt Shafeek Threatens Our Very Way Of Life" split. But what I know for sure is that a conversation definitely took place (most likely in a secret underground room in near total darkness save for the light of the inscribed candles) amongst senior members of the WCF (who all probably wore thick robes with hoods that were kept on the entire time, and spoke with a serpentine-like hiss at the end of their words) where the subject of our relationship was discussed (and there's little doubt you'd hear lines like "The Heathen knowsssss too much" and "You all talk during a time where action is necesssssary! I ssssay we kill him NOW!") and ultimately it was decided that the best course of action was to attempt to break us up.

Their approach was two-fold. One was to speak to Annie directly, which I'll get to shortly. The other was a little bit of psychological warfare, aimed squarely at me. This part of the plan fell on a woman we'll call Fran. Fran and I were in Psychology 401 together (as you can see, they clearly thought this through). Everyone in the class was fairly close at this point, since we had all spent 2-3 together in a lot of the same classes. Fran and I got along pretty well - I made her laugh out loud (or "roflmao," if you will) on a number of occasions. In fact I'll go so far as to say in that class she was my biggest fan - I'd point to her guffaws as confirmation that while I may not be the smartest, most athletic, attractive or otherwise talented person in that room, I sure as hell could make with the funny.

But then all of a sudden, on this fated day, things went very, very wrong. I'd make a witty observation about borderline personality disorder ("I guess they just kept on pushing her love...over the...Borderline! And now she's...going to lose...her mind!"*) that clearly should have killed. But when I tossed to Fran for the period on the line of my exclamation point, she was silent. It was like Conan O'Brien telling a joke and then getting a dirty look from Andy Richter! Inconceivable! This continued for several days, and I had no idea what was going on. Obviously the material was good, no, great...but then what could explain Fran's sudden change of heart?

The WCF's approach with Annie was a lot more straightforward: they simply informed her that if she continued to go out with me, then they couldn't be so sure how committed she was to her devotion to God and the WCF. So it stood to reason that they probably couldn't let her run a certain program teaching children she had very much been looking forward to teaching next year. Now, that may sound to you like a religious organization butting into the relationship of one of its members and issuing an ultimatum, essentially saying "break up with Matt or lose this thing you want that we're dangling over your head" and that's because yes, that's exactly what this was.

Annie called me over that night to her dorm and sat me down on the ledge outside her 2nd floor common room and told me what she'd be told. And, as if I didn't already know, in a sea of tears she told me she had to break up with me. Logically, it made sense. We weren't in love, there probably wasn't much of a future for us past graduation in less than a month, and she had everything to lose by pissing off this organization that she had been very dedicated to her entire time at Williams. But emotionally - OH FUCK NO! There were principles involved here! Principles that were being challenged, rights that were being denied! This was an injustice that Could. Not. Stand. I gave Annie an obligatory hug, told her she had to do what she had to do, and as I was the one being dumped, I felt no further obligation to stick around, even though Annie probably wanted a little more of a confirmation that she wasn't a terrible human being. But I wasn't giving her another moment of my time. With dry eyes and determination, I ran to my dorm room to plan my next move.

I sat down at my computer and my hands, as well as most of my body, were shaking. This has only happened a few times in my life. I rarely get what I'm going to describe here as 'livid' -though it's perhaps not the best word- but whenever I get this emotional, my body literally responds in kind with my mind, unable to remain calm, or still. I'm clearly upset and I have excess energy to expel - but I don't do that stereotypical guy thing where I punch a wall or kick someone's dog. Instead I just kind of shiver. But you know, like, a dude shiver.

Anyways, at that moment I composed the most epic email of my life. At that moment I believe that this was THE EMAIL I WAS BORN TO WRITE. Everything in my life had led to this moment in time. I was about to change the world with this letter - which, incidentally, was addressed to the entirety of the Williams Christian Fellowship. And Annie. And all of my friends, acquaintances, the school Latino organization I belonged to but never did a single thing with, various faculty, the school paper, and if I could have found his email, the Pope would be on the list as well.

The exact wording of the letter - which I would absolutely love to put here for posterity's sake - has been lost to the ages (though if any of it's MANY recipients still have it and want to send it to me, I will immediately post it), but I can remember enough of it to get the point across here. Really, it can be summed up in three sentences:

THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I DON'T BELIEVE IN ORGANIZED RELIGION.

SHAME ON YOU.

EAT A DICK.

In hindsight, I really wish I had wrote just that. And also, that the Pope had received it.

Truth be told, this is really the only part of the story where, looking back, I feel a slight twinge of regret. A simple, calmly worded message to the WCF - something along the lines of "I think you'll recognize the hypocrisy in what you've done. I doubt any of your recent decisions follow the tenants of what the Bible has taught. If you would be so kind, please ingest some male genitalia" sent to the head council of the WCF would probably have been enough. But, true to my 'life as an open book' style, I wanted everyone in on this momentous occasion. I wanted everyone to both sympathize with poor, victimized me AND rally behind me in my unflinching rage. Perhaps if I was a little less selfish I would have actually gotten a stronger message across.

Shortly after I sent the email Fran approached me after class and asked to have a talk with me. She finally revealed to me why she had been acting so strange, and though she admitted to me that my jokes were "beyond hilarious" (my recollection of her saying that is fuzzy, but it feels right) she said that she was conflicted as a Christian by what I was doing. I told her I never did anything but respect Annie's beliefs and she did the same for me, and that what her organization was doing was the opposite of respect. We went back and forth for a while. At one point she actually asked me when I decided I didn't believe in God, and I told her I always basically felt that way but didn't really know for sure until I was a teenager. I asked her what made her so sure there was one, and she essentially mirrored what I said. Then we sat in silence for a while, and ultimately agreed to disagree but hopefully put this whole mess behind us. I think I even got a few more laughs out of her before the end of the year.

Annie reacted about as well as one could expect to the email I sent. My assumption is her guilt basically gave me a pass on my email retaliation. We actually managed to stay friends for a while, but for no particular reason at all other than the passage of time, we've lost touch. After all was said and done, I have my regrets, but I'm sure I don't regret dating her. And while I don't think anyone's core beliefs were changed during that time, I think it's safe to say we all learned quite a bit about ourselves from the experience. Journeys of self discovery and PG-rated hookups - that's what college is all about right? At least according to what I grew up watching on TV.

If nothing else, I was able to coin the term "God Equator", which I think would even make Fran smile.

-Matt





*And I meant this in the most respectful way possible.

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