The Gym: Part II

Hey Britt

I’m emailing you because I was expecting to see you at 10am this morning. Everything ok?

Sure, David. Everything’s A-Ok. It’s been one full week since our little face-to-face fitness assessment wherein I repeated, in person and right away, how much I loathe exercise. You handled it well when I made fun of your blood pressure equipment and other pseudo-medical toys that are supposed to lend some weight your clipboard-requiring fact-finding. And I held my tongue when you told me you were an entrepreneur-ing sort of something, or maybe you already wrote a book, or you’re planning to scale mountains, or whatever crap you youngsters do that sound exhaustingly noble or potentially lucrative and certainly like something I immediately want to poke fun at. We’d probably work well together, you and I. You, you’re wonderful. But, me? I’m sort of a terrible person. Also, lazy.

Oh, sweet dimpled barely-voting-age David, you didn’t flinch at all when I told you I wouldn’t do exercises that test the limits of my bionic parts (using helpful hand gestures to indicate the location of my fake bits). And you didn’t balk at my coffee intake or potato chip addiction, or repetition that I planned to– like never– do any sort of personal training. It was all fine and good to fill out forms and tell you what I eat (chips) and that I swim (but not far) or take barre classes (but not often) and wear a step counting bracelet (that would log more activity strapped to my patio furniture). It was adorable that you believed I only have four drinks a week. And then I showed you how flexy/balancy I am with years and years of gymnastics muscle memory on board, but that I cannot run even close to a mile without lots of gasping complaints and begging to stop.

Would I like to be stronger? Meh, I have a husband to lift the heavies. Increase my endurance? No small animals or children to chase.

Lose weight?

Duh. Everyone does. Everyone on the planet wants to lose weight. But this isn’t why I’m here. The Gym will have zero effect on the scale; losing weight is all on me and what I stuff into or deny my greedy maw. Plus, I don’t really need to lose weight. Well, I’ve almost never thought so… until I met you.

Though I wouldn’t let you assess my vital signs– as you aren’t a medical professional and I don’t like being touched by strangers and maybe, like, 47 other reasons– I relented to standing on the wretched, lying scale and having the bee boopy doo dads calculate the sum total of my fatness. What better way to launch a gym membership than to have Equinox’s Watson tell me I’m sixteen pounds overweight! It was kind that you noted it wasn’t always accurate. And though I did want to, rather immediately, throw up my entire quinoa breakfast, I’m sure that’s not the way you want new members to get skinnier.

Now David, nearly all Americans could stand to lose five pounds. Me? I’ve always assumed I’d be almost unfairly appealing if I lost five pounds. Ten pounds down, and I’m a teenager. Fifteen pounds lighter and people will wonder if my cancer has returned. Probably a very good use of my time would be to station myself in the room with Watson and tell women that the machine is a jackass. I wear a size 4 (most of the time) and the deli guy flirts with me (unfailingly). I can still shimmy into my prom dress and do splits and hold a handstand. The bee boopy doo dad machine can go suck a shoe.

Possibly the worst way to inspire a gal to exercise is to deliver a lethal blow to her self-esteem. Because the only thing that girl wants to do is to submit to a couch-bound, maw-stuffing spree. Instead, I agreed to meet with you again—to show up and see what ridiculous exercises you planned for this girl who can balance and stretch, but not run or spin or jump or lift with any sort of enthusiasm or compliance. Ten o’clock on Friday. Yup. I’ll totally come. What the hell, let’s exercise!

And then I forgot all about it. Forgot about you. Forgot I had sixteen pounds to deny this body that I have always assumed is serviceable, healthy (temporarily), lively, and cute, dammit. So I’m sorry if I messed up your schedule. Though I was actually at the gym this morning, I would have been useless after spinning class torture with Potty Mouth Boy who is certain we could all be going faster (and yet nowhere). I will continue to swim (not far), and spin (occasionally, because it is so incredibly hard and awful it deserves it’s own set of paragraphs), and plié, and do what is necessary to keep this body active and healthy. But I’m not losing sixteen pounds, nor hanging out with anyone who thinks I might need to.

xoxo,

Britt

The only scale I ever trust...

The only scale I ever trust…

 

 

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Prom Dress Luncheon

I haven’t made many devastating sartorial missteps, if you overlook my prom dress and, well… the ‘80s. But when April invited me to a fundraiser luncheon yesterday, I chose a summery garden ensemble only to find myself at a couture-and-stiletto event. So while all of the other lunch-y ladies were perfectly molded into their au courant fashions, I was wearing a tablecloth. It was a pretty tablecloth… maybe even a sort of adorably blue doily of a dress. But in a room dotted with Chanel bags and pointy, pointy pumps, my outfit called for a picnic basket and hair daisy accessories.

Certainly I’ve misjudged an outfit choice or two in my time. But aside from wearing jeans to the fancy school Book Fair (everyone else in fabulous skinny leather things or wretched-but-appropriate pantsuits), I’m usually the over-dressed gal. Pearls in Gross Anatomy lab. Lily Pulitzer at the soccer field. Jimmy Choos at Church. Fur at the Star Market. I have a deeply ingrained twirly girly sensibility. But when I found myself surrounded by sleek Robert Plant ladies baring yoga toned abs under crop tops, suddenly a dress with a crinoline (just like my prom dress!) seemed more ridiculous than whimsical.

Damn you, Anthropologie, with your moody photos depicting ambiguously French stunners wearing un-place-able period costumes as formalwear! I will not be duped again!

To be honest, I didn’t really dwell on my window-treatments-as-outfit gaffe. I had a delicious cold salmon lunch with lovely people who appear to make gobs of money for the obvious joy of giving much of it away. I’m drawn to do-gooders as much as I am to gorgeous clothing, and this event had both in spades (cards, not Kate… this was couture, friends). And when I got home, it was time to meet my true and trusted fashion critics at the curb. There was no time to change, so I was still wearing the ersatz prom dress when my little boys dismounted the big yellow bus.

“Where were you? You look like Cinderella!”

I can’t wait to wear that dress again.

I'm the one in the doily.

I’m the one in the doily.

 DP Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant Meat Penis (or why I’ll never be a food blogger)

The first time I ordered a beef tenderloin, I was interrogated by the butcher.

“Do you know how to prepare this?” he asked, reluctant to pass me the paper package over the case of hacked up cows.

“Sure do,” I countered, totally unsure, but aware of Google.

“How are you going to cook it?” he asked, really rather impertinently for someone wearing white pajamas and a name tag.

“’Til it’s done, I guess.”

No, I didn’t say that. There isn’t a single grown up on the planet I can respond to with such cheek. I threw Ina Garten’s foolproof 500° for 25 minutes at him and he handed over $100 worth of beef. But to be honest, it’s really easy to overcook a tenderloin, and it was sort of adorable that the butcher didn’t want to sell this choice cut to an inexperienced girl.

Last night, as I unwrapped my dozenth, holiday-inspired, expensive cut of meat, I wondered if I could write a food bloggy post. Now that I know how to not botch a tenderloin, maybe I could fashion a little step-by-step? Zibby does this with apparent ease, Instagramming her charming little projects and making a messy assortment of plant material or crafty things look like freakin’ art. I could do that… right? Wrong.

Dinner was delicious. But you’ll have to take my word for it.

My first photo of the five-pound tenderloin looked like this. I wanted to demonstrate its expert twining, and the slapped-on salty, garlicky, rosemary crust. Instead… Meat Penis. Subsequent photos of the phallic dinner will be snapped sideways.

Meat penis!

Meat penis!

Every girl who knows her way around a giant meat penis gives it a good sear to lock in those tenderloin-y juices. Five pounds of beef is an unwieldy partner for a pan, so I brown huge meats on the grill. Cheating? Maybe. But it works like a charm and spares the stovetop splatters. (I am my mother’s daughter, and abhor splatters.) After four minutes on four sides, my seared meat penis was ready for a bit of pornography.

2014-04-20 18.18.43 2014-04-20 18.21.57

Yup. I took a delicious beef dinner and made it even better with butter. Not everyone would slather her already decadently yummy meat penis with herb-y butter, but not everyone would continue to call it a meat penis. Now it was time to get this baby into the oven. Ina puts hers in at 500°, but I find if I go past 475°, the kitchen fills with smoke and gives all appearances that I have no idea what I’m doing, when I clearly do because Le Creuset. I wedged my meat penis into Le Creuset to spare the oven splatters, and also so I could take pictures of my Le Creuset and keep typing Le Creuset. Le Creuset. Although anyone can own gorgeous cookware, I’m truly whirly dervish-y in the kitchen and whip up these sides so they’re all finished at the same time as meat penis… and the entire fancy dinner is on the table in 45 minutes.

2014-04-20 18.36.11

Don't these look even more delicious because I shot them on an angle?

Don’t these look even more delicious because I shot them on an angle?

If you’re like me, and married to an Asian man with small Asian clone children, and almost always an assortment of other Asian houseguests or passers-by, then you need this, too. When a meal already includes potatos and crusty bread, one would think rice wouldn’t be necessary. But if there’s no rice, I’ll be asked, “Is there rice?” And this happens all of the time, all of the time, all of the time, so although this step is optional for most of you, for me, it’s not.

The tell tale "click" elicits a Pavlovian response for Asian kids...

The tell tale “click” elicits a Pavlovian response for Asian kids…

Just as I was feeling all boss, my trusty meat thermometer indicated that dinner was internally 160° after only 15 minutes. It wasn’t. I don’t know what “filters” you geniuses are using, but I couldn’t take a single picture to demonstrate the rawness of meat penis after 15 minutes. It went back in for a total of 30 to get more medium than rare which is the way we like it. And here it is… smelling all sorts of rosemary delicious, but looking like ordinary meat because I don’t understand Instagram.

2014-04-20 18.40.18

Not at all ordinary-smelling.

Not at all ordinary-smelling.

If this were a real food blog, here’s where I’d include a picture of me looking adorable in front of a lavishly set table with my yummy foods displayed on matchy platters. But at this point, I was already half way through this and I totally forgot to selfie.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Fancy Lady Tips

Jessica Kim (of BabbaCo fame) recently asked her customers and fans to share memorable motherly advice. The thread includes hearth-warming tales of delicious meals, but my memories go to what I consider Fancy Lady Tips. I adore this topic. When that 1955 Housekeeping Monthly list for young wives is read tongue-in-cheek at bridal showers, I’m amused… not outraged. Even though they sound silly now, those guidelines were the purported path to a peaceful, quiet home. Don’t we all want a peaceful, quiet home? Certainly there are ways to achieve that without frantically fluffing pillows before the breadwinner arrives all grumpy and expecting a cool drink from his freshly lipsticked wife. But the other stuff about wearing dresses and preparing yummy food and de-cluttering the house? I love it all. Sometimes I think I’m a 1955 housewife, minus the smokes and garters.

My mother, perhaps in an effort to stifle inherent Gertrude-ness, didn’t adopt the myriad, judgmental rules dictated by her own mother. Mom never insisted we protect our ears as fiercely as our virginity. (Grandma Vinette abhorred lobe-baring hairstyles.) But my pretty mother still encouraged us to approach the world with a ladylike respect. We sported our Sunday best on airplanes. Young girls wore bright, cheery colors… never black. My sister and I were expected to don a dress at least one day during the school week, and all of us shook hands with grownups and uttered (with some reluctance), “how do you do?” Mom also reminded Paige and me that youth embodies its own beauty that requires no adornment or alteration. And though young girls require no makeup at all, a grown woman should never be seen without it.

Abby’s mom was another role model who stamped her worldview on the passport of my youth. Abby looked like Tatum O’Neal, wore an enviable add-a-bead-necklace, and carried her books in an L.L.Bean tote bag. Abby was an 80’s goddess of the preppy ilk, and her mother was my shaman for all things tasteful. One Friday night in 1984, as Abby and I settled in with our Cokes and Betamax, we watched her mom prepare for an evening at the country club. “When you go dancing, you should always wear a gown that floats,” she said, and also included, “…never leave the house without a quarter for the pay phone and a safety pin.” Watching this elegant woman gather her wrap and bag for an evening of romantic adult fun, I couldn’t wait to be like her. Abby’s dad was super handsome and kind and quietly masculine and wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening twirling with him in a floaty gown? If following her advice would lead to this pretty future, I was taking notes. (And later I totally found my own super handsome, wonderful guy to share evenings with in formalwear.)

Abby and her dashing Daddy

Abby and her dashing Daddy

Since I don’t have daughters to torture with old-fashioned counsel, I’ll bore yours, or heap unsolicited Fancy Lady Tips onto the young folk who find themselves living in my house. (Our four-year rotation of young tenants is the topic of another set of paragraphs; but where others collect Fiestaware, The Lees collect People.) I’ve encouraged more dress-donning, bed-making, de-cluttering, oven-using, and flower-potting for quite a few young women. But the goal of these girlie pursuits isn’t to please some Man (although that might be a side-effect), but to experience the joy of creating a little beauty in the world. Maybe I’m traditional, naïve, and engage in magical thinking, but some part of me believes that nothing too, too terrible can happen in a clean house that smells like muffins. And even if it does (and it did)… it’s a little less terrible if it happens in a clean house that smells like muffins.

My mom and Abby’s inspired this list of Fancy Lady Tips. I hope you’ll add to it.

God created you with hair and skin that match naturally: stray from either too far, and the result will be unappealing.

Dress nicely when traveling, as others will be more apt to come your aid should you require it.

Accept compliments gracefully, and offer them sincerely.

Everyone is fascinating if you listen.

Plant flowers. Buy flowers. Send flowers.

Wrap presents beautifully (and reuse the double faced satin ribbon)!

Make guests feel cozy and special and welcome and expected.

Don’t mix liquors. Bubbles or booze, but pick one for the evening.

Little boys should have little boy haircuts, lest they look like teeny criminals.

Unmade beds are an insult to the home.

Everyone appreciates a handwritten thank you, even if one isn’t expected.

There are oodles more, but the final suggestion is inspired by Ran, who may be the last man on the planet who stands up whenever a lady excuses herself from the dining table. It’s antiquated, quaint, and possibly ridiculous… but has never failed to make me feel noticed and special.

Let’s all be old fashioned and wonderful to each other.

Abby's mom, an original Fancy Lady

Abby’s mom, an original Fancy Lady

*DP Challenge

Big Shot Jerk Face (or, how I met my husband)

It’s the first day of my surgery rotation, third year of medical school. I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing, so I focus on the easy stuff: looking pretty and being on time. Boosting my first impression seems important since I cannot remember where the electrolytes belong on those stick figure scaffolds or any of the branches off of the mesenteric artery. Only a few weeks prior, I became Dr. Stockton, defending my PhD dissertation in front of my parents, an entire Immunology department, devoted friends who will endure 79 slides about a cell surface molecule, and a (recently ex-) boyfriend. I was A Smart Girl, searchable on PubMed, and could talk to the field experts without hair flipping or reproach. But there were two years of clinical rotations to complete before gradation; and after a four-year hiatus of mouse murdering and futile, ring-less dating, I was rusty.

I set the alarm for 4:30am, blew out my hair, and channeled my best Bond Girl Goes to Medical School. One could reasonably assume that this getup was enduring an extended tour from an evening of bad decisions, but that didn’t occur to mid-twenties me. I looked good. Also, I needed the confidence of little dress/tall boots to endure impossible questions–a sort of medical hazing known as “pimping”– from a group of doctors who had only ever been described to me as assholes. Surgeons have a reputation (especially among the nerdy, PhD set) for being jerks: over-confident-frat-boy-cowboy-old-school-chauvinistic jerks. I had been warned, and I’ll admit to the disappointed sighs of my feminist sisters that I dressed to appeal to that demographic. It was still dark when I located the right floor and found a sleepy intern to tell me what to do. An hour later, I had collected the overnight vital signs of every patient on the service.

The Chief Resident arrived at 6am with a few other blue-pajammied underlings in tow. They were a sniggering bunch of inside joke-swappers; their swagger intimidated and annoyed me. Blech. I’d never catch up with these gunner medical students who could spew correct answers like the names of their own children. I had forgotten everything I’d learned five years ago in Gross Anatomy, and I had no desire to memorize minutia to impress physicians in a specialty I certainly never intended to join. Clutching my notecards with their teeny documentation of temperatures and urine outputs, I braced myself for the upcoming twelve weeks of sleep-deprived grunt work and public mockery.

The third year resident appeared to be in charge of rounds, and led the gaggle of us into each dark room to awaken the post-surgical patients, barking orders at the intern for dressing changes, scans, labs, or discharge plans. Occasionally he’d regard the medical students with distracted disdain, and assign us mundane tasks with subtle assurances that somehow we’d fuck it up. The Chief filed in behind us in his unstained white coat, paying more attention to his coffee than the plans for the day. He spoke quietly and infrequently, but his offhand remarks elicited smirks from the residents within earshot. I didn’t actually hear him speak until it was my turn to present a patient.

He didn’t interrupt me right away. I thought I was doing a bang up job, yammering away about temperature spikes and heart rates and drain outputs just like the students before me had done outside their patients’ doors. But he stopped me mid-sentence…

“Stand up straight when you’re presenting a patient to me.”

I was leaning against the wall. I was also desperately trying to finish my little speech about the overnight events of a patient I had never met so I could disappear again from their notice and questions. But Big Shot Jerk Face made me re-start my presentation from the beginning to the smug delight and grateful relief of my fellow classmates. Stupid, stupid, stupid girl, I thought. I had committed a grave error in sartorial judgment. Pants-with-clogs ponytail girl got through her morning report with absolutely no hassle at all.

Later that day, Big Shot Jerk Face sat down across from me in the cafeteria. The other medical students had already raced off to compete for space at the carotid artery aneurysm repair, but Big Shot Jerk Face implied that there was no rush and started being nice to me, explaining his reaction to my wall-leaning insolence was a common prank on Day 1 of a rotation. I was relieved that such a blatant example of asshole-ry was only a joke, less happy to be the butt of it. Big Shot insisted I follow him into the next case, and then his next one, where I began to notice that the attending surgeon was letting Big Shot do all of the sewing, and the nurses were happy to see him (if not blatantly flirting with him). Suddenly, surgery seemed interesting.

How many of you fell in love during medical school?

How many of you fell in love during medical school?

Simple Things Are Hard for Me

It’s not that I’m especially stupid, or even terribly averse to new technologies, but I’ll never be that cool girl all jazzed about a new iThing. I’m the girl who inadvertently turns off the phone while it’s in GPS mode and we’re circling an unfamiliar city block with he-touched-me-stop-looking-at-me-are-we-there-yet boys in the backseat. I’m the girl who doesn’t know which icon to tap, or why the screen is black again, or why all queries lead back to iTunes. I’m the girl who asks the 8 year old how to take a screen shot and email the picture… exasperating said 8 year old in the process. So when my (first generation, I-hate-change) iPhone began to act all wonky, I attempted to hide it from the husband for as long as possible.

Him: What’s wrong with your phone?

Me: Um, it just kind of turns black if I send too many texts. Or check email.

Him: Is it the battery?

Me: (blank stare)

Him: You need a new phone.

Me: (crestfallen)

I’m assuming most people tear open a box from the Apple store rather immediately. Not me. Because I know that whatever is in there isn’t going to work. Well, it’s not going to work right away, or for me, or without a lot of cursing from the husband.

Him: Was the phone delivered yet?

Me: I think so.

Him: Did you look at it?

Me: I looked at the box.

Him: Go plug it in and follow the screen prompts to activate it.

Me: (radio silence)

Poor Bernie. After ten solid hours of surgery, husband returns to home and hearth and the ineffectual phone upgrade attempts by blonde wife. It was no surprise to either of us that my old phone did not appear anywhere on the computer after 45 minutes of spinning icon. I’ll never know where I sent all of my phone numbers, and funny texts, and fuzzy (first generation!) pictures of report cards and lost teeth. But kind, exhausted husband doesn’t balk at this, and does something with a Cloud and now the new phone looks like a shinier version of the old one and so, yay!, new phone, right?

Him: Now, just follow the instructions on the screen to activate the phone.

Me: It won’t let me type letters.

Him: There aren’t any letters in the activation code.

Me: There’s a “K.”

Him: Oh my God.

Ultimately letter-free codes are found and new phone is all spinny icon and the computer promises me that it will send me a chipper email when it’s all done. Alas, no email. After 8 hours the shiny phone is still all spinny icon. Husband, racing for airport in the wee hours, tells me to I’ll have to talk to customer service people. Because current strategies of haphazard icon clicking and magical thinking aren’t working. Dread. Customer service people have questions I cannot answer. I know how it’s going to go already.

Them: Hi, how can I help you?

Me: The new phone looks like the old phone, but it’s still all spinny icon and I didn’t get the email.

Them: Let’s start with your order number.

Me: The one that starts with a “K?”

Them: Could you put your husband on the phone?

They start fielding calls from dolts like me in fifteen minutes. I feel bad for them already.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don't make me feel stupid... but glamorous.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don’t make me feel stupid… but glamorous.

 

*weekly writing challenge

Atheist Jew Meets Churchy Jesus Girl: a discussion

Steve is a non-religious Jew, and I am an observant Episcopalian, but we both value irreverence. Recently, Stevie wrote this to me in an email:

“As you might guess, the only thing I know about Vestry is that the word ‘rector’ is hilarious. I would love to sit down and discuss religion with you at some point. Religious discussions in this country are all about ‘me versus you, and I’m right.’ People who are religious genuinely fascinate me. I often envy them their beliefs. However I tend to infuriate the believers, with my rampant joke-laden atheism.”

Steve drafted a list of topics, and we both promised not to get all huffy. What follows is a transcript of our virtual “sit down.” I hope we don’t offend, and that maybe you’ll share your take on God, Life, and Whatnot, too.

ON ONE’S RELIGION:

STEVE:
I call myself very Jewish and not religious. That’s what I like about Judaism. It’s à la carte. My Bar Mitzvah was in a Unitarian church because my temple was still under construction. I call myself a “Jewnatarian.” If I were Christian, I’d go with Unitarianism. It’s hip to say “I’d like to be Buddhist,” but that requires meditation, and there’s stuff on TV.

BRITT:
I like Jewnatarian. Unitarians don’t subscribe to a divine Jesus, seeing Him more like a moral Michael Jordan: a bit super-human in his awesomeness, and thus, someone to emulate. Being Jewish is a birthright you cannot escape… but God gifted His chosen people with good bagels, Yiddish-spewing grandparent hilarity, and irrepressibly sexy teenage girls. Adding the “religious” component of Being Jewish with all that Hebrew-learning and rule-following is exhausting, and gets in the way of a good bacon cheeseburger. So although Zealot Sister will balk at your à la carte approach to religion, as… well… not very religious, I understand being choosy. I found all of the beauty and tradition of the Catholic Church over in the pews with the Episcopalians. But this crowd of Christians aims for the broadest interpretation of Scripture to include all of us… especially our fabulous gay friends.

LOVE

We believe in One Holy Catholic (meaning everyone) and apostolic Church. It’s right there in The Creed… and I wear a cross to remind me of The Big Picture. Being a responsible “religious” person also means a perpetual auditing of Bible 101. Only by attending Church and Bible study sessions can we learn what God’s teaching means in this world. The Bible was never meant to be studied in isolation. Faith needn’t be blind, and for thoughtful people, “religiousity” will likely wax and wane.

STEVE:
I followed your first paragraph, but you lost me on the second. Why must one attend a given building and the meetings therein to relate to meaning in the world? It’s true, Judaism has the whole Talmudic tradition. But even there, the goal isn’t to find answers – it’s to ask more questions. It’s nice to be part of a faith where a perfectly good “answer” ends with the suffix “-ish.”

BRITT:
I don’t want to lose you. One mustn’t do anything to know God! However, to understand how Bible teachings relate to today (or to your life), that is most responsibly done with some sort of guidance– maybe from someone with a PhD and a snazzy white collar? An example: with sufficient smarts and determination, one could possibly learn everything a medical student learns… but would you go to the “homeschooled” doctor? Why should the study of a religious practice be any different?

ON FAITH:

BRITT:
Faith is the sticky wicket. For those of us who claim to be religious, it would seem that Faith should be as constant as a heartbeat. But, it’s not. The religious people I relate to (drink with) tend to work on this part the hardest. On the other hand, those with the arrogance to dismiss Faith entirely sound sadly unenlightened to me (this article in particular drives me bonkers “Why I Raise My Children Without God“) Those with no Faith at all should be a great deal funnier about it. Also, many of these same people sanction Santa and tooth fairy lies with a near religious zeal. Admittedly, if you think they’re all fiction, you gotta go with the ones that deliver iPhones and cash.

STEVE:
I don’t know if we’re funnier, but we do have more fun. Why is religion so full of rules against fun? Plus they are so anti-women. The Catholic Church won’t allow female priests– or contraception. No premarital sex. And as anyone who has had post-marital sex will tell you, if you can’t have premarital sex, there’s not much left on your horizon. Jews kept the women upstairs in the sanctuary before they realized “Hey– there’s women here. Maybe get them a seat we should?” Then there are the religions that, well, you know, kill the women for behaving like women and… why isn’t Britt making this argument?

BRITT:
The topic here is Faith, not Religious Rules. So, here’s a quote from a rabbi: “Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there is even the slightest chance that there is a God. Then wouldn’t learning about Him be the most important thing to do?” The key here is learning. That’s why I go to Church: to learn, even if what I take away on any given Sunday is something-ish.

I have little faith in a community that scorns Faith: even a faith-less community is more agreeable one that is all shout-y and against it. Religion attempts to access Truth as much as science does, just with fewer t-tests and, unfortunately, more than a handful of loud, unreliable reviewers.

But please don’t caught up in arbitrary rules of religions you don’t study! The Catholic Church, at times, leans more heavily toward tradition than Scripture. So what? You’re not Catholic. Leave them be to have all of their married sex and gazillion babies. It’s not your religion. In our country, women have the luxury of finding a religion that honors their participation. I cannot explain why Zealot Sister chooses to follow such difficult rules any more than I can explain why Jason (our favorite Orthodox Jew) has two sets of plates. I don’t know enough about any religion to criticize people who follow them, but I have great respect for Zealot Sister and Jason who study their religions and try their best to honor their guidelines.

The rules are easy targets for dismissal of Faith, so let’s be clear: The Bible is not a rule book, but a record of God’s presence and the life of Jesus. Paul offers this regarding strict adherence to dietary guidelines (e.g., arbitrary rules): “eat the food or not, as you please, but give no offense to others and do all for the glory of God.” You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and let there be no quibbling. I like that.

ON LIFE:

STEVE:
A considerable improvement on the alternative, but in need of a rewrite.

BRITT:
Really, Stevie… On Life? All I know is that those Life Is Good products are more irritating than people who can’t shut up about politics. I have no idea why this condescendingly simple message delights the masses… and yet a God is Good coffee mug would have people giving wide berth around your cubicle. And isn’t there all sorts of “life” that is no good at all? Mushy brain on a ventilator? Not so good. No stick figure t-shirt for that.

This is so, so wrong... so obviously I think it's oddly funny.

I imagine Jesus is wicked funny, totally has this t-shirt, and looks great in yellow.

I also tend to think a little God infusion wouldn’t hurt when someone’s Life seems empty, sad, broken, ill fated, unfairly difficult, or about to end. I don’t believe prayers are answered, exactly, but moments of real humility on my knees asking for guidance have been instructive to me. And if you feel it, the Holy Spirit is fantastic at reminding you of the beauty and connectivity of the Life in all of us. What makes this worldview palatable (and you and me friends) is admitting that people who talk like this sound utterly insane.

STEVE:
OK, even I should have been less flip. Life is pretty great. Neat stuff. Arrogant to think that we’re the center of it and that we’re the only ones who invented the sandwich. For every billion planets, I bet there are thousand variations on corned beef. Some may be silicon based, but even a, well, sand-based sandwich could work.

There are still religions that insist that you take literally that we are the center of the universe. Or – again – they will kill you. Just try to get corned beef then. Even dry corned beef.

A sandwich-eating alien is only ever one click away.

On her planet, she’s the Queen of Sandwich… and a Lutheran.

ON DEATH:

STEVE:
The end. Game over. Not to happen again. Like being asleep, except without worrying about forgetting about finals. Kind of the ultimate final, actually. Terrible invention. That’s what I mean about needing a rewrite.

BRITT:
Oh, Steve. I hate that I agree with you here. But then my Faith creeps in (and also C.S. Lewis with The Great Divorce) with the slimmest possibility of something more. Scientist Britt can’t argue it well, though.

ON GOD’S LOVE

BRITT:
Cathy George, our rector (hee hee) advised us at Lenten time not fixate on trying to be holy. “You are already holy.” God’s love makes us holy, and God loves all of us. A Ma often cites evidence of God’s love for our family, but I don’t think that way. Good luck is not God’s love. There’s no such thing as circumstantial confirmation that we’re in good with The Big Guy. God’s love is constant, and the proof we’re looking for when our Faith is flagging. For me, it’s something I actually feel. Unfortunately bad writers have been making believers sound stupid and corny for ages (like this nonsense).

STEVE:
I don’t like it when people shoehorn “God” as a metaphor into things. As in “‘God’ is really about the love you feel when…” or “You see God in the face of a newborn child.” I don’t see any such thing. I see beauty, yes. I see something wonderful and amazing. But it seems that calling that “God” is stretching the original description rather than admitting it’s a different concept.

BRITT:
But it’s not entirely different. I’ll admit it’s an easy explanation to a complicated theological question. But as a small child, those giant cloth banners embroidered with God Is Love put an earthly tag on something indescribable. Moments of beauty aren’t God, per se, but they do summon the teeniest essence of Him… and are, thus, divine!

STEVE:
I need to throw this back at you as a question – how do you feel God’s love?

BRITT:
Brace yourself for the crazy, but remember that you know me to be a smarter than average blond girl with all sorts of science degrees and a good degree of skepticism. I also love to make fun of just about everything. But you asked, so here goes. God’s love is unsullied belief in your own worth. For me, ironically, it means getting on my knees and admitting my complete incompetence to understand anything. Regarding God, we’re all idiots. But in those moments of prayer (meditation? begging for impossible things?), God’s love feels warm, calm. Do you know deep down– in spite of school shootings and war and Kardashians– that people are inherently good (that you are inherently good)? That’s God’s love. It’s omnipresent and free, but in our busy, angry world, it’s easy to overlook. Plus, there’s stuff on TV.

ON SCIENCE AND RELIGION

STEVE:
“The wonderful thing about science,” said Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.” You may have seen this quote floating around Facebook. He said it on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in response to someone saying he didn’t believe in something scientific. I love this quote and it summarizes my relationship with religion perfectly.

BRITT:
I loathe Bill Maher. He argues so smugly (and so poorly) against religion, and also thinks people like me are loons. Picking through the Bible or highlighting any number of religious beliefs out of context is just poor journalism. Back in college I thought science and religious beliefs were at odds, so I dismissed the latter to embrace what I could see and prove. Now I realize that they can co-exist. And now, I might even put forward this: “The wonderful thing about God, is that He exists whether you believe or not.”

I'm right... you crazy!

I’m right… and you crazy!

STEVE:
OK, Bill Maher is a dick. Given. Atheist zealots are every bit as irritating as religious door-knockers. But we’re talking proof, not faith. A star cluster exists, demonstrably. Life evolved – and did so over millions of years. This is not up for discussion. I can look in a sky and see such wonders that the founders of religion couldn’t have imagined.

“There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5. Great line, but dammit – he had to put “heaven” in there.

If “God” and his scribes knew all His wonders, surely He would have thought to include them in his teachings: “Not only is man an amazing creation of Mine – but whoa! You have got to see the work I do with galaxy clusters, quasars, collapsing stars, dark matter, and – oh yes – a few planets right near by.” He might have gone on less about fish.

BRITT:
Laughing too hard to comment. And God in quotations is killing me.

ON COMFORT:

STEVE:
I take no comfort from otherworldly things. That’s scary. That’s something I envy in religious people. I can find comfort in my children, loved ones and friends. But I gather it’s not the same comfort.

BRITT:
God isn’t otherworldly. He’s right here.

STEVE:
You’re not mentioning comfort.

BRITT:
The comfort: I’m never, never alone. Strip away Bernie, my kids, my pretty stucco life and ask me if I still have the Comfort of God? I dunno. But last year, when there were moments when I didn’t know if I’d be here to have this discussion, my sole comfort came from God. You can’t knock that.

ON FANATICISM:

BRITT:
Blech. Religious fanaticism always excludes, hurts, even kills.

STEVE:
I love people who have faith and kindness. (Although I don’t see why you need faith to be kind.) I do dislike fanatics – those who say their way is the only way. When you go from belief to fanaticism, that’s when the Holy Hand Grenades tend to come out. Fanaticism also leads to hooligans and tedious, low-scoring soccer games.

In these hats, we trust.

In these hats, we trust.

BRITT:
I completely agree that Faith has little to do with kindness, or even human decency. Faith is a personal matter. Kindness is a public one.

ON THE BEAUTY OF THE UNIVERSE

STEVE:
Oh God, it fucking rocks. Wait – I just invoked God. Maybe there’s something there.

BRITT:
Of course there is. Make fun all you want (I insist!), but there are other Jewnatarians out there just waiting to set up folding chairs with you in some temple basement. In the meantime, I’m going to drag you to the Redeemer. There’s a whole Bible study group of women who have been praying for you. (Can you feel it?)

STEVE:
I like that. Can they pray for me to have less back hair?

Half atheist?

Results may vary.

(DP Challenge)