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I french kissed my boyfriend in church, during Mass, when I was 15. I didn’t mean to do it. Honestly.

He was my first boyfriend and the first boy I had ever kissed. I had watched way too many romantic movies in preparation for this first kiss, that day at the drive in. Yes, I made out with a guy for the first time in a car, on a double date, at a drive in. If you ask how it was I’ll only say two things: bucket seats & stick shift. That’s all I got to say about that.

It was only a few weeks into our dating relationship that I invited him to church with me. It might have been a Baptism or a wedding. I can’t recall now. I do remember that in the early part of our short dating experience we spent a lot of time making out. So it took me by surprise when he leaned over to kiss me on the lips during the Sign of Peace and I guess conditioning took over and I went all Pavlov’s dogs on him. He broke off right away and covered for us. No one noticed apart from the two of us and probably God. Pretty sure God caught that. I like to think He let it go pretty easily. I think my face remained red for about three years every time the Sign of Peace floated along, long after the dating relationship stopped.

Now, as I think back on it I realize something interesting. The bounds of affection were so blurry for me then. I didn’t see a kiss from a boy as a sign of affection or trust or even romance. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the kissing, certainly, I did. In retrospect though I can see how much it was a method to please him, to keep him interested, to satisfy some requirement of love and commitment. This is what one does next. But the kiss hello and the kiss goodbye never felt much different to me than the making out in the car at the drive in and that’s important.

Entering into a practice which incorporates the body and spirit so intently has been a whole world of awkward for me. As I have said before, there is an awful lot of kissing- icons, priests’ hands, crosses, fellow travelers. The when, where, who and how often is what trips me up. While in Nashville last summer I had the chance to meet the Metropolitan for our region. It took me by surprise and so when I met him I felt at a complete loss. I didn’t know what to do and I was first to greet him in our small group so I had no one to model it for me. I was half inclined to high five the guy I was so befuddled. Also, he wasn’t wearing his “bling.” He wasn’t totally in his civvies but he was certainly dressed down at that moment. In the end I just shook his hand and told him I was honored to meet him. Then I stepped aside and backed out of the room as quickly and silently as I could.

All the way home I chastised myself for it which is silly, really.

I know I’ve pursued this journey with the strange notion in my head all along that at some point I’m just going to get a rejection letter in the mail. “Dear Catechumen, thank you so much for your interest in the Orthodox church however your pursuit does not fit our community at this time…” I confess that I still feel eager to become Chrismated so that my chances of being rejected go down, which again, is silly, really. I don’t know how long it will take for me to shake that. In the meantime I’ll keep plugging away, I guess, awkward as ever.