|Oct/Nov 2007 Nonfiction|
My sister, the nun, is getting married. Okay, she's not really a nun—she'd rather be anything (dead, for example) than Catholic—but for years now Jesus has been the only guy good enough for her. And if not having sex for forty years and counting doesn't make you a nun, it at least makes you a minority—even, in some circles, a commodity.
Wendy has dated, over the years. The last one (four years ago?) was Matt, a nice-looking guy she met at the Calvary Temple church she attends three times a week. She liked him well enough until she discovered that his career with the Liquor Control Board was just his fancy name for slinging booze at the local liquor store. In my sister's religion (the one we both grew up with), abstinence applies to a lot more than sex. Even if the mouths of those shiny bottles never touched his lips, Wendy couldn't stand the idea of his hands all over them. I still remember the look on her face when my 10-year-old daughter showed her our new china cabinet. "And this," Allie said, sweeping her arm proudly, "is where we keep our margarita glasses!" As if she, too, were in the habit of knocking back a few with the neighbors on weekends.
Three years before that, Wendy dated another guy from church, Randy, who turned out to have a problem with (you guessed it, love those affliction-appropriate names!) porn. Jesus may have been all about the sinners, but that didn't mean he wanted Wendy to date one of them. I have to admit it kind of creeped me out when she told me. I remembered Randy helping me with a golf swing in my backyard, and just thinking about him putting his hands on me after touching all those sticky pictures, that sticky keyboard, that sticky... stick...
Years before that there was the handsome medical student, Tom, who was prone to accidents (the kind where only other people get hurt) and then Wes, who chased Wendy for six years only to get engaged to another woman right before Wendy figured out that God was trying to tell her that he was "the one."
When this new guy, Len, told Wendy after only two months that God was telling him that she was the one, you can see why she jumped at this latter-day chance to obey, even though everybody knows that God is as patient as death.
My family has mixed emotions about this engagement, which happened, as things do, just when we'd given up on it for good. My mother, the hypochondriac, is happy to see Wendy settled before she dies from diabetes (or tachycardia or enlarged liver or that funny pain in her leg, but not, she's quick to point out, from the millions of cigarettes she's smoked over the last 50 years) but is worried that she'll have to wear something other than a muumuu to the wedding. My father, who's been divorced from my mother for thirty years and never remarried, counts on Wendy's sympathetic ear for hours a week and is surely hearing the words of his father right about now: "Just wait," Grandpa Ed used to say, "One day your daughters will get married and break your heart just like mine did me." (I'm sure Dad's heart didn't even crack when I got married 14 years ago, but I did leave him Wendy, sacrificing the virgin.) When my brother, who's just cycled out again of Western State Hospital and is still basking in the lucidity of lithium, heard the news, all he had to say was, "It's about fuckin' time; what is she, forty-fuckin'-one?" Amen, brother.
And me? I love a good story, and the "40-year-old virgin for a sister" will be a hard one to give up. But hey, I'm family: in it for the long haul. Besides, Len the fiancé is a pastor, and considering that Wendy received her first kiss at age 14 from the pastor of our Assembly of God church (who so surprised her at the altar when she thought she was alone that his big pillow lips fit entirely inside the oval of her gasping mouth), I don't care if my sister is forty-fuckin'-one. For my money, this show's just getting good.