19: Ah, guys…
The conversation was rapid-fire. We managed to cover our religious backgrounds (largely rather conservative, which we have all moved away from to some degree or other); Simon’s work as a journalist covering the world of religion; Christians and politics (Christians in politics—very good; political Christianity—very bad); the shenanigans of various Members of Congress; the importance of ending poverty and various other Christian efforts in social justice; the dangers in the cultural trends of American Christianity (which I frustratingly cannot fully articulate); and my research on Austen and the relative strengths and weaknesses of her various works and the different movie adaptations (Persuasion with Amanda Root and the BBC version of P&P take the lead, at least for me and Simon; Jack admits to having watched some of them with his mother, and I wonder, what does that say about him?).
This is near-supreme goodness, I think, being in Oxford surrounded by single guys, having thoughtful, fun conversation. It’s their camaraderie I value more than anything else. Simon is engaged, after all, Paul—the “plumber” from New England (he’s actually a proctologist)—seems a little older and maybe not my type, and I have decided that I can safely rule Jack out because he is Baptist and has a background in politics. A single woman who wants to be married has, ironically, no sharper skill than that which rules out potential suitors before fully understanding their character. I have to admit to feeling a certain kinship with Elizabeth Bennet in that regard (although, no doubt, I am more extreme).
And before the evening is over, I wonder if my preference for the dashing stranger has me imitating Marianne’s mistakes in some form. My determination to rule Jack out doesn’t keep me from throwing him a series of challenges. I set off on a few of my soap-box pronouncements—like a tongue-in-cheek, eyebrow-raised, condescending, “You really believe there are good people in politics?” and a much more sincere, “On so many political issues, you can find a Christian justification for either position.”—and watched his reactions. And by the end of the conversation I knew that he wasn’t a typical Christian conservative guy. He’s politically moderate, supports conservation causes, is deeply concerned for the poor, and believes (wonder of all wonders) that free choice and predestination work together in the salvation process in some way our finite brains cannot understand.
We walked back to Wycliffe ahead of the others, Jack and I, talking about our families and other personal things. He asked if I was a morning person and I said, “No. Actually, I can’t imagine the possibility of ever being a morning person under any circumstances whatsoever.” And I learned that he is an early riser, almost every day. And this little exchange seems to signify something (because the other skill that single women possess is overanalyzing every turn of phrase), our moving from group discussion to near-intimate details.