A little eight-year-old girl was asked what she thought love was. She cocked her head and thought for a little bit. Then she replied, “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over to paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis. That’s what love is.” [pg 159, Getting Naked Later]
And with that excerpt, i begin the book review of this most well written and fun book by a friend of mine who i encountered on the internet.
I must have stumbled onto Kate’s blog, the Sexy Celibate, more than a year ago and in fact I might have made the connection through the amazingly worshipful music she writes and sings, but having read something about her being single, I took a chance and asked her if she would perhaps like to write a piece for the Taboo Topics series I was running on Singleness. Taking me totally by surprise she said yes and wrote this very popular piece, some of which may even have made it into her book in some form or another:
Well at times, I feel barren. Not only barren in my childbearing, but barren as a lover as well. I don’t have children or a husband, and so I really have no immediate blood family. Please, please, be sensitive to this barrenness in me. Please don’t tell me that I have done something wrong in not letting go, and the result of that shortcoming is my barrenness.
And we have been friends ever since and so when I heard she had written a book, titled ‘Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed’ I was super amped to see what she had to share about her journey and also what she might have to say to others about theirs. When she asked for some volunteers to read the book and write some reviews, I charged my way to the front flinging single people left and right and di what had to be done in the hope that she would allow me, a married guy [although married at 35 so I still feel I might ‘get’ it], to read and talk about her book:
She completely fell for it:
THE BOOK REVIEW
To be absolutely honest [although I won’t mention names], I was actually already in the middle of reviewing a book on dating when Kate made the offer. The book was fine and all, but it was not really bringing much new to the topic, and knowing Kate the little bit I do, I expected hers to have a certain life and refreshment to it that would keep me interested.
So ‘Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed’ jumped to the head of the queue and I devoured it over the next couple of days [which was in the midst of a fairly busy schedule, but there was something very enticing about Kate’s book and I kept wanting to know what was next] and I was not disappointed.
It starts out with this sweet yet heart-breaking story of Kate playing a game of ‘Old Maid’ with her young friend Isabella. When Isabelle wins the game, she looks at Kate and declares her ‘The Old Maid’ and more importantly, the loser.
“Am I the loser?” Kate asked herself and so begins this journey that at times is light and fun and skippy [can a book be skippy? if it can then Kate nails it!], but at other times deals with the raw and the rough, real and honest, angry and confused emotions and experiences of a 30 plus year old who discovered she was single a lot longer than she thought she might be and is trying to make sense of life and love and God and relationships and unrealised dreams.
In her opening chapter she invites the world’s single people into her story: I am writing this book for all of you. I want you to feel validated. I want you to know that you’re not alone. And most of all, I want you to believe that you are deeply valuable. I hope that we can walk down the road toward discovering our value together.
What I love about the start of the book and how Kate follows through with it, is that she begins with a list of ‘I am nots’ with things like ‘going to give you a formula to find the perfect mate’ and ‘tell you that the answer is to be satisfied in God alone’ or ‘promise that God will give us the desires of our heart’ and more, but instead, she writes this:
I want married people and the church at large to have a better understanding of what singles and divorced people go through so that they can better support us. I want to look at the unique challenges Christian singles face and to explore some of the unhealthy perspectives of the Christian culture when it comes to dating.’
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS AND THE PAINT BY NUMBERS
There ARE a lot of books on Singleness and for me what makes Kate’s stand out is the amount of herself she throws into ‘Getting Naked Later’. More than simply writing a ‘How to’ book with theories, formulas and excuses Kate opens the door to her life and invites the reader to join her on part of the journey she has walked and is walking which doesn’t as yet have the Disney happy ending of ‘She found her prince’ if that is the sign of success we are looking for. But along the way she does share lessons she has learned and struggles she has endured as she moves forward on her journey of hope. Possibly the biggest shout out that this book gives goes something along the lines of ‘Hey, you are not alone in this. I get a lot of what you’re going through. Let me share some of mine.’
I think there is something in here for everyone but it will particularly stroke a chord with those single people who are a little older and perhaps in some ways feeling like [or being made to feel like by the ‘extremely sensitive’ people around them] they have missed out on something. This piece Kate writes on ‘disenfranchised grief’ for example was a huge eye-opener:
One of the only articles I found that did talk about the difficulty of being single was called “My Secret Grief: Over Thirty-Five, Single and Childless” by Melanie Notkin. In it, the author says, “This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognise can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.
This sadness, this disenfranchised grief, is what I feel on a semi-regular basis. I have not lost a marriage, but I have never had a lover. I have not lost a baby, but I have never had a child.
Boom! Right between the eyes. And there are a fair number of moments like these.
SOME FINAL MOMENTS OF A VERY INCOMPLETE REVIEW
You can tell how much I enjoy a book I read by the amount of folded over corner tops of pages I want to go back to or paragraphs which really impacted me and ‘Getting Naked Later’ has so many of those I can’t even pretend to HOPE TO cover all of them [that would be a long blog post even by my standards!] here. But I will share a few gems as I sign off [and you really should get hold of a copy and read it for yourself, cos I feel like there is something for everyone to take away:
In a chapter looking at Hollywood movie romances, Kate nails the problem on the head: It would be wise for us to recognise our disease of loneliness and realise that getting married will not cure that disease.
I don’t think Kate is trying to suggest that loneliness is like a sickness, but she is trying to suggest that often, as single people [which I was til age 35!] we tend to get into a head space of thinking that just finding ‘our person’ will solve a whole bunch of issues in our life, when the truth is that we will tend to take those same issues with us into marriage.
Kate shows insight into the married life she has yet to experience, as evidenced in this quote: If I do get married, my husband will love me more than he loves anyone else in the world. He will also probably hurt me more than anyone else in the world will hurt me. I will think there is no one as wonderful as him anywhere. I will also think that there is no one as annoying as him. My job will not be to judge if he is good enough for me. My job will be to love him well.We will build a history together.
Getting Naked Later is also great because it covers such a range of topics – Kate dares to boldly share her take on sex while holding nothing back in her in-depth description of the pity party singles love to throw for themselves [or groups of themselves]
In her chapter titled, ‘The Great Name Changer’ she reminds us of the power labels can play in our lives by saying, ‘I am many things other than a single woman: lover of God, lover of people, traveler of the world, teacher, lover of the poor and downcast, avid reader, overcomer of a chronic disease, ridiculous enjoyer of dark chocolate and good cheese, lover of nature, worshipper, but “single” is often the only label I give myself.
Very importantly this is the story of a woman who is already in a relationship and an important one at that. Kate’s relationship with God is the thread that weaves itself through this book and holds everything together, although not always in a way that feels nicely coloured in within the lines. This singleness thing can get messy and Kate does not hold back from the honesty and sometimes pain that is involved in that aspect of her life. One encounter she has with a mentor of hers who told her:
“Kate, I want you to focus on trusting God for the next few months.”
“I sounded like a recovering Pharisee when I said, “But I do trust God.”
She answered very gently, “No, Kate. No, you don’t.”
I realised almost automatically that she was right. The anxiety that I had just spilled out to her indicated how little I trusted Him. When it comes down to it, I don’t always see Him as good. In my heart, I often don’t believe that God will give me a good life. Sometimes I believe that even if He is good, I will negate His blessings if I don’t make the right choices.”
And there you have it – you won’t find honesty like that in the ‘Ten tips to finding your perfect Christian man’ book that is front and centre on your local christian bookstore relationship shelf.
But again and again, it is the stark honesty and gentle humour and vulnerability that brings a wave of refreshment with ‘Getting Naked Later’ and that is what will draw you in and keep you invested as you read this part of Kate’s story. This is a worthwhile addition to your bedside table reading material and I encourage you to grab hold of a copy now.
I will leave you with one last quote that sums up a big part of Kate’s attitude as she faces a present that doesn’t look exactly like the future she once imagined and expected, from her chapter on intentional community, but reaching even beyond that:
‘It is good for u to be in a family, even if we have to build our own.’