Celia Kramer is a writer living with debilitating anxiety. In her weekly column, Celia will write about the horrible and hilarious world of fear, dread, paranoia, phobias, panic attacks, and trying to function as a halfway normal person. Some names and inconsequential details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people in her life.
My freshman year of college, my roommate and I were practically the only non-devout Christians on our floor. This is because we were accidentally placed on a Christian-identifying floor, which meant our hall meetings began with a prayer and a testimony. Two separate (and later, I learned, rival) Bible studies met on our floor, and the Thursday group always had the best snacks.
The girls on our floor recognized fairly quickly that my roommate, Sarah, and I were accidental secular transplants when we skipped out on the first Sunday floor trip to Church. In fact, we were a big get for God–Sarah, a cultural and vaguely religious yet atheist Jew, and me, a half-Jewish, half-Catholic with a genetically engineered guilty conscience about everything. We both had boyfriends who slept over. We both liked cigarettes and movies with sex in them, and looked like we’d stepped out of a Myspace page from 2005. Sarah was the only girl who threw up every Saturday night in our communal bathroom, with me holding her hair and our friend Josh yelling loudly that he’s going to go find some Seltzer. We were wayward souls.
The girls who ran the Thursday night Bible study came knocking every single Thursday, inviting us to join.
“We love to have new people!” was their constant refrain. One week, we finally gave in and went, if only to placate them. They seemed so nice and we figured it wouldn’t kill us to socialize with people who were different than us. I liked it–The Bible has always been interesting to me as a historical text, and I enjoy learning about religion.
We both made it clear from the start that we were atheists and had no real intention of changing that. Later, as we walked back to our room, Sarah whispered to me,
“Did you feel weird? We were the only non-virgins in the room.” Yes. That felt weird.
A quick side note: I am the type of person about whom one would forget that I am sexually active without constant reminders to the contrary. Being in a room where I was the most sexually active made me feel both confident and terrified. I knew something these girls didn’t, but that didn’t carry any weight in this room. There’s no money in premarital sex in a room full of young, devout Christians. I learned that most of the girls on my floor had air mattresses for when their boyfriends slept over.
For whatever reason, Sarah and I kept going back, every Thursday night, for months. I was drawn to the stories and to the gossip about the girls’ lives. It was like group therapy. I talked about how my boyfriend and I were having problems, and they offered advice. Some advice was secular and some was prayer-based. It always seemed like they cared, even if praying for me didn’t actually bring me anything. I think it brought them something, though.