First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany

“Sadie Hawkins Sunday”

Rev. Samuel A. Trumbore, February 29, 2004


Spoken Meditation

by Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing,
there is a field--I'll meet you there--
when the soul lies down in that grass,
ideas, language, even the words "each other" don't make any sense

"No one suffers enough," he said.
"Be the one who suffers everything
and comes to me with nothing but this bowl
into which I can pour my wine."

believe me
i wasn't always like this
lacking common sense
or looking insane

like you
i used to be clever
in my days...

since i was not yet hunted down
by this
ever-increasing love

When your chest is free of your limiting ego,
Then you will see the ageless Beloved.
You cannot see yourself without a mirror;
Look at the Beloved, who is the brightest mirror

- Rumi



How can I make today special?That question has haunted me since I realized that February 29th landed on a Sunday.It will be 28 years before I have another opportunity to organize a service and offer a sermon on February 29th.Depending on my health and good fortune, this may be my last chance to offer a Sunday sermon on February 29th.What message can I deliver worthy of this unique moment in my ministry and the life of this congregation?

I, like John Morse, member of our congregation, love unusual dates like January 1, 2001 (1/1/1) or February 2, 2002 (2/2/2) or January 2, 2003 (1/2/3).They heighten my awareness of the day and the urge to make it significant.Philomena and I met on November 11th.I proposed to her on August 11th.We married on March 11th.For a while, we celebrated the 11th of each month as a way to remember the excitement of our first meeting.

February 29th is a rather peculiar day, a disruption of our regular calendar due to the inaccuracy of having the rotation of our planet around the sun take a little longer than 365 days (.2422 to be more precise).The problem could have been solved another way.We could have added an hour to each of six months.Imagine getting an extra hour to sleep in every other month!That would have been my solution![i]

Sadly this idea was overlooked.A solution was first decreed from Rome in the year 45.Julius Caesar added an extra day to the Julian calendar every fourth year upon the advice of astronomer, Sosigenes. Or, it could have been 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered every fourth year to be a leap year unless it is a century year that cannot be divisible by 400. Or maybe it was 1698 when the Protestant rulers of Germany and the Netherlands thought it was time they agreed with the pope, or 1752 when the English made the calendar move or 1918 when the Russians picked up on the Gregorian calendar.[ii]As you see, solving the calendar problem has been controversial over the years.

This dislike for the imposition of the Roman calendar may be why, in 1288, in Scotland, it was made legal for women to propose marriage to men in a Leap Year only. And if he declined, he was obliged to provide her with a silk dress or a pair of gloves. Or perhaps the origin was earlier.This tradition may have started in 5th century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait endlessly for a man to propose. So, according to legend, St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose on this one day in February during the Leap Year.[iii]

The cartoonist Al Capp took this theme of women proposing to men and adapted it to the storyline of his characters in the strip, L’il Abner.Sadie Hawkins (on the cover of the order of service) was “the homeliest gal in the hills” who grew tired and frustrated waiting for a fellow to come a courtin’.Her father, the mayor of Dogpatch, USA was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life.On November 15th, 1937, he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day foot race.The eligible bachelors were given a ten minute head start.All the unmarried gals wanting husbands could chase them.Any bachelor caught was an immediate candidate for a shotgun wedding in front of Marryin’ Sam.

The power of life to imitate art made the event immediately popular.On November 1st, 1938, the Charleston Gazette sponsored the Morris Harvey College’s first Sadie Hawkins Day.The race and mock wedding served as the half time show for the football game. The rules allowed all the female students to chase their men, who were given a ten second head start. The men were not allowed to run out of bounds or past the fifty-yard line. Participants dressed in the "hillbilly" costumes shown in the comic strip. The costumes for women, off-the-shoulder blouses and mid-thigh or shorter ragged edge skirts, were quite brief in relation to the usual attire of the day. Parents objected to the amount of bare leg being shown by their daughters.

As I was working up this Sadie Hawkins theme,I noticed its lack of gravitas for this singular day in my ministry.First of all, I had the wrong month – Sadie Hawkins day should be in November.Second, the characterization of hillbilly stereotypes a la Morris Harvey College lacks cultural sensitivity.But at a deeper level Sadie Hawkins’ father really doesn’t have her best interest at heart.He is more interested in getting her out of the house than finding her a suitable life partner.After all, manipulating someone into marriage is a recipe for later disaster.

The un-coerced decision to marry is so important.Shotgun weddings have their drawbacks.Ask unmarried couples who experience birth control malfunction.The freedom to decide if this relationship is right or not can disappear under the weight of the responsibility of becoming parents together.

But on the other hand, even if we freely choose our partner, there is no guarantee of happiness.Think of the high divorce rate.Even the marriage that seems to be “made in heaven” can flounder once the knot is tied.After all, thunder, lightning, tornados and hail also come from the heavens.

Just about every couple learns this lesson the first year or so after they marry.The faults overlooked in the flame of romance become the burning obsessions after saying “I do.”After the bloom is off the rose, increasing and deepening one’s love during a marriage can become very difficult.What many of us do is put stakes in the ground to mark our territory and tell our partner to stay out.

Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love.Marriages blossom when we love the ones we marry. (Tom Mullen)

Continuing to love the ones we marry--there’s the rub.How many of us in this room (I will not ask for a show of hands) has struggled with loving the one you’re with and resisting chasing after someone or something else instead.The Buddha described this as the fundamental nature of mind, to crave what one does not have and to reject what one already has.Relationships can amplify this part of human nature, creating all kinds of problems.

As many of you who have been listening to me for the last several years will know, love is one of my favorite topics.I’ve dedicated my life to, in the words of my mentor, the Rev. Robert Eller-Isaacs, “making love real.”When I’m in the pulpit, or meeting with a committee, or listening to someone share their joys and sorrows, I look for opportunities to bring love to life and point out the ways that love is extinguished.While I can offer some lessons to you here (and learn a few myself from you), one of the best places to learn how to make love real is with one’s life partner.

So as a way of making today a special day, I’ll share with you some thoughts about how to support and expand the love in your relationships.

Philomena, is a psychotherapist and has shelves of books on how to have a good relationship.The books give lots of wise counsel that will make sense to most of us.I particularly like the title of one of those books, “We’d have a great relationship if it weren’t for you.”The first and probably most difficult lesson is recognizing that any deficiency in the quality of love in your relationships is not all your partner’s fault.You were not completely deceived during the courtship process.The other person’s faults were there, but they just didn’t matter as much then as they seem to matter now.No matter how compatible you might be, it is our differences that can drive us crazy.

One of the biggest mistakes in marriage is believing one’s partner will change after marriage.Thinking one can fix one’s partner causes no end of misery.All the good things about the other person that attracted you to him or her are still there, sadly now overlooked in the fixation on faults.Trying to fix your partner is bound to engage their active or passive resistance.Better to give up the improvement project and focus on the positive.

The books all extol the value of spending time together, giving each other pleasure and support and learning how to communicate effectively.In the rush to maintain and advance our jobs, homes and families, we often neglect making meaning with our partner.The meaning of sexual satisfaction is not enough by itself to sustain a relationship over a lifetime.Developing together shared goals, understandings and appreciations gleaned from shared experiences can help build a loving relationship over time.

Diane Sollee wisely observed:

People think they have to find their soul mate to have a good marriage.You're not going to "find" your soul mate.Anyone you meet already has soul mates--their mother. Their father. Their lifelong friends. You get married, and after 20 years of loving, bearing and raising kids, meeting challenges--then you'll "create" your soul mate.

All this professional advice is well and good, but I thought I’d follow the advice of the song we sang earlier and not seek in far off places for the wisdom that can be found near at hand.The people who have taught me about relationships by example have been three couples who’ve managed to have long, happy marriages and also serve in the ministry.You know one of these couples because he ended his ministry with us: Josiah and Laile Bartlett.From the time I met them, I was impressed with their devotion to each other.The second couple I met during my internship in Rochester, New York, Joyce and Dick Gilbert.Dick was the minister I was supervised by at First Unitarian. The other couple brought Philomena and me together: Carl and Maureen Thichener, then ministers in Williamsville, New York.

I spoke by telephone with Laile on Thursday morning in Walnut Creek, California where she lives in a retirement community.She was in good spirits, happy to hear from me and wanted me to send her love to everyone in our congregation.She still remembers her time here fondly.

In response to my questions about what made their relationship work so well, she felt Josiah’s character was a large measure of it.When I probed further about what he did, she stressed his respect for her.When making an important decision that involved the family, he would consult her and listen to her.He would want the decision to be mutual.Laile felt the fact that they both had careers created sources of individual satisfaction that supported the marriage.She told the story of when Jo had taken a sabbatical, he spent half of it typing Laile’s dissertation to help her finish her degree.Of all the different ways they supported each other, Laile felt the most important factor was the sense of mutuality they cultivated in their relationship.

I caught up with Dick and Joyce Friday afternoon.They were both raised in the Universalist tradition before merger in upstate New York, a source of common values that have served as a bedrock for them throughout their lives.

Both Dick and Joyce feel that their independence, self-reliance, and different interests have supported their relationship.Honoring those spaces in their togetherness for sports and musical performance allows them to come together in fullness rather than need.They have not allowed those outside their marriage to define them.Joyce’s clear boundaries about the church’s expectations of her has permitted her to be active in the church in the ways that were satisfying to her.Dick included his recognition of the importance of humility in making a relationship work.

I also had a delightful conversation on Thursday with Carl and Maureen.They will be celebrating their 50th anniversary on April 24th at the Saint Lawrence District Annual Assembly on Lake George.

Carl and I discussed the cycle of relationships: quest, conquest, and inquest.The first two are heavily driven by chemicals, the third due to their absence.Initial lust is driven by testosterone and estrogen.Attraction is governed by three neuro-transmitters in the brain: dopamine (also activated by cocaine and nicotine),Norepinephrine (a variant of adrenalin), and serotonin (which contributes to the feeling of euphoria).

Scientists are finding hormones released in sexual intercourse such as oxytocin and vasopressin promote bonding.Sadly, these chemicals seem to lose their power over two to five years.Children particularly dampen them since they tend to interfere with sexual activity.

Carl has noticed the absence of these chemicals can create boredom in relationships and cause one or the other partner to seek variety and change.Carl emphasized that just hanging in there with your partner will offer lots of variety.He has watched Maureen move from being a stay at home mom, to an entrepreneur, to the executive vice president of a publicly held corporation, to a pioneer as a woman sales person for 3M, to a ministerial colleague.If you just hang in with the same person encouraging them to follow their bliss, you can build a precious shared history of experiences and memories.

Both Carl and Maureen talked about the intentional practice of acceptance.There are no perfect people.Maureen quoted Confucius’ advice to take the attitude toward your partner assuming they are operating from the highest and best intentions until proven otherwise.Nothing is more harmful to a marriage than creating a climate of suspicion and distrust.Maureen feels she learned this growing up in a large family with a variety of personalities.Acceptance helped hold them all together.

Finally, they set aside time to be together at their A-frame.They both love being in the country and taking walks together.They make time to just have fun together.

Those who have not known people skillful in the art of marriage might say, "Is there anything more beautiful in life than a young couple clasping hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?"
Knowing Joyce and Dick, Carl and Maureen, and Jo and Laile, I’d answer "Yes, there is a more beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of mature men and women finishing their journey together on that path.Their hands are aged, but still clasped; their faces are seamed, but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love."

So as we enjoy leap day, let us make this day special by making a decision to renew our old love.For when love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. (John Ruskin)


Real love, built over a lifetime

is ever to be protected, nourished and cherished.
We learn to love by making it a regular practice that becomes our habit.
Today could be the beginning of that lifelong journey of love
If any woman is up to proposing to any man
AND the feeling is mutual.
…Marryin’ Sam is here, ready to tie the knot!

Go in peace.Make peace.Be at peace.

Copyright © 2004 by Rev. Samuel A. Trumbore.All rights reserved.

[i] This turns out not to work, I was advised after the sermon was presented.The time of day would shift messing up the coordination of the clock with the sun.Oh well, sounded good on paper J
[ii] This Calendar information written and edited by Carol Williams ( and John Williams ( Contributing writer: Joe Benson ( Produced by John Williams.