“Can I talk with you a minute? Privately?”
The stout old church lady took my elbow and man-handled me into a corner.
“I’m just telling you this with the love of the Lord” she began. She took her glasses off and pinched her nose.
My curiosity raised its snout, trying to sniff out what was going on. “What?”
She blinked at me. I noticed a multitude of pins in her gray hair, and I couldn’t help noticing how her print dress hung from her, right down to the ground, just above her sensible shoes.
Sensible shoes. I shouldn’t be noticing those. That’s too gay.
“You really need to be careful about what you wear, young man.”
I looked down at my clothing and took inventory. Sports jacket, t-shirt, jeans, black shoes. Puzzled, I looked back at her.
“I mean…” and she sighed. “Oh this is so difficult.”
“Please don’t feel awkward, sister. Just tell me.”
She couldn’t look me in the eye. “It’s your jeans, young man.”
“They’re too tight.”
I looked down again. Damn. They were tight. Just the way I like them.
“What do you mean?”
Her face started to turn red. “I mean. Young women can get carried astray by the tightness of your jeans.”
I started to laugh. “What?”
“Well, they can see your, ah….”
I grinned in disbelief. “They can see my junk? Is that what you’re trying to say?”
She got all flustered. “You don’t need to be so vulgar.”
“I’m vulgar?” This was turning more ridiculous the more I thought about it. “Your observation is vulgar, lady. If you don’t like what I’m wearing, I suggest you turn away and stop staring at my crotch.” I waggled my hips at her.
“Oh I’m going to talk with Pastor Norman about this!” She turned quickly, which dislodged one of her hair pins such that it was dangling by a hair down at her back. “Just you wait and see!”
I laughed and started to make my way to a pew in the church. This time an elder grabbed my arm. What is it with old people wanting to grab your arm all the time? Why can’t they just jump up and down in front of you while waving their arms to get your attention? Why do they have to put such a death grip on your elbow? It hurts, damn it, and I just want to punch them in the face when they do it.
I can’t, of course, being Canadian, and Christian and Righteous and all.
Plus, I fight like a girl.
Anyway, as he pulled me close with his raptor’s claw, he hissed in my ear. I think he thought he was being quiet and circumspect, but that hissing could be heard throughout the church. I could tell, because people whipped their heads around to stare at us.
His stinky breath invaded the sanctity of my irreverent ambiance, totally messing up my Chi. “Son, you need to pay attention to me.”
I tried to pull my arm away. In vain as it turns out. Last night’s hangover hadn’t worn off yet. God. That stinky breath was going to undo me. I could tell. My stomach started rumbling in protest and I had to swallow a few times just to make sure those late night nachos stayed down there, where they belonged.
“What?” I whispered back, hoping he would just say what he had to and leave me alone.
“Some of the saints are complaining that you’re too friendly with the women folk.” By “saints” I guessed he meant the men. I have no idea what that made women. “Hussies” I suppose, if they’re that easily led astray.
I was going to just nod and agree with him. My nose and my stomach demanded that much from me. But my stupid conscience wouldn’t hear of it. Of course not. It wanted a knock-down drag-out fight. So I burped instead. “What do you mean?’
“We see the way you smile at them, saying ‘hello’ to them with that smarmy look on your face.”
“What. You mean *this* face?” And with that I smiled at him. All teeth. And as smarmily as I could.
He hissed louder. “YES. You need to stop that.”
He tightened his grip on my elbow and I swear to God, my left fist tightened as well. I tried to relax it.
“Because you’re leading them astray. We see how they crowd around you at the end of the service. It’s unseemly. And the Bible says…..”
“Oh here we go” I thought to myself.
“…the Bible says we have to avoid the very appearance of evil.” With that, he shook my elbow and smiled knowingly.
I finally wrenched my elbow away. “You know where the evil is, old man? It’s in your mind. You need to stop thinking that I want to fuck your wives” I said, “because I don’t.”
“In fact, I kind of want to fuck you, actually.” And I gave him my gayest grin. He actually stepped back a few feet.
“And I’ll tell you something else: I will damned well talk to whoever I want and I’ll smile at whoever I want, too. And if you ever grab my arm again I’ll drop you where you stand.”
I started to walk out of the church in disgust. Then I turned around and looked at him again. “Oh and I say that with all the love of the Lord. Asshole.”
This never happened of course. It would never happen. And I don’t know why.
But put the shoe on the other foot, with men talking to women about what they wear, and how they socialize with men and you can *easily* see that it happens all the time. Men – Christian, church going men – telling women about how they need to conduct themselves around men, and what they should and should not be wearing.
As a member of the male species I have to tell you: it’s embarrassing.
The women I know who’ve been subject to this bullshit (and let’s be clear: I know many of them who’ve been through this) tend to suffer in silence, rather than call bullshit on it. My own mother was subject to this crap actually. It seems women generally (not always) want to keep the peace and not make a scene. Plus, they’re given this advice by people they respect: their pastor, their priest, or someone else in authority. So it gets a bit confusing, because supposedly the priest or pastor should have “the mind of God” – at least that’s the case in evangelical church settings. Some of the women in turn drink the same kool-aid and subject other women to the same fucked up nonsense.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this outside of church settings though. I *have* seen it on a much worse scale, in Muslim settings and on Muslim chat boards.
I’m still scratching my head over the whole thing. I guess ultimately it boils down to this:
Mankind will always look for excuses for their own behaviour. They will always point the finger at someone else when they find themselves doing shitty things.
“I was brought up wrong.”
“I came from an abusive family.”
“I came from a poor household.”
“I came from a single parent household.”
“I got in with the wrong crowd (read: it’s the crowd’s fault, not mine)”
“He made me feel bad about myself, that’s why I stole/ate too much/got drunk.”
“She made me so angry. That’s why I hit her.”
“She was wearing provocative clothing.”
“My little kid wouldn’t shut up. So I made him shut up.”
The list is endless.
We need to own our own shit. Bottom line.