Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reflections on a Church Going Past

If you've never regularly attended a Christian church (of any variety), then you don't know what time of year it is. If you have, you know that warmer weather heralds the annual Churchwear Debate, wherein followers of this guy:

James 2:5. Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

have a conniption fit about what is appropriate to wear to a church service. This is motivated by the fact that warmer weather encourages people to wear shorts, shorter skirts and tank tops, and you just can't worship god with exposed arms or legs. I've seen these posts from everybody from Catholics to Death Cult Fundys and reminds me of why my family stopped attending weekly Mass when I was 13.

We attended Mass every week, without fail, and then got a dozen doughnuts from Dunkin' Donuts (or another doughnut shop depending on where we lived at the time, but I remember the DD box distinctly for some reason) on the way home. I, for one, was in it for the doughnuts. We were poor growing up. I didn't really appreciate how poor, other than to note that I couldn't get all the stuff my friends had: video games, toys, cool clothes, etc. Possibly most embarrassing to my mother was that she couldn't get Sunday Best for her children. Actually, after paying for the ridiculously expensive Catholic school and the equally expensive uniforms*, my mother didn't have a lot left over for other clothes.

So we went to Mass in the best we could put together, which mostly involved being clean. The old ladies would sniff as we sat ourselves in the back, and mean girls from school would point and giggle while wearing yet another new Sunday dress. We did not attend Mass on Easter Sunday because that was too much humiliation. Everyone else in a fancy new dress and a hat. I mean, a special hat to be worn once and replaced next year? Now that's wealthy!

Lest you think this is confined to Catholic communities (emphasis mine):

modest and clean and if you have any suits or other expensive modest clothing i would suggest to honor shorts,mini skirts,muscle shirts not too tight or too loose or any other clothing that's not appropriate to wear to a take anyway. the phrase "Sunday Best" still means a lot to me.

Yeah, it means a lot to me, too. It means that after a woman who inherited a fortune from her father lectured my mother on the meaning of "Sunday Best" we never had to go to Mass again, and the next year we started at public school. And then we had money for cool clothes.

*I don't know why those uniforms are supposed to sexy. It's an ill-fitting, below the knee jumper in an ugly plaid and an oxford shirt. Seriously, guys, wtf?


  1. Man, I feel old now.

    When I was in Parochial School the tuition was $10.00 per child per year, but $40.00 max. So it cost $40.00 for the five of us, and the girl's uniforms were $2.00.

  2. It's not so much the uniform as it is the contents - repressed sexuality ready to explode under just the right amount of pressure.

  3. Come to think of it, I never had any "best" clothes until primary school graduation, when I got my first hawiaan shirt (seriously).

    Before that I had two types of clothes: school uniforms (which means shorts. By the gods I hated those shorts) and cheap-casual (I'm the eldest brother, so you'd think I would have avoided the hand-me-down problem. Nup: my parents picked up hand-me-downs from my cousins whenever we went visiting). Thankfully, I was one of those kids who goes to school on free-dress days wearing the uniform. I just didn't care what I or anyone else was wearing. It never even registered in my mind until I after left school.

  4. I know a woman, in her 40s now and just retired from the army who came from a baptist background, and it was kind of the opposite in her case, in a way.

    Her family were neighbors to an aunt and uncle of mine in town, they went to the same church (fundy baptist, lots of money to the "charity" cases") but her family was a bit different.

    She was a year older than my oldest son (she, him, and my youngest son were good friends) and her brother was born the same year as my oldest. The mother had been exposed to measles, and this child was very severly mentally and physically challenged.

    The mother, being one of the true flakes of the western world and crazy as a shit-house rat took it into her head that this little boy was sent to her by her god for her to take care of and protect, so every resource that came into the house went into him and his care and upkeep. And the kids, as soon as they got old enough to lift anything and be bullied by their mother's hystrionics, were expected to take part, 24-7-365/6. And never miss church.

    She told me that until she went into the military she was like some of the other people I'd know, she never had an article of clothing that someone else hadn't already pretty much worn out. Every once in a while she and her four sisters might come up with something used but reasonable from Good Will, but most of the time she figured that what they wore had somehow managed to escape the rag box at a car wash.

    But they were held up as examples of "sacrifice" for "The Lord-eh". The rags were something a lot of people (publicly, anyway) looked as as a sign of the goodness and nobility of her mother.

  5. On a lighter note, I coach people in music, and I was coaching the daughter of a friend of mine who kind of, well, grew when no one was looking.

    Since my friend has odd hours, her daughter would stay at grandma's house a lot, and is grandma is a serious catholic, nothing would do but the girl be put in parochial school. Friend says, "you want her to go, you foot the bill, soup to nuts", and that's what grandma did.

    You could tell this girl was going to be a looker, but I never paid much attention to that, just the music. And she started to grow, too, but her favorite attire when not is school was loose, sloppy sweats, T shirts, painters pants and bib overalls. An she slouched, too.

    So, a few summers ago, I was at the grandma's house going over a piece she was going to solo and her mother my friend) comes in, and grandma announces that she's had to buy a new uniform as the girl has grown, and is starting the junior year in a couple of weeks...should they see how it looks?

    The girl was sent upstairs to put on the uniform with the motherly admonishions to, "fer chrissake brush yer hair and STAND UP STRAIGHT WHEN YOU COME DOWN, WILLYA"??!!!

    So, we consulted about the music for a bit, and heard a foot on the stai, and down comes Emmalinda in her school uniform. But with a difference...

    There had to be a momentary barometric anomoly from the intake of breath when we all gasped, because this 6' + black haired, black-eyed goddess coming down the stairs wasn't who went up. This girl would beat out Al Capp's "Stupifyin' Jones" on her BEST day. And she's wearing this school girl uniform.

    My friend intoned at high volume that her daughter looked like the answer to every dirty old man's erotic prayers and that she wasn't going ANYWHERE looking like THAT.

    She said more as well.

    My wife advised me to shut my mouth, blink my eyes, and to leave with her as our friend and her mother were discussing family affairs.

    Upshot: friend's daughter went to public school that year and graduated the next.

    She is now a civil engineer, as beautiful inside as out, and remembers that day quite well. She said that if she had a picture of our faces she could have sold it for a million dollars.

    Maybe she could have...maybe she could...

  6. Perhaps that is why Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Money makes some people jerks.

  7. Thanks, Sarge. That was hilarious.


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