Saturday, 13 December 2008

Bizarrely sweet

This week has been one for odd conversations.

Today, I'd just settled into an afternoon of church reception when a clerical friend passed by to enter church, but the wedding that had started over an hour earlier still hadn't finished.

"How long do [these] weddings last?"
"Well, it's been over an hour, usually they'd be done by now."

And at the point where the conversation would stray into rubrics/liturgical discussions/etc., he nearly left me speechless:

"So, how long will your wedding be, then?"
"Depends on how many of you are on the sanctuary."
"We would love to see you wedded."
[Language note: I would use 'wed', as I think of 'wedded' as more...modern? Also more specifically for the phrase 'wedded to (an idea, plan, etc.)'. Interesting. His language is usually so precise, I'd have expected 'wed' from him as well.]
"Well, so would I. Then there would be the fight about who would baptise the kids."
"There's going to be a fight? So, is there a man?"
"Well, I need to find a man who can handle me."
"Ah yes, a man who can handle Irim. We want to know what he's like."
"Me too. I'd like to meet him."
"So would the rest of Oxford, Irim. We all think he'll be tall, dark, butch and brutal." That last adjective, spoken with emphasis, made me flinch - though he didn't mean ill by it, brutal is a hard word, it' *angry* word. I know he meant a man who could tell me, "Irim, you're out of line," not someone who would slap me around, and not someone who could deliberately inflict suffering on others. He'd never put up with a person who could do that.

I laughed and responded, "I think you're possibly right with the first three."

OK, so far, you get the bizarre, ja?

But the sweet? Well, it's hard to explain. I once had a similar conversation with another cleric who said to me, with feeling, "We think you'd be incredible in a relationship and an *amazing* mother."

These are moments when they let me know that they see me as something other than the angry, liberal Catholic woman or the sensible person you can ask to do just about anything that needs doing. It's their way of saying they'd like to see me happy. It's their way of saying, "Ok, we treat you like an angry bitch, but we really do see you as a woman." Yes, I know the feminist in me should be angry/offended/whatever, according to some.

Instead, it just makes me go "Awwwwwwwwwwww" and melt. It's a slip of the tough mask usually worn with me, and I find that very endearing.

And in the case of today's cleric, I was taken aback because this is someone who usually gives me no quarter - he's almost always unrelentingly tough with me, though ever polite and kind. Today, there was an undercurrent of gentleness and affection in his voice that was as heartwarming and welcome as it was unexpected - and something I never expected to hear till the day he gave me extreme unction.

Feminist I may be, but that doesn't preclude me wanting to be a wife and mother -
and I find it very moving when others tell me they wish that for me. After all, feminism was always about opportunity and CHOICE, not contempt for those who don't make the same choices we do.

Oh, collared friend - you've been rumbled, you big softie. :-)

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