Long post. BTW.
A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to a meeting at the church, which, she said, was an intentionally-not-publicized meeting to go over the New Hampshire Bishop thing, talk about the church's positions regarding it.
I thought that was bound to be interesting, and owing to recent events in my life, something I should probably at least be aware of. I don't consider myself a Christian (though perversely, I do occasionally think of myself as an Episcopalian, or at least an Episcopagan). So I mulled it over, and decided to go along with her to the meeting. It was being run by one of the most intensely dull, but non-judgemental, priests I've ever met (I'm not really sure he's Christian.)
I'm terribly up-tight about anything sexual in nature, it's not just one of the many acts I put on, that whole area of human experience is hard for me to discuss. It was about three months before it was widely known that me and my ex-girlfriend were dating. I think the only time I've even asked someone out was once to an eighth grade dance. I'm normally very social, but I have MAJOR difficulties in this entire sphere. It's still causing me trouble.
This meeting, as it turns out, was hush-hush because it was the formative meeting of the church's gay and lesbian group--it was originally meant to be strictly the G&Ls of the church, but they decided to risk inviting a priest and close friends. There wouldn't have been a crowbar big enough to get me into that room if I'd known that. Yeah, I'm a little bit homophobic. That whole "too close to home" thing. My hackles immediately went up, but, okay, I could deal with that. I mean, there was nobody in the room that was going to judge me, it was confidential and hush-hush for a reason. We weren't talking total anonymity, but there seemed to be an understanding that this was a safe space.
I used to be one of the most well-known people in the church, before I dropped off the radar a few years back after I went agnostic. I still work at the church's bookstore--which my mother runs--nearly every weekend, though I'm having a vacation now. And I've been going to the church for a good 12 years. So I knew at least half the people there--I'd been on the welcome team for a few of them, helping bring them into the church. One of them had been my fave youth sponsor. So, suddenly finding myself a member of the church gays and lesbians, well, I can almost handle that. I even decided I'd attend the next discussion group--the first one had been interesting and informative, if demonstrating a degree of rhetorical bias and spin-doctoring in describing how the Old Testament never really had anything much to say about gays.
I was irritated when the church's rector wandered in, said "I'm so glad y'all are here, I'm leaving now." 'Course, I hate priests.
But I'd made up my mind to go to the next meeting, this Tuesday. I have some stuff I need to work through. This could help.
So, this Sunday, being today, I have a big church book table to do. I load up my little mitsubishi with $2000 odd worth of merchandise, sell $200 of it, load the rest back in, come back to the church, where my mother--my Republican, Christian mother, a gentle soul though she is, and there's been a lot of recent grief in my life that I haven't told her about--she keeps asking me about how my relationship with this one really sweet woman is going, and I keep telling her it's going no-where, we're just not compatible, which is probably true anyhow, I just can't make myself say "well, she wants marriage, and I'm trying to work up the courage to ask this one guy out," I feel like it would make her head explode. I didn't want to talk about it until there was a non-academic reason to bring it up anyhow.
Grammatically incorrect place for a paragraph break. Don't care.
Did I mention that I haven't been to a church service in two years? I hardly set foot in the church except to get coffee and work in my mother's book shop. Where I used to be a regular fixture, it's now a surprise to see me there. My mother knows that I actively dislike being in the church. The hypocrasy--non-religious, I still love Christianity, I'm just not a Christian--the political hypocrasy, the shameless abuse of the church's resources for personal gain--it sets me into screaming fits. I'm also loathe to give up my personal time for it.
Anyway, I'm unloading books, and my old youth sponsor, who I care a lot about, and her partner, who I've yattered with about digital photography, but I wouldn't consider us friends--wander in to the bookshop. My mother's planning her Spring Break skiing trip with the church youth group. While my mother's nearby, she asks me if I'm going skiing. I say "No, I'm not a skier, I'm staying home." She then startles me by saying "Okay, well, are you going to the meeting this tuesday?"
You know how in stories about martial arts, or supernatural fiction where the character has astonishing reflexes that seem to slow down time so that they can act at a leisurely pace in, say, a firefight? I suddenly find myself in "Deception Mode," where the universe slows down so that everything registers with all its weight in the paranoia section of my brain. I say, "Yes, I'd planned to." Patricia, standing where Murphy's Law told her to stand, says "What kind of a meeting?" I say "Just a study [boring priest] is putting on."
She seems to accept this, but the equation is "Jacob + Going to a Church Meeting = Something Weird." I start shelfing books again.
Then, partner girl, who has suddenly gone from "important to a friend" to the same sector of my brain as Stupid Fox Boy and Star Trek Boy, does it again, and as if to emphasize it--probably the whole "this is a just-us sort of thing, but I'm glad to have you there, and I want you to know that you're valuable" does it AGAIN, saying "And you're coming to the meeting this Tuesday, right?"
I make a grunting noise of some sort. Probably a yes. I'm really upset now, and starting to see the down-hill slope of the roller coaster. "Good, see you there," she says, and they leave.
Patti--my mother--presses for a bit. I try to give her enough information that she'll go away--she didn't know about this, and she knows EVERYTHING in the church. "Now what's this about a meeting?"
She's my mother, she's used to me being evasive. I'm naturally somewhat dishonest anyhow. So I try to guess how much information she wants. It's a discussion, I said, about the New Hampshire bishop, and the church's response to it. "I haven't heard anything about this." non-committal grunting noise. Interesting subject matter, I said. Dull priest, though. "You're going to this meeting? That's really strange." Repeat, I thought it sounded interesting. "You don't even like [priest.]" Repeat self. "What was the meeting again?" Repeat self. Phone rings. Go to enter previous LJ entry, the recent poem, which up until the rest of this had really made my day quite nice.
I'm not happy. I'm really upset, and feeling a little sick. And a lot betrayed. This sequence of events can really only go one way, no matter what I do. I know, I'm overreacting, I'm just screaming in text because I'm really, really upset right now.