I just spent a couple of days at the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware Annual Convention, where I was a delegate. Yup, Church Lady Extraordinaire, that’s me.
Anyway, no matter how tiny the state is (and it is), how deep my roots go in it (very), or how high the chances are of finding folks I know at any venue in the state (my understanding is that, mathematically speaking, you’re never more than 2 people away from anyone here…), it was a room full of strangers, which is my idea of hell. Still, I was glad to go. Episcopal church politics have been a fairly intense concern of mine for some time now, and getting to look at things from a broader perspective was bound to be interesting.
But back to the room full of strangers. Which they mostly were. Part of my horror at the prospect has to do with being, by nature, kind of shy. I have some skills–I can actually talk to strangers if I have to, and can do a pretty decent pretense of being socially functional, but I stink at small talk beyond the initial stage, and there’s the Other Thing. You know, the FAT thing. I am always conscious, always, that the first thing anyone sees is my size, and am always very aware of the autonomic judgements that go along with it. It’s easier, of course, when you’re at something like a diocesan convention, where the tribal currency is dedicated churchiness rather than looks, or even brains–where the fact that you’re there means you have a fair amount in common with everyone else there. And it helps that Episcopalians, generally speaking, are a pretty polite and good humored bunch. All that helps, but it doesn’t change the facts.
I wore my new, custom-made boots, which also helped. They’re kind of magical (check out http://www.sodhoppers.com–mine are fairly plain and all black) and make me feel almost invincible (definitely wearing them tomorrow for the first day of classes…). Armor helps. Lots of things “help.” But they don’t change the core reality. And, God, it’s tiring.
Anyway, Convention turned out to be fun. We passed some awfully good resolutions (calling for an end to the Death Penalty in DE and for more restrictive gun laws–also taking a shot at bringing younger folks to Convention in the future) and heard an extraordinarily fine speaker, and laughed a lot. Delaware is not, historically, a very contentious diocese. And I talked to some very nice strangers and hung out with some very nice friends and maybe said a thing or two that helped get the resolution about younger delegates moved forward. So it was good. And worth the heart-thudding fear of all those strangers.
I did notice something, for the first time. I automatically started looking for other fat women. Not to count them (my attention span’s not that good), just to see what sort of proportional representation we had–to see how much I’d be standing out (aside from standing out because of the coolness of my boots). There was a higher proportion than might have been expected, which was a comfort. It wasn’t until a couple of hours had gone by that it occurred to me that I hadn’t even thought to look for fat men. Does this mean that until they hit super-sizes, fat men don’t register as anomalies? That they’re even more invisible in some way than fat women (I don’t think so, unless it’s in a sort of good way…)? That I don’t recognize them as members of my tribe? That all those priests in black were just not registering as large, even though a goodly portion of them are? I don’t know. It could even have been a function of the gradual disappearance of men from churches (though you couldn’t have guessed it from the proportion of men who were delegates–leading one to think that perhaps they are maintaining their dominance in church affairs without maintaining their numerical presence in churches…which is kind of a disturbing thought). Anyway, I was comforted to have enough sisters-in-plumpitude there to make me feel normal, and didn’t much care about round dudes. And, of course, everybody loves a fat monk–we make them into cookie jars…