Nudist Colony Disappointment

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Long before Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl mishap added the term “wardrobe malfunction” to popular American vernacular, I coined my own original phrase for the many clothing disasters I have endured throughout my troubled social life. It is the simple sentence, “Oh no–I think my pants just ripped.”

The signalling rush of cool air through my seat area usually sets off a panicky search for a wall to back up against. In lieu of walls or trees or even a drinking fountain to hover in front of, I often grip the back of whatever chintzy pants or shorts I’m wearing and look for a gracious way to reverse walk out of public view. Of course, the act of walking backwards carries with it the potential of even worse hazards and so these moments have never ended well.

I can’t explain why I seem to be the victim of more pants-ripping than most people. I don’t wear my pants too tight and I try to steer toward sensible, sturdy fabrics. I think it has more to do with my tendency toward jerky, quick movements. I’m always rushing, and when that is combined with my clutziness–I drop things constantly and subsequently must bend over a lot–my clothing is put to the test. And more often than not, it flunks those tests.

For a time, I carried a tiny sewing kit in my purse. I even used it once. But once was all it took for me to find out that the snippet of thread that the kit contained would never be enough to sew up one of my signature San Andreas Fault-sized rips. I’ve also resorted to stapling a few rips with an office stapler, but that repair method always leaves odd puckers that make it look like I have a seat full of gravel or something.

It was the  discovery of duct tape for fabric repair that considerably reduced the severity of my clothing emergencies.

Hmm. Wait–before I go any further, the topic of fabric repair has just brought another childhood memory to the surface. I suddenly have a mental picture of my grandparents’ recliners stationed in front of their big RCA wood cabineted TV. I remember how they kept an end table between their two chairs that was always fully stocked with nail clippers, reading glasses, candy bowls, and of course, the two most important articles every devoted TV watcher in the 1970’s owned–the TV Guide mini magazine and the amazing remote control, something still quite novel for working class families back then.

I loved that remote. We didn’t have one at our house. As the person who usually sat on the floor in front of the TV at home, I was the remote. Obeying the whims of the watchers, I slid back and forth on the sculpted carpet, garnering plenty of static charges as I operated the clicking channel dial and the volume knobs.  I took a lot of electric hits, needless to say. Maybe enough to add up to a modern Tase or two. It’s a good thing we only got a few channels and we always sat through all the commercials.

Everybody sat through commercials back then. Commercial breaks gave people an opportunity to go to the bathroom and replenish their snack bowls. It probably wasn’t until sometime around the year 1985 that it dawned on Americans that they could watch something else between commercials. That must have then coincided with the start of antibiotic overuse and subsequent resistance as Americans began to experience a huge upsurge in the number of bladder infections from that time on.

But I digress. Back to fabric repair and then back to wardrobe malfunctions and then I promise I’ll get to the Pharisees’ clothing issues. Hang in here with me, please.

I was going to say that my Grampa’s recliner was upholstered in olive green vinyl. Even though the vinyl made for a really noisy and skin-rippingly sticky sitting experience when wearing shorts, it was an easy material to repair if damaged.

I’ll never forget how afraid I was to show Grampa the hole my pointy scissors made in the arm of his chair when I was cutting out paper dolls while watching The Price is Right. I was worried that I was going to be in big trouble because I had made a really big slit in the vinyl, but Grampa didn’t get upset at all. He just went to the kitchen, pawed around in the junk drawer, and came back with a piece of olive green patching vinyl and a book of matches. He then proceeded to wave the lit match above the slit until the material softened and placed a teensy piece of patch over it. He heated it up again, rubbed over the patch, and, voila!, good as new.

I’ve sometimes entertained the idea of owning vinyl pants.

That was, until I discovered duct tape.

My first brush with duct tape for fabric repair happened one day when, while doing my job as a part time highway contract mail carrier, I stupidly didn’t question the unusual amount of cool air that was flowing through the back of my jean shorts. After hefting bags of mail into the miniature post office at my route’s termination point and stopping to mingle with the customers, I discovered in the restroom that a huge rip had occurred sometime earlier and was irreverently displaying a (ahem) derriere cheek for all the world to see.

Mortified, I asked one of the ladies I had been visiting with why she hadn’t pointed this out to me and she replied that she “thought it was intentional.” What? It might have been the era of 90’s grunge, but I was a church pianist, for heaven’s sake—not a brazen hussy intentionally running around in public with my leopard-print panties roaring for attention from all the farmers and fisherman in the post office!

It was a scorching Montana prairie day and so I had no jacket or extra clothing with me. I was forty-five miles from home and I still had to finish my route. Thank goodness the postmistress had duct tape. Holding back tears of intense embarrassment, I patched my shorts from the inside, praying the rip would stay closed. It did. But I’ve had to put seven hundred miles between me and that place now to escape the humiliation of that moment.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last of such moments.

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So, finally, this brings me around to the subject of Pharisaism. Specifically to Mark 12:38:

“Jesus also taught: ‘Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.'” (NLT)

To me, the point of this reference isn’t so much about the clothes themselves, as it is about the flowing and parading of said robes. It sounds like these guys were showing off, like they were purposefully using their clothes to attract attention. And they were. Several commentaries mention that the Pharisees wore special robes to signify their position as religious gurus and to keep them visually separated from the common Jewish people.

They were a prime example of ostentation, which the dictionary defines as, “pretentious or conspicuous show; display intended to impress others.”

They wore these ostentatious robes, then, like fancy sandwich board signs. Like they were advertising their superior positions and intellectual greatness.

Before I come down too hard on the Pharisees, though, I have to say that we all use our clothing to say something or other about us. It’s natural. Even people who are adamantly against following fashion trends are telling us just that by wearing plain, utilitarian clothes. The only way to escape using clothes as a message about ourselves would be to revert back to a Chinese Red Revolution-style uniform code for all of society. Mao suits for everyone.Yay.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with diverse clothing choices. We all need to express our unique selves through our wardrobe from time to time. (Within the boundaries of modesty, of course.) But, using clothing to try and be someone we’re not can have silly consequences, indeed. Trust me, I know.

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The problem with the Pharisees’ robes was that it was yet another example of externalism–of trying to make the outside look like something that the inside just doesn’t match. Jesus called the Pharisees on this on many separate occasions, but they couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about. Most of them just tried even harder to prove their superiority to him.

The disease symptom of superiority was particularly vexing for me as a Pharisaism sufferer. I simply thought that, as a Christian, I was truly better than most people. I certainly would never have said that, but looking back, I see now how I really did feel that way about myself and my fellow believers.

I donned a religious persona, an ostentatious way of presenting myself and my beliefs that I thought would impress others. It made me think that I was above ordinary sinners, that through all my extensive bible study and worship, I had achieved a higher standing in regular society.  I displayed my lofty knowledge by speaking out and by being instructional at every opportunity to make sure no one would miss how exceptional I was as a devoted Christian.

I wore my spirituality robe like a sandwich board.

But it didn’t impress anyone. In fact, it only served to keep me separate, apart. And tragically so, considering the very ones I was trying to impress were the ones that I could have learned the most from. I wasted a lot of time parading about in a sandwich board when I could have been sitting quietly at a table with all kinds of ordinary, but really very wise sinners.

Eek! Well now–will you look at the clock?! I’VE GONE WAY OVER TIME AGAIN! Oh man–now my post title has nothing to do with the content so far and you’re probably feeling quite let down. I’m sorry.

I haven’t even gotten to my main point yet. I was about to talk about how clothes are also meant to cover stuff up and how we can make things look really good on the outside when they’re really awful underneath. And then I had planned to tell a story about an electrician I knew once who was overjoyed to win a bid on a rewiring project in a building at a nudist colony, but his experience didn’t pan out the way he had hoped it would.

He was greatly disappointed to find out that young, toned women generally don’t join nudist colonies. Aging, overweight people do. It was one giant wardrobe malfunction with nary anything even close to a Janet Jackson physique anywhere to be seen.

He regretted accepting the job there.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that truly wise, honest, reliable, God-fearing people don’t’ bother to drape themselves in layers of ostentation.

It’s generally the insecure, bloated, self-righteous Pharisees who do that. So it’s best to stay away from their colonies. You might see them stripped of their outside adornments and then you’ll find out they’re mushy like the rest of us.

It won’t be near as spiritually thrilling as you had hoped.

You’d regret accepting a job there.

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