On the return of Marguerite and Saint Peter at a matinee of Dreamgirls
The day before yesterday I was walking home from church and saw the woman whom Linus and I had encountered a couple of weeks earlier when she was visiting a friend. Since - in my mind - I usually give names to people I observe (you might recall I called this particular woman Marguerite) and even create entire backstories for them, upon seeing them again I have this bizarre sense that I know them, even if more often than not we've never really met. On many an occasion, I have subsequently warmly greeted someone - "Well hello, you!" - only to greeted by a blank stare in return, as the person tries to figure out how he or she knows me, and I realise that although I feel like I know "Trevor" - whose Elvis-loving girlfriend Mandy works as a hairdresser and is saving up money to get married at the Chapel of Love in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator before heading off to see Cirque du Soleil - all of that is, of course, in my head.
I was excited to see Marguerite again. She was walking on the other side of the street coming towards me and I shouted, "Well hello, you!" Instead of looking at me in confusion or anxiety wondering who the heck I was, our Marguerite played along and smiled and said "Well hello, you!" back. (Which didn't surprise me at all because I just knew - in my mind, anyway - that Marguerite's a good sport.) I'm not completely delusional - I know I don't really know this woman - so I didn't try to have an appropriately social-distanced conversation with her, I just took her smile and greeting as a kind of benediction and moved on as - in my mind, anyway - I know Marguerite intended it to be.
She was, once again, uniquely dressed. Whereas the first time I encountered her her hair had been apparently tied back with a bread wrapper, this time she seemed to have put her hand on a proper ribbon of fluorescent pink. Her multi-coloured poncho had been replaced by a short leather jacket, and she wore large, industrial.looking blue jeans that had a belt around them that seemed like it was made out of jute. (Knowing our Marguerite as I - in my mind, anyway - think I do, it is also entirely possible that it was just a piece of rope holding her jeans in place, like Ellie May used to wear in The Beverly Hillbillies.) Her jeans were rolled up to the middle of her calf and she wore black Doc Martins with footie socks that had tiny fluffy lime-green balls at the back of them. I get the sense that she's the kind of person who just knows how to throw different things together and make the most wonderful of ensembles, because both times I've see her she has just been stunning.
I had my hands full, and couldn't manoeuvre my phone well enough to make the notes that I frequently make, so I decided instead to dictate into my phone so that I wouldn't forget this latest encounter. I was saying quietly into my phone "fluffy lime-green balls" when Marguerite, turning right to head into the Lanes, locked eyes with me and graced me with the most captivating of smiles before being lost to the shadows of Bridewell Alley. I felt positively giddy.
I set the things I was carrying on the pavement because I wanted to write and not speak the following reflection: "Possessed of such a superlative interior beauty that it spills out, adorning her in ribbon and denim and leather, in the pinks and greens of kindness, in the warm acceptance of a smile."
All throughout the Scriptures there's a lot to be said about clothes, and I have to say I'm not on board with all of it. In our first lesson this evening we hear "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment." Where's the fun in that? With both blue jean-wearing women and lamé-clad drag queens having, at one time or another, served as my inspiration, I think the world would be a duller place if everyone paid too close attention to Deuteronomy's fashion comments. And in our second lesson, the First Epistle of Peter seems to be cut from the same grey cloth: "whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair or of wearing gold." If this is so, Saint Peter would be wildly uncomfortable at a matinee of, say, Dream Girls. (Great: now I will be unable to get the image of Saint Peter at a matinee of Dream Girls out of my head ...)
Beyond the larger - and admittedly far more important issue - of the fact that admonitions about dress in the Scriptures so frequently seem to be ways to control women and impose one particular view of gender, on another level I find them troublesome because they almost beg us to stop at the clothes themselves and not get to what is really more important: what is inside. If we believe what we sing in Psalm 66 "Say unto God, O how wonderful art thou in thy works" then that is nothing if not a mini-hymn to the beauty of humanity, that crowning creation of God. If we are, indeed, wonderfully made, then it seems to me that part of what makes us so is an interior disposition which is adorned with peace and compassion and creativity and love - which is exactly as our Saviour was adorned. It's an attitude of discernment which says that we understand what's important and will vest ourselves accordingly.
And then - back to fashion: whatever we end up wearing can demonstrate that we are aware of being the crowing creation of God: beautiful and decked in peace and creativity and love. And - who knows? - maybe someone will see us on the street and sense our golden beauty, and be inspired to write "Possessed of such a superlative interior beauty that it spills out, adorning her in ribbon and denim and leather, in the pinks and greens of kindness, in the warm acceptance of a smile."
I think I'm ready for a make-over.