Tabs, shells, and Father Tuck

On the Friday that classes ended, I and two of my friends dashed to the Diocesan Bookroom to seek out clergy shirts. It is one of those things you feel you really don’t have the right to do until you are ordained, but how else are you supposed to have your clergy shirt on at the reception?!

First of all, why are womens’ shirts $25 more than mens’ shirts? And why do the women’s stock only fill two shelves while the men get a whole section? Message to manufacturers-we have been ordaining women for about 30 years now. It’s time to update your catalogues!

And who would have thought that neck size was so important? No one who wears pullovers 90% of the time (yep, that would be me).

Then there is the question of tab or full collar? Shell or button down? I’m going with a shell-which is a very light polyester blouse that buttons in the back to which you attach a full collar. But I also got the black standard button down for those moments when only the traditional will do.

As we were trying to decide between styles and colours and such, an incredibly helpful lady named Lorraine told us, “By the way, for your ordination, you must wear black”. This is one of those gnostic secrets that you learn as ordination looms on the horizon. Its about three steps below turning water into wine. Hmmm. Should I be sharing such secrets on my blog? Sure. I’ve never been a fan of the gnostics.

Since our local clergy shirt distributor is a book store, not a fashion house, we shuffled down the hall towards the bathroom, trying to avoid the eyes of clergy who may recognize us playing dress-up.

At this point I should pause and tell you my dream about wearing my clergy shirt. In my dream, I am in this exact bathroom, removing my albe after the ordination, and the time comes to put the tab in the collar. I put it in, look in the mirror, and immediately throw up in the sink.

When I went out to check the fit and show my friends, one turned to me, “Put it in”.
“The tab. Put it in.”
“Noooo. I’m not quite ready for that.”
“You have to. I did. You have to, too.” (If this is starting to sound like the bathroom at a high school dance, good, that means you are paying attention!)

So, I put it in, but didn’t look. “Look in the mirror,” my friends egged me on. “Not yet,” I replied, talk to me some more”. So they gave me their comments on the size, the cut. I talked about how I would have to shorten it so it looks less like a nightgown. After a few minutes, they would let me stall no longer.

I took a breath, and turned towards the mirror. I saw the shirt, the tab, began to see my hair, and immediately I turned away and ripped out the tab. “Nope! I’m not ready yet,” I exclaimed, and we all burst into giggles of laughter. I took a peek to make sure that woman with the clergy shirt and the red hair was not still behind the mirror somewhere.

We each had our own experiences with that little white piece of plastic that afternoon. I felt a bit like cheating. Although day by day it is becoming a little more real, it is not that real, just yet. I must confess, I like that moment of a magic trick when the bunny disappears, and you have just witnessed something impossible. It is the moment just before you realize that there must be a reasonable explanation. I don’t think this is supposed to be real, just yet.


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