By Sara McGinley
“I’m just buying socks.” she said.
“I’m going to a wedding today. And it’s so cold I need a pair of socks.”
She is a parishioner at the church.
My husband, Aron, is her priest.
She has just paid for her new black socks she’ll wear to a wedding later today.
She not only bought the new socks and showed them to me but she showed me her old socks and the shoes she’ll wear with the new ones.
Our conversation would be of no consequence, except that for the first time in my life I have just purchased underwear that doesn’t come packaged together. Pairs of underwear that aren’t white or cotton. Underwear that might get someone’s attention. I’m a bit shy about these fancy little panties, and so I have put them at the bottom of my cart and piled the cart with several things that I know I’ll return. I don’t want to flaunt these fun little invitations by purchasing them as if they have a purpose.
And now, one of Aron’s parishioners is talking to me while the woman at the check out is removing the panties from their tiny, tiny clothes hangers. Clothes hangers so small I’m not sure infant’s clothing would fit on them. Hangers so tiny that I think a man would have a hard time returning the panties in the proper fashion. Yes these are panties. Panties I tried to purchase discreetly.
And Aron’s parishioner is telling me about her wedding socks, I feel her notice the tiny, bright, sexy things on the counter.
I feel her notice them and I decide that I’ll pretend she doesn’t see. We go into an insane time warp where I’m noticing her notice. I’m deciding not to comment, but then her arm stretches to the little well-folded pile of underwear in front of me. Horror of horrors she picks up one pair of underwear – the brightest, most stringy pair. Her fingers rub the material almost as if to test out its strength and then she comments. Yes she not only notices my new underwear, she touches my new underwear and then she comments on my new underwear.
“Oh I see you’ve made much more exciting purchases here. Oh my how fun.”
I smile. And try to look calm. I mean honestly, it’s not like buying exciting underwear is a sin. I try to look calm, as if I don’t have some bizarre issue with spending extra money on something that I’m the only one likely to see. Well me and my husband. Yes me and her priest.
I smile and try to mask what I’m thinking in my head. I feel grateful those thought bubbles they have in cartoons don’t exist in real life because mine would be screaming: “Woman you’re touching my underwear!”
I decide while time is moving along as if each second is an entire minute to make a joke.
I don’t have one.
I just keep smiling.
While Aron’s parishioner just stands there with my underwear in her hand as if I’m going to tell her where I’ll be wearing my purchase tonight.
Then time comes back to normal. And she wishes me a good day and walks away. I watch as she leaves and think I can see my red underwear stuck to her shoe like a rogue piece of toilet paper trailing after her. I imagine the woman coming in the door telling her there is porn-star colored underwear on her shoe and her laughing and saying: “Oh this. This little thing. That’s not mine. That belongs to my priest’s wife. That’s her over there.”
I have to look twice to realize that the underwear are not on her shoe. Of course they aren’t. My red underwear are here on the counter safely out of her grasp.
I take my large bag to the car. I go grocery shopping and on the way home I stop and return the pair she held in her hand. I keep the rest.
The next Sunday, sitting in my usual pew, in my usual, boring underwear I think I detect knowing looks from a few women who are well connected to the church grapevine. I’m pretty sure my new purchases have become public knowledge. Suddenly, they see me as something more than the priest’s boring, comfortable wife. Maybe they aren’t comfortable with that.
Sara McGinley, irreverent priest’s wife and mother of two, writes the blog subtly named, Sara McGinley. She is a lay person from Minnesota who thinks the term ‘lay person’ is unnecessarily suggestive.