to elaborate

First let me say that, while I am a fairly cynical person, I do recognize that seldom are things as bad as I think they're going to be. Particularly with respect to various artifacts of evangelical culture, I tend to become contempuous and horrified to an unnecessary degree, then I endure something, and I find out it's not nearly so bad as I expected. Maybe not to my taste, but not terrible.

That was not the case with MOPS.

The reason I went in the first place was because my friend Ginny has been inviting me for several months, and, while MOPS does not appeal to me, I do want to spend more time with Ginny. So she'd been bugging me about it for a while, so finally I said I would go.

Ginny did not show up.

However, my friend Jen, who is the MOPS hospitality maven, was there, so at least I saw one familiar face. The lady at the welcome table was quite kind; she sat me at Ginny's table. I got my very own blue star-shaped name tag! The theme, apparently, for this year is "Twinkle!" and all the tables are named after constellations or stars. Ginny sits at the Vega table, so I got to be a Vega, too. Yay.

Our places were already set for us so that we could get our soup and salad from the buffet line in the back, and in out little bowls were chocolates (nothing wrong with the chocolate-- yum) and pink and red construction paper heart magnets with Bible verses on them.

Let me repeat that: Pink and red construction paper heart magnets with Bible verses on them.

*sigh* I know someone spent a lot of time and effort cutting out all those construction paper hearts and gluing Bible verses and magnets onto them. I suppose it could be someone with a wicked sense of humour having fun with church lady stereotypes, but I fear not.

So after we all got our soup and salad and sat down, the evening began. The regular MC was out sick, and the sub happened to be one of the women from my table. So much the worse for me. One of the first things she did was ask all the newcomers to stand up. I was the only newcomer. I tried to shrink down and not be noticed, but she singled me out and prodded me (verbally) up.

Let me repeat that: I was made to stand up in front of everyone.

Then we all had to look at the underside of our heart magnets to see whose at each table had a star, and that person got a prize! My magnet did not have star, but the Vega ladies found the starred magnet at an empty set and pressed it upon me. Because I was the new lady. So I got a prize. I am now the proud owner of a pink heart-shaped cookie-cutter stencil type thingy.

Let me repeat that: Pink, heart-shaped cookie-cutter.

There were other humiliations, but I will not catalog them here. Suffice it to say that I was thoroughly traumatized.

Lest you think I am holding my sisters in contempt, I assure you that I am not. All of them, as individual human beings, seem to be kind, cheerful, good-hearted and unpretentious. It's just that when you put them all together in a room with some seriously misguided assumptions about a) what it means to be welcoming and b) what might appeal universally to women, you get a real horror show.

Evangelical assumptions about what it means to be welcoming (particularly with women, I think) are hard on us poor introverts. I know that all the attention and being singled out was born of a real desire to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I know that. But as it happens, if they knew me really well, and wanted to come up with a way to make me extraordinarily uncomfortable, they couldn't have done a better job.

The assumptions about what might be appealing to women make me actively angry. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to me that no one would even think a man would be comfortable in that room, surrounded by women and pink things and sparkly balloons and chirpiness. No one would expect a man to be anything other than miserable (unless he was a man with a particular sense of humour, I suppose). But the assumption about me, simply because I am female, is that I would actually enjoy that kind of thing-- when in actuality, I feel safe saying that I am as much if not more averse than a typical guy would be. Probably more, since I have to work harder to overcome stereotypes about my identity.

When the meeting was over I retrieved Colin from the nursery, plunked him into the van, turned on the iPod and played Johnny Cash's cover of Will Oldham's "I See a Darkness."

But it didn't help. I still see pink when I close my eyes.

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