Monday, January 4, 2010

Goody Goody Two-Shoes

What does that expression mean, anyway? I've never known troublemakers to wear a different number of shoes than well-behaved people. Granted, if you run across someone in the street who's only wearing one shoe, you're likely looking at a problematic situation. But I've known plenty of bad people who wear two shoes. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you about a most unique experience I had over the holidays: the Church Chum Party. You already know that I sing in a band at church, but I haven't told you much about the other members. In fact, I know very little about them. We've all basically gotten together only for practices every month for almost a year now. One of the newly married couples in the group decided it was time we all sat down for some proper socializing.

The players were: Ken and I, the host (and group leader) and hostess, another set of newlyweds (piano and bass guitar), our drummer, and a cute Korean exchange student who barely has half-a-dozen words of English at her command, but is remarkably cheerful. The exchange student is our backup piano player.

I always have a dilemma when visiting someone else's home for the first time. I'm as poorly insulated as Ron's house, so I like to know in advance what environment I should be dressing for. Will they have the thermostat turned down to 68 degrees? Or, since this event was billed as a fondue party, should I be prepared to swelter in the presence of many small pots of fire?

I figured the two factors would even each other out, so I dressed for a moderate temperature, and brought a pair of slippers along for good measure. What I should have done was wear my snowpants, boots, and a parka, and politely decline to leave any of the above in the coatroom. That lovely, spacious, character-filled post-war flat was chilly as a refrigerator. They had a fire going in their honest-to-goodness wood-burning, brick fireplace, but a couple of the girls parked themselves in front of it like cats and absorbed all the heat. My little slippers were no defense against the artic drafts that blew across the highly polished floorboards.

Not to worry, I told myself. I'll have some nice hot dinner. That'll warm me up. Sure. Picture this: eight hungry people fighting for cooking positions at two tiny fondue pots. You skewer a wee bite of food on your fondue fork, throw it in the pot, and watch the clock for three minutes before you can eat that bite and start cooking another one. Did you know that three minutes is a very long time in between bites of dinner? Try it with your regular dinner tonight. I dare you.

The host and hostess had gone to a great deal of trouble to set out a lovely spread, with all sorts of yummy tidbits and sauces, but I was cold and hungry. I tried very hard to feel grateful and not get too cranky.

Fortunately there was a kick-ass dark chocolate fondue for dessert. That made up for some of my complaints.

Then the conversation turned to matters religous. The bass player, a theology student, had a lot of Opinions and his wife, the pianist, was quick to second everything he said. Brows furrowed and the atmosphere grew earnest. Some people offered stories of how they felt they had served The Lord, and others reminded the storytellers to beware the sin of pride. The conversation struggled in an uncomfortable no-man's land between peoples' desire to come across sounding Holy and Knowledgeable vs. their desire to come across as humble and self-effacing.

I offered up a couple of opinions and found that people were disagreeing with me. Except I didn't even understand what their basis for disagreement was. Either I had expressed myself poorly, or they had gotten the wrong end of the stick, because I couldn't find any difference between what we were saying. I tried to clarify the matter and came away no further ahead. Eventually I sat back and let the eager folks keep track of who had put their hand up when, in order not to interrupt each other. It was truly unlike any other party I've ever attended.

It seemed to go on for hours, but I thought that was just my icy feet talking. In fact, the Korean exchange student looked at me worriedly and showed me the face of her wristwatch: 12:30 am!! Good grief. She whispered "When finish?" I was like "Now, if I have anything to say about it!" I grabbed my guy, my coat, and we made tracks out of there, leaving a hurried trail of thanks and take care's behind us.

I had a lot more fun on New Year's Eve with our secular friends. Our church friends are wonderful people, but I'm still not sure exactly how to deal with their angle on things.


Jameil said...

Sigh. Church friends are most certainly another ball of wax. It's sometimes hard to find ones who don't fancy themselves holier than thou, correcters of all (in undergrad we called them the Christian Coalition), but THEY DO EXIST. Just like the commercial of the talking M&Ms meeting Santa but less rare. Lol. You will probably meet more of these irritating, wearisome types, but don't let that discourage you from potentially finding open-minded churchies.

Anonymous said...

If your body isn't insulated properly, then insulate it. Here's how. Eat donuts, pancakes, french toast, fried chicken, french fries, hamburgers. In other words, fatty carbs. They keep you warm. It takes a nasty chill to get me cold because my diet consists mostly of insulating foods.

And the word verification today is "greavi" which is quite close to "gravy." Gravy being an awesome thing to dip your food into. Also, quite good to eat with a spoon.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I'm so totally insulated. I go outside with the snow and ice with my jacket open and quite often I will still reach up to wipe a bead of sweat from my brow. I also sound a lot like a walrus when I cough or laugh....

I'm not much of a social or social religious person, but to me it seems that when people feel the need to talk church they really want to correct whats wrong with your point of view, which doesn't work for me :-) very much.

Karen said...

LOL. Thermostat turned DOWN to 68? I keep my house between 62 and 65. It goes to 55 over night. At 68 the air condition would probably be coming on.

Ily said...

Isn't it funny how there seems to be more arrogance and judgment amongst churchfolks? I used to attend a weekly Bible study at my brother's house and all hell broke loose when I asked a simple question once (I never went back). Everyone looked at me like, "who let the heathen out?" Honestly, I just wanted answers and I got horrible stares and uncomfortable silence before my brother spoke up with all his God-given wisdom. I am a Christian, but I prefer to hang out with down-to-earth secular friends who aren't know-it-alls than with certain so-called Christians.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Too bad it wasn't the great fun you'd hoped. But here is my wish for a Happy New Year anyway, belated as it is. May 2010 be filled with warm feet and fulfilling meals. :)

LL Cool Joe said...

I always find that any house we visit feels cold. I've learnt the art of layers. 2 shirts, hoodies and a jacket. I may look like the michelin man man but at least I'm warm.

Everytime I've had a fondue the damn thing I'm dipping drops off the skewer and I end up with nothing at all.

Kate said...

I completely refuse anymore to be engaged in religious conversation. It is meaningless and petty if you ask me. I know I have serious baggage, but if you're trying to convince someone of your opinion or if you think your opinion is the only one worth having, I've completely written you off from the get-go. If you don't have tolerance, then I have no time for you. I'm horrible. I know.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: Our drummer is a more-or-less regular guy, and one of the other singers is pretty awesome (but she skipped the party). That's about a 20% proportion of down-to-earth people, which I can live with. If they were all uptight, I wouldn't hang out with them. It's just that the people with more to prove hijacked the conversation all night. We were outnumbered.

WIGSF: I've been packing in as many fatty carbs as I can manage: french fries; shiny, crispy Chinese food; burgers; chocolates; cookies... I'm one of those people you hate because I can't gain weight even if I try. Although I don't try too hard. I pay a lot for my designer jeans. It would be a pity to outgrow them.

Ron: I know a guy who caught the C. Difficile virus. He lost 100 lbs in 6 months. I think he started out at around 250. I know for sure that if I caught that bug I would die. Either that or I'd be the smallest person in the world, tipping the scales at 17 lb. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to have a few pounds to spare.

Karen: Seriously? Girl, you are polar! My thermostat is at 74 when I'm at home and awake, and 70 overnight. I sleep with three blankets, a duvet, a fake-fur throw, and sometimes a hat and scarf.

Ily: I was at a Bible study just like that! There was a video presentation during which some conceited jerk encouraged his students to sneer at the "unsaved". I pointed out that his condescending attitude wasn't very Christly, and I got slammed. I didn't go back either.

darcknyt: Yes, warm feet is what I wish for! I have a wonderful cloth bag of beans that heats up in the microwave and fits at the bottom of my bed to bring my toes back to life after evenings like that.

Joe: Layering is what it's all about. A hat or hood goes a long way in a cold house. And yes, it's frustrating when you lose your food in the fondue pot. I managed to hang on to all my food bits, but only because I watched the pot like a hawk and protected my fork from gratuitous jostling by competing forks.

Kate: I am leaning towards your point of view, although I don't have such strong feelings about it as you do. Mostly I'm interested in discussing questions such as "Was I as loving, patient, and kind as I could have been today? What obstacles were in my way, and how can I grow in such a way that I do better in the future?" That's not so much about opinions, but about personal exploration, disclosure, and mutual support. Debating points of theology is much less important than asking that type of personal question. It's a shame too, because so much can be done in a group setting when it comes to mutual support, if we ask the right questions.

Jameil said...

i'm sorry. i had to come back. did you say sneer at the "unsaved"??????? oh that will REALLY bring people to Jesus! way to be a missionary. and from a teacher who some people will listen to and think everything he says is the gospel. UGH!!!!! Exactly why people leave churches and refuse to talk to Christians. not Christ-like indeed!!

G said...

I find having discussions about religion is a great minefield to manuever about in.

Having said that, I find that in my little slice of the world, discussion about religion can be as uniting as oil and vinegar.

I think over the past couple of years, I've learned alot about religion without really speaking about it much. I have friends/acquaintences who run the gamut from born again/deeply spiritual to agnostic to Wiccan, who I've found to be for the most part, incredibly open minded.

It's tough to find that right mix of people who don't come across with a holier than thou attitude. But I'm sure with time, you'll have no problem in finding a great eclectic group of religious and secular people to hang ten with.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: Exactly. It's so obvious! How can people manage to miss that simple point?

G: I have sussed out a handful of people who I can spiritually agree with over the years. Two of them go to my church, others are new age, or uncatagorized. I find it's always worst when you get a bunch of similar people together and they start trying to impress each other. They may even come across as more uptight than they truly are, due to peer pressure. I know I keep my thoughts mainly to myself with my church friends.

Jenski, PhD said...

I'm not a fan of the blunt-force, no discussion type of religious discussion. Maybe, somehow, your group needs to discuss other shared topics to get to know each other? Like music?