When I was a kid, my parents tried out several different religions. (This is yet another of those things that seemed perfectly normal to me as a kid and when I grew up (ha) I realized it was something that not everyone did...like keeping butter in our cupboard rather than the refrigerator (it's a dairy product!)...and my parents going through a car wash naked.) (NOTE TO SELF: How have I not yet written about my parents going through a car wash naked?)
In our Goldilocks-esque approach to finding the perfect religion, we auditioned the Presbyterians, Protestants, Mormons, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals ("Catholic Lite" -- same religion...half the guilt), and even went to The Rock Church in Virginia Beach for a few services that involved people speaking in tongues and dancing in the aisles.
At one point we found ourselves attending Sunday services at the chapel on the Norfolk Naval base. Father Rich led the weekly sermon and was extremely dynamic and entertaining. He would incorporate puppets, elaborate costumes and music into his services to capture attention and make his messages relatable. (Apparently, it was a congregation made up exclusively of drag queens, three-year-olds and hallucinogenic drug abusers...)
My parents felt this place was a good fit (of course) and they were all like, "Ooh, Father Rich...he's young and his sermons are contemporary and he really relates to everyone." (Like people who like to go through car washes WITHOUT THEIR CLOTHES ON, for instance?)
Now, at this point in my young life, I was going through the tweener-unbelievably- self-conscious phase and what I wanted more than anything was to go unnoticed and draw as little attention to myself as possible. Having to go out in public traumatized me enough, without the added pressure of having to do the freaking meet-n-greet at the end of whichever church service we were attending. Every Sunday, I'd begin dreading the meet-n-greet about midway through church...enough so that I would almost hyperventilate thinking about it.
And although my goal in life was to blend into the background, I'm not quite sure how I hoped to achieve that in the inspired ensemble I had coordinated one particular Sunday, when I decided to wear hot pink chinos, a Hawaiian print shirt and black Candies heels -- pulled together with my preppy clasp belt (because the accessories make the outfit!). The Candies were new -- and they were my first real high heels. I was feeling about as good as I could about myself at the time and I do remember thinking that the heels made me look pretty hot.
After church, as we were lining up with the rest of the acrobats, meth addicts and bearded ladies to shake hands with Father Rich, I started panicking. I kept thinking about what I was going to say and how stupid I was going to sound and the fact that I probably had to make eye contact. WITH A PERSON. As the midget ahead of me finished shaking hands and it was my turn, I went to shake Father Rich's hand, misstepped in my new Candies, and tumbled down the stairs in front of the chapel. Yes, really. It was only a few steps so I was unhurt physically. But I looked up from my heap of haute couture to see several parishioners AND Father Rich...laughing so hard, I was sure he was going to wet his vestments. Et tu, man of the cloth?
God works in strange and mysterious ways. My early experiences did open my mind and ultimately lead me to my current religion...the one where I worship the Washington Post and a good cup of coffee on Sunday mornings.