We attended a local African Methodist Episcopal Church.
I wore my new yoga pants.
I mooned the congregation.
Let me start from the beginning.
Here’s the longer version of the church part of the story:
We’ve been searching for a place of worship since we moved to California. It’s not an easy task, as we hold a variety of theological beliefs in this family. When we discussed the matter, everyone agreed that we are all pretty firmly rooted in our theological leanings so racial and age diversity in a place of worship are more important than anything else. We also agreed that where we could not find racial diversity, we would prefer someplace attended mostly by black people over one attended mostly by white people. Why? Because having newly moved and just getting to know our new home, my two black children were spending far more time in a white world than my white child, my husband, and I were spending in a black world.
Thus the local AME church.
It was a lovely service. Gospel music is my favorite. Gospel music in an environment that encourages people to feel the music and move to the music is my happy spiritual place. We white people don’t excel at this. We prefer our church music in a tin can, tightly packed. Even when our church music is the praise kind, we so often sing it like we’ve never ever had a really good, cathartic cry.
In my experience, when a black church sings gospel music, you feel it in your bones. The morning at the AME church, the singing made me want to find joy even in the midst of the race war plaguing our nation right now.
Then I mooned the church.
Here’s the longer version of the pants part of the story:
I, like so many, am a huge fan of the yoga pant. They are the polyester pants, the muscle pants, the sweats of this era. Dress them up. Dress them down. Sleep in them. Dance in them. Silence the naysayers! Viva the yoga pants!
But no way am I spending $50.00 on a pair of pants that amount to a t-shirt for my legs. So I decided I’d make my own. I bought some inexpensive t-shirt fabric and went to town—pattern be damned!
They fit perfectly and I felt like I was wearing a warm, soothing bath. I paired them with a nice tunic to my husband’s work function and looked just lovely.
Did you know that t-shirt fabric, if sewn with the grain, will stretch over time just about endlessly, thus one must always either re-enforce the waistband or create the waistband against the grain? Or something like that.
I did not know this.
By the time we’d arrived at church, my waistband was nearly as useless to me as white church music. But I did not know this because 1. that warm bath feeling and 2. that cathartic, gospel music, singing-my-heart-out-and-forgetting-the-rest-of-the-world-exists feeling.
I swayed to the music, kind of smug that this former Lutheran pastor could keep up. My pants loosened a bit. I bowed my head in prayer and listened to the cacophany of congregationsal Amens. My pants slipped just slightly. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I stood to introduce my family when prompted and felt such pride in them. We basked in the warm welcome, the warmest we’ve felt since church shopping. I sat down without incident.
Then it was time to share the peace. The people at this AME really SHARE the peace; not the uncomfortable “we see that your family could single-handedly double the diversity of this church” kind of peace-sharing we often encounter; nor the “I’m not sure what to make of you because two of you kind of scare me but the white parents and the little red-head make me think you’re okay” kind of peace-sharing we also get; not even the “I hate this part of the service, but I do it anyway because we’re supposed to” kind of peace-sharing I am used to from an adulthood in the Lutheran church. It was a “get over here and hug me because I’m just happy to have you here” kind of sharing. I glanced at the kids and they all seemed comfortable, happy even. My two eldest, who far-too-frequently feel self-conscious about being the only black people in the room, seemed peaceful and at home. My son was beaming. I forgot about everything else in that moment—especially my pants.
I hugged a line of people and then turned to head quickly to the bathroom before the sermon.
It was the quickly part that undid what little waistband I had left.
Here’s the longer version of the mooning part of the story:
Facing away from everyone, my buttocks to the congregation, my pants fell straight from my body, right on down to my ankles.
And since I was wearing a long tunic, I did not bother with proper yoga pants underwear. Nope. These were the underwear a person wears when they’ve already crossed the threshhold of choosing comfort over style, the ones you wear and secretly pray that you won’t end up in the hospital or otherwise caught with your pants down.
And, while I was choosing comfort and ease above all else, I was handling my menstrual needs with a maxi pad—the kind with wings that wrap around and stick to the outside of the underside of ones underwear.
Too much information? Not something you’d ever want to share with the whole world? Yeah. I thought so too.
Also, I do not possess a petite little derriere that might be easily missed when exposed to an entire congregation of people. Nope. It is wide and large and screams, “I DON’T ACTUALLY DO YOGA IN THESE YOGA PANTS!!!”
That’s what people could see when I mooned the church: black and white, bunchy, not ever going to hold in an ounce of extra anything on this wide-load-white butt, granny panties with the wings of a maxi-pad wrapped around them.
At a speed I did not know I could muster, I pulled up my pants while running, arthritic joints and all, to the bathroom. I stood in the stall, trying to figure out my next step. Maybe, I reasoned, everyone was so caught up in the spirit of the peace-giving, that nobody noticed. Maybe I was making too much of it. I had been in the narthex when I mooned the church, after all, not in the sanctuary.
After about five minutes of trying to tuck the top of my awesome new yoga pants into my loose underwear while convincing myself that nobody had seen, I heard the voice of my youngest ask, “Mamma, are you okay? I saw your pants fall down.”
“Could you see my underwear?”
“You mean those old black and white ones? Yep. I saw them. I don’t think anyone else did, though.”
She’s a diplomat, that one.
I returned to church in time for more gospel music and sat in my seat, secretly thanking my shy daughters that we had not chosen a pew in front.
My family gave a me a look of part-sympathy, more-amusement. I circled the room with my eyes and every single person was laughing and pointing at me in slow motion.
Not really. That’s just how it felt.
But I did wonder why two of the ladies in choir, the choir facing straight into the narthex, were giggling throughout the song. And it was all I could think about—how I mooned the church, especially when the pastor said something about the safety of all people: people with hoodies, people listening to loud music, people with their “pants down to their ankles.” She did. She really said that.
Then the choir started to sing more loudly, the depth of it breaking through my cheap self-pity.
“I pray for you. You pray for me. I need you to survive,” they sang.
“I won’t harm you with words from my mouth. I love you. I need you to survive.”
I’ve spent so many waking moments with my black children, wondering if one of them could be the next victim of a shooting. I’ve processed all that is happening to young black people in this country with all my kids. I’ve watched what that kind of stress does to the psyche of a young black teen, especially ones who’d been through the rigmarole of an international, transracial adoption.
Now here I was, reeling from another set of racial incidents making the media rounds, listening to a room full of black people pouring out their hearts in song, singing “I need you to survive,” and I was worrying about my granny panties and thinking she meant me when she talked about low-hanging pants. Talk abut some whitecissism (white + narcissism = whitecissism).
The pastor spoke over the music, asking us to hold the hands of another person and sing it straight to them. “Sing it to someone you didn’t come here with this morning,” she shouted.
I watched as an elderly black woman took my teen black son’s hands and sang straight into his eyes, “I need you to survive”.
My middle-aged white husband and I sang straight into a middle-aged black man’s eyes: “I won’t harm you with the words from my mouth.” It was a hard line to sing because we both knew we had hurt black people with our mouths before and we would likely do it again, no mater how hard we would try not to.
My red-headed tween white daughter, breaking the protocol a bit, sang to her teen black sister, “I love you. I need you to survive.”
My granny-pantied bottom was the least of anyone’s worries that morning.
The service went on to a rousing sermon about racial tensions within our own communities, the hope we need to rise out of hundreds of years of oppression; the definition of “righteous indignation” and what it means to us today; how God told us in Genesis that we hold dominion over the earth, not over one another.
I’d like to say that all of that erased the silliness of my dropped pants from my mind, that I was bigger than even the big of my moon. I was moved and emotional over violence against black bodies, along with my children and every person sitting in those pews, but I still let my mooning incident overtake me as the service ended. I scooted my family out as quickly as possible.
Here’s the short version of the lesson I learned that time I mooned the AME church:
In the car on the way home, the discussion about church and how much we loved the music and the environment, turned to this:
- Standing in front of a church full of people of a different race than my own, with my bare buttocks to them all, is exactly how it feels for my two black kids every moment of every day that they are the only black people around — but especially lately as all eyes are on Ferguson and everyone has an opinion about black people because of it.
Can I get an Amen?!
My granny-pantied badonkadonk, as well as my whitecissism, have been churched.
And maybe, just maybe, another parent who has done little but think about racism and white supremacy and what they mean for their black children, walked away from church that morning with a little (or big, as the case may be) something to chuckle about for the rest of the week.