I’VE had my hair chopped very short to start 2019. It’s my practice to change my “do” drastically to reflect new times, places, and projects. Mostly, it has been well received — my two small sons have even said I can now be in their gang — and I was feeling confident, until someone in church circles said, “Ah, the classic vicar bob.”
I have been pondering this comment, but am still unsure of the insinuation: female vicars don’t have long hair because they are — too sensible? Too masculine? Too busy to groom long locks? I often encounter debate about women vicars’ attire, but I hadn’t realised that this scrutiny extended to hairstyling.
Lo and behold, however, a quick search of some of the clergy social networks yielded all sorts of practical reasons that female priests would opt for short crops: for example, “to stop kids grabbing it during christenings”, or “to stop long hairs getting in the communion wine”, and even “to reduce the amount of ‘mansplaining’ after the service”.
It didn’t stop me feeling irritated. And, besides, it’s not a bob: it’s a pixie cut.
Eye of the beholder
MY ORDINATION studies have recently involved exploring various psychometric personality-testing tools as part of a module on Christian leadership. I have been subjected to Myers-Briggs in the past, but I had never encountered Bioenergetics analysis: a type of therapeutic assessment which suggests that we all carry emotional trauma that will influence our personalities, and that this, in turn, creates identifiable body types.
Type 1s, for example, supposedly felt unsafe as children: subsequently they are wary and cautious as adults, and their bodies become contracted and narrow. Type 3s were overly controlled in childhood; so they become power-hungry adults who are likely to be barrel-chested; and so on.
Despite the dubious science and worrying potential for objectification, I was prepared to give Bioenergetics the benefit of the doubt, finding some value in its emphases on vulnerability and embodiment. That was, until I discovered my own type: Type 4, apparently known for their collapsed waists, florid complexions, and tired eyes. Perhaps I’ll take the “vicar bob” comment after all.
MY HUSBAND and I have made a joint New Year resolution to spend less time on our phones. Like the majority of our generation of millennials, we sleep with our phones within arm’s reach, check our phones if we wake in the night, and even take them with us to the loo. So the new rule is no phones upstairs, or at table, or during any interaction with another person in the household.
This was trickier to enforce, however, when my parents came to stay, as their phone addictions are equally serious — the difference being that, while I’m resisting the temptations of social media, they are gaming. All evening, my father will whoop and sigh and shriek, immersed in a virtual golf tournament, as Mum settles into her so-called “brain training” puzzles that claim to stave off dementia.
I presented her with some research showing that the best exercise for brain fitness is actually half an hour of engaged conversation every day. “Yes, dear,” she replied, “if you’re worried about that, we can have a little chat in a minute — right after I’ve beaten my top score.”
I TOOK some real gold, frankincense, and myrrh into my kids’ school for Epiphany — or, rather, I took in several broken pieces of frankincense. These items had previously been used at the crib service, where a brawl had broken out between the Three Wise Toddlers over the assignment of gifts for the baby Jesus.
None of them had wanted myrrh, because it resembled a stone rather than a treasure. It didn’t matter how much I assured Wise Toddler Three that, despite its unremarkable appearance, myrrh was perhaps the most important of all the gifts in its foretelling of the Easter story; he would not be consoled.
It was one of those demoralising all-age services at which everyone is overtired at the end of a long term, and a bit distracted. But, as ever, the children’s thoughtful prayers told a different story: “Dear God, please save people from the soon army” (not, I realised later, reference to an imminent invasion but to the Indonesian tsunami in the days before Christmas); “Please help my mum’s friend who was in a car accident”; “For people with no home to have a lovely cuddle”. And I relearned my own lesson not to judge by appearances, assuming that children are not listening, when they are simply attending to the parts that really matter.
Heaven in ordinary
DURING the holidays, I was ecstatic to find a tiny pearl in an oyster bought from a seafood shack at Walberswick harbour, fortunately spying the rare gem seconds before it was doused in tabasco (in my humble opinion, the ultimate oyster accompaniment). Apparently, the chances of finding a natural pearl in an oyster are 1 in 12,000; but what are the chances of re-finding said pearl after one’s four-year-old goes through one’s handbag, opens the envelope housing the pearl, and accidentally tips it out onto the cream-coloured carpet?
As a belated Christmas present to myself, I have had the pearl set in a clasp and put on a silver chain, as a sign of the improbable and a reminder of the nearness of the extraordinary. I have not taken it off since.
Jemima Thackray is a freelance journalist and part-time ordinand.