Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bathing Suits And You

What, oh what does the discerning pastor wear to the church pool party?

NOT, as one wise reader has determined, a bathing suit.

God, no.

Darling dears, we all know that bodies are beautiful. We all know that God loves our bodies as they are, and wants us to take care of them and be good stewards of them. In the best of all possible worlds, we could just strip down to our bikinis in front of our congregants and just be regarded as another healthy body that God hath fearfully and wonderfully made.

However, in case you haven't noticed, we don't live in the best of all possible worlds. We live, in fact, in a clergy generation that must be incredibly sensitive to boundary issues. Therefore, walking around scantily clad for any reason is not advisable for men and women of the cloth.

PeaceBang got herself into quite a little mess around this issue when she was cast as Miss Hannigan in a recent production of "Annie" and found herself arguing with her director about one of her first act costumes. Much against her will, even though the show was on a stage 30 minutes away from her town, PeaceBang did appear in a very flimsy outfit, including thigh-high stockings and a garter belt. She did have the benefit of a robe to cover herself, but I'm afraid that cleavage was very much in evidence, as was leg. Her only consolation was that the lights were very low in the scene, and that she was playing a hugely comic role. Still, if she didn't have a fantastic congregation full of mature, understanding people who themselves adore the musical theatre and fully support her in playing singing and dancing alcoholic child abusers, she might have caused a bit of a scandal. She is seriously grateful that her people who attended the show were right proud of her, and made sure to say so. If any of their estimation of her was lowered by that outfit, PeaceBang has to accept those consequences.

Phew. You can tell that PeaceBang still has some residual anxiety about that one, can't you? Next time she does a show she will definitely put a costume clause in her contract.

ANYway, my modest cupcakes, while men may be able to appear in swimming trunks and still maintain a modicum of dignity wet and half-nekkid, PeaceBang doesn't recommend it for ladies or gentlemen. It's not just about dignity, but about sexuality, I'm afraid, and about boundaries. If you're splashing around in the pool, how can you have that nice conversation with that shy person who's been waiting for just the right time to sidle up to you and let you know that he really appreciated your sermon on depression, and that he has seen a doctor, and that he is on medication and he thanks you for tackling such a difficult subject from the pulpit?
How are you going to keep that kid from the youth group or that new member who has a crush on you from fixating on your bosom, your pecs, or your belly button? Do you really want to invite that kind of fantasy? Wouldn't it be more appropriate and less fraught to stay poolside in a charming floppy hat and toss the Frisbee back when it goes out of bounds?

I think the pastor's role at a pool party is to stay dry and smiley, to enjoy the frolicking of her people, and to sip non-alcoholic beverages and chuckle at Bill's imitation of a porpoise, or to applaud Timmy's belly flop from the diving board. If you've been invited to vacation with parishioners or to use their pool -- or if you're in a bathing suit for a water aerobics class, that's different. Wear your one piece tank with impunity and enjoy the water.

If you should be wearing a highly unflattering bathing ensemble at a public beach and happen to run into a parishioner while you're innocently floating on the waves, don't fret. You're entitled to get your bod out there in the sunshine,too, and if you are seen by one of your flock, smile and make the best of it. Just think: you've provided them with a mental image that may get them through their next scary speaking engagement!

Age is an important factor here, too. You may think, "Heck, I'm so old no one's going to get swoony at the sight of my worn out old bod." Maybe that's true. Maybe not. However, if you don't mind congregants worrying about the moles on your back (are they pre-cancerous? Shouldn't he have those checked out?), noticing just how much weight you've gained (gosh, I never noticed how big her thighs are! You just can't tell under her robe!), or finding the sunken chest of their formerly young and virile pastor a little bit sad, by all means, do parade around in the all-and-all. Just know that you can never get that privacy back once you've given it away.



Blogger boyinthebands said...


9:44 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

I agree in general, though I would be prepared to make a judgement call in the moment if I felt very comfortable with a situation. Being dressed in such a way that you can laugh with the rest of them if you get splashed on the sidelines can be a good middle ground. Probably wise to make sure your outfit remains opaque when wet.

Then there are the churches with weekends at the beach or week-long regional events at a recreation area. In that case, I would keep the swimsuit restricted to the area immediately near the water and have nice cover-ups to throw on before going back to the main buildings. Or if you can't resist the water and want to be discrete, go the polar bear route and get your swimming done first thing in the morning before anyone else is around.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Peacebang, and readers,

I read this blog religiously, and am in the middle of a fashion conversion. I have just had a nutrition epiphany, and am losing weight at a mighty clip. So as my body changes, my clothes are falling off, and I’m looking to buy new ones or get mine altered to fit. And because of this blog, I’m looking at buying some more interesting pieces than my trademark Oxford shirt/black pants/black shoes monotony. I’m also planning to go to seminary, and am starting to build my first real professional wardrobe for church. It’s all very exciting.

There is one difficulty. I have a massive personal odor problem. I use antibacterial soap, I am trying chlorophyll pills, I do what I can but it’s due to the medications I take and it’s not going anywhere. It’s made permanent smells—and often yellow stains--under the arms of all of my nice shirts. (Pants, skirts and feet are fine.) I have bleached the white ones, used stain remover, used baking soda, used vinegar. Things are kind of under control. Kind of. But I can only wear each shirt one time, and then it must be washed. I absolutely cannot hang things back up and wear them again. This works just fine with my cotton Oxford shirts, but other fabrics can’t hold up to weekly washing. There’s no way I can afford to dry clean every week, and I don’t know if it would even do any good. I’ve tried Dryel and it doesn’t work.

So what should I do? Can you recommend some washable (and affordable) fabrics for shirts that don’t look cheap? Something breathable, I hope? Something that’s not too terribly expensive? Ideally, something I don’t have to iron, but I can live with ironing if I must.

Thank you, PeaceBang and crew, for your advice. It is much appreciated.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

Hi, Anonymous. I wonder if you've looked into the enzyme solutions that are sold specifically for pet odors/stains. I discovered these products years ago because I have cats, one of whom decided she would mistake my laundry basket for her litter box. It had a lot of cottons in it, and the enzyme stuff plus a good washing took the odor right out. And there's NOTHING worse than cat urine odor! These products are supposed to work on many different protein-type odors. I didn't find any discoloration at all, either from the urine or from the enzyme solution. They now have it in spray formula. You spray it to saturate the affected area, then let it dry, then wash/clean as usual. I've been amazed at how even before laundering, the odor is completely gone.

It's not super-cheap, but a little goes a long way. You can find it under several brand names (I use "Out") in the pet supply area of many stores. But if you choose "Out," be sure to go with the one specifically for cat problems, not the more general pet kind. I did not have good luck with the latter.

Oh, and it seemed perfectly gentle for all the fabrics. I've also used it on carpet and on my sofa (I now have one cat with a sensitive tummy who "oopses" a lot).

3:13 PM  
Blogger boyinthebands said...

Hardly an environmentalist's choice but I make an exception for clothes care: Greased Lightening spray degreaser on the stains. If that's a no-go, try Fels-Naptha soap, hot water, and vigorous rubbing on the stain.

Of course, I would also suggest wearing undershirts.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous hamletta said...

anonymous, dress shields might help, or at least prevent further damage to your clothes. Kleinert's has apparently been making them for 100 years. Maybe even invented 'em.

They have a bunch of different styles: pin-in, little camisole thingies, plus special wicking t-shirts.

I don't work for them, swear to God. I just did a Google search, because I have the same problem. I sweat all the time, even in winter.

You might try the enzyme stuff psalmist recommends—I never have—but I remember reading that sweat chemically alters the fibers such that the stains are permanent. I've never had any luck.

But the shields would probably save you the constant laundering. If I ever have to buy grownup clothes again, I'm gonna stock up!

4:52 AM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

Oh, yes. I remember those Kleinert's dress shields from years ago in college, when I sang in madrigal dinners. The men were required to wear t-shirts under their costumes and we women were issued pin-in dress shields. Real pain (that style was), but it did keep odor and stains way down since we didn't have time to send them out for cleaning between performances. I'm glad to hear they come in more convenient styles.

As for the enzymes, I don't have any experience with them specifically for perspiration stains. They do work on cat urine stains, though...like magic. I just remembered also that there's a product line of specialty stain removers. Don't recall the brand name, but they come in little yellow bottles and there are all kinds of different formulas. I believe there's one that works specifically for perspiration. Maybe that would be worth checking out.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Peacebang -- Thanks for saying this. As a male minister, I too would never appear in a bathing suit at any church function -- nope, never, not even (especially not!) a youth group pool party. And as a male minister, I would never wear sunglasses at such an event (I want everyone to know exactly where my eyes are looking).

Anonymous -- Sorry to hear about the problem. You say it's the meds, and I believe you, but as someone who used to work in a health food store, I do know of many people who noticed a serious reduction in body odor after going on a vegetarian, vegan, or macrobiotic diet. Even if it is mostly the meds in your case, eliminating other factors that might contribute to body odor and staining could lower things to a tolerable level. At the very least, I'd say chlorophyll pills are far less likely to work than a vegan or whole foods diet (chlorophyll pills are mostly marketing if you ask me). Also, do be aware that some foods can cause excessive body odor for certain individuals -- red meat, fermented products, and dairy products are common offenders -- so it might be worth paying attention to that. As for clothes, I'm sure you know that many synthetic fabrics not only hold odors more tenaciously than natural fibers, but for some people synthetics will actually promote additional perspiration. All my clothes are 100% natural fibers and it does make a difference (yes, this means that I iron everything). Of course, everybody's personal biochemistry is different, but one or more of these things might be worth a try.


7:42 PM  
Blogger juniper68 said...

peacebang - what about at camp?

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,
Having a similar sweating problem, I found that switching to vegetable soaps rather than petroleum based products made an enormous difference. (Ironically not the deodorant kind!) If you also have seemingly random skin rashes you might consider trying it. My favorite is Kiss My Face Olive Oil which is great for dry skin as well.

10:14 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Thank you all for your wonderful advice to Anonymous. Anon, I was at a loss for any good tips, so I'm glad so many others had helpful thoughts. I do like Tencel and rayon as fabrics that stay fresher longer than cottons, and I do swear by Mitchum roll-on, but it sounded to me like you had a fairly extraordinary challenge there.I hope some of these suggestions work for you.

Juniper, by "camp" I am guessing that you mean church retreat? If so, the same advice as always: dress modestly if casually, don't let it all hang out, keep a cover-up handy if you want to swim, and maintain ministerial decorum. It's not fun, but camp with congregants isn't our vacation time. It's time away with our church communities. BIG difference. Make sure you take your showers at discreet times, too, and don't stay up late drinking in "the cool kids'" cabin. I've seen it done, and it breeds incredible resentment.

1:32 PM  
Blogger doefoe said...

Here's a new modest bathing suit for us modest types:

2:02 PM  

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