Last weekend, I was at a wedding. It was a typical summer affair, outdoors under the trees with a radiant bride, happy groom, cake. Like most of the people there, I was snapping photos on my phone. Throughout the ceremony and the reception, I had vaguely noticed there was one large family that was different. The father was stoic, the women and girls almost in a uniform of white shirts, black skirts to the ankle, and no smiles. They also had on headscarves, but not the Muslim kind. After I got home, I researched their type of head scarf. Though I had asked a friend at the reception what sect they were, she only knew they were Christian of some sort, but nothing she’d ever heard of. After finding an online store that sold Christian head scarves. Turns out, any Christian woman who follows a Corinthians verse (which I can’t recall), is morally bound to cover her head.
All this would have been fine with me (I have no desire to change other people) except for something that happened while I was running around, snapping photos. At one point, this man’s table was in the background, and he gruffly ordered me to not get his family in the photos. “No problem,” I said, “I didn’t know.”
“Well,” he said, crossing his pudgy hands over his gluttonous gut, “you should have asked me.” I stared back at him, hard, and right in the eyes, silent. His stern-looking wife nervously placed her hand on his forearm. I turned on my heel and walked away.
I should note that this was a Christian wedding, but it was a typical mix of everyone. Different colors, spiritual philosophies all over the map. Nobody really discussed them, they were just there to support the bride and groom, dance a little and see old friends. Except for this one sad little oasis of this man and his many children. Even the tiny ones didn’t venture from the table to play with all the other kids their age, running under the trees with each other. It was obvious they were not “of” our sinful world but guess what? I am not part of your little Chauvinistic club. And no, I don’t respect whatever philosophy he whipped up to subjugate his women and children. But even more than that, his assumption that he was such a center of the universe that people from a much greater majority would be so drawn to his magnetism that they would command an automatic questioning by a total stranger as to what behavior I should partake in in front of His Highness.
In the end, I was able to shake off my contempt for this arrogant, controlling man and enjoy the event. But the encounter sticks with me because it reminded me, yet again, that those who feel they are ordained to unflinchingly demand certain types of behavior, regardless of who surrounds them. This is the same human trait that causes men to whip women with car antennas if they dare flash a wrist in some parts of the world. Women on the street that they don’t even know.
But I don’t live in that part of the world, and I don’t operate under many of this man’s assumptions: that I am less because I am female, that I should be awed in the presence of a penis-possessor, or even that I should be humbled and terrified that there is an angry deity watching my every move.
I never found out what actual religion this man was, and he sure never bothered to ask what mine was. But with one look on my part, the raised eyebrows, the set jaw, I let him know that his magnetism stopped as his own table. Of course, I don’t doubt for a second that he learned nothing from this encounter. Instead, I was just an insolent, uneducated harlot, and to him that is what I will remain in his memory. But what I will remember is that, for all of his self-aggrandizement, I saw him for what he really was–just another religious bigot, control freak and a real asshole.