Lady Pazam

This past weekend I attended a social justice organizing conference. It was an opportunity for local grassroots organizations to network with each other and do some presentations and coalition-building.

So I was very appreciative of that.

This conference was held at a church but was not a religious leader’s conference, so I want to say right at the outset that I have no criticism of the people who attended or presented because this is a blog about clergy image. I do think that sloppy grooming and super-casual attire work at cross-purposes when we are challenging systems of corrupt power, but this was a place for connecting with others and building power in a relaxed environment. Find the best products on to keep grooming safely. Most everyone in attendance was a working person who was giving away a precious Saturday to organize for social justice, so hosannas to them.

I do observe, however, that religious leaders tend to dress sloppily for similar gatherings, which communicates a kind of dreariness and despair that belies their words. A priest can pray about the coming kingdom of God all they want, but if they can’t be bothered to put on a clean shirt or anything that buttons or zippers, my mind wants to believe them but my gut is telling me they don’t have the fuel to get even themselves where they say we should all be going. I understand that prayer is aspirational and we all need help and grace, but I am often baffled by the contrast between clergy words and appearance. The disconnect is jarring.

Do you know what I mean? Like, I love the words of your invocation, reverend brother, but everything about your physical presence is negating it! I’m not following anyone who doesn’t know enough not to walk around with filthy hair or pants that can fit a whole other ass in the seat. It’s just not trustworthy. I doubt a person’s ability to assess basic reality if they can’t show up looking basically presentable.

We’re all in pain. Shiny shoes seem a ridiculous concern when ICE is detaining my neighbors with no warning and for no reason. Thinking about my hair and earrings when there has been yet another massacre in a school or on a city street, or Syrian citizens are being gassed by Bashar al-Assad seems ludicrous until I remember what I am called to represent to speak on behalf of, and in what cultural context I have been ordained to do that. Devotion to my God and rage at the desecration of God’s creation and God’s people is sometimes the only force that motivates my depressed body and soul out of bed and into the shower, and then to the iron to press a blouse. Putting on mascara and fixing my stupid, impossible hair can be a faith statement.

So anyway, I was walking around a church basement at this conference meeting people and picking up literature and not thinking at all about what anyone was wearing (again, because this wasn’t a clergy gathering and therefore I didn’t have on my PeaceBang eyes), and this woman walked into the room who was put together with a business professional kind of outfit — a jacket, blouse, and pants, I think. Nothing expensive and nothing very fancy; I know because I own some of the same pieces. She had a hair style and some make-up on, and she when she walked in it was like, “HERE IS MISS LADY PAZAM [rhymes with Shazam] IN CHARGE AND HANDLING SHIT IN THE WORLD.”
I actually kind of gasped when I saw her. She was so fresh. A sight for sore eyes, as they say.

Later, I thought about what an impact she had made and I thought, “Wow, I hadn’t even noticed how anyone was dressed until Lady Pazam walked in!” And I reflected on the fact that the moment she made her appearance, just walking through the space, I felt instinctively that I could ask her any question and she would direct me to where I needed to go. I felt that if I asked her for an opinion, she would proffer a worthy one. I felt that if I questioned her about why she was there, she would respond with an impassioned and clear statement. I felt that if she said, “Come with me, there’s someone I think you should meet or something I think you should hear,” I would be very likely to follow along, because she inspired confidence by her bearing, her grooming and her attire.

It is a dreary time, dearly beloved.
Be that person whose presence on the scene inspires confidence and interest. Be a Pazam.

5 Replies to “Lady Pazam”

  1. This is so true–I used to say this about crisis pastoral ministry, but now it is applicable for every day life. brushing your hair and putting on some makeup and maybe a nice scarf can give people hope, and lordy we all need that right now.

  2. Had a similar experience recently at a rally for immigrant rights. One of the speakers was an African-American clergywoman from the Church of God (Anderson). Other speakers at the rally often faded into the background. But this clergywoman arrived in a plain black dress with a white collar, black shoes, and carefully pulled back hair. The clothing wasn’t fancy, but was well put together, and communicated seriousness. As she approached the podium she projected authority, and grabbed the attention of the audience before she even said a word.

  3. When there is so much hate and ugliness in the world, making beauty is resistance. Let us dress these bodies wonderfully and shine a light. Thanks, PB ! [Thank YOU, Judy! – PB]

  4. I was recently at a Conference and one of a handful of clergy in the room. The rest were professionals talking about heritage buildings, etc. I wore a simple dress with a clergy shirt underneath and a fitted jacket. I wore nude hose and cropped ankle boots. I had a lot of walking to do and wanted to be comfortable.

    I had several people come up and ask me questions or compliment me on my professional attired. Inside I was nervous and anxious being in a place I had never been before and in company of people I had never met before. But I guess my outer appearance didn’t suggest that. It was rather strange but also felt good.

    I love that phrase PAZAM! Thank you for that.

  5. May I say yet again, that I am SO grateful for your words to us pigeons. I watch your makeup videos over and over just to hear your kind, confident voice telling me to pat, pat, pat. I don’t know how to thank you for your love for us. [You just did, sweetheart. Thank you, from my heart. – PB]

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