When former Harvard President Lawrence Summers appeared at the Harvard Divinity School Convocation several years ago, he sat on the stage slumped way down in his chair with his legs sprawled apart. He looked like a disgruntled frat boy, but the fact that he was wearing academic regalia made him look like a particularly ill-mannered doofus.

I knew he was not long for his position, and I was right. His body language told me everything I needed to know about his inability to work respectfully and well with others, and to understand the concept of Occasion.

The way we sit is important, brothers and sisters. When you are in the pulpit or on the dais or at any public gathering, concern yourself not only with your attire but with your comportment.

There should be no slumping, and there should certainly not be any sprawling of legs or any other body parts.

In the pulpit, there should be no crossing of legs. Crossing of the ankles is fine. Crossing of the self is also fine.

Ministers should not fling themselves about. Unaware extravagance of movements indicates lack of boundaries and distracts greatly from one’s oratorical presence. I love labrador retrievers with all my heart, my dears. Just not in public religious leadership, no matter what Paul may have said in that part about “in Christ there is no east or west, or cat or dog.”

Whence Elegance?

Remember when women knew how to walk? Remember Marilyn Monroe and Rosalind Russell and Kate Hepburn and how they moved? Remember Bette Davis? By god, that’s presence. Not ministerial presence, of course, but PRESENCE. You know who has Presence today? Jessye Norman.
Those insolent tarts who walk the red carpet know nothing about it. A couture gown does not presence grant. Neither does daily injections of Botox, Miss Kidman, or starving oneself into a transparent gossamer condition, Miss Zellwegger.

Remember when women wore gloves, and they made putting them on and taking them off into a little Japanese tea ceremony of minute beauty and elegance?

Nowadays I see women shuffling along in FLIP-FLOPS — the dreaded flip-flops that are the enemy of everything elegant — looking and sounding like a paper-slippers-clad nursing home denizens — schluf schluf schluf. They blab away on cell phones and chaw gum at the same time, all while swigging from a Starbucks container. VERY elegant. Every time I see one of these beauties I think of that wonderful line from “Singin’ In The Rain,” plaintively spoken in a flat midwestern voice by a drab little flapper watching the great Lena Lamont on screen:
“She’s so refined. I think I’ll kill myself.”

For lessons in elegance, darlings, see Annette Bening in “Being Julia.”
Charming film, fabulous performance. Elegance, elegance, humor, and a study in the surgically unenhanced middle-aged beauty.

P.S. No one’s feet and ankles look lovely in plain old flip-flops. At LEAST get some with a bit of support and shape to them, for the love of Olivia DeHaviland.

I See London, I See France

Glory asks about the touchy moment when we are treated to a view of a colleague’s panties through a light colored pair of trousers.

After PeaceBang is able to take her hand away from her mouth in horror, she will respond to this question.

I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

:::one hour later:::

Okay, I’m back.

People of the cloth, it is imperative that we speak the truth in love to one another about our fashion faux pas. The evident panty line or visible posterior of one brother or sister in the ministry is a blushing embarrassment for all of us. There are already too many buffoon clergy characters in our literary and cultural history — we can’t afford any more in our own day and time.

When you see an egregious violation of sartorial appropriateness, you must speak up. Say something like, “Your words were really inspiring, but I’m sure you never intended to upstage yourself by treating us all to a view of your skivvies.”

Or, “I wonder if any of the congregation were able to attend properly to your sermon after having seen the whole of your bazoom when you leaned over to tell the children’s story. I’m sure you had no idea, but my dear, lean forward right now and let me show right here in the powder room mirror.”

Or, “My dear and reverend sir, I commend you for showing up to build the Habitat house. However, let me recommend to you that before you leave the house for such good Christian endeavors, that you squat in your pants to check the fit. Having hammered shingles below you for an hour, I feel especially qualified to give you this advice.”

Use humor, but be direct. Speak your piece and then beat a hasty retreat with a kind handclasp or encouraging hand on the shoulder. When appropriate, make recommendations. I would be so grateful if colleagues would help one another in this wise instead of remaining silently horrified. I live in constant fear that my clothes are pulling in the back or the front in ways that I can’t see, and making me look like a sausage wrapped in casing (because I think overly large, formless clothes are the ugliest possible way to deal with a plump figure). I would so appreciate it if someone took me aside and said, “Love the blazer, PeaceBang, but there’s a bit of an unfortunate tailoring here at the back that I know you can’t see.”

I mean, heavens… even with the constricting undergarments, the primping, the clothes, the make-up and the hair products, we’re all still subject to fashion mistakes.

Also see #6 On The Booger Patrol here :