Walking When All Eyes Are Upon Thee

Oh, what fun!

This video from Fashion Week in NYC is a fantastic study in personality, presence and image.
Watch how some of these women manage the runway with a great sense of humor, grace and confidence, and how some of them (Rachael Ray, shame on you!) don’t.

The thing is, PeaceBang is pretty sure that anyone who isn’t a professional model must feel silly walking the runway. It’s a silly thing to do, for heaven’s sake. Strutting around like your dress is the most news-worthy item in the world is silly. But darlings, that’s show biz, and it sells dresses.

To make a ministerial analogy, no one loves walking in a wedding or ordination processional, either. There’s that gracious Queen Elizabeth smile one always has to wear, and then there’s the triple challenge of reading the words to the hymn while walking and singing, and trying not to trip on the hem of one’s robe in the meanwhile.

PeaceBang remembers one particularly awful processional at West Point, when she had just finished officiating at her beloved Uncle Marvin’s funeral and it came time to walk out to the cemetery to inter his ashes. The grief of the assembled loved ones was intense, and you had better believe that PeaceBang felt supernaturally self-conscious walking behind that cadet as he marched solemnly ahead with my dear uncle’s human remains in a mahogany box. I was trying not to sob and trying not to burst into hysterical laughter. But honey, when all eyes are upon you, grimacing and clutching at one’s gut and rolling one’s modest little eyes a la Rachael Ray is not the way to do it. We straighten the spine, compose the face, focus the eyes straight ahead, relax the mouth muscles to manage any trembling, and think, “Elegance, darling, and we’ll have a martini when it’s all over.”*

Rachael Ray, PeaceBang extends to you the Pursed Lips of Disapproval.

As to the rest of you, do not for a second think it’s silly to rehearse your processional walk. No one’s looking, and you may thank yourself for it some Sunday afternoon when you’re gliding along singing “Forward Through the Ages,” looking fantabulous, and not tripping on your robes.

* I cannot lie. The moment I stepped away from the grave and the trumpeter began to play “Taps,” I sobbed quietly into my hankie. But I was quiet. And I had a lovely white hankie.

3 Replies to “Walking When All Eyes Are Upon Thee”

  1. You know, I never thought of it that way. I would never be caught dead on the fashion runway, but as an Episcopalian I have been walking in processions in front of people on a regular basis for something like 20 years – all the way back to when I was a beginner acolyte (altar server.)

    For anyone out there that doesn’t normally do processions and is unsure how to, make friends with an Episcopal priest. acolyte, or choir member. We do fabulous processions all the time. 🙂

  2. Like my colleague above, I’m an Episcopal priest, and in lots of processions every week. I don’t seem it being the same as a fashion runway at all.

    On a runway, the entire focus is on how one looks, and that’s as good a cause for feeling self-conscious as any I know.

    In a church procession, it’s not about me, it’s about the role. I am usually following cross, candles and choir, so I’m not alone, but even when I am alone (as in a funeral procession) I represent a certain aspect of the church, and I take great pride in it. A few months after we elected a woman as our presiding bishop, it was time for our Christmas Eve midnight mass. My boss was preaching, so I was presiding. I came down the aisle last, following incense, cross, candles, full choir and the preacher. I was wearing an amazing cope (think very fancy cape) and, being 6’1″ and not petite, was hard to miss. And as I processed, I thought of all the women who had fought so hard over the generations for my right to wear that cope, and preside at the service, and have my priesthood accepted as something so normal it doesn’t even register surprise. I walked down the aisle in humility and gratitude for them, and to stand for those to come, and I would not give up that walk for anything on earth.

  3. I think it is all about presence, but as a priest I have to bear a different sort of presence.

    models on the runway sort of become invisible behind the clothes–some of them are so thin that this almost literally becomes the case. As priests, we become transparent to the Word and to the sacraments we bring to the people. If we bear ourselves akwardly or draw attention to ourselves with our scuffed shoes or frizzy hair or goofy expression or bad “custody of the eyes”, we distract and draw attention to ourselves instead of the appropriate focus of attention.

    The skills are somewhat the same, I’d say.

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