Friday, November 16, 2007

Not Exactly Pastoral

I am so, so glad no one has yet invented whatever needs to be invented in order to be able to read others’ minds. I remember once, somewhere (either on the radio, TV, or some magazine), encountering a discussion about mind-reading. Some woman was talking about how she so wished her husband could read her mind. My immediate reaction was: are you nuts?

I’d love to see how quickly my marriage might dissolve if my husband could actually read my mind when, for instance, I’m trying to relate the fascinating conversation about the relationship between algebra and geometry I had with one of my authors today, and he doesn’t even bother to put down the newspaper to pretend, at least, he’s listening. Or how about when he wants high praise because he cleaned a bathroom, emptied the litter box, and went to the post office to buy stamps on the same day I paid all the bills, went grocery shopping, took the car in for an oil change, and spent an hour online looking for a story that might help him make a point in his sermon next Sunday? Oh, and did I mention the fact I also worked eight hours that day? I don’t think you need to be a mind-reader to take a stab at figuring out what might be going on in mine at such times. They’re the sorts of thoughts that have “one-way-to-divorce-court” stamped all over them.

I’ve had occasion as of late to think of something that might be worse than a mind-reading husband: mind-reading parishioners. I can’t quite decide what, exactly, would most cause them to want to drive their pastor and his horrible wife out of town. Would it be the fact she can’t possibly be worthy of the position, because no “Christian” woman would have such thoughts? Perhaps it would be the fact that no good man could possibly be married to someone so mean. I like to fantasize that it would be fear, fear that this woman can’t possibly have their numbers like that, can she?

Actually, I’m sure they would be afraid. However, they wouldn’t be afraid of my ability to peg them. No, they’d be afraid of my multiple personalities. Even in this quiet, innocent little part of the world, people have heard of Sybil. Let’s take a look at some of the recent examples that exemplify two very distinct personalities inside the head of one pastor’s wife. Just for the heck of it, we’ll call them Mary and Jezebel, shall we?

Woman with little girl in tow rings the manse’s doorbell at 9:00 p.m. on a very chilly night. She’s having car trouble. She has no money. She needs a place to stay.

Mary: Oh, how horrible! That poor woman! Imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money and nowhere to go. Invite them in. See if they’re hungry. Let’s get out the “emergency funds” and give them $100.

Jezebel: Oh, give me a break! Even I, one of the most movie-ignorant people in this country, have seen Paper Moon. Can’t you come up with something more original than car trouble and a little girl you have to feed? Who’s that other person sitting out there in the car? Hit the road. We haven’t got a cent for the likes of you.

The pastor and his wife are at a hayride and bonfire party sponsored by one of the members of the church. Some of the kids are crowding around the pastor, teasing him and telling him he’s a bonfire. A few of the women of the church look at him knowingly and say, “That’s because you’re so hot.”

Mary: Oh, how sweet. We haven’t even been here two months, and people are already comfortable enough to tease him like this.

Jezebel: Yeah, and if any of you tries to sink your nasty little claws into him, there’ll be hell to pay. This is one pastor, if I can help it, who won’t be running off with any organists.

Parishioner informs pastor and his wife that next Saturday is the day that all of the oldest members of the church get together to have a little party and auction. She’d like the pastor and his wife to come, especially since this little group has begun to dwindle due to illness and death.

Mary: Oh, how sweet! And how sad so many of them are ill. What should I bring?

Jezebel: Well, there goes yet another Saturday. Are we ever going to get to have a Saturday to ourselves? I can’t think of anything I’d rather NOT be doing next Saturday. Will these invitations to mind-numbing events never cease?

Pastor and his wife are at another church function. Wife is extraordinarily exhausted and just wants to go home. Pastor is not picking up on any of the various hints she’s been dropping to indicate thus. Finally, she bluntly says, “We have to go,” at almost the exact same moment some woman in distress asks the pastor if he might have some time to talk with her soon. He says “sure” and proceeds to suggest they talk now.

Mary: How wonderful I’m married to such a nice man who’s so willing to help all these people when they need him. I’m glad they have someone to talk to them; it’s so important, and he’s such a sympathetic listener.

Jezebel (restraining foot from kicking his shin as he suggests they find a quiet place to talk): Why can’t he ever say “no” to anyone? And how dare she come along and take him away just when I finally had him halfway out the door? I have half a mind to just go off and leave him here.

So, you see, others with mind-reading capabilities might be a bit of a problem for someone in my shoes. I can’t remember if that radio report/TV show/magazine was reporting on its becoming a reality or not. I certainly hope not, but if it was, I want the equivalent of caller i.d. blocking for my thoughts. Being sent to the nearest mental institution is not exactly how I envisioned the “Pennsylvania Phase” of my life.


mandarine said...

Well, I do wish mind-reading was possible. It would allow me to read my own mind. Because frankly sometimes, I have absolutely no clue what my mind is.

Anne Camille said...

You had me laughing reading this. I suspect that Jezebel is the more common preacher's wife personality -- in their thoughts!

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, Lord, I do sympathize! I think being able to think mean thoughts with no one knowing will help you stay sane. But what about being able to send thoughts selectively into other people's minds? Then you could tell Bob that if he doesn't leave right now, there'll be hell to pay...and no parishioner would know.

Anonymous said...

Like Cam, this gave me a very good laugh. But I remember a therapist friend of mine saying that if it were possible for us to read minds, we would ALL be in jail.

I'm sure he was right.

Emily Barton said...

Mandarine, does reading your blog help at all?

Cam, yes, I suspect there are plenty of Jezebels out here in the world of "Minister's Wife."

Dorr, oh, yes, that would be perfect: selective thought sending. Perhaps, Mandarine, you can invent that mechanism for us?

Anonymous said...

Mind-reading for everyone all the time would be frankly exhausting! I was reminded of the short story "That's a good life" where a 5-year-old can read minds and act upon it too. Terrifying!

mandarine said...

It already exists. It's called sign language and can be very handy in the situation above, in addition to allowing non-monosyllabic speech in loud bars, large crowds and scuba dives.

It's too late for that, but you could have pretended the minister's wife was deaf and gathered enough anecdotal matter on parish life for a bestselling saga.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, yes, I'm sure we would all be in jail, and then imagine cell mates reading each others' minds!

Smithereens, no kidding would it be exhausting! No one would ever be able to meditate together either, huh? Maybe someone would have to invent special headgear we'd use in order to be left alone with our thoughts.

Mandarine, I once went scuba diving with a couple that would sign while under water. Bob and I decided it wouldn't be a good idea for us. We'd be too busy talking and would miss stuff. And, oh, what a great idea to pretend to be a deaf minister's wife. May be too late for me to do it, but not too late to write a hilarious story about someone who does that.