I was just thinking about all the clothes I have worn in my life. I don’t regard myself as a great consumer of fashion – I try to make things last and I always donate; the idea of throwing a garment into a bin fills me with horror – but even so the collection of clothes I have worn would fill a clothes line longer than Hadrian’s Wall.
When we were children our mother used to make all our summer dresses and the rest of the time we wore jumpers and ‘slacks’. These were the forerunner of leggings or track-suit bottoms and were the relaxed, liberated woman’s choice for home and garden. All the women in my family wore slacks which were like jodhpurs in that they had a strap under the foot which made them in my opinion terminally uncool. They stretched where they should relax and relaxed where they should hold. Our mother also wore loose flared stretch trousers which picked up dirt and dog hairs better than any hoover. To work she wore plaid skirts and tights or smart trousers and waxed indignant that we schoolgirls were not allowed proper winter coats. In fact the school uniform in winter was completely inadequate: a thin v-neck jumper over a blouse (one of those stiff blouses that sticks out like a bomber jacket) and a thin scarf and raincoat for outdoors.
I don’t recall ever wearing a t-shirt until I was a teenager – since when they have been a staple of what I am pleased to call my wardrobe, along with jeans, cords and the occasional floaty summer dress. I did once have a smart suit for interviews but it was like wearing a straitjacket. I have never liked formal wear but it’s interesting how even when people are restricted to a uniform they always find ways of individualising it; in my school the cool girls wore their blouses untucked and their ties really, really short.
Our mother also had an outfit for special occasions which consisted of a long woollen skirt worn under a blouse and cardigan. On Christmas Day all the women in the family would ‘change’ for the evening’s activities (you’d think we were having cocktails and canapes but it was just parlour games and sherry).
Nowadays women can choose from a huge range of styles. You can be a hippy one day and a businesswoman the next or you can wear jeans and t-shirt almost anywhere. This makes me happy.
Well, I just don’t know where the Church of England is at right now. It seems to have got its cassocks in a twist about sex (again) in the context of civil partnerships and come up with the spectacularly retrograde advice that sex is only between a man and a woman, and even then they have to be married. So just in case you’re unsure, sex before marriage is out, sex outside marriage is out, and sex if you’re in a gay or lesbian marriage is out. Sex is also out if you’re in a civil partnership but not married. Clear? Basically if you’re not sure, don’t do it. It all sounds a bit like this to me.
What’s not at all clear is where the hell this is coming from. It seems to have come out of the blue and to run counter to the cautious, slow-moving liberalism of recent decades. I wouldn’t say I’ve been following the C of E’s deliberations closely but I do keep an ear to the ground and I’ve heard no rumour of this at all, nor can I find any articles or interviews yet which enlighten me.
You’re probably thinking this couldn’t matter less in your life, and you’re probably right – but it matters to a lot of people. About eighteen months ago I went to the best church service I’d ever attended, a Pride celebration in the parish church of Loughborough. It was fantastic, and in stark contrast to this, probably one of the worst services I’ve ever attended. People felt included and accepted; there was a real sense of communion and love. Instead of people crying outside the church there were people being celebrated within it. This church statement basically tears all that up, because if gays and lesbians can be married but can’t have sex they can’t be fully married.
At the moment I can only speculate on where this is coming from. Is it an attempt to appease Catholics or hard-liners within the church? Or has some faction or other has got hold of the decision-making process? I don’t know. We shall see how these things unfold. But these problems always arise when you have creeds and dogmas. I’m happy to say that Quakers have accepted gays and lesbians as full members with the same rights as straight people ever since the 1970’s. We don’t have a top-down approach to change but a thoughtful, consensual, across-the-board process in which everyone can take part.
Not that I’m wanting to be smug or anything…