And then I was twelve
Ah. It seems the diaries don’t begin til 1990.
Damn my illiterate youth.
By 12, I was still going to church every Sunday. By the age of about 14 or 15, that sort of rash behaviour had cleared up nicely, and I was on the righteous path of sleeping like a bear all the way through the weekend. But churchgoing is not something you can avoid easily as the child of a minister and a lay preacher, and so by the age of twelve, I was still there, every Sunday, religiously. Or semi religiously. Look, I was there, that much I can vouch for. Let’s leave the religion out of this.
In its favour, I have to say that organised religion has stood me in good stead, pub-quiz wise. I can name the shortest verse in the bible (John 11:35), and the world’s longest hymn (all of them), and at least 9 disciples. No, hang on, I used to be able to name at least 9 disciples. Now I can name at least 9 rice-based cereals. Equally useful.
But… But then … it was a bit like having the biggest family in the world. A bit. There were always plenty of sweets, which is as good a reason for believing in a higher power as I can think of… Last week someone gave me a Murray Mint, and I almost believed in God again – suddenly, I was sitting on the Brown carpet behind the pews, trying to find funny bits in the Book of Proverbs and wondering what we were going to have for lunch.
Then I finished the Murray Mint, and reverted to agnosticism. I’m beginning to suspect a link between the rise of evangelism and the rise of obesity and tooth decay. I’ll look into it.
After Church, there would be coffee – everyone standing around and talking, for what seemed like either a reasonable period or forever, depending on how hungry I was. But there were always people talking, people who liked each other, who just wanted to stand around and chat after the service for as long as chatting took. If one of my friends was there, we would chat, or play, or explore the darker corners of the building. Or just mooch around looking angsty – priorities change as you get older.
As I approached my teens, I started to develop those things that girls get. Breasts, hips, and general puppychub, the norm. My 15 additional aunties, mainly Carribean, would congratulate me each time they saw me;
“Turn around for me now! Mm-mm, girl! You’re getting nice and big and fat, aren’t you? Gloria! Gloria, come and have a look this beautiful young lady – look at that nice round bum, will you now? … Nice and fat …”
And so on, and so on. And I know now, as I knew then, they were paying me great compliment. That, having known me since birth, they were pleased that I was eating well, becoming a real woman, filling out – but my God, at the time, when the cultural influences of peers and magazines were telling me that filling out was a cardinal sin? That starting to grow serious curves was something I should never be considering doing?
Well, at that point their hymns fell on faithless ears. But I believe in them now. Whole heartedly. And I’d thank them, now – too late, but still, you can’t expect a teenager to be grateful at the time.
By the middle of my teens my church-going fell off entirely. And – apart from a contractual-based glitch in the early part of this century where I had to go 9 times a week – I’ve stayed away from churches ever since.
Not in an angry way. Just in a ‘not seeing the point of it’ kind of way. Because if organised religion were all about the liking people and about Murray Mints and being loved by boisterous pseudoaunts, I’d sign up for it in a second.
But luckily, you can like people while being a humanist, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or just like huge swathes of lovely people, nothing at all. And your local newsagent stocks Murray Mints, buy some today. And Boisterous Carribean pseudoaunts? Well, I don’t know. You can probably hire them or something. No idea. Should have thought that through.