The first time I tried going to church on the East Coast, I had to drive to a small town adjoining Bedminster. It was not far from The Thebault's house. I got ready for church and Brian was outside as I was getting into the Suburban. He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. With a friendly smile he teased, "You look like you're going to the office."
I smiled in return but was puzzled. What did he mean? I was wearing a tailored dress, which I thought would be suitable for office or church. I had just bought it. Since we were no longer at the Shore, where I wore swimsuits that stretched with my weight gain, I had discovered none of my other clothes fit. It was a shirt dress style, with a white oxford style top with long sleeves and buttons up the front, a belt at the waist, and a long taupe skirt that fell to my ankles. I wore heels. My long hair was down and curled, a mass of thick, shining red curls. I had visited and attended a variety of churches in my youth and my dress would not be distinguished in any way from what others were wearing.
The Thebault's asked which church I was going to and I told them I was going to try the Presbyterian church nearby. I had gone to the same church in my youth. They nodded with approval, not that I asked for their approval.
When I found the church, I parked and noticed almost every car in the lot was a Mercedes or a Lexus. I noticed a woman going in. She wore a solid black dress, black heels, a black hat, and carried a black purse. Hmmm. To each his own, I thought to myself. I took my well-worn Bible in hand, and walked confidently into the quaint building. It was like walking into a morgue. I wanted to find a seat quickly, feeling shy and not wanting to draw attention to myself. But once I sat down and looked around, I tried to process what I was seeing. Every single woman in the entire church wore a black hat. The hairstyles were pulled back or severely groomed. Every woman also wore a black tailored dress, in the classic tailored style of dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". They all spoke in hushed solemn tones or not at all. The men were dressed in equal fashion, in black sportscoat. Hats?! This was 1993. And black? This was church, not a funeral. Another example of unspoken dress code.
No one else had brought their Bibles with them. And there were few, if any, Bibles in the pews. Suddenly, I heard music. The singing of a choir in operatic style. Coming from...Where in the world were they? I couldn't see anyone and I realized there was a loft in the back of the church where the choir was assembled and hidden from view. The pastor gave his sermon, which was dry and rudimental in analysis. There wasn't analysis--just a direct reading of Scripture. No one spoke to me before the service began or even looked at me. The gentleman I sat next to was friendly but quit talking to me after he asked what had brought me to the area and I told him it was a nanny position. After the service a good looking man in his late 20s looked at me and smiled, with seeming interest. He was very handsome and began to approach. He was the only one who paid any attention to me at all, in a very small church of about 50 people. I felt so out of place, I was tongue-tied and didn't want to stick around. I turned and made a quick exit, a streak of white lightening and red hair cutting through the morgue. Or, a white and taupe cat caught in a thunderstorm. It was raining outside. Drizzling, and the sky was gray. Then I decided, before I got to the car, to summon my strength and inquire about the choir. Perhaps I could be involved in the choir, and hide out in the loft every service. I met the choir director, who was from Princeton. The choir members were not members of the church, nor were they residents. They were students from Princeton. They were dressed like me, in regular varied styles of clothing. No hats. I was joined to my underclass brothers. I surmised the rich do not join choir; they hire choirs to sing for them. I was given photocopies of the music for the next Sunday, several classical pieces.
I never returned!