I noticed “Jake” and his wife directly behind us in line, and asked them, “where are you NOT-headed today?” (Jake’s name has been changed to protect the reality that I have no short term memory these days). "We're off to Pennsylvania" Jake replied (exactly as suspected).
I’ve ridden the buses all over Ontario and Upstate NY with the Amish for years; never had the opportunity to ‘brake’ the silence. Jake’s replying to me was the first offer "in" I'd ever to got to get into a mucky-muck and yack-it up with a man in one of those hand-sewn suits. Jake and I kibitzed about the community here as compared to the community there. He was from there, but had moved here; I think probably because they’d run out of space there. He was fascinated to hear my experience and take on 9/11 in the city… I obliged him some personal insights and saw my sharing this with him as my "in" to ask even more of him, “…so, do many of your kids ever leave the community… what’s the response in the community, do they come back?”
"Oh sure, there are a few young ones who decide they need to see what it’s like out here…"
He implied that most of them do wander back eventually. He was amazed that any of us could put up with the “out here”…he seemed fascinated by “out here”, but with no honest interest in it whatsoever. He was a very pleasant fella, eager to chit chat, not a single disparaging word over my having one son against his fathering five… plus another five girls type sons.
We chuckled when he assured me “he had no internets”… imagine, a life without the memes.
His wife, seemed nice and somewhat seemingly younger than how old she looked; smiled as we spoke. Out of deference to my understanding of their practices, I did not speak to her directly, didn’t ask her any questions but darted my eyes and threw her a glance or two to welcome her into mine and Jake’s conversation… she never once spoke but she smiled, nodded now and again. She had a nice, strong quiet smile.
I still know very little about the Amish-Mennonite, is it a, faith? Jake informed me it was ancient, of German and Christian origin… definitely Christian. Was his quiet wife happy behind her smile and her hand-fashioned blue bonnet? Later, after we’d been lead back to the chairs in the waiting room, I found her furiously scrawling notes onto a well worn stack of papers… recipes? A to do list? Which of the chicken’s needed to be fed which kids need to be bathed, hugged or spanked… her thoughts, her prayers, her stories? I’ll never know.
I’ll never know if she’s a happy women. I’ll never know if she’s fulfilled, complete… whether she wears her blue bonnet because she wants or needs to, whether its because she’s been told to or if its all she really knows. All I could ever hope would be to translate her smile and assume… she’s happy… enough.
Now comes the meme part (pictured above)… An image circulating over the inner-nets via Facebook sideways-ly asking the difference between nuns and prostitutes; not really a question but a comment… really. I caught it yesterday as it floated around these nets, it had landed on the page of yet another wise and learned old friend. I’m finding a lot of learned old friends succumbing to these “simplicities” these days… post and re-post of silly little thoughts framed as images... this “is it of any real value?” activity… is it? Not for me to say, yet.
On nuns and prostitutes…
I’m lucky, perhaps; my folks being of the more wiser faith that broke from Rome ages ago in order to allow our English King to fuck around as he pleases… I’ve never had been whipped, ruler-slapped, degraded or had the Jesus beaten into me by a woman in a penguin suit as many of my friends whose parents are among those that follow the man with the pointed hat, have. I've never shrinked at the mere mention of Sister Mary, Margaret or Pearl.
My most significant interactions with “the nuns” was wishing them a good and glorious morning as they collected the NY Times from the doorstep of Our Lady of Pompeii (my local nunnery in NYC) as I read my news and waited for the start of the market on Bleecker Street on all those good and glorious Saturday and Sunday mornings. These nuns always had a warm smile… that blue-bonnet smile. Their glorious morning was at the grace and the glory of their god - That my glorious morning was at the grace of the interaction of sunlight and water vapour, was really of no mind. Just a couple of friendly people commenting on the pleasantness of a quiet moment in the Village. I claim no real insights into… the Amish nor the nuns.
I’ve had far more “interaction” with prostitutes really. Conversations and questions asked… I’ve shared coffee talk with some of the gals in near the Zeedyk, and have had friends who (in a roundabout way) admitted to having had taken up the trade in support of this venture… or that. Mostly to pay a bill to, sigh… that guy over there. I've heard a few tall tales of “empowerment” and more sad stories of utter coercion. I've concluded that it is nasty business… either way. Suffering to service us assholes some call “men”… I don't know, pour me another doubleshot tall macchiato with a dollop of steam, now… We can discuss it further (just let me check in with my clients, first)…
I've found myself troubled by this meme (pictured above) which seems to ask over the prostitionary aspects of the institution of the nunnery… troubled on a multiple of levels. Faith, women, self will… choice and possibly the context of it landing on a dear and learned friend’s timeline in of itself. But beyond and beside all this I just find it to be… mean.
As a man, I have to ask myself… what good comes of my asking over the wisdom of choices of a woman? Who am I to make what can only be seen as judgemental inquiries in either the practice of being a nun OR a prostitute? Who am I to add my male voice to the voices of clergy, the husband, the client… the pimps, that ring in these women’s minds? Most certainly I can address and raise concerns and comment on the coercion I've seen in the latter… but question the faith of the former? Equate this faith with what I perceive to be the sadness in the life of prostitution? …never really able to raise a concern without seeming to make a judgement, at all.
Perhaps this meme raises a point I am missing… I have been known to miss a point or few. I guess all I can really hope is for that the woman in the penguin suits, the blue bonnets or in whatever the prostitutes wears or doesn't is able to speak out and seek out some help and guidance. Able to inform us that their choice was not wise, that their choice was not THEIRS, and that their smile, blue-bonnet or otherwise is not genuine… If they do, I hope they've find us giving them a place to go.