Over the weekend I had a most unusual encounter. My grandparents were having their 60th Anniversary party in our hometown, so I made the journey home to make an appearance (I was informed in no uncertain terms this was not an optional event, mind you). Clad in my ‘Sunday Best,’ I arrived and endured many grueling introductions as my grandmother showed me off to her friends. It really was an awkward event. I come from a rural family dominated by farmers. Still, my grandmother is like a chapter out of a 1950s movie: prim, proper, mildly racist, and obsessed with perceptions. So this party of two hundred or so people included a mix of country bumpkins and suburban snobs.
The exchanges between members of these diverse groups was not the source of my discomfort. In fact, it was quite entertaining. The incredibly awkward encounter came when I ran across a woman from my old church. A German immigrant, she retired a few years ago as the general manager of the local bank. During the course of our smalltalk she caught me off guard. In her thick German accent she asked, “Still going to church?”
I didn’t skip a beat, “Yeah.” What!? No, no, no. I couldn’t believe the word came out of my mouth, but at the same time I had no inclination to take it back. I found reprieve from further probing when I noticed my nephew in the corner of the room pestering his sister. “Excuse me,” I politely asked, pointing to the bullying going on.