“That sounds like the beginning of a joke,” my husband said when I told him I was going with Ray to the baptism of our mutual friend’s son. “A gay and an atheist walk into a church.”
“Ha, ha,” I returned. It’s the same voice I use for people—including my mother—who try to be funny by warning me that entering a church might cause me to spontaneously combust.
Which is ludicrous. I’ve been in plenty of churches. I’ve been to weddings. I’ve been to funerals. I’ve even attended services. A good Sunday morning Baptist church service was my ninth-grade boyfriend’s idea of foreplay. And for one very weird year in college, I frequented Catholic mass.
Still, even though Ray and I love our friend dearly, neither of us is particularly comfortable being in a church, so we were both a bit anxious.
Here’s how things went down:
1. I let him enter first, figuring that since he had two counts against him (gay and atheist—or gaytheist, if you will), he’d probably burst into flames before I did. So when he seemed fine, I tiptoed across the threshold of the St. Rose of Lima Historic Chapel and gently deposited the dregs of my pumpkin spice latte in the chapel trash can. (Because I think there might be a rule against Starbucks in church. Which I don’t think is fair, by the way, because I almost fell asleep in Mass lots of times during my year of Catholicism and can’t see where Mother Mary would be so hard-hearted as to object to a little pumpkin-flavored caffeine and sugar boost for anybody.)
2. Having made it in unscathed, we greeted our friend, who had dressed the baby in an adorable white suit, complete with white vest and bowtie. As I picked up the suited baby, Ray cooed, “Aww! He looks like a tiny pimp!”
3. We sat in one of the rear pews because Ray was afraid to get too close to the altar. He pointed up at the ceiling and I had to reassure him that the crack he noticed was probably there before and was not caused by our presence.
4. He reminded me that he thinks our friend’s dad is hot. I reminded him that if he ever said that about my father, I would castrate him.
5. He turned to me and said, “You know what would make this a lot more interesting? If, like, one in four babies combusted when you put the water on them because they were demons.”
6. Partway through the service, I realized that because I’d downed my pumpkin spice latte rather quickly, I had to pee very, very badly. Then, the imp of the perverse leaped out and told me that I should lift up my dress and pee on Ray’s leg. I didn’t do it because A) peeing in a church is socially unacceptable, and B) it would be messy, and I didn’t have extra underpants. Still, a part of me really wanted to do it because A) Ray has expressed on several occasions that he generally doesn’t mind being peed on, and B) I wanted more than anything to one day be able to say, “Remember that one time when we were at a baptism and I peed on your leg?”
7. I peed. In the restroom, in the parish center. It was dark, and I’m generally afraid of church basements because I think parishioners lurk down there. I think they know atheists will eventually have to pee and they just hide by the restroom and bide their time. But Ray was there, so I figured I’d be relatively safe. I was very glad right then that I didn’t ruin our friendship by deciding to pee on him.
8. I did hide my eyes when we walked by the bulletin boards, though, because church bulletin boards make me feel all oogy inside, like 1970s porn and circus peanuts.