We visit some of the most embarrassing moments in a sacred setting.
There are times in life when we’re desperate to make a good impression—and those seem to be the precise times when life has the opposite agenda.
Places of worship are a particularly popular setting for humiliation, as any woman squeezed into a bridesmaid’s dress adorned with giant floppy bows can attest. And things get ratcheted up a few notches when children are added to the mix.
My worst moment came after my husband and I got our boys cleaned up one Sunday morning, then arrived in time to secure good seats up front for the service. All went well until our 2-year-old squirmed out of our death grip, raced into the aisle and flung his crayon into the air. As it arced downward, my husband and I both instinctively calculated the trajectory and froze in horror.
Seconds later, the crayon hit an elderly woman in the face. She screeched and threw up her arms. My husband then shouted, “Oh, God!”—as everyone turned to stare.
Thank goodness I’m not the only one who falls short when attempting to “spread the peace.” Here’s what happened to a few other local families who tried to put their best faces forward in a holy place:
A perpetually harried (is there any other kind?) mother of twins in Bethesda recalls the time she took her fussy 2-year-olds into the glassed-in “crying room” after they interrupted the service. The room contained toys, books and other kiddie delights—but naturally her son made a beeline for the projector that was displaying the priest’s cutout art on the wall behind the altar.
The tot grabbed the lens of the projector and yanked it as his mother tried to wrestle him away. In the ensuing tussle, the projector sent the light angel ricocheting wildly around the church, finally coming to a halt on the face of the elderly organist, who stopped playing in the middle of Silent Night. “The entire congregation turned as one to stare up at me,” the mother moans.
Assaulting strangers in church seems to be a pastime for many children, as evidenced by this anecdote from a Bethesda man who became abruptly and intimately acquainted with the concept of a “kneeling bar.”
“I was at a Catholic wedding when a family arrived late and slid into my pew,” he says. “One of the kids flipped down the bar directly onto my feet. That was painful, but nothing compared to what I felt two seconds later, when the entire family kneeled on it. I screamed and began thrashing as everyone—even the bride—turned around to stare at me in horror.”
And speaking of weddings, one Chevy Chase woman who was serving as a bridesmaid had to hurry back down the aisle to assist a tiny flower girl who’d suddenly gotten stage fright. That doesn’t sound so bad—until you consider what happened at the reception.
The bride’s mother “pulled me aside to suggest that if I ever wore the bridesmaid dress again (as if!) I should be sure to put on the slip that came with it. I turned purple as she explained the dress was completely transparent, especially when sunlight streamed in through the church windows and fell upon me as I hurried to help the little flower girl. Oh—and if I had any doubt as to just how transparent the dress was, after a few drinks, one of the groomsmen told me he now knew I had a tattoo.”
Exhibitionism at church? It happens more often than you might think.
A woman who moved from Bethesda to California came back home for Easter and attended a crowded service with her parents. Afterward, her father hurried to get the car, thoughtfully sparing the rest of the family a long walk to the outer edge of the parking lot. He pulled up in front of the church, where the entire congregation was still gathered, and the woman started to climb into the backseat.
Suddenly she screamed and threw her dress over her head, essentially mooning friends, neighbors and clergy. “My horrified father, thinking I’d lost my mind, peeled out—leaving the entire family behind,” she says.
Turns out a bee had crawled under her dress and stung her on the bottom.
Sarah Pekkanen’s second novel, Skipping a Beat (Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster), came out in February. She can be reached at email@example.com.