Baptismal Fashion

As seems to be the way with my life at the moment, I find myself doing things I don’t expect from one week to the next. Last Tuesday, it was suggested I should be the female assistant in the baptisms that were taking place the following Sunday. I leapt at the opportunity – not only would it be a privilege to be involved in a life changing experience for two members of the congregation, but I’d finally get to set foot in a baptistry. [We who are baptised as infants are often slightly jealous of those that get dunked as adults.]

I spent quite a bit of the days that followed thinking about Sunday night. I’d love to say that this was entirely a praying for the candidates type of thinking, but it wasn’t. Mostly, I was thinking about the clothing implications of the occasion. I’d never even done the swimming badge that involves several lengths clad in pyjamas, so this whole wearing clothes in water thing was quite a daunting prospect.

The (male) member of the clergy who had asked me to take on this role had emphasised one crucial fashion rule for baptisms: don’t wear white, or any other colour that goes see-through. I knew enough to be aware of this already, and I was also aware that denim (or other, similarly heavy fabrics) wouldn’t work either. But other issues remained…

An added complication was the fact that a Bishop was going to be present (for confirming purposes) and the clergy would be robed – therefore I’d need to look smart on a par with them. As I began thinking about skirts and dresses, I realised that certain skirts would simply inflate in water, which wouldn’t be a particularly appropriate look. (By Thursday this was no longer an issue – sadly the Bishop was ill and the confirmations had to be postponed.)

Logically, in order to solve this fashion dilemma, I approached Twitter for advice. Useful responses were received, but the most helpful (from a female vicar) threw me into a panic that I never quite managed to resolve.The advice was as follows:

“Black leggings and black top that isn’t too think so that it won’t stick to you outrageously when wet! Sports bra with padding too!” 

Leggings I’d already hit upon as a genius idea. Should you ever be engaged in such a dampening activity, wear them (if you’re female, obviously). They’re easy to remove, won’t weigh as much as jeans, and ensure decency even under floating skirts. A black top was also sensible – it wouldn’t go see through and can easily be layered under other clothing. Plus, who doesn’t own a black top?

As for the padded bra, well, that opened up a whole can of worms that I hadn’t even considered. Water can be chilly and so can churches (especially in January), and that can do unfortunate things to your (to quote Ross from Friends) ‘nippular area’ – which would look quite inappropriate when having to man-handle people in water.

The thing is, I don’t own a padded bra. Once you’re beyond the letter D in the bra sizing alphabet, you really don’t need the extra padding. At first I thought perhaps it wouldn’t matter, that I’d get away with my regular underwear. Then things got a bit chilly in my flat and I realised that it could potentially be an issue. Even worse, a phone call to my sister a matter of hours before the service ended with her exclaiming that if I didn’t have one, I ought to wear my padded swimsuit under my clothes. (Not an option – my sporty swimsuit has no padding; the one that does has a tied halterneck and would be difficult to conceal under ‘normal’ clothing.) I considered fashioning my own bra padding out of tissues, but obviously, such padding wouldn’t last long in damp conditions.

In the end, it was all fine. Well, the church nearly burnt down the night before, thanks to a malfunctioning extension cable attached to the pool’s heating element, but generally it was fine. I learnt a few useful things that I’ll bear in mind for next time:

  • People are very heavy when wet (and relaxed) in water. 
  • Depending on the water level, you might not get as totally wet as you think you will.
  • Standing in wet clothes as people pray for the recently baptised is a thoroughly chilling experience. 
  • Some men think so little of their footwear that they’re willing to stand in several feet of water wearing them. 
  • Baptising people is really rather exciting.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see about acquiring a padded bra.

    Friday Fun with Research (& some singing)

    I’ve always said that ‘fun’ is subjective and I freely admit that many of you may not find random pieces of research as fun as I – a professional researcher – do. [I will now pause while certain friends guffaw at the notion that I consider myself a ‘professional researcher’. I get paid for doing research, end of story.] However, there is no doubt that research at the more spurious end of the spectrum can be really quite ridiculous.

    So, two pieces that have recently caught my attention…

    Firstly, apparently ‘God wants you fat’ (as the title of the Hairpin article where I found this research said). Apparently, “[F]requent religious involvement appears to almost double the risk of obesity compared with little or no involvement.” The research itself is unclear as to how this link occurs – suggesting that religious people might reward themselves for their good works by indulging in treats, or that it’s to do with generally feeling relaxed.

    That’s not the reason – had the researcher never been to a church function? Have they not experienced the amazing ability Christians have to make every single event revolve around food? There’s a reason why there’s a Christians Against Quiche group on Facebook, people! Heck, at my church they hand you yummy baked goods as soon as you walk through the door, not to mention the exceptionally scrummy meals served after the evening service. It’s not rocket science – hang around church long enough without saying “No” to at least some of what you’re offered and you will gain weight. [To spread this out across other faiths, I will also say that hands-down the best Indian meal I ever ate was in the Gurdwara in Southall.]

    Secondly, a map showing the average bra size of women in different countries. (I’m certain this will be of interest to both genders.)


    I genuinely found this fascinating – who knew that there might be a difference between the populations of the UK and Ireland? Also, I had a slightly blonde moment on first discovering it. Honestly, the question that sprang to mind was “how did they get a decent sample of women to reveal their bra size?” – about two minutes later it dawned on me that the data was probably gathered from bra sales figures. For a supposedly intelligent person I can’t half be a twit at times.

    And now, for something completely different. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite as fun as I first thought it would be, but it’s still kept me entertained for the duration of writing this post. When I first saw the url http://choirsmakemecry.tumblr.com I thought “Wow! Disastrous choral performances that are so bad it’ll make you cry! Excellent…”, because clearly that’s the mean, vindictive kind of person I am. It’s actually a collection of good choir performances that are so beautiful they might make you cry. Have to say I’ve not welled up during any of them, but hair has stood on end and I’ve jiggled about with joy a little.

    Ok, I confess, the primary school choir singing Badly Drawn Boy had me slightly emotional (and they did actions, and swayed, and sounded good – get me a tissue, quick!). Everybody Hurts is always a tearjerker, but as the website says:

    Also, the site (inevitably) features He Who Cannot Be Named, who of course I still love and deeply respect and this performance of his boys choir is especially wonderful. (I dare not use his name – he was on TV again last night and caused another spike in my blog stats as people googled his marital status/sexuality.) 
    Enough soppy music – enjoy your final working Friday for three weeks! [Unless you’re not British, or happen to be ordained and therefore have a rather hectic Friday lined up for next week.] 

    The Double F (Friday Fun – what else could it mean?)

    This week’s fun is entirely derived from one, recently discovered, website – a website that caters more for women than for men. The Hairpin is a similar format to Gizmodo (though not quite so nerdy and sadly lacks a reporter called Jesus), pulling together articles from all over the place, as well as their own. It should be mentioned that some of the articles are NFW (Not For Work) – I inadvertently ended up at a rather risqué Marie Claire article that would be fine in a magazine being read on a train, but not so good on my screen at work while eating soup. Just exercise some caution and you’ll be fine. (Oh, and just because an article begins by mentioning Barbies, doesn’t mean it’s going to be sweet and innocent…)

    Comedy gems discovered so far include:
    The spotting of a ‘catpack’ – a backpack for cats (i.e. you put them in one, not on them) in the wild. [No, I’m not including the photo, you’re going to have to click through…]
    Graphs illustrating the similarity of ex-boyfriends to our fathers and how much women want to be told they’re like their mothers. I love a good graph. [Is this a good time to mention that in the last couple of years I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly drawn to beardy men? Those that know my father will understand why this bothers me.]
    An article outlining where the characters of The Babysitters’ Club are, now that they’re 37. (This is rather niche, even I didn’t read the books that avidly, but I was intrigued and I somehow suspect that at least one reader of this was a big fan.)
    An explanation of how putting a bag on your head can aid the deep conditioning of your hair.

    However, what has most intrigued me has been a series of articles on bras – oh yes, we’re entering that territory again. For the first time I’ve realised that there is quite a difference between the US and UK lingerie markets. We even have different sizes – stateside, they go A, B, C, D, DD and then DDD, DDDD, DDDDD…how ridiculous is that? Counting the number of D’s on a label? No thank-you ma’am.

    The differences first came to light in an article where the prevalence of t-shirt bras was bemoaned. (For the uninitiated – male readers – t-shirt bras include foam padding so that nothing sticks out, if you get my drift.) Such items are fine for those at the lower end of the cup spectrum, but beyond a D it’s quite unlikely that many ladies would want an extra layer of padding. Reading through the comments it emerged that the more blessed of American women were far worse off than their British counterparts, seemingly struggling to acquire decent underwear, especially foam-free bras.

    Yesterday saw a follow-up article, advising well-endowed Americans on where to buy the best underwear and strategies with which to deal with what God had blessed them with. Honestly, until I read this woman raving about M&S and Bravissimo, I had no idea just how lucky we were. When describing particular brands available, she compares Fantasie with Freya as follows, in what I feel is a beautiful piece of prose:

    Not only do they have a perfectly feminine, sexy, and lacy regular line (with a few beige-foam concessions for those who hate joy), they also have a junior line, named Freya, which is totally the morally compromised Skipper to Fantasie’s proper-but-smokin’ Barbie.

    At this moment I wonder if it’s appropriate to mention that I own a couple of Freya bras? Actually, if we’re talking about appropriate, you know what isn’t? A friend looking at you, asking if your cleavage has shrunk, cupping your assets to check and then demanding to know your bra size – all while stood at the bar in a pub! [True story – last Sunday – it ended with me indignantly exclaiming “I’m a 34xx!” and then realising just how many men were stood within earshot.] Some people – well this person – really have no qualms regarding such behaviour, as several people reading this will be able to testify to.

    So, in conclusion The Hairpin is a wonderful find and could keep you occupied all afternoon if you’re in need of displacement. Additionally, if you’re above a D cup and British – don’t move to America (or, if you do, stock up on underwear before you go); if you’re American, come to London and spend a day at Oxford Circus Bravissimo – you will never regret it. Finally, stay away from friends who think grabbing bits of your body in public (or actually, anywhere) is acceptable.

    When the going gets tough…

    I’m angry. Almost (but not quite) hurling things around the room angry. But I’m not going to write about it (I’ll internalise it as usual and gradually turn more and more bitter and twisted…) instead, I’ll write about what I do when I get angry – burn off energy.

    I have a love/hate relationship with running. I know it’s very good for me and tones my body in a way that a lot of other exercise doesn’t, but I hate how much it hurts and how awful a bad run can be. A great run is fabulous; a bad run is utterly dispiriting.

    Thanks to a running injury over 6 years ago (I love that I have an actual ‘running injury’! Sounds fancy, though it’s only a recurring incidence of ankle tendinitis.) I’d almost entirely abandoned outdoor running, favouring very occasional speedy moments on the treadmill. Since the end of the summer gym running has increased in an effort to tone up a bit more. However, the looming prospect of more impoverished times when extortionate gym membership might not be feasible have made me wonder if I should start taking outdoor runs again – after all, it’s completely free.

    So on Saturday, discovering that I didn’t have enough time for the gym, I decided to brave it in the park. All was well and good – the weather was fine, I had the motivation (plus a phone call that made me angry on someone else’s behalf, so there was even more energy to burn) – my only qualm being that I wasn’t sure how to carry all my stuff…

    Thing is, when you’re running au natural, there’s no handy little cubby hole in which to place your iPod and water bottle and no locker in which to leave the other essentials like phones and house keys. Back in the day when I ran round Gloucester Park it wasn’t so much of an issue – iPods were the domain of rich people and there was usually someone at home to let me back in. These days, an iPod is as essential to a decent run as a pair of trainers, and you can’t leave a front door unlocked in Bermondsey.

    Thus, I did what any sensible social networker would do – I consulted Twitter. In return I got a couple of sensible responses and a hugely embarrassing moment. It went something like this:

    Liz: Lack of time means outdoor run instead of gym – only question is, how do I carry my keys etc? Never before have I wished I had a bum-bag…
    Kate: I always carry keys in my hand when I run. I do keep meaning to invest in jogging trousers with decent pockets. [Eminently sensible – just what I needed.]
    Jon: I have the same dilemma.A bum bag or fanny pack as the Americans would say is simply not an option for a macho man like me. [This might be a good moment to mention that I don’t know this Jon person, but we communicate via Twitter – I find this slightly odd, but I believe it’s the whole point of the concept.]
    Liz: Right. Following 2 distracting (but v important) phone calls, I’m off for a run, keys in hand and iPod in bra.
    Jon: Nor is the bra option I might add.
    Matt: Re-tweets the above bra-related tweet. Then writes: I’m afraid I really didn’t mean to RT that! Sorry! Meant to reply to say I momentarily misread iPod as iPad. V worrying. [Matt is a good – and married – friend, albeit with a slight warped sense of humour and fat fingers…]

    Never again am I tweeting anything about my bra…
    (Plus, I’m not entirely sure if a guy even momentarily thinking I might fit an iPad in my bra is a good thing?)

    In actual fact, the keys ended up in my bra too (the bottle of water stayed in my right hand, sports bras really aren’t that capacious); it’s amazing sometimes how being a woman has its advantages! However, before any future outdoor runs are contemplated, I will be making a trip to the fabulous Decathlon to purchase joggers with zipped pockets and some kind of iPod carrying device (and probably a new sports bra while I’m at it).

    And a note on running music. Good gym playlists are essential – mine is (of course) eclectic, consisting of music that I both like and has good rhythm, while possibly being more than a little cheesy (I confess that there is more than one S Club track in the mix). Last month a friend gave me an entirely unexpected gift (I can say with some confidence that he’d not bought me a present since 2005) of 101 Running Songs. It’s a genius collection of excellent gym accompaniment, including two classic Journey tracks, the Proclaimers, a little Britney, some Blondie, my all-time-favourite Wham tune as well as some of the more acceptable dance tracks. It’s done wonders for my running capabilities – practically every run in the last four weeks has been an excellent one.

    Bra drop

    (Yeah, that would be another of those misleading post titles…)

    Forty-eight hours confinement at Royal Holloway (possibly the prettiest of the University of London colleges, though it does have the unfair advantage of not actually being in London…) wasn’t my ideal way to spend an entire weekend. Last night, having reached the point of wanting to hurl my laptop across the room if I had to edit another PowerPoint slide, someone pointed something very small that actually made my day.

    Folks, I offer you – the Bra Bank:

    Yes, that’s a receptacle in which to place your unwanted (yet still wearable) bras. Great idea, although it has to be said I usually wear mine to the point of exhaustion.

    It did lead to a few amusing conversations amongst the women (we were in single sex accommodation blocks with shared kitchens – very boarding school & I think it affected our mentality) and a few work-event/underwear related puns too. Someone suggested a photo [leading church women with their bras] in the denominational newspaper captioned: “council goes tits up” or “council needed more support”.

    Anyway, if you’re interested in recycling your boulder-holders, here’s some more information.