You know, I'd almost forgotten I wear it. I so seldom wear a real clerical collar, and working in the NHS, far fewer people see me through the lens of “clergyperson” so I'd got used to being seen as 'Me'.
This week, I was brought down to the pulpit with a bump.
It started with an email. From a gentleman. From a very nice gentleman. It said:
“There is due to be a charity ball on 1st October at the Eden Project. I shall be attending. Would there be any chance you could come as well?”
I wasn't sure what to make of that, so I showed it to a few trusted friends. Two said “That's asking you for a date”. The third said “Ooo err!” because she was the only person to whom I showed the name of the sender, and she, like me, knows that he has a long term partner. So no, I knew it wasn't a date.
But I was left very, very unsure what I WAS being asked. My best guess was that I was wanted as escort: the gentleman's partner had a very nasty accident earlier this year, and is recovering, so it was possible he needed someone to take to the event.
Rather than risk putting my foot in it, I emailed back discretely asking what I was being invited to.
And it turns out that the Trust Chair is organising a party to attend this Ball, and deputed the gentleman to find people to make up a table. And I got the impression from his reply that he was rather alarmed at the realisation that I might have misunderstood his email.
I momentarily toyed with the idea that I had been deliberately made to look foolish. But The gent is actually too nice for that. (I think!)
Which leaves me facing the sad reality that it never occurred to him to look carefully at how he worded his invitation. It didn't occur to him that as a woman I might just misread his intentions. He wasn't sending it to a woman. Because, after all, I'm not a woman. I'm the chaplain. A member of that mysterious asexual group known as clergy. Many years ago, I found a cartoon (sadly not online) showing the doors for three public loos: left, the door with the symbol for the gents, right, the door for the ladies, and in between, a door with a little stylised figure in cassock and clerical collar. Neither male nor female...
And I just didn't need that reminder right now.