Fall 1965-Spring 1966. That’s Park Street Church in the photo. It’s on a corner across from the Boston Common (to the left), and down the hill from the Statehouse. Stately and elegant, the church has a history of outdoor preaching at mid-day from the balcony you see above the corner doors. (click to enlarge)
I’ve never been a member of a church like this. In fact, I’m almost allergic to great big famous churches. Still, it’s an interesting church, and we decide to attend there.
On Sunday mornings traffic is decent. That makes it easier to navigate the twisting cow-path back streets of Boston. On the map below, Park Street is down on the left, just next to the green area–the Boston Common.
~~~Boston Street Map 1960s
Every now and then the senior pastor of Park Street Church hosts a small group of students in his home. It’s for men interested in theological studies or in becoming ministers. Spouses are included, though I don’t remember meeting any except the pastor’s wife. As I said, it’s for men.
Sunday evenings we go to a group for young adults. Most are men, students in colleges and universities. Not many women. Definitely a place to meet, greet and look for interesting people. It seems women have yet to make a substantial mark on the Park Street Church.
Right now D and I are mingling with the large young adult group, meeting and greeting each other. The meeting hasn’t begun yet. Just the mingling.
The following short-version ‘dialogues’ are in my voice. You’ll have to imagine the other sides.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. Pleased to meet you. ‘Elouise.’ Yes, with a ‘u.’ It’s OK. I understand.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. Yes, I’ve been here before. No, I came with David. Yes, he’s my husband. Nice meeting you, too.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. It’s OK. It’s hard to remember names and faces. No, I came with David. See you around.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. That’s right; Elouise. No problem. I’m David’s wife. Nice meeting you, too. See you around.
Is there a sign on my back that says ‘MARRIED’? Why aren’t there more women here? Why am I here?
I know I’m a good listener. But do I really want to hear which courses everyone is taking this semester in college or at a university? Or who’s got which professor? Or the resounding silence with which I am received?
Who am I, anyway? I used to have a name, an identity, friends and a family. And people wanted to know what was happening in my life!
Today I have D. That’s all, besides myself. And ‘MRS’ emblazoned somewhere on my person or hovering above my head.
I know D is interesting. Have they already decided I’m not? Maybe they’re afraid of me. And where are all the women? Aren’t any of these men married? They seem to be allergic to me. Why am I here?
I move a bit closer to D. At least he knows who I am. D reaches his arm around me, smiles, and keeps talking. I think he wants to reassure me.
I’m thrilled to be married to D. But why do people look past me to D when we’re together? Some just walk on by without even acknowledging me. Am I invisible? I know I’m much shorter than D. But surely they see me! Am I that uninteresting?
After several weeks, it seems everybody knows D’s name. I can count on less than one hand how many know mine and actually talk to me. Though when they do talk to me, it’s usually about D! What am I? A robot? A decoration?
I tell D how I feel about this. He sees it, too. He tries to include me in conversations. Most of the time this works for about two seconds. It’s all in the eyes that look away, refocusing on D.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t come.
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 April 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, Spring 1966 (Park Street Church), and
http://www.city-data.com (Boston Street Map 1960s)