When I was ordained I took vows: That I trusted in Christ, that I believed the scriptures, that I accepted the doctrines of the Reformed Tradition, etc. Those are the ones that I said outloud. But it turns out that I took some others that I shouldn't have. I seem to have vowed that I would forget my gender all together, and be as vanilla as I could. I began wearing pants and suits and skirts down to my ankles--and all quite baggy. If I wore makeup, it was very soft and neutral. My hair was a long, frizzy mess that was anything but spunky. I have always had a thing for fun shoes, but other than that, I wore very few things with any personality at all.
Preachers of the PC (USA) variety very often wear a robe when they preach--so that helped even more. I did finally get a "girl" robe-- that was a little more tailored for my shape than was my previous one-size-fits-all-get-et-done robe. But still, I was able to hide sufficiently. Being a preacher's kid turned preacher, I just always always wanted to be afforded the same luxuries that were given to my dad: to just preach, without having to defend my calling. But I worked so hard at being a preacher who happened to be female, that I forgot that I was indeed a female preacher. (You know, aside from lovely stoles and coordinating, liturgically appropriate footwear!)
Fast forward five years and a lifetime. I've lost 57 lbs from my heaviest weight, and gained a spunkiness that I thought I'd lost forever. I've found a desire to be real and authentic, and to stand in my own (admittedly fun) shoes as I walk through life. I've cut my hair quite short, and I am starting to wear clothes that fit my shape. Most days, I make it out of the house with my hair (mostly) done and makeup on my face. I don't wear tennis shoes to work anymore.
But tonight, all my notions about living fully into my identity as a fun, fearless, fabulous female pastor were taxed. I was doing a wedding at the church, and every Southern girl knows that a wedding that occurs after 5 p.m. requires a bit of formality. It just felt all wrong to wear my official go to preacher garb suit-- which now fits me about as well as a trash bag. I guess I could've found something equally as dowdy, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Especially after talking to some fun church ladies and learning that they were planning on wearing cocktail attire. I took stock of who was likely to be in attendance, and realized that it would be a fun crowd. I consulted my wonderful group of clergy women friends, and posed the question: What's a girl to do? The communal wisdom was that I should "Wear the dress and cut a rug!" and "have the fun" and "wear it and own it" and "wear spikey heals and great earrings and pearls". Or as one said, "Would be rude not to wear it and rock it." (And this is why every girl pastor needs a group of girl pastors to ask serious questions...they rock.)
So I did. It was conservative and tasteful with no body parts hanging out, but it was form fitting-- a had a just-shy-of-conservative slit up the side. (And worth noting: the dress was the one I wore to my senior high prom.) And I wore dangly, sparkly earrings and red lipstick, and strappy sandals to show off my sparkly red toenail polish. I felt a little strange, but I felt good in my body.
There are parts of my body that I still don't love. I still have a pooch and jiggly arm fat that keeps waving after the rest of me stops. But I also have collarbones, and muscles, and a waist, and ankles. I'm not yet where I want to be, but tonight, that wasn't my thought. Tonight, I wasn't a girl trying to hide. Once the service was done, and the robe came off, I was just Kim: the girl lucky enough be to comfortable in her own skin and have fun with people she loves.
I always knew being a preacher would make me a public figure. I just never knew there'd come a point where I didn't mind having a figure... in public.