Glad to see this story published this week in the Sunday Age faith column August 4, 2019
He is a man fully present to himself. In the botanical gardens he
wears a neat close-brimmed hat and weaves through the crowd following a
child. Deftly he catches her up, bringing her back into the gathering for
the wedding ceremony. He is bearded and his body is compact, perfectly formed
and compellingly small. He has such gravitas and is utterly himself.
Later you will meet him and his partner, the mother of the
doll-like child. While you are making introductions he will beam up at this
woman who is beautifully round in ways that re-define the delights of a shapely
waist and abundant breasts. Her dress has a firm bodice and flares
confidently in a full-skirted flounce. The floral fabric speaks happiness
wrapped close to the heart of this woman. Her gaze carries such warmth that you
feel immediately cosied. She gleams.
Her dear friend is getting married. They did their doctorates together in a far place, and she has come to witness this wedding. Now we have seen the brides arriving and we are filled with delight.
That night you will see the man and the woman dancing. There is a live band, the music calls and people dance on the deck. The man has removed his hat and from behind you notice his upturned head and the fringe of hair that circles it. As the pair twirl you see them in profile, a picture of rapture so binding that you want to hold this moment, let the sweep of their love suffuse you.
There is an easy grace in their dance-hold. They are not new to this posture and they inhabit it with the familiarity of old dance partners. This couple are young, perhaps in their 30s – yet old enough to have arrived into themselves in this way. Their physical difference might have once isolated them, made them ‘other’, the non-standard versions of shape and height. Here, now, they are so clearly content that their wholeness speaks love for themselves as well as each other.
So much is lost when beauty is homogenised to replications of tall men and slim women. It is also damaging. Celebrating only narrowly defined ranges of human loveliness is a form of un-love and a silent erasure. Constant exposure to the supposed perfection of celebrity sterotypes is designed to find us wanting.
Jesus of Nazareth often responded to people whose lives were enacted outside the embrace of communal approval. He spoke with them and named them as faithful. By implication the harmful other-ing of their communities was faith-less. His censure to gendered power and religious entitlement remain provocations to this day.