Pomp & Piety
Recently my son made his First Holy Communion. I use capital letters because everything about the event seemed to demand formality. All of the girls appeared in stunning white silk dresses, lace veils, satin shoes, bright nervous smiles. Take-your-breath-away beauty. The boys, my son included, wore little miniman clothes. Some suits here, some suspenders there. Several parents managed to get their boys into actual shoes. Ours wore his black sneakers.
But some concession was necessary. We live in the Ireland of the Celtic Tigers and the greening of the euro. With two days left until “C” day, Declan was still battling his father and me about his wardrobe. He couldn’t understand why it was not OK to wear his (one and only) dress shirt, sans tie or jacket. And why should he have to tuck it in?
So before long we were into the usual “If you don’t do what we say, we won’t let you have...” rat-a-tat-tat. He refused to go shopping, the ante got upped and upped and upped, and before we knew it, we were forsaking him and all his offspring, and swearing off any future ceremonies he might one day like his old parents to show up for, such as his graduation or his wedding. Or, maybe we would show up, but we would show up with shirts untucked, and tieless. So there.
At one point I heard myself saying, “I don’t make up the semiotics of clothing, Declan, they’re just...
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About the Author
Sue Norton is lecturer of English at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Her work has appeared in periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been broadcast on Irish radio.