As many people do, I had a series of (at some points, calamitous) roommates throughout my twenties. When I was in my mid-twenties, I roomed with this lovely Catholic female graduate student who was to be married to a really fun – also Catholic – man, who I think might have also been a graduate student. I can’t clearly remember the details at this advanced age, but they were really genuine people and I enjoyed their company a great deal.
Fast forward a few months, I’d been invited to their traditional Catholic wedding and the obvious choice for a date to accompany me was my then boyfriend, a non-practicing Muslim of obvious Brown People country origin.
The wedding began and progressed normally, and it was very pretty. Then came communion!
If you’ve ever attended a Catholic church service, you’re likely familiar with a ritual that occurs, during which the congregation lines up in the aisles of the sanctuary and makes their way toward the front of the room to imbibe the representation of Jesus’ blood, and consume a small wafer reminiscent of His body. I spent many years going to Catholic church during holidays (plus summers) while at my grandmother’s house, and am pretty accustomed to this routine. There is one caveat I was not familiar with, however.
Apparently, non-Catholics aren’t allowed to participate in this ritual?
Well, I’m not a practicing Catholic and I didn’t know all of the rules, so I encouraged my unindoctrinated boyfriend to go up for communion because he was fascinated by the proceedings of an unfamiliar religious ceremony and wanted to participate. And it was a wedding, so he wanted to be respectful of the couple.
My partner waited in the line slowly approaching the priest, and when it was his turn, the religious leader refused him communion, opting instead to “bless” him, which essentially amounts to a light, respectful touch on the forehead. However, it was not received respectfully because it took my boyfriend by surprise, and he was mortified at being turned away in front of an entire congregation’s worth of wedding guests, some of whom, I would assume were also not Catholic.
Now, I was twenty-four, and full of the fierceness of youth. I was also totally unaware that I am autistic – so I didn’t recognize that my complete inability to ignore interpersonal wrongdoing was fueling my then inability to overlook the glaring slight I had just witnessed. What came next was something entirely disrespectful to the faith of Catholicism, but it reclaimed the dignity of my boyfriend, so I have no deep regrets. Because, like many autistics, I can’t abide injustice.
I don’t adhere well to any infrastructure that places any one person at a higher level of worth or respect than anyone else – and a ritual that requires robbing someone of their dignity to uphold an arbitrary standard is not one that I can easily overlook, particularly when it has been used as a weapon against someone I love.
I remember the reception more favorably. I was in the company of a person I knew well, so my social anxiety was kept moderately in check. My roommate had purchased a lot of one particular wine of mixed varietal for the reception from the couple’s favorite vineyard, and I can still recall the sweet, pleasing taste. The weather was warm but not too hot or humid, which is unusual during an often sweltering, Southern summer. It was a beautiful evening to remember.
We all got pretty tipsy, and the dancing began.
A dance circle formed. You know, one of those formations where people take turns dancing in the middle and then retreat to the perimeter? Well, the officiating priest was young and hip, and he was all about that dance circle.
I was still silently raging, though.
I joined the dance circle. As the priest made his way to the middle to show off his moves, I danced casually into the center with him as everyone watched from the sides, visably uncomfortable. My desire to right a perceived wrong was stronger than my desire to people-please at that moment, so I kept moving. I promptly blessed the priest on the forehead, then danced my way back out. Obviously embarrassed, he immediately exited the dance floor and returned to his seat.
I said to my boyfriend, “Nobody puts my baby in a corner.” And then we left, because I had just committed the biggest party foul of all recorded time.