I haven’t worn a suit in a while. In some respects, this is a good thing — it means there have been no funerals, but it also means no hooleys, shindigs, or knees-ups. Covid put a halt to our gallop and in that time I just assumed that I could sit at home comfort-eating brownies, blondies and just about anything made with several pounds of butter, and that my body wouldn’t change all that much. Last Saturday morning was a rude awakening as I struggled to find a suit in the wardrobe that still fit me, as my middle son was making his First Holy Communion.
It might have been a while since I had to dress up, but this wasn’t a situation where I could take the risk of dressing down. You never want to be one of those chino-and-polo-shirt churchgoers who didn’t seem to get the memo that Jesus is really just a celestial Anna Wintour and that when He throws a soiree you need to put the effort in; nobody wore chinos to the Last Supper, which was really the Met Gala of its day.
But while you need to be formal, you also need a good fit, as kneeling, standing, and sitting during a religious ceremony puts all stitching under extra duress and the possibility of a burst seam is rather high. It’s hard to sneer at the chino wearer when you are present in the house of the Lord with a split trouser seat revealing jaundiced Tesco boxers. My atheism isn’t so overt that I want to moon half the congregation of Midleton church.
A discussion had taken place where it was suggested that I needed to buy myself a new suit but in this economy that was never going to happen. Instead we broke the seal on our meagre savings account and fixed up what we could around the house. It got to the point where we spent so much money painting and decorating that we didn’t have a whole lot left over for the outfit of the child whose sacred day it was, and so he ended up being one of those chino people, although we did splash out on a dickiebow for him to try and elevate his look from yacht club casual to something resembling reverence.
Naturally almost every other child wore a suit, but who cares — he received Communion, didn’t burst into flames, and we all took off home to show off my hastily painted window sills, rooms freshly moistened with Febreze, and the cleanest toilet in western Europe to friends and family. Everyone ate, drank and was merry, and it was what one would call a special day, blessed with glorious sunshine, good food, and family — never mind the fact that many of us hadn’t seen the inside of a church with any regularity since the 1990s.
It begs the question — after religion, what will we do for rituals and rites of passage like this? What replaces the big day out, when we all cram ourselves into ill-fitting finery and almost collapse from heatstroke in a church car park? I think it’s a sign that I’m getting older that I look forward to religious ceremonies like weddings, Communions and Christenings — you can dodge a birthday celebration or decline the invite to a normal social function but church events are a different story.
After two years of being sat about the house in my stretchy pants eating cake I would have giddily accepted an invite to an exorcism if there was a buffet after, but it was still a great day — and best of all was seeing my son beaming from ear to ear, being the centre of attention rather than only receiving his usual quota of only 25pc of the attention in a house where it is easy to blend into the background. All of my kids deserve to be front and centre at least a couple of days a year, to be photographed with and by everyone, to be allowed to drink several litres of cola, eat pizza and spend the day running wild, with almost no adult supervision, bar that of the Holy Spirit.