abfab

When I was a kid my parents had pretty strict rules about what we were allowed to watch on television. There was no Full House or Double Dare. And Blossom was totally out of the question. I spent my middle school evenings watching Nick at Nite. So there was a lot of Dragnet and Green Acres. Also, my Dad would, on occasion, let me watch Absolutely Fabulous with him.

Retrospectively, it wasn’t exactly Mr. Rogers. If you have never watched AbFab, then get to work. It’s a show about two drunken, pill popping, ludicrous characters named Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone (how great are those names?) who terrorize Edina’s straight laced daughter, Saffron.

They are vile and horrible women. But their hell-bent nature makes them somehow funny. They become caricatures of that age-old and most fun of questions: What would happen if my outside self actually looked like my inside self?

Honestly, I hadn’t thought about the show for years. I grew up. Comedy Central stopped showing anything that was actually funny. And I had all but forgotten the ladies of AbFab.

And then, in my senior year of seminary, we took a class trip to Canterbury Cathedral. It was both magnificent and unnerving. I was so grateful to be in this beautiful, sacred place. But, it was the first time I had been away from my husband and young son for any length of time. And my seminary class was made up mostly of single, child-less people. So let’s just say that their Friday nights were more exciting than mine.

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So, for the first few days, I decided I wouldn’t stay out late with the group. I mean, I was a married mother of a small child. I needed to at least appear to be a Godly Woman. But then I spent intentional time with these people and almost without realizing it, I let my guard down. So at the end of our week together, I put on some high heeled shoes and hit the night life of Canterbury with my fellow seminarians.

We went to like three bars, which felt like the coolest thing I had done in a decade. I think I had three beers, which also felt like a major accomplishment. We were out late. Like 4am late. And at some point we all got fish and chips from a street vendor. I stood on the corner, laughing loudly with friends, while eating greasy cod and soggy fries. It was awesome.

Then I went to bed and totally forgot that it was a Saturday night.

At 11:10am the bells of Canterbury Cathedral rang to tell us that church was just about to start. I jumped out of bed and just started putting on clothes. I wore my signature Mexican Crackerbarrel tunic (it looks exactly like what you are picturing), grabbed some velour leggings (why do I own those?), and managed to jump back into my high heels from the night before. I threw on my jacket and noticed in the mirror that my makeup was caking up around my eyelids. This was not the “church outfit” I had planned on wearing.

As I walked (ran) into the Cathedral, I saw all of my classmates sitting there. They began giggling and gesturing towards the front of my jacket, at what can only be described as a fish and chips “juice” stain. I bet I smelled amazing. It was like I was watching myself in an alternative universe called: Sarah Tried to Hang, Now She’s Hungover.

And all I could think in this moment of sheer ridiculousness was: I am one cigarette short of an Absolutely Fabulous character.

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And then I started to laugh at myself. At the ridiculousness of trying to be 20 at 30. And at the disco-themed attire I was donning for the Holy Eucharist. I mostly laughed because this was the opposite of how I had planned on things going for Sunday Morning worship at Canterbury Cathedral. I should have been there early so as to adequately judge and greet latecomers. I should have worn something respectable and Proverbs 31-ish. And instead, here was all my well-plotted-out righteousness made plain for what it really is: total and complete nonsense.

All these years later, I realized I still have a deep affinity for the women of AbFab. Despite all of the martini glasses and smeared lipstick, it is ultimately a show that makes us laugh because we see ourselves in it.  We are reminded not to take things too seriously. When we meticulously plan our existence, seek to raise our status, when we try to keep everything close to the chest, we lose sight of our gorgeously untidy reality. And then, we might just miss bearing witness to our own redemption.

The strange thing about laughing at myself in the morning light of Canterbury Cathedral is that I also remembered how beloved I was. Our ruinous selves are met with the Gospel. Our ambitions fall and shatter on the floor. And we are met with laughter and an undeniable love.