Sister Edith Myflesh
02 December 2001
Peace, Love & Gold Glitter
Last night at around seven, I walked into my roommate's room and announced that if I were a Novice, I would be getting into the shower now to start getting ready for my 9:30 event. He suggested that I start getting ready a lot earlier than that. Given my extensive inexperience with makeup, and the amount of work that whiteface is going to take, he's probably right.

Fortunately for me, Novice is about six months away and I actually didn't start getting ready until about 8:30. I threw on my "Sisters mix" and jumped into the shower. The rain that had been pounding my city all day had tapered off to a light mist, but I brought my heavy Kenneth Cole raincoat anyway; San Francisco's weather is unpredictable and it can turn on you in an instant.

Arriving at our meeting place, the Twin Peaks (a.k.a. the Glass Coffin), I found Sister Hellen Wheels and Guard Woody Blowhard already there. Sister Hellen commented on my punctuality, wryly noting that it would probably be a while before the others arrived. I ordered a vodka gimlet and we talked about the economy, weekends in Paris and how the community's view of AIDS has shifted since the 80s. Sister Hellen is one of the older Sisters and I found it interesting and valuable comparing her views with mine.

Shortly after, we were joined by Sister Risqué who was wearing a lovely pink plastic Chinese dress and pink feathers. The conversation then shifted to law and lawyers, as she had just passed the bar. Sister Risqué was also scandalised that the bar charged her for a club soda. Sister Dana Van Iguity and a male companion turned up and shortly thereafter, Sister Constance Craving and Sister Gina Tonic — who was most sparkling — arrived. We passed out our first round of condoms and left into the wet evening.

Our first stop was Daddy's, a dark, scent-free leather bar that shows pictures of hirsute daddies on the bar's teevees. While not my first choice of bars, it seemed rather nice, although I didn't really explore the bar too much. I had decided earlier in the evening that I was going to try and take on more of an observer role, watching and learning instead of actually wandering around and talking to anyone. Mostly, I stood around, holding the bag of condoms and Sister Gina's coat and scarf.

Our next stop was a few doors down: the creatively named Bar. Walking into the place felt like stepping onto the set of a bar from a mid 80s teevee show. I think Sister Risqué summed it up very well when she said it felt like being in LA. The only redeeming feature was the doorman who was really sweet. Back out in front of Bar, sheltering under its wide awning, we decided on our evening's route. Our ambitious plan was to swing down Castro, hit the bars on 18th and then loop back up, popping into the Café and the Detour.

Going down Castro and turning right on 18th, we found ourselves in the Pendulum, a bar I had seen many times but had never been in. The Pendulum only had a light crowd and, with our condoms nearly gone, Sister Gina suggested that I follow her and observe; my first real introduction to the Sisters' brand of bar ministry. We approached a man, seated against the wall and nursing a beer. Sister Gina introduced herself and told him that she was there in celebration of World AIDS day. She said that the Sisters were going around and giving blessings to people; would he like one?

The man consented to a blessing, with glitter, which Sister Gina applied to the skin above each of his eyebrows. She then asked him about his day, how he was feeling, how things were going for him. After chatting with him for a couple minutes, she wished him well and off we went. After a couple more men, she turned to me and asked if I had been able to hear what she was saying. I told her that I had and she explained that, really, bar ministry was just a matter of listening to people. "And so many people have so few people in their life who really pay attention to them," I said. "Exactly. The idea is to spread a little joy." I had just learned something important.

As Sister Gina talked to a group of men, I was approached by someone whom we had already spoken to. He had lived in the city all his life and, although he knew of the Sisters, he didn't really know what they were about. So he and I talked about my status as Aspirant and I told him about the process to become a Sister. We then talked about the work that the Order does; bingo and Pink Saturday and some of our other work. I think I even managed to convince him to come to bingo next Thursday.

As we were talking, Sister Gina walked up. "Is our little David telling you all about the Order?" "Oh yes," the man replied, "I never realized all of the things that you do." Sister Gina winked at me as she walked away. Another gold star for me.

We left the Pendulum and dashed across the street in the rain to the Edge. As we approached, Sister Gina was intercepted by a tall, rather cute man. He said that she had just made his entire trip to the US worthwhile. He introduced himself as Steven and informed us that he was from Manchester. They chatted for a while, then Sister Gina blessed him and we went inside. Parched, Sister Gina and I headed for the bar. We lingered for a while, chatting with the boys. Sister Gina gave a blessing to rather cute butch boy who played along, despite his skepticism. "I'm a hardcore Catholic," he said. "It's okay honey, I was raised Catholic," Sister Gina replied as she proceed to Lay Hands upon the lad.

Before proceeding on to the next bar, we crossed the street and congregated under an awning in front of the community center. Sister Helen led us in a remembrance of those Sisters who have gone ahead of us; the Sisters who devoted their lives to help others avoid the pain of having to go through what they went through. In addition to the many Sisters who have died of AIDS, the Sisters also lost five of their own in nearly two years. Together we prayed that the younger generation of Sisters would never have to go through that pain again.

As we stood in the circle, hands clasped, we all tried to remember the names of the Sisters who had gone on. Sister Hellen and Sister Dana knew many of these nuns and named several. As did Sister Gina. Because I have been reading the Sistory, I had read about several of them, including Sister Florence Nightmare, RN who helped to create the original "Play Fair". At the time, I didn't feel like it was my place to say anything; that I didn't have any right to say that I was honouring the memory of someone I hadn't even known. Now, of course, I know differently. When I spend my archive time as a Postulant, I'm going to have to see if I can't find out more about Sister Florence.

In my experiences with the Sisters so far, I have encountered a lot of different perceptions of what the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence really are. I have heard that we are irresponsible party girls who mock the church and advocate unsafe sex. And I have heard us described as silly gay men who dress as nuns in whiteface. But standing in that circle with my Sisters — even sitting here typing this retelling of the experience — I was moved by the power and grace of what the Sisters are. Like so many things in life, the Sisters are all of those things, and yet none of them at the same time. Yes, we encourage sex and lots of it; as long as it's safe. And yes, we can be silly men dressed as nuns in whiteface. Each Nun brings her own agenda, perspective, experiences and ideas to the Order. And, while we may have some internal divisions, we are all united with the common goal of making the world a better place than it was we entered it.

Like Sister Gina said, it's all about spreading around a little peace, love and goodwill.

Passing by the SF Badlands — which we dislike because they won't let the nuns in for free to do bar ministry — we proceeded on to the Midnight Sun. It was packed with the typical Castro clone bar scene and we didn't stay for very long. Sister Constance and I went around the bar and handed out bingo fliers. And then we went on to our last stop for the evening.

I had always made fun of the sad little bar called Moby Dick. But I actually had the most fun here. Of course, by this point in the evening, we were just about done and ready to call it a night. Sister Constance and I had a gimlet and talked about my going through the process. Then we got into makeup and talked technique with Sister Gina. That stuff is hard work, let me tell you. But I'm eager to start practicing. I never imagined that I would ever say that.

Sister Gina, Sister Constance and I all bid are good nights and stepped out into the pouring rain. We walked Sister Gina part way to her house, then I left Sister Constance at the corner and went off in search of the bus that never came. I ended up walking, in the pouring rain, all the way home. By the time I got home, I was squishing, but the raincoat and my umbrella kept most of the water off of me.

Stripping off my wet pants, I has tired, but happy and ready for the general meeting on Wednesday. And even more ready for the one in February, when I will hopefully be made a Postulant.
recorded in the Book of Events :: testify, Sister!

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