I cannot begin to count the number of times a patron (usually a man in his 30s with a beery glaze in his eyes, in the company of other men of similar description) has called out, “Hey Father, stay away from the little boys!” He then laughs uproariously and spends the next half-minute exchanging high-fives with his friends, since he has just uttered what I sincerely believe to be the funniest words he has ever strung together in his whole life.
My reaction to this is determined on a case-by-case basis. If the group seems unmanageable, I smile indulgently and keep walking. If they seem like they might be receptive, I smile indulgently and talk to them for a few minutes. Some of the actors who play Father Mark really get into the whole little boy thing, but it’s never appealed to me – it’s just so trite and lacking in wit or originality that I can’t get into it. The one concession I’ll make to it is a line I rarely use. If I’m caught at a table that is just determined to play the little boy card, I will sometimes pick out a likely victim and ask thoughtfully, “Wait a minute – did you used to be one of my altar boys?” That usually gets a big laugh. I then look around behind him and mutter, “I never forget the back of a head.” But really, that’s the exception. I much prefer to play him as a genuinely sweet fellow who may occasionally utter a double-entendre without realizing it.
So now we come to what motivated me to write about this. It’s an article that appeared in today’s Chicago Sun-Times sports section.
*Sigh* Here I am, fighting the good fight, trying to honor our pious men in black, and I’m getting no help from our distinguished print media. Here they go, perpetuating the same old stereotypes I’ve struggled against! I haven’t reprinted the whole article, but I think you can get their drift from the few excerpts visible here. The struggle for dignity goes on.