As a young, not unattractive, female chaplain, I run into all sorts of comments about my appearance. I get it, I’m a novelty.

My friends who are ministers in churches get this all the time too, though meeting new patients and different staff everyday might present me more opportunities to hear others’ reactions.

Sometimes it bothers me, other times I can laugh at it. Here’s to emphasizing the latter, with a little bit of snark:

The top ten comments I’ve received (thus far) about my gender, youth & appearance:

  1. “You’re the new chaplain? I guess that works, you’re like a cheerleader for God!”  Anyone who knew me in high school would agree I was the furthest thing from a cheerleader.
  2. After asking a nurse about a patient “He’s kind of a jerk, but I bet he’d be willing to visit with a pretty girl.” Umm, Is that kind of a compliment?
  3. “How old are you? You look about 17!”  I get this at least once a week.
  4. “Are you married? Is your husband a minister too?” Another common one, always from older women.
  5. “What’s your pager number? Can we just page Chaplain Barbie overhead?” This is probably the one profession Barbie never held…
  6. “Oh my goodness, you’re young enough to be my child!” This patient was only 5 years older than me. 
  7. “What do I call you? Sister? Priestess?” How about Christine?
  8. “You shouldn’t be here, you should be on the cover of a magazine.”  From a 91 y.o. woman – I’ll admit this comment made my day, though I think her eyesight was failing…
  9. “You don’t look like a chaplain.” Me:”What does a chaplain look like?” “An old man with wrinkles and white hair.” Coincidentally, this is what my then boss looked like.
  10. “You look like a gym teacher.” ???!! Is this what happens when I wear my hair up?

There is a fine line between someone trying to wrap their head around who I am and what I do and being blatantly offensive. To me, these comments are more about people not knowing what to do with chaplains, let alone chaplains who look like me.

I am a feminist and (gasp) believe in equality in the workforce. I am professional. I have boundaries and when someone has verbally harassed me I have reacted accordingly (a whole other post entirely).

All that said, I can also view my youth, my looks and my gender as a gift.

I know there are patients and staff who find me less threatening and more approachable. And the nurse from the comment above did have a point – there are patients who would not want to talk with their image of a chaplain, but will often talk to me. Sometimes my smile will get me into a patient’s room, and then I like to think, my pastoral care giving skills will keep me there.

Sister chaplains, what say you? What are your craziest comments from patients and staff?