Actually, it IS Rocket Science



How I lost my vir-sin-ity

So here’s something:

I had to take remedial Christianity lessons.

Because I was stuuuuuupiiiiiid.

No.  Not really.  …Well. That’s still up for debate.

When we lived in Pennsylvania I went to a public school, and the separation of church and state has never been so strong in any other state than the Amish farm-raised land of Penn.  So for the first several years of my educational memory I spent my time coloring in pictures of founding fathers rather than the mother Mary (which probably saved a lot on Cerulean Blue on Crayola’s stock, but if we’re being honest, probably depleted a LOT of Tumbleweed and Burnt Umber).  We lived very puritanical lives, filled with red-meat Fridays and guilt-free Sundays.

Then we moved to Louisiana.

To their credit, my parents gave me the opportunity to choose my own school, and I landed on the space between Community Chest and Free Parking, which put me directly in the crossfire of:

“Go to Jail Catholic School”

I entered in somewhere around 3rd grade, and if you’ve never enjoyed the pleasure of the shell shock that comes from moving across the Mason-Dixon while also getting a crash course in Christianity, then god bless you (you had to have known that was coming at some point).  And if you are opposed to self-deprecating jokes centered around the re-education of an otherwise smarmy 3rd grade asshole, then you might prrrrooooooobabaly want to just pay the majority of your attention to the picture below.

Here’s a picture of a child dragging a dog on a wheelbarrow.  There is no correlation, although I’m sure I could make one because that’s one of the things you learn in grad school; to distract from the uncomfortable and bullshit your way through the rest of it:

Upon entering a southern school, I encountered many new things that I had not previously anticipated.  Things like the fact that crayons were never, under any circumstance, to be known as crayons again, but rather “colors.”  As in:

“Do you have a red color?”

(What the shit??)  “Like, am I wearing red?”

Noooo, do you have a red color???”

________

And I was no longer allowed to refer to my cohort as “guys” because:

“Hey, you guys!  Look at this!”

“Um… We’re GIRLS.”

________

Alright, you jerkoffs.  Let’s play ball.

________

When I came out of my bitchslap of an indoctrination to life outside of my comfort level, I got thrown an entirely new curveball.  Because I hadn’t met the requirements of the previous level of education asked by my sainted educational palace, I then had to go to the grade below my level so that I could properly handle the task that was…

The Holy Act of Reconciliation

Eeeesh.  Even writing that now sends me into drug-withdrawal sweats.  Who’s great idea was it for us to just tell each other’s secrets to one another and expect a full repentance to come from four hail mary’s and maaayyyybe an our father here and there.

By the way, if you’re plotting out your hate mail, I would just like you to know that I welcome it and I’ll be glad to post it on here at any point.  And any holier-than-thou-shit is just going to get above the fold.  Might even get me more visitors, so I thank you in advance.

Judge not lest what? What was that?

Even in the 3rd grade, I was somewhat aware that I was being sent into a remedial setting because children are acutely aware when they are being thrown back a grade.  In fact, that’s the same thing as shitting on someone’s new grave.  Not pissing, mind you, flat out wipe-your-ass-on-the-three-day-old grass shitting.  It tells them that they are not performing well enough to move forward.  I’d say it’s humbling, but in my case, it was a slap in the face.  I was a goddam A student, and you can kindly fuckoff if you’re going to send me back.

But I abided, because I have been and will always be non-confrontational, although I hated the fact that I seemed to be so behind the times that I couldn’t even keep up with my own grade, since they were sooooo advanced to have already performed the Catholic rite of passage.  While still calling crayons colors.

You know what’s funny is that I actually love those people now.  We grew up together and most of them have turned into some of my greatest friends and confidants.  … Most of them.

When I got into the program, I was informed that by the end of the semester I’d be partaking in

The Holy Act of Reconciliation

And that I would need to come up with some errors, misgivings, impure thoughts, and whatnot that I had had prior so that I might be cleansed in the name of the lord.

When you’re a straight A student who has no intent on pissing anyone off, or impinging upon His holy graces, by the 3rd grade, you really don’t have that much to go off of.  You could talk about the fact that you discovered yourself accidentally or ate the extra doughnut hole, but really, who’s going to admit that in front of a priest who watches you sing in the choir every week?  Brings a new meaning to “rounding your ‘O’s” if you catch my drift.

But without conjuring up some repugnant or lascivious act that I hadn’t performed, I’d be doomed for all eternity.  Because I had to admit my sins.  My terrible, awful, 7-year-old sins.  Or else I wouldn’t get any candy  into heaven.  And I had to do it face to face with the priest.  No doors or obscured windows.  Mano-e-mano.  That’s fun, yeah??

So I sat there.  Thinking.  Trying to draw up any repressed or submersed memories of when I was a horrible person.  Surely I was.  I remembered asking my parents if I could go outside when they were on the phone and had already asked me not to interrupt.  I remembered eating my gummy worms before my “real food” at lunch a couple of times.  But those didn’t seem like the types of sins my teachers were talking about.

They wanted dirt.

They wanted me to talk about the time I performed spousal abuse, or when I knocked over that 7-11.  Every example they gave was another horrific look into sad adult life, and it upset me.  But, being the striving-for-success child that I was at the time, I took it as a message.  A message that I needed to up the ante on my confession.  Which is why…

I lied on my reconciliation.

Wow.  Impressive, right?  Performing my first real sinful act while simultaneously being absolved of the previous miniscule ones?

It went something like this:  I walked in to the room where there were two chairs sitting directly under an overhead light, and they faced each other.  One was already occupied by Father Bill, the priest who we saw for class mass every. single. Wednesday.  And even though he was trying to feign a welcoming smile, his patience had worn thin (as I would imagine having to sit through 60 previous kids’ confessions might make anyone weary), and his smile was bordering on plastered on/muscle twitches.  The set up was not unlike a warm-lensed interrogation room one might see on a criminal investigation show your mom always loves to watch, and I was the suspect perp.  Oh holy shit.  I’ve seen how those things end.  It’s not looking good for me right now.

I sat down and tried to pull my early 90’s ugly-ass-flowery-with-unecessary-lace-in-weird-places dress from under me as I did, like my mom had taught me.  Father Bill offered a somewhat genuine smile and addressed me by name, which only made me that much more anxiety ridden; this guy knew who I was.  Before I thought I had just blended into the background and could therefore never be picked out of a line up.  Negating the fact that I had already done a number of solos in the choir at his own concerts masses.  I turned to him and began:

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  This is my first confession…”

And what spewed after that was nothing short of complete drivel.  I think I talked about things that are the utmost of worst behavior a 7-year-old can come up with; things that will put you in Dante’s worst circle.  I talked about cursing, I mentioned stealing a candy bar off of a girl’s desk (which was an actual act I watched another student do), I even went as far as offering a story about how I pushed a girl down (even though it was during a game of Red Rover, and she didn’t even fall down.  I left those out for story’s sake).  I felt like I was no longer in confession, but that I was one of those people my mom talked about who called in to police stations after Kennedy had been shot and offered a false confession.  Those actions weren’t me.  They simply weren’t. … Yet.

Bill gave me a weird look that was sort of a symphonic WTF-Are-you-shitting-me-kid-you-seemed-like-such-a-nice-girl-and-holy-crap-now-we’ve-got-an-up-and-coming-criminal-and-I-am-NOT-putting-my-name-on-her-8th-grade-graduation-diploma-I-can-tell-you-that-RIGHT-now and did one of those super small head-shakey things that make you think only one thing:  uh. oh.

This, in retrospect, was nothing of what I assumed it was. It was probably more like, why-is-this-little-girl-telling-me-things-she-CLEARLY-has-not-done face.

Then he turned and grabbed something from his side desk and brought it back out- it looked like a combination between a simple ring and a torture device:

This was the best I could find under my time budget, but it’s still essentially the same.  This is a rosary ring, and what I gathered was that I was to wear it and say a Hail Mary for each one of those dots on that link of medieval torture that pressed into my knuckles and soft tissue of my surrounding fingers until I knew the pain that Christ felt when he died for our sins.  Because being slightly uncomfortable from a ring is exactly the same as dying from asphyxiation and blood loss while suspended by iron rods through your extremeties.  I get it.  I do.

I left the church that night mentally and emotionally exhausted.  My parents (unbeknownst of my vile behavior) saw my endurance and strength through those hard times and thought the best way to handle it was to bring me to Baskin Robbins.  And somehow, that smell of antifreeze or whatever it is that is synonymous with all ice cream/frozen yogurt places and several scoops of mint chocolate chip and milk chocolate ice cream made me feel more absolved than anything else in the world.  I had at once expelled my sins and performed my first actual one.  And I was being rewarded with ice cream.

And you guys wonder why I’m like this.

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Comments

  1. * Sula says:

    Another good post, Ashlin! I enjoyed it so much and laughed as I realized how similar our experiences were!

    My own experience (decades before yours) was not as redemptive, as there was no Baskin-Robbins anywhere around the small rural town in which I grew up. And sadly, I was not rewarded at all by my parents. Instead, I suffered a long, silent and shame-filled realization as an innocent little kid, that I was personally responsible for making the wounds of Jesus or God or somebody actually re-bleed from “the” crucifixion, every time I followed a natural instinct or thought an original thought that-wasn’t-mandated-by-a-powerful-deity-in-the-sky-who-had-an-army-of-invisible-spies-at-his-comman-who-watched-my-every-move-and-reported-to-him-in-minute-by-minute-detail-exactly-what-I-thought-and-did. Indeed a pitiful, heavy burden for a 6-year old girl to carry. Thankfully, it didn’t take me very long to rationalize (privately of course, lest I confess such a personal truth and be shunned from my family as the spawn of the Devil Himself) that it was all bullshit. After all, I reasoned, how stupid was God anyway for allowing such a loophole in the system…where one could actually lie her way through a confession and STILL be absolved with a few Hail Mary’s? Go figure.

    I am happy to be grown up now, with grown-up knowledge about the way the world really works, and the wisdom to understand the fallacy of such crap that the Catholic religion (and others) continue to inflict upon multitudes of trusting followers. I am elated to be free at last, my heart filled with love for all mankind, and a conscience that is absolutely clear as well! :-)))

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
    • I think it’s always interesting to hear other’s takes on how they were introduced to religion. Your story is no exception, especially with how well you worded it (I felt like I could have been there with you). It’s such a jarring experience, no matter how you cut it. And it sticks with all of us. Like Kennedy, or the lunar landing. Or the introduction of tater tots. So influential.

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
  2. * Sula says:

    Guess I won’t win any piety awards here, either….

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
  3. * Andy Price says:

    I’m so amused I don’t know what to start. As much as I enjoy the hypocrisy of most organized religion, I can never think of much higher on the “creepy” meter than someone wanting to know first hand the “sins” of other people followed by the arrogance that they can somehow absolve another human of said bad things.

    Try to keep an open mind that culture South of the Mason-Dixon line isn’t universally defined by Lousiana Catholic School.

    On another note, good to know you discovered yourself, even if it was by accident.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
    • 🙂 Dude, you had to have known my mom was going to comment on this. AND LOOKIE THERE!!


      ….

      …….

      ………..

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
  4. * Yo Mama says:

    OMG! Come on ya’ll. There are mother’s in the audience!

    (hahaha… I learn more about my daughter and our lives together by viewing through your eyes. How eye opening (popping?)!

    My experience wasn’t so very different. What a totally odd construct. But from a psychological perspective, guess it worked to keep folks in line… like public pilloring and hair shirts.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
    • Wait til I tell you about the time we knocked over that 7-11. 🙂

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago


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