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Monday, March 7, 2011

lenten rehab

So here we are.
Apparently, Lent is almost upon us. All of those pancake commercials should have tipped me off, but I had no idea it was this week until I had a conversation with someone far more pious than myself. (Yes, I am the tale of yet another lapsed Catholic. Oh, shut up.) 
This is not to say that I am entirely un-pious. I am, in fact, painfully square. While it is not the same as being pious, it’s close. But suffice it to say that there are things I have done in life that I am sorry for, and there are things I have done in life that I am not sorry for, and it’s some of those things that I am not sorry for that make it impossible for me and the Pope to get along, hang out, and break wafer together.
But back to the pancakes.

Wait. You’re stuck on thinking about the things I’m not sorry for, aren’t you? You’re thinking I killed someone, aren’t you? Oh, you silly kids. No, no. Nothing like that. Calm down. Come on, it’s time to get back to the pancakes. You like pancakes, right? Or at least a nice snifter of syrup?
There’s something about Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras and all those pancakes that get me to thinking about trying to be a better person. And when I spoke to the aforementioned Good Person, I thought about how long it’s been since I’ve given up something for Lent, or even observed it.
When I got all lapsed, Lent got thrown out the window. It wasn’t a conscious thing. It just evolved naturally (another phrase the Pope would not enjoy). I recall one particular Friday in March when I looked down at my plate and suddenly realized that the bacon cheeseburger I was devouring was offensive to Catholics, Jews, and Hindus. I’d hit the heathen’s trifecta. 
That abandonment stems from an upbringing where Lent hit you on the head like a cartoon hammer. Where the entire month of March smelled like tuna noodle casserole, whether it was Friday or not. Where the obligatory giving up of chocolate for Lent was made all the more painful by directly coinciding with the extremely small window of opportunity for Cadbury Creme Eggs. (And no, you couldn’t stockpile them for Easter. Because if they entered the house, you or some untrustworthy family member would eat them. Geez. What planet are you from?) 
I can’t imagine that my having given up chocolate -- or ice cream -- ever made me a better person, because every Ash Wednesday, my sister and I would sit in front of the calendar, counting the days until Easter, and partake in a heated theological discussion that usually went something like this:
“Wait, I thought Lent was 40 days.”
“Yeah, that’s how many days Jesus was in the desert.”
“Was he in the desert?”
“He was somewhere.” (What good little Catholics we were.)
“But he fasted for 40 days, right?”
“So why are there 48 days between now and Easter?”
“What? No way! Aw, crap! That sucks!”
And on it would go, the sugar withdrawal demons on full display even before the ashy smudges on our foreheads wore off. And the lesson that I took away from these experiences was that Lenten Rehab did not make you a better person. It made you an obsessed monster who made shaky Xs in calendar squares until Easter Sunday, on which day you would sneak peanut M&Ms into Mass and freebase confections both dark and milk for weeks afterward. 
Still, I could stand to swear less. Sure, it’s not going to solve any global issues, or even make me a more pious person (the Bible says nothing about taking the name of dung and/or fornication in vain), but I’ve become a bit of a sailor over the past two decades, language-wise. Blame it on my freelance frustrations, or just blame it on working with those dirty, dirty Muppets, but facts are facts. I’m not against cursing, mind you, but someday I want to win an award at a televised ceremony and not have my moment upstaged by a bleep. (Or a bad dress. But that’s another post.) So I’m going to try to curb my cursing for Lent.
What’s that, you say? I already censored the f-word with asterisks two posts ago? Indeed I did. But listen kids, my life is not my blog and my blog is not my life. (Take that, Twitter.)
While it may not make me a better person, it might make me more creative as I come up with some fun alternative curses, like “nut butter.” Even if I get lazy in that regard, at the very least, maybe I’ll bring “mother pus bucket” from Ghostbusters back into common use.
But for a few more hours, I’m a flapjack-crammin’ sailor.
(Oooh. That’s a good one.)
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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