Did you know that today was Ash Wednesday? I didn’t. I mean, I was watching Ellen yesterday and she had a Mardi Gras show and some friends on Facebook left status changes that said things like “Fat Tuesday” and such but I didn’t put two and two together.
Back in the day, WAAY back in the day, like grade school back in the day you could never forget all of the Holy Days. I attended Catholic schools from 3rd grade all the way through high school. I even spent the first year of college at a Catholic School. Lent was a big to do. During religion class, or in grade school, religion hour we would all think really hard about what we’d be giving up for Lent and share with the rest of the class what we’d decided. In grade school it was always easy-hard things; candy, chocolate, mostly food stuff. In high school I decided to be Pagan and didn’t really get into the whole lent thing-mostly, I’m sure, it was because I really didn’t want to have to give up something that I was sure I couldn’t live without. Which is the whole purpose of Lent; giving up something you can’t, or don’t think you can live without.
I forgot about Lent, therefore forgot about what I can’t live without until today. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to give up meat. So very lesbian of me, I know. But it would be really hard. For example, two days ago Mirs and I went to a BBQ place in her ‘hood where brisket and ribs are served by the pound on wax paper lined stainless steel industrial sized trays. Yeah, it was as amazing as it sounds. And she tells me that there’s another place in Fort Greene with better BBQ. Meat would be extremely hard for me. The other option is Shopping.
Did ya’ll see Confessions of a Shopaholic? No? I don’t blame you-it was a really, really stupid movie(With stupid-funny parts) Mir was a sport and watched it with me and the most hilarious parts were about shopping problems and their consequences, well irresponsible consequences. I have a shopping problem and a subsequent credit problem. I just confessed this to Mirs last week. She still loves me and the sensible Jew in her is trying to steer me into the right direction. I could give up shopping for Lent, if I can go shopping just once. I mean, I did just get promoted and I need to make sure that in my new, more senior role in the store, that I look the part. Right? See that? That’s what people who are addicted to shopping do, they rationalize EVERY reason to shop. I’m leaning to the shopping, with the loop hole, because I really want to try the other BBQ place. And because I’m cooking dinner and it involves meat.
People always have negative things to say about New Yorkers. We’re rude, we’re inconsiderate, we’re always on the go, we’ll walk all over you; literally and figuratively. New Yorkers only think about ourselves, we don’t care about our neighbors, we’re probably going to hell. It was surprising to me, having all of these stereotypes about who we are as New Yorkers, to see all of the ash crosses on the heads of New Yorkers in Midtown today.
So if you don’t know Midtown, especially Rockefeller Center, then you’d truly think that New Yorkers are super religious. Literally, walking down Fifth Avenue between 50th and 56th I’d say that every third person remembered Ash Wednesday. To a stranger, you’d walk down Fifth Ave and see all of these people who are remembering to take time out of their get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way-that’s-MY-cab-text-while-you-walk-while-on-another-cell-phone-drinking-too-hot-coffee-eating-did-you-just-step-on-my-(name expensive shoe here) lives to remember Jesus.
If you’re a real New Yorker you’d realize that the people who took time out of their get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way-that’s-MY-cab-text-while-you-walk-while-on-another-cell-phone-drinking-too-hot-coffee-eating-did-you-just-step-on-my-(name expensive shoe here) day just popped into any of the twenty Churches in the five block radius of Rockefeller Center between meetings. Now get the fuck off my expensive shoes.
St. Pats actually had their doors signed off; “ENTER HERE” “EXIT HERE” and ropes. Is it because it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day? and they’re just prepping or is Ash Wednesday as big a deal as, say, Christmas? There was a part of me that wanted to go in there for my Ashes and my “What up, Jesus.” But as I’m pretending to be Episcopalian and definitely over Catholicism I went to my church, on Park Ave, St. Barts. The minute I walked in I remembered why I was a practicing Episcopalian and not a Catholic-the giant Rainbow flag that greeted me. Well, it was a poster board with rainbow flags all over it, Pride pictures from last year, and a brunch invitation for this Saturday with the Gay and Lesbian Group at St. Barts. Episcopals and Gays it’s like body glitter and The Cock; or where ever the gay boys are hanging out these days in NYC.
I stopped going to church back in 7th Grade, then my mom dunked me, or had our Baptist pastor, dunk me in the baptismal pool at the back of Friendship Baptist Church on Hill Ave in Toledo, Ohio. The year before, at Bible Study, I’d sworn off that church because the pastor told me that Muslims didn’t love his God, when I questioned the vast separation of the three major religions who seemed more similiar than different to that 12-year old. I think probably Pastor Tisdale must’ve pulled Mom aside to talk about her crazy daughter and her questions about Judaism and Islam because a year later I was getting Baptised.
I remember standing in the pool of water way before church started and Pastor Tisdale standing next to me. The water was warm; like bath water, and my hair was in a brightly colored swim cap. He was talking to me about excepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior and asking if I was ready to take him into my life. I remember looking over at my mother and her giving me the “Look.” I said I was and in the next instant I was dunked backwards into the water and then pulled back up the next. I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t want to be there anyways. I didn’t understand how a “man of God” could tell me to my face that he was right and other people were wrong.
Every Sunday morning after was a fight with my mother. I objected going to church and would make up any excuse to get out of it. Most of the time she won and I sat in a pew for sometimes three hours watching the spectacle that is Baptist Church played out before me.
I was a confused kid. Baptist Church, with it’s lively music, speaking in tongues, and Holy Ghost moments was a stark contrast to the ritual and quiet of the Catholic Masses I attended every Friday at grade school. Mass only took one hour, which I liked but in actuality, I hated them both. It’s no fun being a non-Catholic at Catholic schools. The whole confirmation part of 7th Grade was a bummer. While the boys and girls in my grade prepared for Confirmation in one room, the non-Catholics sat around and learned about the Bible (again) in the other. I didn’t really buy the Catholic stuff either, though. Really? That cup of wine and that flat perfect circle loaf thing becomes Jesus’ flesh and blood? Is that real wine? Do you get to drink the wine? No, no you can’t drink it-unless you’re Catholic.
In high school Mass was only once a month and on special occasions. At that point I was a full-on Pagan. My fire was fueled mostly by the movie “The Craft” and “Practical Magic” (Still two of my faves) After learning more about Wicca and Paganism I realized that the movies were bullshit but that Paganism was real. And then I started to torture every religion teacher I had at NDA. Sr. Charlene, our poor wheel chair-bound Nun and Sr. Lorraine got the most hell from me. Other teachers, like Ms. L (dyke) just put me in the back corner with the other “pagan babies” as she called us. I watched two of my classmates get expelled for having pagan books confiscated from their lockers so kept my mouth shut about that part. Instead, I asked a lot of hard questions, made a lot of comments that made nuns uncomfortable, and made the priests blush and squirm uncomfortably during Reconciliation services.
Freshman year of College, at another Catholic institution I found my first group of Pagan girls. (I had total crushes on all of them-god, I was so gay then) I also found the most amazing nun on the planet, Dr. Martin (her real name) who introduced me to a much older, wiser Pagan woman. And I stayed pretty Wiccan for a long, long time. Crystals, circles in the woods, full moon naked dancing-the whole thing.
After that I went through a period of atheism and then one day, last year, I decided to go back to church. It was actually an idea for a book; I wanted to immerse myself in a different faith for a month and write about it. The plan was to really check out religions I had questions about-Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be more specific. But after talking to ex-Mormons and ex-JW’s…well, it seemed like a lot of work to get into the inner workings of those folks. My first month was going to be to try the Anglicans out for size…it just sort of fit.
It may have helped that I may have had a teeny tiny crush on one of the pastors at St. Barts. I don’t know, actually, where she is now, but taking confession from her each Sunday was pretty amazing.
For almost a year I went to church pretty regularly and learned about those people called Episcopals. They’re pretty bad-ass, when you get down to it. I mean, an entire church built just so Henry VIII could divorce his wife? And they like the gays (in the USA, at least) AND you can get wine without believing that you’re eating Jesus…