Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lenten Sacrifice Gone Wild

Today is Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent. I am not an incredibly religious person. Actually, I would say that I am not really a religious person at all. However, I did attend twelve years of Catholic school, which indelibly left its mark on me. Lent was a big deal when I was growing up. Ash Wednesday was the day that started it all. It was the day, years ago, when I would have walked around the entire day with a smudge of ashes on my forehead. The ashes itched. And they smelled. And they were gritty and dirty. I remember wanting nothing more than to wipe them off, but I knew that my grandmother would have been disappointed if she had seen me sans ashes. So the ashes remained until my (unusually early) Ash Wednesday evening bath.

Another sign of Lent from my childhood was the little cardboard “rice bowls” all of the children were given. In essence, it was a little cardboard piggy bank and children were encouraged to put their extra change in it with the intention of turning them in at the end of Lent and ridding the world of hunger. The rice bowl was adorned with pictures of hungry-looking children in Third World countries and testaments about how $0.30 could feed a family of four for a month...or something like that. I remember dutifully filling it with change every day. That is, until the day my siblings and I inevitably stole from the poor to buy the equivalent of our combined body weights in penny candy.

Being the good Catholic family we were, we did not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. This was supposed to have been a hefty sacrifice. Not being a huge meat-eater to begin with, it never felt entirely sacrificial to me. Fish was not included in the meat prohibition. As a result, my family could be found occupying a booth at Long John Silvers on any given Friday night in Lent—chowing down on our deep-fried fish. How's that for sacrifice?

Ashes, rice bowls, and meat embargoes aside, the biggest and most important aspect of Lent when I was growing up was the almighty “GIVE UP.” All of the little Catholic kids would debate for days and weeks what we were going to give up for Lent. It was a difficult decision. It was important to give the impression of a true sacrifice, while at the same time giving up something that wouldn't make your life complete and utter hell for forty days. You didn't want to give up something crucial to your ten-year-old existence. Like Doritos. Or television. Or your bike with the glittery banana seat. Most years, after much wrangling and inner debate, I would decide to give up sodas. It was my go-to give-up. It sounded good to my friends and my teachers. Little did they know that my mother almost never bought sodas. We were strictly milk and kool-aid kids. But it sounded pretty dang impressive to my Mountain Dew-guzzling cohorts.

In the spirit of Lent—and its accompanying sacrifice—I have compiled a list of the items I will be giving up this year. It was tough, but I think I have come up with a pretty impressive list of sacrifices.

1. I am giving up crack. No more crack pipes for me. It's not good for my teeth and that smoke just wreaks havoc on my complexion.

2. I am giving up men. No more romantic entanglements with the opposite sex. I am done with men until Easter.

3. I am giving up mushrooms. Mushrooms in pasta. Mushrooms in salads. Even the mushrooms on pizza that can't merely be picked off because their flavor infuses the cheese with the elegant taste of dirt. It is common knowledge that mushrooms are putrid and should be given up by all of humanity. So I am starting the trend.

4. I am giving up my treadmill. It doesn't matter that the motor on it is shot and it won't come on anymore. It is still a sacrifice to give it up.

5. I am giving up “The Housewives of (Insert Your City of Choice)” and “The Bachelor” and “Jersey Shore” and anything at all on MTV. I don't actually watch these shows, which makes it all the more logical to give them up.

6. I am giving up children. Mine will be on my doorstep at precisely 1pm this afternoon if anyone would like to take them in.

7. I am giving up dieting. Though it is something I have thoroughly enjoyed my entire adult life, I am willing to make the supreme sacrifice and begin eating potato chips again on a regular basis. I know...what can I say? I'm a giver at heart.

8. I am giving up my promiscuous lifestyle. That's right...the steady stream of prostitutes traipsing in and out of my house will cease for the forty days of Lent. (Shout out to all my holla back girls! Booty calls will resume after Easter.)

9. I am going to stop stealing for the forty days of Lent. There will no longer be a need, my friends, to clutch your purses and wallets tightly in my presence. I will suppress my pick-pocketing tendencies. I will smother my shoplifting desires. I will keep my sticky fingers safely concealed in my pockets.

10. Finally, and most importantly, I am giving up work for Lent. I have yet to tell my employer this, but I think they will understand. They're not allowed to fire me based on religious grounds, right? So for the next forty days, I plan on sleeping in, catching up on my daytime trash television (Wendy Williams!), and eating those potato chips mentioned above.

Sacrifice is a tough job. It's a good thing there are good little Catholic girls like me to take up the mantle. Sacrifice cleanses the soul. Make no mistake...I intend to have THE shiniest soul north of the Mason-Dixon line come Easter Sunday. Anyone interested in joining me? What are you giving up this Lenten season?


Anonymous said...

"Sacrifice is a tough job" but someone has to do it and you are the right woman for the job. Enjoy your next 40 days of sin and pleasure. There is always next year.

Jessica said...

Laughing--sodas were always my go-to give-up too. But for me it was a sacrifice. I was a Coke addict back in the day!!!

Leenata said...

Shannon, you crack me up!!

In college Melody used to give up abstinence, but then she'd tell everyone that unfortunately, she broke her promise.

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