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Inspirational Reads

It's Ash Wednesday, Y'all!

February 25, 2009

Typically, on a day like today, I'd break down the history behind the holiday and/or saint's day, interspersed with tiny little nuggets of extraneous information that would make the post slightly more amusing.

Today, I'm not going to do that. Perhaps it's the solemnity of the holiday, perhaps it's just that I'm ass-tired, or perhaps it's because I've been blowing my creative wad on the comments in your blogs. You have to admit, I've been pretty fucking clever this week, making up for last week's dearth of funny and/or pithy comments.

Anyway, I'm going to give up a couple of happy little stories today in honor of Ash Wednesday that are appropriate, given the holiday. Buckle up, bitches, we're going for a ride on the way back machine. Hold me, Mr. Peabody!

First off, we anachronistically arrive in spring of 1998. I'm in the throes of Catholic Conversion, and so I attend the Ash Wednesday mass. My friend Jeff was an alter attendant...or whatever they call the not quite priests doing the priestly duties. Jeff is now an ordained priest of the Society of the Precious Blood order. You should bear that in mind whilst I go through the tale.

There I am, standing in line, heading up toward the alter where I will get the ashes decorated on my head to loudly announce to the world that "I am Catholic, and I went to Mass. Suck it, pagans!" Sure, I wasn't a full member of the church, but you didn't have to be Catholic to get the ashes. You can just come in off the street and get the mark. Pretty keen, eh? The Catholic Church, much like the Catholic Girls, are all inclusive and will let anyone in.

So, I approach my friend Jeff and lean down (I'm taller than he, but about six or eight inches) and I see him working his thumb in the ash tray furiously, like he's trying to smash a bug beneath his thumb and grind its guts to Hell. I catch a fleeting glimpse of the ashed thumb as he raises it toward my head. It's black. Not just dark, sooty gray as one would expect. No, this was a black so pure, so powerful, that light itself was bent around it as it got sucked in by the absorbative properties of the color. "Great," I think, "he's going to put that on like graffiti." I braced myself for impact.

It wasn't just that he was going for darkness; he was going for maximal coverage, as well. Starting at my hairline, he dragged his thumb down my forehead to the bridge of my nose. He then reupped the ashes and started at the hairline of one temple and dragged his thumb across my brow to the hairline of the other temple. At that moment, there were about thirty, maybe fifty (at most) people still behind me in line, plus, I was in a church, so I had to stifle my urge to scream out "Jesus fuck, Jeff, would you like me just to roll in it like a dust bath?" I also, since he had made his intentions well and clear that he was going to enroll in the seminary that fall, couldn't slug him the gut. I mean, the man was going to be a priest and all.

So, I closed my eyes, offered a heavy sigh, and whispered "Amen", then departed to go back to my seat. One of my friends sat down beside me after she got her ashes, looked at my forehead, and burst into fits of giggles that wouldn't subside for a good forty five minutes afterward. I know this, because we went to lunch immediately after. Along the route to the cafe, everyone whom I passed suffered a similar fate. Those with more tact at least were able to twist their mouths up and stifle their laughter until after I passed, and some of them were able to utter a sympathetic "nice".

Let's hop back in the time machine and this time set course for spring of 2000. I'll set the stage for you here: I was young(er), I lived alone in my own apartment, I was currently enrolled in grad school where I was surrounded--pretty much daily--by hordes of nubile, college-aged girls who, when spring arrived, liked wearing very little. I was also recently single and had no steady girlfriend at the time. Got all that? Good, let's proceed.

Back then, I reveled in my Catholicism, and so I'd try to give up something hard. One year I gave up alcohol, another I gave up desserts and snacks. Pretty standard fare. Well, in spring of 2000, for some reason, I got it in my mind that I would give up masturbation. I felt I was doing it too much and too often, and so I decided to just up and quit. I'd be less lusty, my carpal tunnel would clear up, and my clothes would stop reeking of musk.

Now, my friends that I hung out with most of the time were all female. There were three of them with whom I entered the same research lab and to say that they were a little prudish would be an understatement. If I recall correctly, none of them were Catholic (which might explain it), but they simply did not discuss anything that even remotely had to do with sex. Or bodily functions. Or, well, pretty much anything that I would classify as humor. Yeah, I don't get it, either.

So, when Lent rolled around, one of them asked me what I was giving up. Knowing that they wouldn't exactly want to know about my extracurricular activities when at home, or driving back to my apartment, or if I was bored in the computer lab, or even walking past Touchdown Jesus, I blurted out "I'm giving up candy." Seemed logical enough, and it was one of those things that was a fairly common sacrifice.

On Ash Wednesday of that year, I went and got my lunch, and decided that I really wanted a milky way (God's gift to candy, with its perfect proportions of caramel, chocolate and nougat), so I went to the little college store there and bought one. No big deal. I slap it down on my tray for eating after I finished my salad or whatever meatless meal I was enjoying, and one of the girls points to the candy bar and says:

"I thought you were giving candy up for Lent!"

In a mad panic, my eyes go shifty, I break out in a sweat, my face flushes and my heart races. Finally, I managed to calm myself enough to offer a small nod and said, "Yes. Yes, I am." I tossed the snack in my backpack and carried it around with me for the remainder of the day, craving its gooey goodness. When I got home that evening, I pounded down the Milky Way as if my life depended upon it. Then I realized that there's no eating between meals on Ash Wednesday, so that ended up being my dinner. Meatlessness has never tasted so sweet.

I met my wife a couple of weeks after that. When I introduced myself and shook her hand, I couldn't help but notice the twin midget wrestlers fighting for domination in her shirt, and, since the carpal tunnel had been clearing up, my grip was nice and firm, in that sort of "Oh God, I'm staring at a hot redhead's breasts and I can't do a thing about it" way. Two years later, after we were married and when the movie "40 Days and 40 Nights" came out, I confided in her what I had given up that year. All she could say was "Wow."

In case you were wondering, this is my 400th post. I thought about doing something deep and reflective, but instead, I decided to offer up the tales of how my forehead was violated by the thumb of a priest and how I managed to stave off autoerotic pleasures for six and a half weeks. What will the next 100 posts bring? Probably more masturbation stories. Huzzah!


words...words...words... said...

Bummer about the giant cross. Most of the time my church just kinda dabbed you. It was little more than "Hey, you've got a little something on your, to the left...there, you got it" size.

red said...

So what are you giving up this year?

red said...

Also, is it just me or is "Huzzah!" one of the greatest words ever?

Ashley said...

ohhhhhhh gosh. I grew up Catholic, so this made me laugh. I used to love Ash Wednesday cause I thought it was fun putting ashes on your head and wearing it around all day (guess I didn't much like being a clean child).

Dr Zibbs said...

I've been laughing all day at the people with the ashes. I think most get them to be show offs.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Zibbs: Exactly. Like I said, "Eff you, pagans".

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Words^3: It wasn't so traumatic. A couple of our other mutual friends got almost the same routine from Fr. Jeff. Theirs were slightly smaller because they were girls, but still.

@ Red: Crap, I knew someone would go there. I think I'm giving up eating out...or at least I'm going to try to give up eating out. Some nights are emergencies. Also, the caveat of it not including coffee is in there. Plus, I think I'm going to give up sweets/desserts/cakes/whatever. Again, coffee caveat exists.

@ red 2: It is one of my favorite words. I, quite literally, use it all the time. Also, post on it to come eventually.

@ Ashley: It's for that same reason that I didn't mind the huge cross so much. I was mostly shocked because I'm used to the smaller "dabs", like what words words words referenced above. Still, it's kind of a fun memory.

Giggle Pixie said...

So, did Jeff have to go to confession after he did that?


Gwen said...

Congrats on reaching 400!

Even though I'm a pagan I've given things up in the past just to see if I could do it. I can't remember any of them but I think I actually did it one year.

Sass said...

Well I find this all too amusing.

I, too, am giving up eating out.

Do with that what you may.

TishTash said...

For Lent, I was going to give up my sanity, but Mama said I have so very little of it anyway. She's making me give up shoes, but I don't know if she meant buying them or wearing them, so to be on the safe side, I'm walking around barefoot. So sanity and shoes...two birds with one stone.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Giggle Pixie: I don't think he did. But he did offer an apology in the vein of "Sorry if that offended you." So, it wasn't really an apology.

@ Gwen: I think it's kind of good to reset for a while. Like, can I give this up? Makes you enjoy it more when you can do it again.

@ Sass: I'm going to say...good luck. I know I already want to stop on the way home and get a pizza rather than cook the ones I have in the freezer.

@ TishTash: I always used to say I was giving up abstinence and sobriety. And, of course, with today's story, you can see I went the other way.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

See? Apparently the priests were right when they said God rewards all suffering. You gave up the single monkey spanking and He rewarded you with two twin peaks on a hot redhead that you get to spend eternity playing hanky-panky with. Damn, makes me wish I was Catholic.

WOW 400!! Hell even the Spartans couldn't match that :-) Congrats to my favorite mad scientist and his feline side-kick The Wiz.

Alex Galvez said...

Happy Ash Weds!!

Sassy Britches said...

Seriously, Sass. I don't think he's catching on to exactly the same thing I thought when I read what he was giving up. Either that or he is faking it. Either that or NEITHER of you are thinking what I'm thinking.

This has been one of my favorite posts of yours ever, just FYI.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Lisa: Thank God you're back among the blogging commenters. I've missed you propping up my ego. And the Wiz just rolled over and mewed something about when are you sending him the airport mouse. One track mind, that little bastard.

@ Alex: And a Happy Ash Wednesday to you, too, my friend. I hope that it finds you well!

@ Sassy Britches: Honestly, do you read my blog? You think I can't pick up on a little double entendre? I mean, seriously, I write in entendre all the time. I just wrote an entire story revolved around punching the priest. Two of them, in fact! C'mon!!! Have some faith.

Oh, and thank you for the compliments.

Pearl said...

I have noticed you've been terribly clever all week with the comments. :-)

And now, I'm stuck with knowing that masturbation is actually something given up (hadn't thought of it) for Lent
the song "Catholic Girls" by Frank Zappa is circling the edges of my mind.

Don't make a fuss
just get on the bus,

Frank said...

I grew up a heathen, without a bit of Catholic in me, so in high school (and now with my roommate) I always made to sure to find out what all my friends were giving up for lent and then indulge in that activity (be it eating a Milky Way or egregiously masturbating) in front of them just to piss them off.

coolred38 said...

Well....give up all the eating out you want...just dont give up the "eating in" wink wink nod nod yada yada

Hap said...

Congratulations on 400. Without the roids, no less.

I would give up sanity, but it would be hard to tell.

pistols at dawn said...

As a non-Catholic, I always call Ash Wednesday "that day I tell people they've got something on their forehead and they just roll their eyes and look at me funny, like I'm the one walking around with crap on my head."

It's unwieldy but effective, I think.

Fancy Schmancy said...

My son's daycare provider was devoutly Catholic and decided to surprise me one year by giving me ashes on Ash Wednesday in an empty baby food jar "in case I didn't get a chance to make it to church". She knew darn well I don't go to church! Anyway, I put them in my car and totally forgot about them until I sucked the jar up while vacuuming my car at the car wash. Probably going to hell for that...