Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Only the Good Die Young

Being Catholic is a very funny thing. And by funny I mean both comical and odd. Out of all of the Christian denominations, we probably have the best sense of humor our ourselves. Which comes in handy as we are the butt of plenty of jokes --half of which we make ourselves.
But being Catholic is also funny -- less in the ha-ha way and more in the 'that's-strange' way -- because it can make very little sense to those who are outside looking in. While not an intimidating faith (of course, what do I know? I've always been a part of it), our many rules and rites (and loopholes and justifications) form a complicated web that's hard for non-Catholics to comprehend. Sometimes I'm convinced that Catholics themselves don't even understand the ins and outs and whys and whats of what we do all of the time. How, then, is anyone else supposed to get it?
The other funny thing about being Catholic is that although most of us claim that our faith never wavers, I'll admit that we don't always act like it. We may do some things that require major repenting, but we never say we've stopped being Catholic. This is, of course, where the comedic aspect comes back in, since Catholics are (in)famous for our heavy guilt that one sometimes keeps us from committing the 'fun' sins (I may be headed to hell now for calling any sin 'fun'). We're known for our drinking (hello, St. Patrick's Day), and as a product of 13 years of Catholic school, I've been able to observe that chastity is not the best practiced lesson in our faith.
The thing is, we know all of this. We know we aren't perfect and we laugh at ourselves. A LOT. My senior year --at my Catholic high school, mind you -- I played the gospel nun in a show called "Nunsense." I got lots of jokes after this, but whatev, I got to sing all soulful for once, and we wore hilarious habits, and... well, and that's not the point. The point is, the whole play was full of sexual innuendos and references to the hilarities of Catholic school, rulers and all. And we performed it at my Catholic high school and at half of the other Catholic schools in the area because the administration thought it was that damn funny. They actually thought that dirty jokes referencing St. Peter (without the pearly gates) and a crucifix whistle were knee slappers.
Anyway, you're probably wondering what prompted me to suddenly discuss my faith, since it's not something I normally do. Well, today was Ash Wednesday and I was reminded of it on every street downtown. Sometimes I forget how Catholic the city of Chicago is -- that is, until the beginning of Lent when I see black smudges on every other forehead and until St. Patrick's Day when all you hear about is the South Side parade and all of the crazy Irish Catholics running amok.
Today my roommate said that the line for getting ashes was around the block on her lunch break. I went after work and there wasn't much of one, but I thought it was semi-hilarious that we could just walk in, kneel down, get the ashes rubbed on our foreheads, and then proceed to the nearest exit sign. It was like drive-through Catholicism today. No mass or anything. Things like this are another reason I think a lot of people laugh at us. Certain rituals are ridiculously outdated (women not being allowed to be priests; priests not being allowed to marry, although there are exceptions to that), but then we also try to be really progressive and adaptable in other areas. My parish in college supported the LGBTQ community pretty openly and my Catholic high school didn't banish the four girls from my class who graduated pregnant. And then we also make sacraments and rituals fit into our daily lives, like today with the blessing on the go. Don't get me wrong, I love being Catholic, I really, truly, honestly do. But I have to chuckle at some of our ideas. And, really, I just couldn't help but think about all of that today and how Catholicism as a whole gets a bad name, when we're just the fun-loving rascals of the Christian family. We might mess up every now and then, but for the most part, we're not really going to hurt anyone. Either way, we probably make you look good -- and hey, at least we're entertaining, right?
BTW, while we're on the topic, for Lent I decided to give up chocolate and also to make it a point to pray everyday. It's a habit I got out of, and would like to start up again, because sadly, even though my faith is always there, sometimes I forget about it :-/. Is anyone else who celebrates Easter giving anything up/doing something for Lent?

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Funny Valentine

I would just like to start off by saying, for the record, that I think I am one of about five people on the planet who actually likes the Necco conversation heart candies. As in, I like them because I think they taste kind of good, not just because they say ridiculous things like "UR Kind" and "Be Good" (what does that even mean?).
Anyway. As I sit here eating dark chocolate (and maybe some convo hearts) and lounging on my bed, I'd like to tell you a little story, which may or may not lead me to talk about how I feel about V-Day. No telling just yet though -- we all know I love my tangents.
Last night, on my way home from the gym downtown, I was waiting for the 151 bus on Washington. I was minding my own business when a random guy I'd just seen in Walgreen's walked over and started talking to me. I swear, I've just got one of those faces. He wasn't bad looking and didn't give me the creeps or anything -- just looked a little tough -- so I decided to talk to him. Why not? It was either that or stare at the ground while I tried to ignore the homeless men who needed "just 45 more cents" to get on the bus.
Well, he said hello and asked me if I'd read the author he was reading (anyone heard of Zane?). No sooner had I said I no than he asked me if I had a boyfriend. Wow, talk about cutting to the chase. I laughed and said, "Ha, not exactly." My roommate, T, says that she always tells random guys, "Yes, a very serious one," even when she's single, but I just can't get myself to lie about it for some reason. In fact, I don't even know why I said "not exactly," since the answer is, in actuality, "No, absolutely not. I am so single it's not even funny." But anyway, I honestly think I like telling the truth because I don't mind talking to strangers (apparently my parents lessons were lost on me) as long as they don't truly give me a bad feeling. As I've mentioned before, the more random encounters I have, the more material I have for writing and story telling in general.
So anyway, random semi-cute white boy who thinks he is a thug then introduces himself as Tommy as asks, "How's a cute girl like you not have a boyfriend?" Woo, apparently homegirl's still got it. I know, I know... a random trying to flirt with you on the street is not usually something to get super excited about. So yes, he was a stranger, and yes, he was hitting on me at the bus stop, of all places, but I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that this wasn't pretty flattering. First of all, it was at the end of the day, and I don't think anyone looks fab after waking up at 5:30am and being at work, on the train, and at the gym for 13 hours. Second, I'd been feeling a little 'meh' about things, including my appearance, lately so I was not expecting the compliment. And third, I had just gotten my ass kicked by my trainer so I was sweaty and tired and my eye makeup was forming a nice set of raccoon eyes for me. My getting hit on at that moment was nothing short of a miracle. Anyway, I told him I wish I knew why I didn't have a boyfriend and that it was as much of a mystery to me as it was to him. We proceeded to chat a bit more until my bus came and he told me he hoped he'd run into me again (ha, yes in a city with over 2 million people), which just sounded hilarious to me.
Once I was on my way home, I started thinking, Why is it that I haven't dated in so long? I bet I could really torture myself by listing a bunch of reasons as to why I seem to be able to attract guys but never keep them. I could try to figure out what is wrong with me and create a whole slew of ways to fix myself, too. I know I'm never the needy or possessive girl --if anything I'm totally the opposite in wanting my own time and space, which I guess could be a reason...I always get along with the friends of guys I've dated, unless...maybe I'm too friendly? Or maybe I come off as aloof sometimes...Or maybe I never let guys pursue me enough because I get impatient and think games are stupid... or maybe... STOP!
Or maybe, just maybe, nothing is wrong with me at all and the old adage is true: You've got to love yourself before anyone else can. That fact hit me hard, but not in an unpleasant way, actually. It's not that I am a self-loathing creature that stands in front of the mirror and hates what she sees. It's not as though my conscience tortures me on a daily basis and I berate myself for having a unique (or quirky... or awkward) personality. But I am my own worst critic, as so many of us are. And even the things I love about myself, I fear others won't understand or appreciate so I tend to never accept the fact that someone might be interested in who I am. I keep many at arm's length, and I have been known to cut people off at the pass, rejecting myself for them before they get the chance. I'm starting to realize that maybe I'm throwing bombs out in front of me to keep others at bay until I stop being so damn scared of someone else rejecting me.
Whew. That was deep. Took a lot out of me. Anyway, the point of that is that I need to show myself a little more love. I like who I am, but I always worry that no one else will. Makes a lot of sense right?
Anyway, this is where I tell you about how I feel about Valentine's Day. [sigh]I really wish I could say that I love it and look forward to it every year... but I don't, I really don't. I don't totally abhor it, but it's usually a holiday that I pretend isn't happening. I've had two Valentines ever (besides my mom who sent me awesome dark chocolate this year along with a book on grammar. I know, I'm a dork.), so I don't have all of these fond memories to recall that will make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. One was a high school boyfriend, who I wasn't even quite dating at the time so the whole 'are you my Valentine?' thing was a bit fuzzy. The other was a college boyfriend who had moved for a semester-long internship so we weren't even really dating anymore and I officially broke up with him two weeks later. Yeah. I get that it doesn't have to be about romantic love, but most of the time I'm usually just sick of having to talk about how much I appreciate all of the other kinds of love that surround me. Even though I really do.
This year though, in order to show myself more love, I am going to appreciate all of the love in my life. I have great friends, an awesome family, and hey, love love will come my way soon enough. Tomorrow I'm going to treat myself like my own Valentine and devote my day to me (OK, and maybe a little freelance work). I'm going to go for a nice long run (unless it snows, then the workout will move indoors), grab a big cup of coffee, read for however long I want, maybe buy myself a little something because I work hard, and dammit I deserve it. I'm going to let myself get plenty of sleep, lounge around if I so desire, and have a little bit more of that dark chocolate. And, even though I have deemed tomorrow to be all about me, that doesn't mean that I'm going to play bitter, anti-Valentine's single girl all day. I'm going to hit the town with one of my friends whose boyfriend is on vacation, because hey, just because there's no guy in my life doesn't mean I'm not looking. And even if I don't really meet anyone, at least I'll know all of the cute ones who hit on me tomorrow are single. ;-)