Ass Wednesday

This title is not intended to mock the concept of Ash Wednesday, which is sacred to some folks. Rather it’s to commemorate my first Ash Wednesday, on which I made a complete ass of myself.

Being raised in rednecky Southern Baptist country left me ill-prepared for life in a city with a large number of Catholics, but that’s what I encountered when I lived in Boston for a few years. When I arrived, I don’t think I had ever heard of Ash Wednesday and was certainly unaware of its traditions.

On my first Ash Wednesday in Boston, I was riding the subway (or “T” as they call it) to work in the morning when I noticed the woman across from me had a big smudge on her forehead. Being the helpful sort, I caught her eye, pointed to my own unsmudged head and mimed wiping away the dirt. She gave me a puzzled look, so I repeated the pantomime. She went back to reading her paper—dismissing me as a lunatic, no doubt.

When I arrived at my stop and exited the train, I started noticing that many other people had smudged foreheads. I joined a veritable smudged-headed horde streaming through downtown Boston and was completely mystified by it until I met a smudged friend on the sidewalk in front of our workplace and asked her what in the hell was going on.

She laughed incredulously and said, “It’s Ash Wednesday, you dumb cracker!”

Years later, I married into a Catholic family and became somewhat familiar with their rituals, including Ash Wednesday, giving things up for Lent and the varying degrees of sincerity the sacrifice can signify. I’m not Catholic, but if I were, I’m afraid I might be tempted to temper my repentance by giving up something really lame like “imported wine” while continuing to swill down California products. I don’t do willing sacrifice well.

[Cross-posted at Betty Cracker. H/T to J-TWO-O]

Posted by Betty Cracker on 02/25/09 at 08:31 AM • Permalink

Categories: Relijun

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Ah shit. I would have forgotten.

I like getting the holy smudge mark largely to annoy the S.O., who still doesn’t believe it’s a “real” custom and thinks it’s part of some grand conspiracy to be weird/show off.

Which ... kinda sums up a lot of the R.C. experience. Hmmm ...

One other thing: Don’t feel bad. Many people call it Ass Wednesday. I mean, how could you resist?

Speaking as a lapsed Catholic, a better answer to your question would have been a cheerful “It’s the mark of the Beast, silly!”

Lenten sacrifice is all about the loopholes. A co-blogger of mine would give up alcohol but hit the bars at midnight Saturday night, citing the fact that Sundays are not actually part of Lent. He was on much shakier ground for the St. Patrick’s Day exemption but you can bet the Boston archdiocese came up with something to get around that (thanksgiving for Evacuation Day, perhaps).

I too have made the “mistake” of pointing out the tell-tale smudge. Sadly more than once. (In NYC, where I grew up, didn’t matter so much. Here I could be lynched, or at the very least ostracized. Though actually…)

Thanks for the H/T, Betty. Much appreciated.

When I was on a weekend camp-out as a Brownie, we all were shipped to our respective houses of worship on Sunday. Except for the atheists’ daughter; what to do with her? So off I went to Holy Name of Mary with the leader and half the troop.

The stained glass was nice, the service was long, but at the end everybody lined up for refreshments, which was cool. When in Rome….

The priest seemed quite strict; only one cookie per customer, and you just had to open your mouth and wait. Okay.

I bit down on my cookie, but the priest wouldn’t let go, so we both just latched on, and I looked up at him pleadingly. As he would to any untame animal, he said to me, “easy….easy…” and finally let me munch the Body of Our Lord and Savior, who was disappointingly bland.

After that, the other Brownies crowded round me and promised I was going to Hell. A not unattractive alternative to Brownie Scout Camp.

Mrs. Polly, your recollections of Brownie camp as Hell on Earth are quite similar to mine!

“It’s Ash Wednesday, you dumb cracker!”

That is hilarious.

I gave up Catholicism for Lent one year and never got around to picking it up again.

I’ve dated several Catholic gals over the years, and while I was never invited to participate in their rituals, I risked my life on several occasions to to spy on them.

“Ash Wednesday” is not what they say it is. Run away, now, as fast as you can. You will not be safe until after Easter, if then.

my very irish and somewhat catholic uncle always said he gave up “watermelons and heroin” for lent.

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