I was in the grocery store several weeks ago when I thought about approaching a woman to say, “Excuse me, but you have dirt on your head.” It quickly dawned on me that it was Ash Wednesday. I’d forgotten it’s a time to reflect on the “Do I have my shit together?” question.
I think it’s weird that the day before Ash Wednesday is Fat Tuesday when all the Mardi Gras craziness is happening. For Catholics, it’s like a Free Pass Church Day. They take this opportunity to do all the things they know they can’t do when Lent begins, like spending the day gorging at Dunkin Donuts or playing video games from dawn till dusk. It’s kind of like when a guy hangs out with the stripper before his wedding day.
I attended Catholic school and we all went to Mass on Ash Wednesday and let the priest anoint a nasty smudge of soot on our foreheads. In elementary school, it was sort of a badge of honor that I could wear, letting everyone know I had been a good Catholic girl. As I got older, it wasn’t cool anymore. It did nothing for my looks and I felt uncomfortable. I’d secretly lick my thumb and rub my forehead as if in deep thought until the dirt was erased. I don’t think it’s a sin to actually go into the bathroom and wash it off with soap and water but don’t take my word for it. It might cancel out any reward you get from wearing it.
I honestly forgot all about Ash Wednesday until I saw the grocery store woman with the holy dirt. Most people make some kind of sacrifice when Lent is in full swing—you know, in self-denial. That’s where this whole Lent thing loses me. Kids usually give up candy or soda, or at least that’s what I remember doing. It’s not like I had a whole lot to give up. I could never stick to it and most kids I knew weren’t really into the martyr mentality.
Last week a girl at the gym told me she gave up fast food and decided to work out daily. I think it’s just because Lent ends right around the same time bathing suit weather begins. I don’t think it matters because I’m certain there is a giant buffet in heaven. Another friend told me she gave up Twitter. Then she amended it and just gave up 20 characters.
Anyway, for some reason, after 40 years of not observing the season, I decided to give up something for 40 days. That something was alcohol. I didn’t do it for any religious obligation but just to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m not the most disciplined person, but I figured it would at least be a good cleanse. I really don’t think God is going to love me any more or less if I end up at happy hour before Easter.
My body hasn’t gone through any real transformation and I do find myself getting a little cranky now and then. Like the time my friend announced she was drinking the best Cosmo of her life and I said it was probably because it was the third one she had downed in an hour.