Hi friends, Bargain Bin is coming a bit later today, so do not despair!
[I had to think of something to throw up here at 11am, so you’re just getting what happened to be on my mind before I ran out the door to do school dropoff. As the title suggests it is mildly though not preachily religious in nature; I don’t want anyone to feel bad, so please skip this if you want! Okay, ye have been warned.]
Ash Wednesday was earlier this week, marking the start of Lent. I wasn’t supposed to eat any meat but I ate chicken because I forgot what day it was. [“WTF, why didn’t Dan make me a sandwich with meat in it? Now I have to eat two chicken strips so I don’t faint!”] My older daughter asked me what I’m giving up this year, and I smoothly said “Nothing!” because
lazy uh I just find it more spiritually nourishing to add things rather than take things away. And if something is not great anyway — like, say, exclaiming “it’s cold as BALLS out here!” when I troop out to the car with the kids — then I shouldn’t really give it up for some short period of time, I should probably give it up full stop. Or at least pretend that I’m going to, until the next time someone cuts me off or I stub my toe or break a glass or it’s really, really cold in the morning.
I was a serious and pious child who made it through seven (!) nigh-unbearable years of Catholic school, so I am really an old hand at thinking up challenging and sometimes strangely specific Lenten sacrifices. I used to give something up every single year, as not doing so was not really an option in my family. Even during periods when I’d essentially stopped going to church, I would usually pick something and make a half-assed attempt at observance — you can take the girl out of Mass, etc. And I’m not alone in this; I’ve run into so many people who give things up regardless of their level of interest/participation in organized religion. Here, for you to mock if you will, are all the past Lenten sacrifices I can recall with a reasonable degree of accuracy:
– Talking back to parents (classic kid Lenten sacrifice, encouraged by my catechism teacher as I had no siblings to avoid fighting with; this probably lasted three days at most)
– Saying “shut up” to people (shut up, this is much harder than it sounds for a 9-year-old)
– Complaining about feeding/walking the dog (let the record show that I wasn’t a monster but he really wasn’t my dog so much as my parents’ dog, and they used me as cheap labor)
– Candy (this was a dark, dark Lent, friends)
– Whoa, fine, just the chocolate candy then (…somehow worse?)
– Spending my allowance and saving it instead (was mostly saving to buy more candy, so ehhh)
– Television (this would be a disaster today and I would never ever consider it, but when I was 10 we only had four channels at home — because we didn’t have cable — so my great “sacrifice” mostly involved missing “Star Trek” and “The Golden Girls” and writing more Baby-Sitters Club fanfic in the evenings)
– Lying to kids at school in vain attempt to make self seem cool (they weren’t buying anyway)
– All the swear words (all the ones I regularly used in middle school, anyway — I was already censoring myself)
– Nicking my grandmother’s trashy novels, hiding them under my bed, then lying to her about where they’d gone (I’m sure she saw through me. Also, I would totally still do this if I lived at home)
– Meat on Fridays AND ALSO Wednesdays (why tho? I could not say)
– Alcohol (I “gave this up” one year in college before I was technically legally able to drink, it shouldn’t even count)
– Coffee (any potential spiritual gain completely undone by amount of complaining I did)
– Eating enough on Lenten Fridays (I had holier-than-me friends and thought I should fast more and I was just po-faced and hangry and insufferable)
– Fighting with spouse over the pointless and utter misery of grad school (this one lasted perhaps a fortnight)
– Snapping at kids (if they would just STOP)
– Ignoring kids in favor of internet (fine, do whatever you guys want, I guess)
– Buying ANY new clothes or shoes or Kindle books for myself (last year’s goal, largely financially motivated)
That’s all I can remember. If you are a current or recovering Person Who Observes Lent In Some Fashion, feel free to weigh my sacrifices in the balance and find them wanting. If you feel like it, tell us the weirdest/hardest/dumbest thing you ever tried to quit (for any reason, not necessarily religious) and we can revel in our successes and failures together.
Nicole Chung is the Managing Editor of The Toast.