September. The very word gives me shivers of dread. While you picked out your cute back to school outfits and got ready to see your high school lover on campus, we pulled out the same old jumper and prepared to salivate over images of the real live men we glued to the backs of our notebooks: the pleasures of an all-girls Catholic high school.
In the name of the Father and the Son, they told me to sit like a lady, to close my legs and to tuck in my shirt. They told me to leave room for the Holy Spirit at dances, and they told me a real lady didn’t talk like that, act like that or even think any dirty thoughts.
We learned “no” before “yes.” We were disciplined, a.k.a. deprived of crucial social interaction (tonguing under the bleachers). Tortured and taught to scorn temptation in the lustiest years of our loins, our pleasures were to be sacrificed in the name of the greater good. The feel of nothing drove us mad.
I don’t know if you’re familiar (or equally saddled) with the overwhelming and crippling concept of Catholic guilt — or any of its variations in the many other forms of religion (I don’t think this shame is unique). Where, from diapers, we’re taught to hate ourselves; we’re made to believe that we were born wrong, innately flawed. That every instinct we have is inherently depraved, and the only way to achieve salvation is to ignore our most basic desires and to disregard what our bodies tell us we want to do. Dear Lord, I’m going to die a virgin.
Catholic school gave me internal bleeding, a constant and consistent serving of GUILT for homeroom, lunch and homework. These nuns did a lot of talking (it was nothing like “Sister Act”), but talking may imply conversation. There was no discourse; it was drilling, indoctrinating, preaching, chastising. I was told that all my desires to sin were as bad as sinning itself (well, if I already thought it, I might as well try it).
I was told that my purity and innocence were like a thin-wicked candle and that my own hands could be enough to smother my flame (oh, what dark years they were!). I was told that boys were going to be boys and that it was my job to fend them off (I hadn’t realized hymens were the Holy Grail). I was told that my cat had no soul and that I would never meet him in the afterlife (that one made me sad).
The nuns had an answer for everything. They explained away my desire to be lavished and ravished up my pleated skirt. They said scarves were choking hazards and that hoop earrings were a liability. They said no makeup and no UGGs (thank you for that one). They said no boys in the courtyard and no unseemly piercings that might give the impression we had a lick of individualism left in us.
And I was screaming inside, shaking in my stockings as I passed day-by-day and messy bun-by-messy bun, reveling in the scarce days a boy would enter the lobby, and we became sharks driven mad by the scent of blood.
You sent us to the boulevard, dressed in these evocative, pornographic idols of purity that had men rolling down their windows in lecherous waves, intensifying our need to thwart sexuality by making it appear grotesque.
You gave equal import to classes in biology and morality. My philosophy textbook concluded its final chapter with finding Jesus. I had to stand for the pledge and genuflect at the altar before I climbed in the pew. And it’s this laundry list that kept me absentmindedly going through the motions for so many years, longing for the exploration that would be my only oxygen.
In my entire history and survey of my Catholic school experience, I remember rules. I remember the “nos.” I remember the demerits. I remember the detentions. I remember being reprimanded for skipping ahead, for being late to class. I remember being told I wasn’t “behaving in the manner befitting of a young lady of divine compassion.”
But most of all, I remember the moment I lifted the cap off my head and threw it into the blue sky, knowing I’d finished, and it was over. And the second I was able to burst from my knee-highs, kilt and starched, collared shirt, I was released upon the world, ravenous for real life experiences.
I remember the first taste of freedom, the promise of college, of unabated revelry. I remember thinking of every sin I could subject my body to, and of every creative freedom I could hope to express.
Catholic school, you did nothing but devote me to my own insatiable, hedonist spirit.
I thought of the boys I could kiss, the drugs I could ingest, the drinks I could guzzle. I thought of the mistakes I could make — the regrets I could amass and recall happily in my graying years.
And I left there, crazed and deprived. I left there with so much “no” that all I could do was scream “yes.” Yes, to everything and to everyone. I left there with something to prove, so much time to make up. I left there so oppressed, I felt like an Amish kid on Rumspringa.
I had spent so much time being fitted and pared into the cookie cutter mold of a lady, that I was now unable to be told what to do, distinguishing my own rights from my own wrongs outside of the larger Catholic moral compass.
Graduation from Catholic school brought with it an undying mission to douse myself in ‘virgin be-gone.’ To get mine like it was my vocation. The fastest way to make a good girl go bad is to tell her “no” and to repeat it, over and over again.
Catholic school, you made me f*cking crazy, but I’m a sinner, and I like it that way. Once I shed myself of your altruistic slut-shaming perversions, I was able to divulge in all those previously repressed passions and wants that had kept me up in bed during the short hours before first period.
So I owe somewhat of a thanks to my Catholic education, for strengthening the vehicle of unabashed debauchery I have subsequently become. Because, divested of petty, moral qualms, I have realized the mess my education made of my conscience. But, I have thwarted its Vulcan mind-meld and become, what I believe to be, liberated and satisfied with my very being.
I still shudder at the memory of the sticky seat beneath my skirt as I gazed out of the window, searching and hoping for something more. But all of me, every single fiber of my being, knows that the girl stuck in class, mindlessly miming the Latin present perfect endings, would absolutely adore who I am today.
Kgazm & Spicy| Elite.
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