Survivor: Catholic Grade School

nun rulerI have a recurring dream.

I am in church and dressed to look like a demented elf with a plaid fetish. A nun asks (orders) me to go up to the pulpit and write The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog in cursive a hundred times. However, I find that I am not wearing pants and that my clip-on tie has a tomato sauce stain on it. This, I know, will be two demerits. The nun takes out her ruler.

I wake up in a sweaty mess shouting for mercy.

Let’s be honest, everyone in their twenties and beyond is dealing with their own little tailor-made version of hell. If you went to Catholic grade school, then you were given a dose of guilt, rules, and memories that you will have the joy of working out for the remainder of your life.

Here are some of those things. This list is not comprehensive, please add to it so that the healing begin.

Church? Why?

At least one a week, you found yourself randomly shepherded into the church for mass. You didn’t know why, but you didn’t have to sit through math so you didn’t ask questions. Still, you did have to sit in church for an hour for reasons you couldn’t quite make out.

Also, a Catholic mass is like choreographed acrobatics. You have to kneel, stand, sit, and walk around, and all this while trying to remember the order of things, and words to prayers and songs. All of this while desperately fending off the giggles.

While we were supposed to be praying for our own naughty souls, I always managed to slip one in for a good dessert at lunch. To this day, if I am in a large group of people moving in one direction, I expect to be shortly kneeling and praying for a Ding Dong.

Corporal effin Punishment

Stepping out of line in a Catholic grade school meant risking our own hides. If we were lucky we got yelled at or sent to the principal where we’d stop for a long drink at the water fountain before the moment of reckoning.

More often than not, however, a small woman dressed like a cotton penguin brought us somewhere there were no witnesses and flogged our asses. The severity of the punishment depended upon the severity of our infraction. A passed note could be a simple spank, a giggle outburst might be a spank with a ruler, anything involving curses was a ruler spank with your pants down.

The day that Jonathon Frey and I were spanked in our Underoos still makes me groan aloud. I was afraid to take my pants off in front of a woman for two decades, so, you know, mission accomplished.

Strange Dance Fellows

If you went to Catholic grade school, there is an overwhelmingly large possibility that you went to a Catholic grade school dance. I will pause while you remember.

In an attempt to discourage any sexual feelings from stampeding towards the surface, there were strict rules when it came to slow dancing with a member of the opposite sex. We were constantly being told to “leave room [between us] for the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes, I suppose if a couple’s slow dancing had taken on the sexual heat that one might use to describe a Mickey Mouse cartoon, the Holy Spirit was deemed unsuitable for the job and they brought in the big guns. In this case you were told to leave room for Jesus.

This naturally led to anxiety. In the first place, I was not a very talented dancer, so the fact that I was stepping on Jesus’ toes was surely going to mean retribution on Judgment Day. Secondly, as I got older and my thoughts became more specifically depraved, the last thing I wanted was Jesus getting caught in the crossfire of the mental sex I was shooting into Corinne McCoy’s brain.

Uniform of the Chaste

In the never-ending battle to get people from having sex, having thoughts about sex, or feelings about sex, the Catholic Church has developed a uniform so hideously unattractive that those who had to wear it yearned for the luxuriant fashions of the Chinese Communist Party.

If you’ve never seen one, a Catholic school uniform usually involves bright colors in some manner – for example, a bright yellow shirt or fluorescent green trousers. Boys had to wear a tie with a plaid design that could send one into epileptic fits if looked at for too long. Girls sported the plaid design on their skirts and they had to wear knee socks.

While wearing this uniform did lead to cruel mockery from friends who went to public school, it was a big miss as far as dissuading sex of any kind. Science class meant I got to sit to the left of Denise Morgan and that kept me happy until I got on the bus home. Plaid skirts still make me blush.

Besides, three generations of men asking their girlfriends to dress up like Catholic school girls pretty much tells you that this did not work at all.

Hell is a real thing

And how do we know? Because nuns described it to us in almost pornographic detail on a weekly basis. The description of the wailing and gnashing that went on in Hell came along with the description of eternity, which when coupled with Hell did nothing to help us sleep at night.

I was amazed to find that my public school friends did not get weekly descriptions of the eternal torture that awaited them if they didn’t stop passing notes or underarm farting.

But, man, did I have fun telling them!

Catholic School survivors. What do you remember? Let it out! Let it all out! 

  1. #1 by greg galeone on March 19, 2015 - 7:10 pm

    Damo-Thanks for filling me in some thirty years later on your adolescent indiscretions. When you come home in August you’re grounded.

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