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Here is the excerpt I promised you from my book Possible Memoir Titles (not a memoir): (click to download)
I’m Glad I Didn’t Become a Nun
How does a Catholic child’s brain work?
I used to asked my mom why people became nuns, because truly, what do nuns even do? Priests get to talk and sit in chairs that look like thrones and drink wine at work. What do nuns do except sit there looking bored and saying the rosary?
My mom’s answer was, “Some people are called to become nuns.”
“God will call them, and they’ll know they are meant to follow their path, they can’t ignore it.”
I was petrified that God was going to call me to become a nun. After a little while thinking that meant he would call me on a telephone, and another little while thinking he might part a cloud and stick his bearded face through and call to me from the sky, I realized how it must actually worked: ANGELS. And as far as I was concerned, angels were the last straw. I had already read a book about angels, stories about them appearing to people to help them out, and the book freaked me out.
I was so scared that an angel was going to appear to me, late at night, in my room, and start talking to me. I’d lie in bed and praying, “God, please don’t send an angel here… I know you’d be trying to be nice, but I really, really just don’t want it. Please don’t be offended.”
My worry was this: I was going to be visited by a winged, celestial being, and not only was it going to talk to me, which is scary enough, but now I was afraid it might say, “Caroline, you are called to be a nun. Throw away your colorful clothes, God is your husband now.”
Or even worse, “You have immaculately concepted a baby. You are pregnant. You are the new mother of the new Messiah. You won’t be stoned to death, but still, no one will believe you.”
Religion is petrifying. Catholics believe that the eucharist truly, literally, and actually transforms into the flesh of Jesus? Oh really? Why does Jesus’ skin taste vaguely like wheat!?? Why can’t celiacs eat Jesus’ paleo flesh?!
In Sunday School (“CCD”) we learned about a parable where the rich guy gave a big gold piece to a beggar, and the poor guy gave all he had: two pennies. And the moral was supposed to be that the poor guy “gave more” because he gave everything while the rich guy just gave a little of what he had.
Yea. The poor guy gave more. He gave all he had. And so he is an idiot and deserved to hold onto those pennies. Charity isn’t a competition. And now he is going to have to become a beggar, too.
Extra Story from my book!
No Teeth and Near Ugliness
I am missing 9 adult teeth. I think it is because my mom dieted while she was pregnant with me, because being fat is the worst thing a woman could dream of being! But that is just a working theory.
Not a bad theory, though, because you develop your teeth in utero and malnourishment effects teeth development. But also, think about it, your body would be like: Well I guess there is a famine so I won’t need to eat, so why grow teeth? Let’s develop jaundice too, while we’re at it.
Also, the fact that my mom dieted is also just a working theory. She calls it morning sickness, I call it maybe starvation, because she claims she left the hospital skinnier than when she got pregnant.
We found out about the teeth debacle when I was young, the dentist did the routine x-rays, and voila, no teeth. Or, more specifically, 9 spots in the gums where there were no teeth that would come in ever. I don’t remember the dentist saying anything in front of me, I just remember my mom crying in the car after talking to the dentist.
She sat in the back of the car with me and tried to calmly tell me, “Caroline, you… are missing nine adult teeth.”
“…And all of the ones that are there are in the wrong places …and small”. Then she started crying.
I wasn’t really phased by the teeth part, I had baby teeth! Calm down, everyone! But I do remember being really phased that she was really phased.
I think the biggest takeaway here is: in the olden days I would have been really ugly.
I would never have been able to have been married off to the blacksmith. I would have had to stay on the dairy farm and help my brother and his depressed wife. They would have had to hide me from the visitors and customers, and …when the Prince held a ball? Psssh. Well, I was no Cinderella. I knew I couldn’t go to the ball, fairy godmother or no fairy godmother. Not because I was poor, but because I had no teeth.
So, thankfully it is not the olden days, because we still live in a superficial world where you definitely need teeth to make friends and get jobs and rent an apartment in New York, and also for all that eating I now do.
So all through high school, I had major, major teeth surgeries. Implants and grafting, etc. If you can dream it, it probably happened in my mouth.
I became nearly immune to novocain at a certain point, which was really fun. Not.
You know how people have dreams that their teeth have fallen out? Well, when I have those dreams, they are based on real events, back when my nighttime teeth grinding would break my temporary composite teeth and I’d wake up with shards in my mouth, looking like Gollum. Normally this happened on really important days, like days when I had to perform, and my dentist was unavailable on the Golf Course.
All the needles. All the novocain. All the even more novocain and needles because it started wearing off so fast. All the drilling into my jaw bones, all the blood pouring out of my mouth, all the time in that chair with my mouth stretched open and my TMJ jaw popping out of its socket. A Teenage Dream.
Not only that, but my dentist is very talkative, so my 6 hour surgery/appointments could probably have been at least 2 hours shorter if he had not decided to tell me all about his new exercise regime and his son’s successful transition to his new middle school.
I remember, one time I’d been there with my mouth open for 4 hours, and I was waiting for him to put some teeth back in so I could go home, and he was drying them with the little blower thing and waving them around, emphatically explaining to me why his son’s Principal was unqualified.
So I slowly but very surely developed a panic disorder at the dentist, and became less and less friendly and upbeat as the months and years went on. He watched me descend into depression and didn’t even know that his own friendliness was a big part of the problem.
“Caroline, have you ever considered taking Valium?”
He told me he could prescribe it to me because I “really needed it”. But I didn’t take him up on the offer because I was on my “pharmaceutical companies are the devil” crusade.
Speaking of, one time after an oral implant surgery, I didn’t take the antibiotics because I was on an “antibiotics are overprescribed” crusade, and my implant got infected and half of my face went numb and almost became paralyzed.
Talk about ugly.
But you know what? Life basically holds a series of events that may turn us ugly at any time, which, according to the magazines I’ve read, is the worst thing you could be.
Being ugly is socially unacceptable, now, and and back on the old dairy farm, but my spiritual challenge to you is: will you be ready to embrace ugliness if and when it comes your way? Are you ready to fight for your right to not be kept away from the villagers and to go to the ball even if you aren’t the way they want you to look, and the Prince doesn’t want you there? I try to be ready at all times. Bring it on.
My teeth are now beautiful and porcelain, crafted by the same man who made Oprah’s teeth. I am lucky. I am lucky that my parents could, and did, shell out the money for functional and pretty teeth for their nearly-ugly daughter.
Possible Memoir Title: Does your dentist think YOU’RE insane?