Agnostic

Dating Online: What’s in a Name?

Hello my name is

Hello my name is (Photo credit: maybeemily)

Dating profiles are little windows into a person’s psyche.  They say so much while saying so little at the same time.  I’ve tried nearly every service from eHarmony, match.com, OkCupid, chemistry to even Jdate.  I’m not Jewish but I live in New York City so I thought – why not?  So far nothing has worked.  I’m like a curious bystander staring at a crime scene or car accident, no matter how pathetic my online dating experiences have been, I just can’t tear myself away from the sites.  Pursuing profiles is like a huge sociology experiment.  If I have any advice on here to ANY MAN it would be this.

PLEASE HAVE A TRUSTED FEMALE FRIEND, WHO IS NOT YOUR MOTHER, LOOK OVER YOUR PROFILE BEFORE YOU PUBLISH IT.

I would repeat that three times for emphasis but I like to keep my word count under 1000 on this blog.

One of the things I learned quickly in regards to emails on OKCupid – A guy’s name says so much.  I get email all day on those sites. If a guy has a crazy name, I know it isn’t even worth opening anything until the next day.  Sometimes a name can actually ruin everything, in one case a man emailed me with a name that was a creative spelling of spermbank, yet when I looked at his profile he seemed perfectly normal.  I just couldn’t imagine though, going out on a date with a man who thought SPERMBANK was an appropriate name for a dating profile.  I write this with the intention of helping guys who are well intentioned but have no clue about how a name like, HappyHuggerGuy might come across to a woman.  The more extreme names like Slave4URFeet or BigSugarDaddyLvr will always be there, and easy to disregard.  But if you are a guy and you aren’t sure why your profile isn’t getting more email, or if your a woman and want to see some of the most tragic names I could find…this article is for you!  Most names fall into the following categories.

Sexy Names – must contain one or more of the following

  • 69
  • Deep, Long
  • Big, Huge,
  • Pulsing, Thorbbing
  • Girthy, Girth, Thick, Wide
  • Xrated
  • NSFW
  • Beast
  • Pervert, Perv
  • Naughty
  • CunnyLover
  • ThreeWay
  • Casual, NoStrings, Discrete
  • Honorable Mentions:
  • SpermBank
  • WellHungForFun
  • Youlllovemy
  • NiceGuyButNot
  • Longrider888

I Think the only thing I have to offer is MY MONEY 

  • SugarDaddy
  • Richboy
  • Ferrari, Lexxus, Porsche, Benz
  • HighRoller
  • BigPlayer
  • $$$$

I’m a Sensitive guy – these made my skin crawl more than any other category

  • Cuddles
  • Snuggles
  • Sweet4U
  • SensitiveLover
  • Sweetboy
  • Gentle
  • Lover, Loves, Lovey
  • Friendly
  • Huggs, Huggable, Hugger
  • Kisser, Kisses, Kissy
  • Lonely
  • Honorable Mentions
  • GentleLover4U
  • Mr.Cuddles
  • SnuggleBearLover
  • Soft_N_Gentle

The following are subcategories that depending on the woman could work.  After all, we are all quite different and if a woman specifically seeks a squirrel loving guy who is into BDSM and has a foot fetish – A name like SquirrelDomFootLuv – might be just the thing.  If you are into kinky and this is what you are looking for, by all means don’t hide it.  It’s always better to NOT surprise a potential partner

I’m Kinky or a have a Fetish

  • BDSM
  • Kinky, Kink,
  • Slave, Master, Slavery
  • Submissive, Sub, Dom, Dominant
  • Beat Me, Wimpy, Wimpee
  • LoveFeet, LoveBig, LoveCurves, TallChaser
  • Fisty – Couldn’t make that one up
  • Honorable Mentions
  • SlaveMasterDomme69
  • Mr.Wimppee
  • McFisty
  • WhipMeGuy4U
  • SlapSlaveAssMan

Spiritual – Again these would repulse me, but if you are a mystical sort seeking a similar type of gal, they could be perfect

  • Soul, Soulmate
  • Peaceful, Peace
  • Spirit, Spirit Guide, Searcher
  • Hippie
  • Mystical
  • Seeker, Visionary, Visions,
  • Dreamer, Dream,
  • SunGod, Goddess Seeker,
  • Healer
  • Evolved

Alternative Lifestyle Names – Again for the right girl, these could be just the thing

  • Vegan – probably the #1 I see in theis category.  I get it, as they are probably seeking another vegan.
  • Veggie, Veg
  • Yoga
  • Meditate

I might be Dangerous!

  • Rebel
  • Rogue
  • NoRules
  • Fire
  • Danger
  • Animal
  • Pirate
  • Spicy
  • HarleyMan888
  • Untamed
  • Maverick

Proud to be me

  • Geek, Geeky
  • Nerdy
  • Treker
  • Trekie
  • Robot
  • Gamer

The Classics – These are total cliches.  They aren’t terrible, just massively overused.

  • Guy4U, Guy4Ya, YourGuy
  • Mr.RightNow
  • PrinceCharming, Knight, Prince
  • GreatCatch
  • StopLooking, SearchEndsHere
  • I’mTheOne, TheOne
  • Popeye – I have no idea why this one is popular but I see it a lot
  • NormalGuy, GuyNextDoor, FavoriteGuy, Regular, Average
  • Smiler, Smiles, Smile
  • Boy, Boyz,
  • Johnny or Joe – both extremely popular
  • Happy, Nice, Fun
  • MacGyver – A LOT of guys make variations on that joke
  • Honorable Mentions
  • AllUNeedIsMe
  • AverageJoe4U
  • FoundIt
  • DoneSearching

Animals – Used a lot, not sure why.  

  • Ram
  • Tiger
  • Phoenix
  • Dog or Dawg
  • Monkey – extremely common – I have no idea why names like MonkeySmiler would help a guy out, but to each his own.

Inexplicable names – I have no idea what they were thinking…honestly I don’t.  These are all real names, I’m not kidding.

  • TurtleLover
  • SquirrelBoy
  • Beeswax
  • FrankenChicken
  • BreadPudding
  • BloodDonor
  • PumpkinHeart
  • Mudrunner – Could mean you’re into off-roading, but a woman probably won’t get the reference – this one is iffy.
  • Plopgasm
  • PappyAss – Personal favorite, as what the hell does it mean?  And how would it attract women?
  • MarriednDating

Boring Names – Include things like

  • Occupation
  • Hobby
  • Location – NY, SF, ATL
  • Age – 1973, 1984, 1968

I usually get attracted to a photo, and then I read the profile.  Those are the two things that grab me, a boring name will NOT turn me off.  My own name on the site is fairly boring.  However a super cheesy, overly sexual, creepy, cuddly name could hurt you.  So when in doubt just call your self NYCGuySohoDentist – You’ll probably get more email!

I don’t have tip jar on this blog because well…I think they are tacky.  But if you would like to support me, and help the blog, please watch the following short video!  The sponsors of this blog help keep it running.  Thanks for reading!

Chick-Fil-A – Do you really want to run your company on Biblical Values?

Chick-fil-A

So a top ranking executive, Dan Cathy,  at the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A said the following in an article in the Baptist Press
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

he was also quoted as saying

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,”
He has every right to voice his opinion, and to worship as he sees fit.  But I do question his belief in running a company on biblical principles.  I also wonder if he has actually read the bible.   According to ChristianAnswers.net the Old Testament contains 23,214 verses, the New Testament contains 7,959 verses.  Out of those 31,173 verses approx. six condemn homosexuals.   Jesus Christ had nothing to say about homosexuals or homosexuality.  Here is just one of the six damning versus.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

So along with homosexuals…thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers are also doomed from entering the kingdom of God.  Now if God is truly condemning “the greedy” to eternal damnation along with homosexuals that would certainly include a large portion of the population in any capitalistic economic system.  And what is a swindler?  Is it that essentially the same thing as a thief?   Adulterers are also quite common and would include many well-known Christian leaders.  And surprisingly the bible also only mentions homosexuality in men, not women.

I will give Chick-Fil-A credit for not opening their stores or doing business on Sunday as according to Christian tradition, Sunday is the Sabbath and working on the Sabbath is punishable by death in the bible.  But how far does Chick-Fil-A take their biblical values?

Here are just a few restrictions and laws also included in the bible.  Paraphrased for length.

Leviticus 19:19 – Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric

Leviticus 19:27 – Don’t cut your hair nor shave.

Leviticus 20:9 Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed.

Leviticus 20:10 If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die.

Leviticus 21:17-18 People who have flat noses, or is blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God

Leviticus 15:19-20 When a woman has a discharge of blood, which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening

Leviticus 11 – Includes many dietary restrictions including unclean meat such as – pork, rabbit, camel, shellfish, birds of prey, bats, mice and various bird and lizard species

Deuteronomy 13:12-15 If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of it’s inhabitants… even the animals. 

Deuteronomy 17:2-7 Kill anyone with a different religion.

1 Corinthians 3:2 – You are not to combine milk with meat

So I would love to ask Mr. Cathy, if his employees all have beards and long hair?  Does his company allow menstruating women to work?  And what about the menu items that contain pork products and dairy combined with chicken.  Are these not also abominations?  Are the uniforms made of only one type of cloth and thread?  Is it acceptable for an employee to murder a customer or fellow employee if that person is not a Christian?  If an employee curses their parents are they put to death?

I don’t quite understand how many Christians who cite these six scant verses in the bible that condemn homosexuality conveniently ignore some of the more extreme laws.  How is one verse the “WORD OF GOD” and another discarded as being out-of-date.  Who decided what is relevant and what isn’t?  It sure sounds nice to say that one lives by biblical laws, but no one really knows what those laws entail.  Of course there is great wisdom and philosophy in the bible even for non-believers but the darker passages cannot just be ignored.  Cherry-picking the bible and then using it condemn homosexuality while ignoring the other absurd and out-dated prohibitions is intellectually dishonest.

A religious person can and should live however they like as long as their behavior does not go against secular laws and does not harm others.  But homophobia does harm, and results in harassment, bullying, suicides, loss of employment, and infringes upon the basic human rights of others.  Some Christian conservatives are actively trying to force their religious beliefs into law in a secular society while most homosexuals are just trying to live their lives and not be treated like second class citizens.  Gay men and women are not trying to limit the rights of heterosexuals, this is hardly an even or fair fight.

If Dan Cathy really wants to live according to the biblical tradition of the family and run his business according to biblical law then he should get to work and stop picking and choosing which laws he takes seriously.  If Cathy wishes to run his company according biblical law, then at least we had better start seeing full beards and long hair on every employee.   It might not be up to health code but it would be according to God’s will.

Birth Control Debate: Religious Freedom or Sexism?

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am completely floored by the current debate over the health care mandate requiring health insurance companies to pay for birth control and religious freedom. For starters no one is arguing that men receiving a prescription for the erectile dysfunction drug fill out any forms or prove that they are married or using the drug to procreate. Other than a few crafty legislatures who have introduced bills as a means to protest these insane attempts to limit access to birth control, no one has argued against viagra in terms of religious freedom.

And what about religious freedom? When did the right to worship as you please change to the right to influence or direct the personal behavior of your employees? Health insurance isn’t a hand-out paid for entirely by the employer and given to employees out of the goodness of their hearts. It is part of an employees compensation, so the employee is in effect earning their health insurance through their hard work. Most plans take a portion of the premium directly out of the employees paycheck. And the employer is allowed to deduct a certain amount paid for their employees premiums off of their tax liability, as health insurance is just another cost of doing business.  I also cry foul because so far there has been no mention of IVF fertility treatments.  The Catholic church is against IVF treatments because they create many embryos that ultimately get destroyed in the process of trying to create a pregnancy.  IVF treatments are not being mandated as part of basic health insurance coverage by the government but it is interesting how the pro-life movement rarely mentions them or brings up the topic.  We don’t see throngs of protestors outside fertility treatments for the great multitude of frozen embryos destroyed as a result of these fertility treatments.

So how far are we going to take religious freedom?  How much can an employer influence the lives of their employees in the name of religious freedom.

Would Muslim employers

  • Require female workers to wear a veil while at work, or even a Burka
  • Be allowed to discriminate against women and refuse to hire women based on their religious beliefs
  • Pay women less than men, based on their religious beliefs
  • Ban all pork and other prohibited foods under Islamic law in the workplace even for non-Muslim employees
  • Make non-Muslim employees observe Muslim holy days and traditions including fasting
  • Require moments of silence in the work place for all five times during the day that Muslims pray towards Mecca

Would Mormon Employers be allowed to

  • Ban Coffee from the work place
  • Institute modest dress code laws
  • Require mandatory readings of the Book of Mormon

Would Scientologist employers be allowed to

  • Refuse to cover any psychiatric or psychological drugs or care
  • Force employees to attend Scientologist meetings or treatment such as for alcoholism or learning disabilities
  • Demand every employee to be audited with an e-meter

Would an orthodox Jew employer be allowed to

  • Force female employees to wear wigs and forgo pants for long skirts and modest clothing.
  • Institute all Kosher laws regarding the Sabbath and food restrictions

Would a Jehovah’s Witness employer be allowed to

  • Refuse to cover many surgeries that would require a blood transfusion

Christian Scientist

  • Ban most medical procedures in favor of spiritual healing and prayer

Seventh Day Adventist

  • Require all employee to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet while at the work place

And could any religious employer refuse to cover the legal spouse of a same-sex marriage in the states in which same-sex unions and marriages are legal?  Most states mandate employers to cover their employees for some type of health care coverage depending on the amount of employees.  Could an especially frugal employer simply state that their religious beliefs would only support 100% faith healing and prayer, pretty much wiping away the need for health insurance entirely.  Why not?  If an employer gets to act as a parent to their employee and decide what is morally acceptable and what is not, what is to stop such an action.

The birth control debate is just another ridiculous attack against women.   And I don’t know when the employer’s right to freedom of religion supersedes the right of an employees right to privacy or their own religious freedom.  I thought religious freedom was the right to worship as you chose, not the right to dictate to others how they should or should not live their lives.

The Tree of Forbidden Foods

So regular blog readers, this is sort of writing practice for me.  I have just acquired a literary agent and I am working on a memoir.  Not exactly the book I was planning but I am overjoyed by the opportunity.  This wouldn’t go the book, as its subject matter doesn’t pertain to what I am basing the book on.  But this was one of my most popular stories that I performed on stage and I am trying to adapt my style more for the page rather than a stage.  They are after all two totally different mediums.  I hope you like it.  I will probably continue to edit it, as that is what I do. 🙂 

English: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, m...

One of the reasons I have a complicated relationship with the religion of my youth is that without it, I probably wouldn’t be here.   My parents practiced the 1970’s Catholic version of family planning, most of which consisted of prayer.   My mother didn’t have four children as much as she had a litter.  She basically had two sets of Irish twins.  We weren’t exactly 12 months apart but our births were so close that she had all four of her children in five years.  Having us so close together definitely affected her parenting style–which would be described as passionate, dedicated but foggy.  She would usually get the big picture as we were all clothed, fed and supervised but tended to miss small things.  She was constantly calling each of us by the wrong name, a problem made more difficult by naming us all names that started with the letter J.  And she wouldn’t notice fairly obvious problems.   I wasn’t diagnosed with my lifelong asthma until I was an adult, my sister went an entire day with a broken arm until someone decided to take her to the doctor, and my brothers would come in scraped and bloodied from fights and rough housing and she wouldn’t blink.  We rarely arrived to sporting events or school functions on time and sometimes she would completely forget about them.  Her organizational style was ambitious but her plans never really worked out, it was if she was an architect without a contractor.  She would painstakingly go through the linen closet making labels for each shelf in her beautiful perfect handwriting.

One shelf would say

“Fitted sheets”

And another

“Pillowcases”

The problem was that the shelf labels didn’t correspond to their contents.  Instead of fitted sheets and pillowcases the shelves were full of random items such as 10-year-old sunscreen bottles, the occasional cloth diaper and strange unknown medical devices that I suspect were left over from her multiple pregnancies.  The sheets themselves were all mix-matched and thrown in one on top of each other in great heaps.  Some were so threadbare you could see your hand through them.  It wasn’t that she didn’t care; she was simply in over her head.  My father worked long hours as an auto mechanic and when he got home planted himself in a recliner to watch non-stop television programs while engulfing copious amounts of peanuts and beer. His parenting style was to scream and threaten in loud outbursts and then go right back to watching television.  Not exactly the most effective way to manage children, as all it did was to make us fear him and avoid him at all costs. And children tend to mirror their parents behavior.  So when fighting with each other we tended to scream and terrorize just as we had seen our father do.  It was a small three bedroom home full of four maniacs acting more like a pack of wild dogs than children.  So given this environment, a lot got overlooked.

At the age of nine I got hit with some bad news.  Our dentist informed my parents, that I not only needed braces but serious orthodontist work.  I had inherited the under bite that ran through nearly all the females on my father’s side of the family.  If I didn’t get my bite fixed soon, I was going to need headgear, and not just the kind of headgear worn at night, but the kind of humiliating soul crushing headgear that is worn all day long.  He was so dramatic in his warning that he made it seem that braces weren’t an option, but they were a medical necessity. If they weren’t cemented on my nine-year-old teeth I might as well just resign myself to a life of working as a freak at a sideshow attraction.   X-rays were slapped on lighted screens, hushed tones and dramatic voices used to illustrate his point.  My favorite example was the plaster model cast of my mouth.  He used this for to the most terrifying effect.  When he made the teeth go up and down, with an under bite that I suspect he exaggerated, he was telling my parents with this little puppet show—your daughter’s a monster.   Get this girl braces or else.

I grew fast and early as a kid and had lost all of my baby teeth by age nine, so there would be no extractions involved.  But because of my father’s health plan, they were only going to cover partial braces for the first year and then the rest would follow.  Partial braces might sound better but they were a horror show.  The braces were attached to only my front and back teeth leaving a vulnerable wire connecting everything.  Eating anything hard or tough would cause the wire to shift often cutting into the back of my mouth and the inside of my cheek.

So knowing this was a problem certain foods were to be avoided.  My orthodontist even had a “Tree of Forbidden Foods” in his office.  It was an actual miniature Christmas tree adorned with plastic examples of all of the items a kid with braces was supposed to avoid.  Apples were prominently displayed.  My mother completely forgot about this and would just give me the same sad lunch she gave all of my siblings for most of our childhoods–A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple in a paper bag.  The bread was the extremely inexpensive kind bought from a discount grocery store.  We would buy it in bulk and throw it into an ancient electricity guzzling deep freeze in our basement.  Throwing one in on top of the other caused the loaves to become smashed and deformed.  The peanut butter came out of a huge bucket (sometimes government issued) and the jelly was never better than store brand.  Every day the weight of the apple in our lunch bag would cause the bread to flatten and the jelly to seep through the sides.   The apples were the cheapest kind available, probably intended for applesauce, not to be fed individually to children.  For years I had that same pathetic lunch, sometimes she would mix it up and I might get pickle loaf or liverwurst with mustard but it was nearly the same thing every single day.

My Catholic school had a very Dickens like quality to it.  We had one grade per class and everything was rundown and barebones.  Our lunchroom was the basement of the church and we sat at long dark brown wooden tables with tired old matching benches.  We were each given a half carton of milk, but the rest of our lunch was up to our parents.

So it was my smashed and deformed sandwich with a low-grade apple next to lunches that a child could only dream of eating–hard-boiled eggs, Capri Sun juices, ham and cheese sandwiches made with light fluffy wonder bread, little tins of pudding or canned fruit and the two items I hardly ever ate as a child because they were deemed too expensive, yogurt and seedless grapes.  Even now the thought of both of them send me into a dizziness of expectation yet I still rarely buy them because they are after all expensive.

So when surrounded with bounties like these, I couldn’t even give my lunch away, and since I couldn’t eat the apple without pain and injury, I had to throw it away.  One day while discarding my apple, the school janitor caught me in the act.  He was a large creepy looking man named Mr. Cooper who had a sheen of serial killer about him.  He was tall with fuzzy red hair that only covered part of his scalp, it was messy and seemed to grow in patches.  His belly was enormous and stuck out so much that it was his most prominent feature.  He wore this one piece blue uniform that always seemed to have stains of unknown origin down the front of it and was two sizes too big.  Every day it was always the same uniform but with different stains. Mr. Cooper looked like an escaped hillbilly convict and he smelled like old socks and stale beer.  And he was constantly sweating.  He would sweat even when it was cold outside–we were all scared of him.  When he discovered my crime of tossing the apple he immediately sent me to the principal.

Every kid in elementary school has a principal, but having your priest as your principal is an entirely different matter.  If your principal is your priest and your priest is God then your principal becomes GOD.  My principal was the pastor, or head priest of our entire parish. Father Hogan was a controversial figure.  Father Hogan was a bit of an egotist and refused pretty much all criticism, not that he got that much.  People tended to love or hate him, and I will admit he scared me more than Mr. Cooper.  It wasn’t any one specific thing he just had the aura of a self-important sadist.  It was all about Father Hogan, all the time.  He was bald with a pleasant face, but he suffered from the skin disorder psoriasis and his treatment included lying under sun lamps, so he was constantly sunburned.  His face was usually a bright red, which gave him a slight demonic quality.  I have a photo from my first communion where Father Hogan is half-embracing me, and I remember at the time it was taken I wanted to run away from him as fast as possible.  He was also known to have a penchant for nice cars and fancy vacations, which seemed odd for a priest but as my mother said.

“What else is he going to spend his money on?”

And I guess she had a point.  An example of his inflated ego was in how he treated the school intercom system.  It wasn’t enough that any time he entered a classroom we were supposed to jump up at attention and immediately pronounce in unison.

“Good Morning Father Hogan”

But he used the intercom system throughout the day at random to check in on the teachers.  I think he did it just to strike fear into our hearts

“Good Morning Class!  It’s Father Hogan I hope everything is going well.  God Bless you”

The intercom hand of God even freaked the teachers out.

It was well-known that Father Hogan had a yard stick on the wall of his office and did not see anything wrong with “doing what needed to be done” to anyone foolish enough to force him to use it.  The Tales were wondrous, everything from slaps across the back of the hand to full beatings.  I never knew anyone to personally experience it, but I didn’t want to find out.  I was so freaked out by the tales that I was scared to go to the office even when I was sick.

My trial.  I remember being in the tiny beige office, looking at the yardstick on the wall and both Father Hogan and Mr. Cooper behind the desk.  I was in a large wooden chair and even though I was big for my age, my feet barely touched the floor.   Father Hogan began to scold me on being wasteful, selfish and basically a horrible person.  I had indeed thrown out my apple into the garbage, a perfectly good apple that my working class parents had spent their hard-earned money to buy, the apple that starving children everywhere could be using as nourishment, the apple –  my sin MUCH LIKE EVE revealed.  The truth was I actually felt bad about throwing it away.  I was fully indoctrinated the bloodied and tortured Jesus Christ on the crucifix that hung on the wall behind Father Hogan, scared the living hell out of me and I did not want to get on his bad side.

My punishment.  After berating me for several minutes it was decided what was to be done.  My own personal witch trial of sorts, not only was I going to serve penance for my sins, but I was going to do it publicly.  The large plastic 50 gallon garbage can was dragged out to the corner of the playground/parking lot.  And I was forced outside in front of the other kids during recess to dig into the garbage, find the apple and eat it. I remember trying to plead my case, braces, bleeding gums, pain, not a good idea to eat food from the garbage, but all to no avail. I think they showed some mercy because it didn’t take long to find the apple, I think they must have placed it near the top.

I ate the apple.  Crying throughout as it caused my braces to get caked up and scrape against my gums and bleed, the wire shifting and cutting into the back of my mouth.   The adults just stood there staring at me in disgust.  Hadn’t any of these losers ever seen a kid with braces?  Didn’t they know about the Tree of Forbidden Foods?  I think I had bits of apple in my braces for weeks.  The rest of the kids just stood there frozen.  No one laughed or made the situation worse for me, I think they were traumatized.   When it was done we all went back to class and it was never brought up again.

Now you would think after telling my mother of the apple incident that she might call up the school and complain, or that she would at least try to plead my case with Father Hogan.  Or at least apologize.  I didn’t pack my lunch, she had.  But my mother has always had a difficult time admit fault on anything and she never went against a priest so after a long pause she said simply.

“Julie you should have given the apple away instead of throwing it away”.

And then she just sort of walked away. That was it.  I was publicly humiliated, could have damaged my braces, bleeding, in tears and that was it.  My mother couldn’t stand up to the priest, as at least in our family as in most Catholic families the priest was an extension of God and you just didn’t question a priest.  It was to be the beginning of my loss of faith in the church.  How could I take them seriously after blatant child abuse was not only condoned, but turned into a spectator sport?  I realized that day that adults can be far worse than children.  I had always looked up to adults thinking they had all the answers and they would do the right thing.  But after that day, I discovered the janitor was a petty thug, my priest was vicious and cruel and my mother could inadvertently frame me for a crime.

Eventually my mother forgot about the apple incident entirely and instead of giving me oranges in my lunch the apples came back.  I became an expert at throwing them away, almost ninja like in my techniques.  I got so skilled, I could get rid of them before entering the school building.  For months, flocks of birds and squirrels survived on my discarded fruit.  I don’t blame my mother though, like I said, she had a lot to worry about.  If anything the whole incident taught me that sometimes logic won’t win out, and that it is sometimes better to hide an injustice all together rather than pleading with those who could care less about your plight.  And strangely my situation was the opposite of eve, instead of eating the apple I threw it away yet it still destroyed my innocence.  Adults could be worse than children, I would never look up at them in the same way again.

We were eventually transferred to public school with its fancy luxuries like carpeting, brightly painted walls, art and music classes, playgrounds with actual playground equipment and a hot school lunch program where everyone ate the same lunch and everyone was happy.

Why I am No Longer a Catholic

My family’s Catholic faith dominated every aspect of my childhood.  My mother was so devoted she would drag her four children to holidays that were no longer Holy days of obligation after the reforms of Vatican II.  My favorite obscure Catholic holiday was the holy day of St. Blaise.  We would kneel before the priest as he crossed two unlit candles across our throats and chanted away in Latin.  Saint Blaise was the patron saint of throat ailments.  This ritual was meant to ward off disease, yet we got strep throat every year immediately after this ordeal.   Because it was no longer a Holy day of obligation and it didn’t improve our throat health, there was no reason to attend this mass yet we went, year after year, without fail.

My mother would also drive us to Catholic shrines and Holy relics all over Missouri and Southern Illinois.   We once visited a statue that was on route across the country.  It was making a stop in St. Louis at Lambert International airport, and for whatever reason could not leave the airport.  A tiny group of the truly devoted from my parish went down to Lambert to gaze at yet another statue of the Virgin Mary still half-encased in its shipping crate.  According to its legend the statue had cried once, it didn’t cry that day as we huddled around it, no matter how much we prayed for tears.

Catholics love statues. Special anointed statuary traveled from home to home to multiple families in our parish.  We had statuary in our front yard, we had crucifixes in every room, and at the top of our stairs was a full color bust of Jesus complete with bloody thorns piercing his head.  As a child this confused me as there was clearly a “Thou shall not worship graven images” commandment.  My parents explained that we weren’t worshiping the statue, but the saint the statue represented.  But it confused me because we would go to visit statues that had cried, and bled, so what were we worshiping again?  The saint or the magical statue?

My entire family attended mass every Sunday without fail.  We also went to nearly every parish function, carnival and fundraiser.   Catholics love to gamble, at least in the form of Bingo, and I was an expert bingo player by the time I was five.  At night just as we were tying to fall asleep we could hear our parents chant the rosary.  Their voices muttering the same prayers repeatedly with great speed, trying to get it through the prayer cycle as quickly as possible.  My parents strictly enforced the restrictions of lent, and no one never would even dream of eating anything but fish on Fridays.

My parents gave us illustrated books of the saints complete with more blood, gore and self-inflicted torture that a child could hope for.  I knew by the age of six or seven that St. Peter requested he be crucified upside down, that St. Sebastian’s body became riddled with arrows yet he miraculously survived, and how Saint Lawrence’s tormentors roasted him alive on a grid iron.   Many of the female saints would now be considered sufferers of anorexia, and other forms of cutting or self-mutilation.  In the Catholic tradition this self-inflicted torture was not questioned or a cause of concern, but held up as example of divine holiness.

A memorable story, was of St. Maria Goretti.  The brutal tale repeated throughout my childhood, was a cautionary tale for young girls.  St. Maria was 12 years old when faced with a rapist armed with a 10 inch blade.  She refused him sexually and he stabbed her fourteen times because she wouldn’t submit to him.  On her deathbed she forgave her attacker.   He went on to become a lay-brother who worked in a monastery while her action of forgiveness was held up as a shining example of purity and devotion.  All I got from it was that it was better that she was fatally stabbed than raped.   I didn’t think any 12-year-old would invite a rape by a 20-year-old man.  And did the poor girl have a choice?  Wouldn’t he have just stabbed her anyway?  Most children, Catholic or not, would have reacted as Maria had.  I didn’t think a pagan child would exactly welcome forcible sexual violence.  Or was the lesson – when in doubt remain a virgin for God even if it means your life or your virginity?  It seemed like a lot to swallow for a story intended for children.

Then there were the pro-life rallies.  As I was born in 1973, the same year as Roe vs. Wade my class and everyone younger than myself were known as the children of ’73.  The priest would actually group us together and then speak of how all of us had narrowly escaped death in the womb.  In my case it was a bit absurd as I my mother was seven months pregnant when Roe v. Wade became law.   My mother, always a bit morbid, liked to remind me that during my pregnancy, her non-Catholic friends told since she already had a boy and a girl and times were hard, that she should throw herself down the staircase and induce a miscarriage.  My mother would reassure me that the thought had never occur to her.  Funny though how she felt the need to tell me that story, and tell it to me more than once.  At the rallies bloodied images of aborted fetuses were everywhere.  The most startling image was of a baby doll spray painted red, rammed through a pitchfork held high above the frenzied crowd.   My first rally, I must have been around three or four, marching along with my fellow children of ’73 to raise awareness of the abomination.

Then there was my Catholic school.  The building itself was depressing enough with cracked linoleum floors, poor lighting and mismatched desks.  Every detail of Sacred Heart Elementary was beige or gray.   The hallways were lit by two huge opaque skylights that on cloudy days let little light in, blanketing the entire school in darkness. Coats and playground equipment were housed behind a cinder-block wall in the back of each classroom.  The coats thrown on hooks and our only playground equipment: two red rubber balls and two half-rotted smelly jump ropes, were kept in a over-sized metal trash can.  Once behind the wall there was essentially no light so occasionally children would push and fight among the coats.  Hazing and bullying was also rampant.  Our playground was the parking lot, not even a swing set was available for the first graders.  When we would watch film strips the screen was the window screen complete with holes and stains that would obscure the picture.  The bathrooms hadn’t been renovated since the 1950’s the stalls were all dark wood, and only the girls bathroom had stalls.  The boys bathroom had one long urinal in which everyone would relive themselves at the same time.  One particular priest who would run up and quickly whip his penis out to urinate in full view of the boys some as young as age six.  This same priest was accused and later convicted of child sex abuse.  Yet when my brother complained of this behavior his complaints were not given any credence.

There were no rules it seemed against physical abuse against students with, teachers mildly shoving kids against the wall, rulers slapped on desks, and of course the yard stick that hung prominently behind the desk of our pastor who also our principal.  Directly behind his chair there was a yard stick and a large paddle.  The stories of beatings by both implements of corporal punishment were epic.  The wild tales mostly involved transgressions by boys.  I don’t know how many of these stories were true, or pure fiction, but when we transferred to public school the idea of a teacher or principal hitting a student was unheard of, no one even joked about it.

The girls also had to endure a daily uniform check.  The teachers forced each girl to stand up and lift her skirt in front of the class, if her shorts were not the uniform issued maroon polyester her parents received a letter.  This practice went on until one six-year-old had a breakdown during the hideous ordeal.  It was abruptly stopped after her parents complained.  To further terrify us, it was standard practice that at any time during the class, our pastor, with his paddle and yard stick, would listen in on any classroom via the intercom.  The teachers literally put the fear of the omniscient God or voice of God in the form of our principal watching and waiting for the slightest slip up.

When I was in the fourth grade, my family finally debated removing us from the school.   My younger brother suffered from a learning disability and his teacher’s solution was to shove him in the hallway.   For most of the school day he sat in a desk by himself with nothing to do and no one teaching him.  His cruel and inept teacher had given up, and this was her preferred method of dealing with her problem student.   My mother fought to the point of complete exhaustion to get some extra help for my younger brother and eventually gave up and put us all in public school.

I was once publicly humiliated because I threw away an apple my mother put in my lunch.  The fact that I had braces on my teeth and I wasn’t supposed to eat apples had no baring whatsoever.  My pastor  interrupted and summoned my entire class to the parking lot while a large trash can was drug from the church basement.  As they stood in a large circle they watched as I hunted through the tossed away lunches and half empty milk cartons to find my discarded apple.  Once I found it, covered in garbage and slime, the pastor forced me to eat it before the assembled crowd.  As I stood there humiliated and ashamed I cried uncontrollably while my gums and mouth bled from the torturous ordeal.

When I told my mother about the incident when I got home, she sided with the priest.  To make my situation even worse she would still absent mindlessly give me apples in my lunch.  I became a skilled master at throwing them away before I made it to the lunch room.  Luckily by the end that school year we transferred to public school where no one cared what we ate or didn’t eat.

Then there was the incident during a mass when I was 12 years old.   Our new pastor became bent on building projects, including adding another very expensive statue.  Since my parish was in a poor community the projects could not be built without massive fundraising campaigns.  Every week the sermons focused on nothing else money.   I grew increasingly annoyed by these constant pleas, my frustrations peaked when a deacon delivered an anti-protestant and antisemitic joke involving a “cheap Jew”.  I walked out immediately after the comment and refused to go back.

All of these things disillusioned me  long before I learned of the pedophile in my parish and the pedophile in the neighboring parish, and the life destroying court trials that accompanied the abuse.  Eventually I also discovered the dark history of the Catholic church: indulgences, forced conversions, harassment and assassinations of scientists, the crusades, the inquisitions, the hundred years war, the suppression of women, and the suppression of knowledge, the fear and distrust of human sexuality and widespread antisemitism, and the long line of corrupt popes, cardinals, bishops, monks and priests.

The modern church with its pope, regarded as infallible in regards to church doctrine, who preaches against condom use in AIDS riddled Africa, denounces birth control in over populated impoverished nations as well playing an instrumental role in the cover-up of child abusing priests.  According to Catholic doctrine it is better that six baptized children die before the age of five, that it is to have two children live and thrive into adulthood.   It is not about the quality of human life, but the number of Catholic souls.

The most disturbing quality of my Catholic upbringing was the suppression of free thought and questioning authority.  Priests were held up as being above mortal humans with shortcomings and frailties   After all every Sunday they turned ordinary bread and wine into the spiritual body and blood of Christ.  They were also the only ones who could absolve sins through the sacrament of confession and could even exorcise demons from the damned.  This mentality is exactly why the church was able to cover-up the child sex abuse for as long as it did.  Parents of the victims would think nothing of leaving their children alone and unprotected with a celibate adult male, as they were after all magical spiritual men of the cloth.

The saddest part for me of losing my faith, is that in my youth, I was a believer.  I would pray to the Virgin nightly as the images of a bloodied half-naked Jesus always terrified me.   The sweet face of Mary in her gilded blue robes and her arms outstretched while crushing a serpent beneath her feet gave me solace.  She was my hero, my sweet face in the evening to look up to and to put my life’s prayers and fears into her never-ending loving face.  I would have dreams of her hovering over my bed with light pouring from her eyes telling me everything was good and that I had nothing to fear.  The fighting in my household would stop, the Russians wouldn’t nuke us to oblivion and that one day I would be able to get out of that tiny bedroom and sleep on a bed on which I couldn’t feel springs through the mattress.   I was so proud at my first communion at age 7 when I held my beautiful shiny statue of Mary that I picked out myself at Catholic supply.

The only peace I get now from Catholicism is the music inside the great old churches.  Some of the greatest composers wrote almost exclusively for it.  The music that would fill the church was magical and still leaves me teary and nostalgic for the dream that imprinted in my mind at such a young age.  Huge choirs singing at their fullest and enormous pipe organs playing such beautiful melodies that I could feel them in my bones.

I just can’t forgive the church for its many sins.  The Catholic church hasn’t learned from its mistakes, nuns are now forced to beg for donations for their retirement while abusing priests have attorneys defending their cases paid for by the Vatican.  I can’t stand the hypocrisy.  I can’t stand the dumb blind belief in anything that is not provable.  I don’t believe that telling my sins to a corrupt priest will cleanse my soul, or that chanting verses repeatedly will save me from the fiery depths of hell.  I don’t believe in hell and I don’t believe in heaven either.  I don’t believe in any one being holier than anyone else.   Or in any religion being one true path.  I believe we are human, and we are the smartest animals on earth, but like any animal we have traits and habits that are predictable and we are all very flawed and primal when exposed to the right stimulus and environments.  I also believe that we are both angels and animals.   Capable of great art, music, compassion and kindness but also of great terrors and base instincts.   So despite all of those trips to visit statues, the lovely songs, and dramatic stories the corruption and abuse was too much for me to stomach.  I have met priests that I admire, and Catholics that I truly love deeply within my heart, but I gave up on the institution long ago.

I am not here to tell anyone how to live or what to believe.  If you love the Catholic church and you think it does beautiful things through charity and the spiritual life for its believers, then its your right.  If the church brings you a sense of peace and love, then by all means worship as you see fit.  But it is also my right to reject that faith, and reject it openly.