Lil’ Outlaw Mama’s Education: The Sex & Sin Edition

I was half way through my hot fudge sundae at Kip’s Big Boy Diner when my mom starting talking about special kinds of sins, mortal sins, the ones that God would never forgive.  I was chasing my cherry around the metal sundae dish, trying to submerge it in hot fudge when I realized I should pay very close attention to what my mom was telling me, my brother and sister.  Dad was out of town, which was the occasion for our special dinner out.“What’s a mortal sin?” I asked, taking a mostly-whipped-cream bite of my sundae.“That’s a sin that is so bad that once you do it, you go to hell.” My mom looked tired and serious, but that’s always how she looked when dad was away.

“I thought that if you went to confession, all of your sins were forgiven, so long as you tell the priest about it and do whatever he says you have to do to make it right.” My brother chimed in.  He was a year older and quite an expert in the fine print of Catholicism.  He was an altar boy. “It’s called penance,” he said giving me that look reserved for brothers trying to show off in front of their younger sisters.

I didn’t know what penance was, but my stomach was starting to turn.  It all sounded so scary.  Can’t we just eat our ice cream? I wanted to yell at my mom and my brother, the budding apostle.

“If you do penance it will erase most sins, but not the mortal sins.  Those sins bring such pain to God that there is no forgiveness.” My mom explained while reaching over to take a quick swipe of my fudge with her coffee spoon.

“So which sins are unforgivable?” I asked.  I was tired of the exegesis. I wanted the bottom line so I could memorize the rule and stay out of hell.

“If you murder someone, it’s a mortal sin; and if you have premarital sex, that too is a mortal sin,” my mom answered.   She motioned for the waitress to bring her the check.

I could not believe my mom just said the word “sex” in public.  I lapped up the last of my ice cream, saving the cherry for my last bite.  I couldn’t look at her.  I was burning with shame.  I didn’t know what premarital sex was, but I was sure I would never ever do it, because it couldn’t be worth going to hell for.  Hell was horrible; Sister Margaret told us it was dark and hot, and there was no water, and no one you loved would be there to help you put your pajamas on or give you a popsicle.

I wasn’t going to hell for anything.

My brother must have felt uncomfortable too, because he nudged hard me under the table to get me to scoot out of the booth so he could go pee.

How was I possibly going to be able to remember all the rules I had to obey?  I needed a rhyme like “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c'” to help me memorize all the rules.  Every day we learned new ones, and each one seemed so important to all of the adults around me.

I considered asking about grace (the grace that was amazing according to my Baptist Grandma), and whether I could count on that in case I accidentally committed a mortal sin.  My mom didn’t seem like she was in the mood for loopholes or gray areas, so kept my mouth shut, but I congratulated myself quietly for honoring my mother in the grand tradition of the 4th Commandment.

Struggling to finish my ice cream, I swallowed around that lump in my throat.  That lump showed up whenever I felt doomed to end up in Hell– lost, forgotten, dirty and abandoned.

I took one last bite of my sundae, praying that I would somehow turn out OK.  I tried to save the cherry under my tongue, but right as we pulled out of the parking lot, I swallowed it whole.

The cherry was gone, but the lump was still there.


59 thoughts on “Lil’ Outlaw Mama’s Education: The Sex & Sin Edition

  1. I love how you danced around the issue of virginity with the whole cherry imagery, very cool!

    And wasn’t that kinda heavy ice cream sundae talk?

    • I do think so! Why weren’t we talking about Holly Hobby or Strawberry Shortcake. And I think I misremembered that. I am pretty sure that’s not the Catholic doctrine, but that’s how it stuck to me. Hence, the therapy. Lots of therapy! 😉

      On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 10:44 AM, Outlaw Mama

  2. Seriously – the cherry thing was brilliant! I have to get my hubs to read this. He went to parochial school and was beaten by nuns. I’m pretty sure if he’s going to hell that I’ll be right there with him.

    I loved: I wanted the bottom line so I could memorize the rule and stay out of hell.

    Such an awesome post, as usual.

    • I have been brooding the fact that my kids do not go to religious school so this helps me remember that there are pros and cons to all forms of education. I certainly don’t want to raise kids who are terrified of pleasure and sex, but then again, they better not have sex until they are 30. Oy! My poor kids.

      On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM, Outlaw Mama

  3. Christie I really enjoy your writing (you obviously have a gift,) and your lively energy-thank you. And the cherry imagery was subliminal!

    • Thanks! It means so much to me that you shared your thoughts with me. IT was actually Sister Lynn Michelle, and not Sister Margaret, and maybe you heard the exact same thing I did!

      Peace, old friend! Peace.

      On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM, Outlaw Mama

  4. I have had some experience from my own religion with this fear of pleasure and sex not connected with marriage, and in my opinion, it just creates a completely unnecessary shame spiral that is not easily dispelled. I also think the cherry metaphor is brilliant. So awesomely well done.

  5. I haven’t commented before, but I love reading your blog and you had me in tears reading the “poop in the bathtub” entry as I’m in the same boat here! I so remember Sister Lynn Michelle and Kips Big Boy!

  6. As everyone else said, the cherry was perfect. Wow, premarital sex a mortal sin! Heaven would have had to close down a long time ago if that were true, because there would be no one left to enter!

    • I know. I still am pretty sure I misunderstood that, but it sure complicated my sex life for a long, long time. And there I go with the TMI.

      On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM, Outlaw Mama

  7. I was raised Catholic, too, and it feels to me that the cruelest part of their dogma is the thought that God, a larger-than-life parent would not forgive you even if you were sorry.

    “It all sounded so scary. Can’t we just eat our ice cream?” is why I personally feel children shouldn’t be taught about a vindictive and spiteful god.
    And why I spent so much time in parochial school figuring out what rules actually were in the Bible and which ones were added later. Then off to grad school to figure out that everything in the Bible was in the same category.

    • Right. Exactly. Oh the blows that graduate school took to my religious life. It all started when I dated an atheist at the end of college, who was brilliant and convincing. Then, came grad school and God was dead. He came back to life, but not within religion. Oh, also, he’s not a he.

      old habits. They die so hard.

      On Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 11:09 PM, Outlaw Mama

  8. I enjoyed this – the imagery, the details of focusing on the sundae while thinking. I remember being very confused about te rules and hell as a child too. Great job!!

  9. I’m pretty sure that I am going to hell many times over based on what I learned from Catholic school. Actually, I have already been to hell and thank goodness I found my way out. 🙂 Wonderful post

    • OMG I was just worshipping your Captcha post. Oh lord, you are so good. Anyway, we were commenting at the same time. Twinks! Thanks for the props. I am thinking this post was a lil too heavy for this week. But it’s always time to pop cherries, right?

      On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM, Outlaw Mama

    • I was hoping you would approve of my ice cream imagery. Nothing like a hot fudge sundae in those little metal cups. It was 1970 and the fudge was good. Carter-era fudge.

      On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:36 PM, Outlaw Mama

      • i loved it!! and that’s the real deal ice cream!! i remember back in the 70’s, i used to go with my dad, on our divorced parenting weekends, and we’d always go to hagaan daz and i’d get a chocolate chocolate chip milkshake with sprinkles in it that i’d suck up with the straw. heaven and such a strong, flavorful memory that i can almost taste it!! wish i could still eat it!!! 🙂

  10. It’s a miracle you made it out of Kip’s alive! And went on to get married, have sex and procreate (in that order, of course – in case god or your mom is reading.) 😉 Beautifully written, frightening story. I have my own similar version memorialized in letters from my mom to me. I’ll share. Some day. Great post!

  11. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. 6 of those taught by sadistic nuns hell bent on scaring small children into compliant submission. By the time I was freed even the concept of heaven scared the hell out of me. (I was tired of the exegesis. You don’t find a sentence like that in many blog posts. That’s what I love about you. I’m rewarded every time I read one of your posts.)

  12. This is fantastic! Really, really wonderful stuff here! I have enjoyed all of your writing, but I must say this is probably my favorite. It’s great on so many levels. The humor, the imagery, the spot-on thoughts of a child learning about mortal sin. You need to be making some money for writing as quality as this! Thanks for sharing your wonderful words with us for free! Heart icon.

  13. I really enjoyed this. I never went to Catholic school, but I dated a couple of Catholic girls. We had some good conversations about Jewish guilt versus Catholic. 😉

  14. This was brilliant. And, it made me grateful that my sex ed was non-religious. Sooo much less trauma that way. Actually, I think my mom just threw a book at me and saved the good parts for when I was older. Of course, I went into my first marriage believing that men got married to have sex and being hugely disappointed. Okay, maybe it was traumatic too.

  15. Read this on my phone a few days ago but just read it again in the luxury of my rocking chair on a nice big screen. So much going on here and I relate to the majority of it. Didn’t grow up Catholic but I did grow up with the fire and brimstone of Texas Baptists; almost as good, right? Hey, someone needs to keep the world’s therapists in business and I think you and I are doing our part. Great post as always.

  16. I was raised Catholic-ish. The priest that did my first confession was basically like, “Look. God loves you. And not in a creepy controlling way. Always remember that when you hear the fire and brimstone stuff.” I didn’t fully realize how lucky I was to experience what was apparently one of the few anti-shame Catholic upbringings. Great post!

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