Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Childhood Trauma #73

Davey's helpful comment yesterday that "learning is for sissies" got me thinking generally about sissydom and what a complete and utter sissy I was as a kid. I'm still a bit of a sissy these days, but now I think it suits me. Back then it didn't, but I was such a fucking sissy that I hadn't a clue what to do about it. Then I read Felix's #5 this morning and the true extent of my sissyness as a kid washed over me again in a wave.

There is incident from 1988 that haunts me yet, a public humiliation from my time in rang a haon with Múinteoir Ciara where the memory of the burning in my cheeks is still so vivid that I have to lay a hand to my face to check that I'm not blushing again. It was the year of our first Holy Communion, that rite of passage that signified, well, I'm not too sure on the whole Catholic side of things but it was significant for me in that I bought a set of swings for the garden with my communion money. Before we could get stuck into a bit of Holy Jesus, however, there was the ritual of the First Confession.

The process was explained to us in detail, the priest introduced, we were reassured that our confessions would be heard on the altar rather than in the confessional boxes lest the claustrophobic amongst us have a shit attack on the big day. We then had a quickfire Q&A as a prelude to the practice confession we were going to make to our teacher. Which is when it all went horribly wrong. My friend Martha put her hand up, the picture of genuine, worried sincerity, and asked what would happen if you hadn't got anything to tell the priest, because, she reasoned, "Rosie doesn't have any sins!"

Cue silence while the 32 eight year olds and their teacher ponder this hitherto unforeseen snag caused by the innocence of the class Goody-Poxy-Two-Shoes. That's right, I thought miserably, as the lot of them stared at me and my already red cheeks turned puce. I don't. I'm 8. I could make one up, but that would be a lie, and a sin on the altar.

I went home that day mortified at having been singled out from the crowd because of my virtue. I gave my brother a thump, muttered a bad word under my breath at my mam and thought about dipping her purse for tenpence (a step too far - but thinking about it was a good start). I resolved once and for all to rid myself of the nickname the class clown had bestowed upon me - "The Walking Talking Statue".

I've been moderately successful.


Felix for Zosia said...

It's so weird isn't it - the whole process encourages sin... but I quite like the fact that you can do whatever you like for your whole life and then repent on your deathbed and then you go straight to the Pool Room in heaven. You don't even have to believe in God until the very end - quite neat really.

Darragh Doyle said...

God damn you Rosie, I've just sprayed a mouthful of coffee all over myself, my phone, the metro on my lap and on the luas with a snort at the walking talking statue nickname. Your posts need to come with a warning - don't read in public. ;-)

Made up for it, eh?

Darragh Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil said...

Ya hadn't committed any sins at 8? Ok...
I think by the time I was 8 I'd probably made my way halfway through breaking the ten commandments let alone sins but that probably isn't something to be proud of, or is it ? ..wait I'm confused.

Rosie said...

these days my dealings with the church are limited to funerals and the occasional wedding, Felix. both the Pope and i prefer it that way (and by Pope i do of course mean JP2, as the new guy looks like something that'd eat you).

i should really have given the Walking Talking Statue a post to itself. i strive to make up for it most every day, Darragh.

as for "sins", not really, no. i was an exceptionally well-behaved child, as were my brother and sister.

red said...

At least you realized at 8 that lying about having sinned was not the way to go. You were clearly a bright young one. I was 7 when I had my first confession and hadn't sinned yet either- to the best of my knowledge. So I lied. On the altar.

backpedalbrakes said...

I was in the "no sin" brigade too but - and I kid you not - was encouraged by my teacher to "make something up" so I didn't look like a freak on the altar. If memory serves me, my fake sin was having nicked 20p from my mam's purse. How bold.

aonghus said...

No surprises then that people stop going if they are fed bad data at the very offset.

But it is both simpler and more complicated than the caricature.

Surely even a seven year old would find the idea of trying to fool God odd?

For good data, see

Ciarán said...

(and by Pope i do of course mean JP2, as the new guy looks like something that'd eat you).

Best. Comment. Ever.

Jesus and I have something of an arrangement. I don't go into his house, he doesn't come into mine. Oibríonn sé go maith i mo bharúilse.

Billy said...

Is it a sin to think about making up a sin?

Rosie said...

probably, Billy.

not too much into sin as a concept myself, but that's a post for another day.

Annie said...

Awww. Nothing more shameful than being good.

Confession now - don't even know where to start at how strange it seems.

(We don't do confessionals, we just have Jewish Mothers to make us feel guilty.)

Rosie said...

How many Jewish mothers / Irish mammies [delete as applicable] does it take to change a light bulb?

Don't bother, I'll sit in the dark, I don't want to be a nuisance to anybody.

i hear ya, Annie. the battle cry of the irish mammies - "i'm not annoyed, i'm disappointed."

aj@lecraic said...

I only have vague recollection of my communion and first confession. I'm sure there was anxiety there and really not understanding why I had to confess in the first place and having conversations after it as to what my sins were.

I do recall vividly my 3rd class teacher, a De La Salle brother. He wasn't a very nice man. I can remember staring at the clock on the wall while he said morning prayers, and then being close to tears when I sat down in expectation of another day of hell. He knocked any confidence I might have had in myself as a kid. It was so bad I suffered stomach problems which were psychosomatic in nature. My mother used to tell me she had put special powder on my dinner to help my stomach, but it didn't. Even now it makes me desperately sad to think about it.

Oh the joys of a catholic school education - for that particular year anyway - I have happier memories of all my other teachers. Pity one bad apple sticks in my memory still.

Rua said...

Ironically, I've never told the truth in a confessional. We had to do them in school and I was never able to remember what I had done wrong so I just stuck to 'told lies, cursed, stole and stuff, can I go now?". Pretty much everyone rolled off the same spiel and one day a particularily bored priest opened with, and I quote: "have you killed anyone? no, grand, 3 hail mary's, off ya go"

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