agnostic.

Today’s provocative WordBowl word suggested by the blogger known as “callmemisschiq” who’s philosophical ruminations can be found on:

“Ponderings and Green Tea” 

agnosticMy parents instructed me in the matter of sex — I was, by this time, twelve and schoolyard-schooled in the subject — by presenting a book entitled “Chastity, Morality & Young People”, penned by a priest. My father avoided my eyes as he urmhurmmhummed to talk with my mother (her gaze averted, picking at my floral bedspread) if I had any questions.

Which, upon reading, I did.

The book opened with a tale of two teenagers “necking” in a parked car, who died of asphyxiation.

Question:

Could they not crack a window?

And:

What credentials did this priest bring to the table?

BURLINGTON (a winter-perfect pairing of bourbon & calvados) at Wise Men

Cocktail inspiration at Wise Men

Intuiting such questions should be kept to myself, I assured my parents I understood everything, which they accepted based on my proven reading-comprehension skills and their desire not to discuss such things.

The message was clear, sex a particularly egregious Catholic sin, like drinking and dancing for Baptists. My Jewish friends, without the twin pressures of heaven and hell, had no such equivalent.

I absorbed the lesson: intercourse was forbidden.

Alcohol, on the other hand, the drinking of, was not a sin. The first Biblically-recorded miracle was the changing of water into wine, and wine was served during Communion, yes, transmuted into the Blood of Christ, but it still tasted like wine no matter how fervently anyone believed.

Kamakura Coffee fueling rewrite

Kamakura Coffee fueling rewrite

Weekend entertainment options in a Southern town, limited. Fall Friday football games replaced by baseball in the Spring, so we lived in our cars cruising for rumored house parties, bonfires, keggers. All of us — Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, the outlying Pentecostals and the lone Lutheran congregation — eligible for driver’s permits at 14, driver’s licenses at 15. The drinking age for wine and beer was 18. Hard liquor, 21. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew a “cool” adult. You do the math, it all adds up to cars and booze. And necking. Momentary couples making out to their inevitable Monday mortification.

Perhaps the priest-author of “Chastity, Morality and Young People” was on to something after all.

Those of us who survived Catholic School wondered at the characterization of nuns as the Handmaidens of God, Brides of Christ,  help-maids of the priests to whom they deferred even as they terrorized us. While Fathers and Monsignors generally jovial, the nuns ruled with steely resolve born of righteousness, or perhaps a need to prove their worthiness.

CATHOLIC GUILT cocktail (yes, really) at Highlands

CATHOLIC GUILT cocktail (yes, really)

We girls came to understand we were responsible not just for ourselves, but the boys, too, the morality of the world resting on our soft shoulders. Imperative we wield “no” with a firm hand, as boys — indeed, all males — could not help themselves. Only we girls held the power to save them from eternal damnation. Or garden-variety sin.

This was the first we heard of our power. We had been raised to think of ourselves as delicate creatures, as prone to blemish as Magnolia blossoms. This call-to-arms, this exhortation to tap virgin reserves of inner-strength, a bit bewildering, beguiling.

What other powers might we possess?

“agnostic” required a first handwriting attempt at Wise Men — a Bowery bar owned by three female comrades in cocktail arms (although entirely populated by men the night i was writing). 

Secondary handwriting with a “Catholic Guilt” cocktail at Scottish gastropub Highlands (west village). 

Editing fuel provided by the in-house roasters at Kamakura Coffee (east village). 

Want to play? Drop a word into WordBowl here: 

2 comments
  1. Oh Charlie…how I love this story. Have yet to see such an inventive wonderfully non-sequitor story for the word agnostic–a word close to my heart. Sex, alcohol…it’s all good. And those nuns have been a problem for many people I know. Such a great read!

    • Thank you, Allison! Thrilled you think my interpretation of “agnostic” resonates with your feelings about the word. Speaking of words, looking forward to one from you!

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