I promised I’d talk about this, and the time is now. Yes, it’s true. I got booted out of churchschool. And even more distressing: I’m still, almost two decades later, irrationally proud of how it went down.
In high school, our church got a new priest. Our old priest – who I mentioned in an earlier post – was beloved by all. Honestly, there wasn’t anyone who didn’t adore this man. However, if anyone’s aware of how the church works, they move priests around a lot. Our priest was very, very good. Very passionate, excellent at getting people involved who wouldn’t normally be, getting a community together where it had just been a group of disparate people before – he was a pro at this. So he was in high demand. The powers that be kept him in our area longer than they normally do, but after a while, he got his reassignment and they moved him to a town an hour away, and we got a new priest.
Google tells me this man is still a priest, (and has quite a wide Internet footprint) so I’ll be circumspect and give him an alias – because it’s going to be confusing if I don’t. I’m also going to try to be as nice as I can, here. Let’s call him…Voldemort.
I was heartbroken to lose the priest that I’d loved and who’d inspired me for years, but my parents tried to assure me that the church wouldn’t send us someone evil. I was predisposed to hate this replacement; as we’ve learned about me, I make snap decisions.
I was willing to let it go that Voldemort looked, talked, and acted like a used car salesman moving in on a country rube about to spend the year’s mortgage on a lemon. I was willing to let it go that his sermons were long, dry as dust, and completely uninspiring. I had a little harder time letting go how he talked down to me. I still have this problem – I don’t have a lot, but I am an intelligent woman. If you’ve gotten to know me and you find I’m mentally deficient, then fine, by all means, talk down to me (I can’t be held responsible for what I might do or say to you, but you gave it a chance, so I can’t fault you for that, I suppose.) Voldemort was one of those adults who assumed everyone under the age of twenty must be an automatic idiot. He used a baby voice. I was in high school. This didn’t go over well. He was also very, very patronizing. He’d say things like “Oh! Amy! I heard you like to study! Isn’t that nice?” in that singsongy voice people use toward children, the village idiot, and people who are about to lose their shit. I wasn’t the first two, but I was coming up on the third.
We had churchschool once a week, Sunday nights, I believe, in the basement of the church. My parents insisted I attend, at least until I graduated high school. I still didn’t enjoy going, but I was a fairly law-abiding kid. I went. I sat there, quietly, I didn’t answer many questions, and when the session was up, I went home, not having learned much other than there were very few things in the world less inspiring than being forced to study religion.
One night, we had a guest speaker. In his infinite wisdom, Voldemort had invited an employee from the local Planned Parenthood to show us a video about safe sex and talk to us. I’m still, all these years later, not sure what was going through his head. Again, I’m not sure what you know about the Catholic faith, but premarital sex is a no-no. Not a little no-no, either. A big fat one. So safe sex isn’t something you want talked about with your unmarried, high-school churchschool class. Because “no sex” really would have to be the topic. Did he think Planned Parenthood was going to talk about no sex? Because that’s not really what Planned Parenthood does.
The video was a basic safe-sex primer. It was brief. It’s not like it showed naughty bits, or anything. Then she talked to us, briefly. Voldemort was off in the corner somewhere. I remember the Planned Parenthood worker. She was young. Much younger than I am now. I’m thinking early twenties, maybe. You could tell she didn’t have a lot of experience giving these talks. She finished the talk with something along the lines of “And, so if any of you do decide to have sex, please practice safe sex. Thank you!”
Voldemort ERUPTED from his corner. He was a Mount Vesuvius of righteous anger. His face was so red I thought he was having a stroke.
“These are Catholic children,” he spat at her. No, really, he spat. Like, spit FLEW from his lips and splattered all over the Planned Parenthood lady. “They don’t have sex.” Sex was said like the Church Lady used to say it on Saturday Night Live. Like it was sin wrapped in hookers and porno and then rolled in edible panties. “Get out. Now.” He then started cleaning up her things for her and shoving them at her.
Planned Parenthood lady was in tears. She was probably thinking what I’m thinking now – what exactly was he expecting to happen? Did he think Planned Parenthood was known for its abstinence talks? Or talks about becoming a nun? Planned Parenthood helps you with a lot of things, and I suppose would talk to you about abstinence, if you asked them to. But obviously he hadn’t, otherwise, wouldn’t that have been what she talked about?
I don’t like bullies. Not at all. I think I’ve made it pretty clear, to anyone that’s been reading this for any length of time, or anyone who knows me at all, that I was bullied for years. Bullies immediately put me on the defensive. When I was younger, they made me want to run and hide. As I got older (and I was right on the edge of younger and older, then) I want to protect the person that’s being bullied. Even if it isn’t my fight, or my business, or I don’t like the person being bullied all that much. It doesn’t matter. I want to protect that person. Because I know what being bullied can do to someone. I live with what being bullied can do to someone every single day of my life; odds are good I will for the rest of my life. Show me a bully, and you will see me go into full-on momma-bear protective mode.
I stood up. “I’m very glad she came. I’m not currently sexually active, but the information was helpful for when I will be. Thank you!” I said. The other kids in the class just gaped at me. The Planned Parenthood lady, on her way out, her things hastily gathered to her chest, gave me a teary, white-faced smile.
Voldemort came over to me, puffing like a bull in heat. “Excuse me?”
I just stared at him. He got very close. Right in my personal space. Which I was not comfortable with then and I am not comfortable with now. But I did not move.
One of the other girls in the class stood up. “I actually am sexually active, and I use Planned Parenthood, so I’m glad they’re around. They’re a good resource.”
Voldemort’s head snapped around to her.
Another girl stood. “I’m not sexually active, but my boyfriend and I are planning on becoming so, so I’m glad she was here. I’ll call you for more information, ok?” she said to the Planned Parenthood lady, who had a very small smile on her face at this point. Voldemort turned to her and she beat a hasty retreat up the stairs.
I felt like Amy Madigan at the PTA meeting in Field of Dreams.
“All of you, sit down,” he hissed. “I won’t stand for outbursts in my class. If you can’t control yourselves, you can leave.”
The other two girls sat. One had a mother who volunteered at the church, so I suppose she didn’t want to make waves. The other didn’t care much; I don’t think it mattered to her either way. Me? Stubborn. And I really, really hate bullies. Did I mention that? It bears repeating.
“You,” he said. The patronizing voice was gone. Voldemort was speaking parseltongue now. All hissing gliding vowel tones. This was the real Voldemort, I thought. Interesting it took this for him to show his face. “Get out. You’re not welcome here. This is your last churchschool class. And we’ll be calling your parents.”
I thought about it, for a minute. On one hand, someone was telling me to go, and I don’t like being told what to do. Part of me wanted to plop right back down and start singing “I Will Not Be Moved.” But on the other hand – I hated churchschool. I had just been kicked out of the place I hated going almost most of all. It was like I had pulled a long con that had finally paid off. How stupid would it be to go back into the lion’s den when you’d finally been freed?
Also, Voldemort was scaring me a little. Like, “I’m just about to take off my man-mask and show the monster-face that has been lurking just beneath the whole time” scary.
I walked out of there with my head held high. I waved at Planned Parenthood lady in the parking lot as I drove off. I felt like I had an early release from prison.
My parents were not pleased about this. Voldemort hadn’t even called them himself. He’d immediately called one of his church minion ladies – there were a bunch of them, who hung on his every word like he was a vending machine spitting out free little bags of M&Ms – call them, so that when I got home, they already had the news. My mother told me she’d talk to him, smooth things over, get me back in. Oh, also he lied, and told them I had stood in front of the entire class and said I was having sex. Well, unless I was sneaking men into my room after midnight, via ladder, into my second-floor window, men who were somehow attracted to the fact that I was so shy as to seem mute, burdened with a crippling case of adolescent acne, and had a fancy 80’s era perm – my parents knew that wasn’t true. I wasn’t dating. I never went out. I stayed home and read and wrote and studied and sometimes I had a play. Whoo, backfire, Voldemort. My complete and total lack of potential suitors defeats your lies!
I’d gone to churchschool for twelve years at this point. I went to mass whenever required; I behaved myself (well, except for my out-of-control mouth, of course); I made all As; I was a pretty decent kid, altogether.
I refused to go back to churchschool. My parents tried to convince me, via bribery, vague threats, punishments, cries of “duty.” I refused. I would not be moved.
I never trusted Voldemort again. I won’t go into detail – it will make it much too easy for people to identify him – but, years later, things came out (no, not those type of things; as far as I know, he didn’t become a stereotype) where I was proven right. He was not a good person. He did some really, really awful things. Not the kind of things that get you kicked out as a priest, but the kind of things where I would most certainly not want to be in his shoes come judgment day. I tried not to say “I told you so” too loudly when this happened. But I say everything loudly, once I found my voice, finally, so it probably came out as a roar.
I never got suspended from school, but I got officially kicked out of churchschool. Yep. Total and complete badass.