Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sin and Vice

I am not Catholic, and I'll just be honest: I didn't really understand the concept of Lent until I was in college. I don't even think I'd heard of it. People, the crazy Christians in my homeland think Catholics are all sinning sinners who sin because they worship idols. I once attended a church service where a missionary came and talked about his trips to Spain trying to Christianize that bunch of Mary-loving sinners. Nope, I'm not kidding. Honestly, I only attended because there was a cute boy there. And thankfully, we're married now and neither one of us have been around that particular brand of crazy in years.

So my first year of college, I was astounded by the number of people asking me what I was giving up for Lent. Um, well, I don't know. I explained that I wasn't Catholic. I think at the time I was a Buddhist. Because when you're 18 and have a religion professor who looks like Morrissey, yeah, you're Buddhist. You're just waiting for some new hot guy to swoop in and explain "secular humanism." ANYWAY, I was informed that it wasn't really just a Catholic thing and that I had to give up something. So I gave up Cokes. At the time, I drank a lot of the real, sugared Cokes (and, actually, did until I went on WW when I lived in CA--my husband found a picture of me drinking one on an old memory card the other night and yelled out, "It's like seeing Big Foot!"). I think I lasted about two days before I was filling up my glass at the dining hall, saying something about sleep deprivation and FUCK IT, I'M A BUDDHIST NOW. Again, 18. And life. However, the girls on my freshman hall were not similarly deterred. There was a lot of discussion of ceasing to eat after a certain hour, or locking up chocolate or whatever.

So basically, it was a diet disguised by religion. TWO OF MY FAVORITEST THINGS, YOU GUYS. But again, we were all 18. So I won't be hatin.

Fast forward 10 years or so and immediately after the New Orleans lovefest of Mardi Gras had ended (we didn't even have time to sprinkle that sawdust stuff on the barf, ya'll!), my Facebook feed BLOWS UP with what everyone is giving up for Lent. It's chocolate, it's fast food, it's Facebook (meta, that one), it's online shopping, it's all this stuff. All stuff that no one really needs, but that make our lives better in one way or another. And the comments that people are saying about the stuff that they want to give up--it's internet self flagellation. It's "I feel horrible that I eat so much" or "McDonald's is so gross so I'm giving it up." Everyone is explaining why they have to give up something in this sick, sad tone, with this idea that they have to give this one thing up, just to try to be a little bit more perfect. Just to further fit into this narrow, constrictive role that we force ourselves into.

(It should be noted that I have never heard of a man giving up various foodstuffs for Lent. Or for any other reason, for that matter.)

Guys, it is totally ok to like things that aren't good for you. We don't have to feel guilty about it. I'm not knocking Lent if you do it for very real, religious purposes. But it's not a diet. It is not going to cure you of loving sweets. And really, you shouldn't want for it to.

Today, since it is rainy and since it is February 29 and, from what I've heard, Say Something Nice Day on the internetz, I am calling out my vices. All things that I apologetically love and that I refuse to be embarrassed by and definitely refuse to give up.

1. Diet Coke. I know it is rotting my brain. But that very first drink of a freshly opened bottle of Diet Coke--there is nothing better. I read this thing in a book by Michael Pollan once about all the gas that is used delivering and manufacturing diet sodas, and Mr. Pollan is quick to point out that this is a foodstuff that has no nutritional value at all. It should have made me feel bad, but really, I just giggled with glee and took a big swig. Sorry Michael.

2. McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries. My mom loves to tell people that as a kid, I hated McDonald's. I remember me making her take me there to purchase the Happy Meal toy and that's it. But, I don't know how or when, but somehow, I developed a taste for a plain McDonald's cheeseburger (just the cheeseburger, not a Big Mac or any of that) and an order of fries. It is the simplest thing, and it tastes so good. I have found that this, combined with a large McDonald's Diet Coke, is a cure-all to most stomach issues I might have. Eating it while hungover is also a real plus.

3. Women's magazines. When I was a freshman in college (and Buddhist!), I took a women's studies class. We only met once a week, and one week we were told to bring in women's magazines. Then we all sat around and looked at them, and talked about what they did to women. I remember saying all this crap about feeling marginalized by them. I wrote a paper about it, ya'll. All the while, I was subscribed to about 5 of them. I wish I had had the lady-balls then to just look my professor square in the eye and say, "PRETTY CLOTHES!! OOOH, SPARKLY THINGS!" Look, I know the kinds of ideas they put in women's head. But, if you look for it, there are always bits of female strength in the fashion mags. And well, sometimes a girl just needs to shut it all off and look at shoes.

4. Velveeta shells and cheese. I have made mac and cheese with gruyere, with Stilton, with artisanal cheddar from a farm I personally visited. And it's been great, I guess, but nothing compares with the taste and pure comfort of Velveeta shells and cheese. Matt agrees, and this is probably the one food thing we do agree on. I maybe only buy it once a year, but when I do, I can eat the whole box. Freaking delicious, and I love to watch the cheese come out of the little packet like the piece of some kid's rubber boot!

5. True crime dramas. I discovered the ID channel once when I was sick and unable to move off of my couch and it was all downhill from there. I love to turn on one of these while I am cleaning up the house because the repeat themselves so much that you can get the jist of some tragic, horrible tale even if you occasionally step out of the room or have to turn the vacuum up over the volume of the tv. They are also fun to watch while under something furry and with a lot of judgement: "YOU TOTALLY DID IT!" or "WHY DID YOU MARRY THAT PIECE OF CRAP?" All acceptable verbal responses. Which brings me to....

6. Lifetime Movies. For real, ya'll. TOO MUCH GOOD STUFF.

7. Intervention and Hoarders. My Monday nights are stacked, ya'll. These are the two shows, I absolutely, positively have to watch live. HAVE TO. I curl up on my couch with a Weight Watchers fudgesicle, and I watch the Hell out of those shows. Are they exploitative? Yup. Do they make a point of showing people with often debilitating mental illness at their worst points? You gotcha. And there I sit. Week after week.

8. Steak. I love a good steak. And I know cows have big eyes. I'm sorry. Those eyes are the windows to their own deliciousness. (And if you ever want to know how to make the best steak you'll ever eat in yo' own kitchen, hit me up. I'll share!)

I invite you to fess up to your own vices, whatever they may be. Perfection is a myth, but having a sweetass time with the things you love is totally not.


  1. The whole giving-up-things-for-Lent isn't just about denial, or dieting, or whatnot. Part of the reason is think outside of ourselves and our little worlds and remember that there are others out there in need. REAL need, not "I-need-a-triple-venti-mocha" need. So, the person might save that money that he/she WOULD have spent on whatever their treat of choice is, think about others in the world who do without the very basics, and donate that money to them. It's a nice idea. When it's properly executed, that is.

    My vice lately is Diet Dr. Pepper. I avoid soda as a rule, but I need so much caffeine right now, and DDP is the bomb, y'all. Best diet soda out there.

  2. Oh, I get that. And I love that idea, and you explain it very nicely. It's fab all around. And perhaps I am just around the wrong kind of people (ok, yeah, I know I am), but I don't see anyone actually doing that. I see people saying "It's almost bathing suit season, so I'm giving up frappuccinos for Lent." And then they spend the money they would have spent on frapps on milkshakes. And they only last two weeks and then they are back on Facebook, complaining that it is too hard to give up frapps. I guess I just don't like that they are using something that is genuinely religious and genuinely from a good place to get attention on FB and as some weightloss/self-deprivation kick.

    My boss drinks Diet Dr. Pepper. He will buy a case and say that he's just going to drink one and then I find five cans around his computer. He loves it. The other day, he said he was going back to green tea, which was his drink of choice a while back. At lunch, he went out and got another case of DDP. It has a magnetic hold.