Sinners & Tiaras: The Ash Wednesday Episode

Some of you know my guilty secret of eternal shame; I love the show Toddlers & Tiaras.  That should clue you that I like me a little bling now and again.  Sometimes I have trouble balancing my love for the sparkly stuff with wanting to do the right thing. 

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Non-Christians could be excused for thinking that Christmas is the most important day on the Christian calendar, what with all the hoopla and merchandising that surround it.  Au contraire.  Christmas is big, but Easter is the really big kahuna event as it commemorates Christ’s resurrection.  Just like you wouldn’t go out and run the Boston Marathon without a little training, Christians get ready for the big day with a prep period called Lent. 

The kick-off for Lent is Ash Wednesday, and that just so happens to be this week. 

If you go to church on Ash Wednesday, you may get the sign of the cross smeared on your forehead with ashes.  Hence the name.   Get it?  This is basically a reminder that we come from dirt and that’s where we’re all going to end up.

How big a deal this is depends on the aim and fervor of the person wielding the ashes.   Sometimes you can’t even see the mark.  If the person with the ashes has a big thumb, however, or is especially zealous or nearsighted, you can end up looking like one of the chimney sweeps high-kicking up on the rooftop in Mary Poppins.  Everybody hustles right out of church to check in their rearview mirror to see how badly they got nailed. 

Now that we’ve got the mini-catechism out of the way, you’re probably scratching your head and saying “OK, but what does any of this have to do with Toddlers & Tiaras?” 

I’ll tell you.

When I was a kid, whenever we would have to do something we didn’t want to do (like baby-sit our snotty-nosed siblings (no offense)), or couldn’t do something we DID want to do (like watch Dark Shadows, a soap opera about vampires that was WAY ahead of the Twilight Saga, and which we weren’t allowed to watch because it would corrupt our morals or something), there was bound to be some complaining.  These complaints usually ended with a plaintive, “that’s not F-A-I-R!”

My Mom’s favorite response to any and all such whining?  “Don’t complain; offer it up.  You’re storing up jewels for your heavenly crown.”

I always liked the mental picture of a crown, because, you know, I like the bling.  But I get the impression that if I’m prancing around in a big, honkin’, good-deeds tiara here on earth, I don’t get the heavenly crown.  It’s a now or later proposition.

Where do outward displays of generosity, piety or what-have-you, fit in? 

The bible is pretty clear that I’m not supposed to stand in the break room at work and moan, “I’m so weak I can barely stand up because I’m fasting.  Did I mention I’m not eating any of Joe’s retirement cake, even though it’s my favorite carrot cake with real cream cheese frosting?  Because, you know, it’s Lent and I’m fasting?  Because I’m holy – at least holier than thou-all?” 

This is where we swing back around to the topic of Ash Wednesday.  Thanks for sticking with me.

The dilemma, since I’ve been old enough to think about such things, is what to do with the ashes.  I’m not talking about the fallout that you sometimes get all over the rest of your face and down your front – that can be whisked away with impunity.  But what about the cross? Do I wear it all day to help remind other Christians that this is an important day of reflection and repentance?  Or is that boasting?

If I swipe the ashes off as soon as I get out of church am I hiding my light under a bushel basket?  If I don’t wipe them off, am I bragging, thereby getting my reward of warm and fuzzy feelings here on earth and, therefore (this is the important part) FORFEITING JEWELS IN MY HEAVENLY CROWN?

Where’s the proper balance here?

Years ago, Ash Wednesday rolled around soon after I landed my first job in a big corporation.   I ducked out at lunch and went to mass.  I was talking to a co-worker later that afternoon when he gestured to my face, said, “You’ve got some dirt there.” and reached up to swipe it away.   I jerked back like he had boogers on his fingers.

“Oh, yeah.  Um, well…it’s Ash Wednesday and all…” I trailed off.

“Oh, yeah!  That’s right.  I forgot!”  We both turned beet red.  I don’t know who was more embarrassed.  Probably him, because he felt compelled to launch into a big explanation of why he didn’t go to church anymore because (insert excuse here) – blah, blah, blah. 

I nodded and smiled, but what I wanted to do was throw my hands up in a blocking gesture and say, “Hey, save that talk for your therapist or pastor.  I’m nobody’s spiritual guide.  I’m just a girl trying to get through it right.”

I guess that, right there, is the answer to my question.

All any of us can do is just try to get through it right.  Life, I mean.  After all, who needs a rhinestone tiara now when they’re putting a big, blingy diamond crown on layaway?

 

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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67 Responses to Sinners & Tiaras: The Ash Wednesday Episode

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    “Storing up jewels for your heavenly crown” – wow, your mom is good!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That visual has stuck with me all my life.

      Like

      • Okay, no to T&T although my wife watches it. Yes to Dark Shadows, the only “soap” I ever watched. Yes to jewels in the crown. Wear the ashes once around the office then wash them off and go about your business. And tell your male coworkers to keep their hands off you even if you have a smudge! That should take care of it. HF

        Like

        • pegoleg says:

          Someone said they’re making Dark Shadows into a movie. I’m sure it will be 10 times more racy than the TV show I wasn’t allowed to see, but I’m not sure it will be as scintillating. Having some blanks for our imaginations to fill in is usually better than the graphic.

          Like

  2. Laura says:

    Okay, I know this wasn’t the main point of your post, but … you watched Dark Shadows? I used to watch Dark Shadows every day after school, and then my best friend and I would reenact the episode the next day at recess. I had all these fond memories of this fantastic show — and then, many years later, I saw an episode again, and it was so awful it made me cringe.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      We didn’t really get to watch it, unless our mom wasn’t home and we snuck in. The weird thing is, it was a soap opera, with that same live video quality, same bad, drawn out drama. Just add the creepy fangs to Days of Our Lives, basically.

      I think for us it was the lure of forbidden fruit, cuz every girl we knew watched it (or wanted to and couldn’t).

      Like

    • I watched Dark Shadows faithfully when I was a teenager, and I have to agree with you, Now that I’m older, the ciips that I’ve seen of the show seem downright stupid. My mom tried to stop me from watching it, but I kept her at bay by throwing her soap opera watching in her face. I bet that robbed my crown of quite a few jewels.

      Great article, Peg!

      Like

      • pegoleg says:

        My mom never watched soap operas so she could take the moral high ground on this issue. She probably had all sorts of other bad habits, but she hid them pretty well from us.

        Like

  3. Al says:

    Of course, the real secret to attaining that heavenly crown is to not make an ash of yourself here on earth.

    Like

  4. All any of us can do is just try to get through it right.

    Well said, Peg!

    I faintly remember Dark Shadows…creepy stuff.

    Like

    • Janu says:

      My sister and I LOVED Quentin & Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows! I think they were way cooler than Edward and Bella.

      Like

      • pegoleg says:

        It was really my sister Mary Kay who would sneak in and watch it (now the truth comes out), and lead Terry & I astray if our mom wasn’t home. Those guys were SO way cool!

        Like

        • Tar-Buns says:

          Actually, I would try to watch it at Evon’s house, those few times when her Mom would let someone into the house. She was an interesting woman. Evon had all the magazines and posters up in her room and knew all the happenings with the show. I think it was the forbidden fruit element, and because you were ‘cool’ if you watched the show.

          Like

        • pegoleg says:

          I didn’t remember that Evon was such a big devotee, or that her Mom was particulary strange. Mom wouldn’t let us watch ANY soap operas, right? (not that we wanted to watch any other ones.)

          Like

  5. SAM got here before me. “All any of us can do is just try to get through it right.” You’ve got it so right again! I like you, I really do. Now, I’m off to try to get it right again…in the classroom. “Teachers affect eternity. One never knows where the influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams “Bloggers affect eternity.” Peg-o-leg, did you know your influence was so far reaching?

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Teachers rock! We go out to dinner every friday night with a group of 7 teachers and spouses. It amazes me that everyone gets along as well as they do, given the fact that everybody is used to being queen of her classroom, and has very definite ideas on how everyone else should do everything. I think they let us in the group just so they would have a “civilian” to boss around. 🙂

      Like

  6. Margie says:

    So the longer you leave the ashes on your forehead, the more often you can watch Toddlers & Tiaras without feeling guilty – is that how this works? Just wondering…

    Like

  7. joehoover says:

    So Shrove Tuesday is the last day before fasting for lent, then why is it synoymous with pancakes, I’d want a lot more to eat before fasting. At least macaroni cheese with galric bread day, something filling.

    I’m not sure Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day is that big over there is it?

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It’s big here, especially in the south where they celebrate Mardi Gras like crazy. But I’ve never heard about the pancakes. You’ve given me an idea – dinner on Tuesday at the I-Hop for Bananas Foster Pancakes. Yum!

      Like

  8. Elyse says:

    They are making a movie of Dark Shadows. You can go if you don’t tell your mom!

    Like

  9. Angie Z. says:

    I love the thing about checking in the rearview mirror to see how badly we got nailed. That’s so true. I recall I once promised you a Queen of Quips crown and you got immediately defensive that I was only going to offer you a construction paper creation made by my daughter. It’s like I was blind and now I see.

    Like

  10. Spectra says:

    I went to Catholic School, and going to church on Ash Wednesday, and coming out with a smudge on our foreheads was definately a badge of honor. I guess my Heavenly Crown will basically be a scant wire construction, devoid of jewels. If I can even get in thru the pearly gates, that is.

    Like

  11. gojulesgo says:

    How have we never discussed Toddlers and Tiaras??? (One of my very first posts was about that show!)

    I’ve definitely come close to that ‘doh’ moment of almost telling someone they have some schmutz on their forehead on Ash Wednesday. I like to see people embracing ‘the good’ and traditions and symbolism, but this kind of thing also amuses the Bejesus (hahaha…) out of me, so I’m glad to see I’m not alone here 😉

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I didn’t want you to know about the T&T thing, Jules. Can you still respect me after that confession? (laughing at the Bejesus comment and thankful I’m not standing anywhere near you for when the lightning hits.)

      Like

  12. Glad to see you aren’t giving up your sense of humor for lent, Peg! Really made me think, but hilarious at the same time!
    🙂

    Like

  13. Nodding along, nodding along… I remember all the Ash Wednesdays in Catholic school when we’d compare smudges immediately upon reentering the pew, with the students to our left and right, and laugh sympathetically: “Oh, you REALLY got it good!” I remember watching people come back, trying to determine a pattern – was it the priest or the eucharistic minister who was doling out the bigger blacker smear this year? I practically think Ash Wednesday is a holy day of obligation, it’s such a big deal. How do non-Catholics not know about it? I always wonder. Oh, and as I was raised, you don’t wipe the ashes off; that’s a sign that you’re ashamed of your Catholicism. Put THAT in your palm-burner and smoke it! Now duck a bit for your crowning… 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Now that we live in small-town USA it’s no big deal – lots of people walk around with the ashes. On a campus of 40,000+ students or a big, swanky firm? Little different dynamic.

      Like

  14. Dana says:

    I went to Catholic school, too, and can confirm what thesinglecell said above: if you wiped off your ashes after mass, you were a BAD PERSON and deserved a lifetime of SHAME and PENANCE! Keep the ashes on, man.

    Two pieces of food for thought: 1. My sister was born on Ash Wednesday and was officially named Ashley Wednesday by my heavenly-striving parents. Will she (or they) get a crown of thorns in heaven for being so in-your-face Catholic on earth? (e.g “Oh, you think you’re so Christian? Are YOU named Easter, Passion, or something else so blatantly Christian (unless, of course, your name is Christian?) I rest my case.” 2. One year, my sisters and I gave up watching the animated New Kids on the Block cartoon for Lent. It was, sadly, my most difficult year of penance for me. Giving up chocolate was nothing in comparison to depriving myself of a terrible cartoon for 6 weeks.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Wow. Your sister is in for sure. As to you, does your middle name happen to be St.Wulfric or something similar?

      I’m proud of you for giving up that cartoon. For a couple of years when I was a kid, we gave up TV for Lent. As you may imagine, this was NOT my idea, nor any one of my brothers and sisters. The first few days around our house was like throwing a bunch of cats in a sack – we were all nervous, jumpy and quarelsome – going through withdrawal. Seriously. Even with only 3 channels back then.

      I tried to do this in my family but nobody would agree. I always give up chocolate and last about 2 days.

      Like

  15. When I was a Catholic, I used to feel so proud of that smudge of dirt on my pretty little forehead. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    Like

  16. Lenore Diane says:

    Rob’s going to the service tomorrow night. We were talking about it last night, and when the conversation was over I said, “Well, let me get this out of the way now… Hey Rob, you’ve got something on your forehead.” I laughed.

    Oh, and let me tell you … my parents let me stay up to watch Dark Shadows. Man, did I ever love that show.

    Good stuff here, Peg. I’m just living my life trying to get it right, too. (And, I’m binging on Ben & Jerry’s now, because I’m giving it up for Lent. No… not boasting…. mourning.)

    Like

  17. lexiesnana says:

    I remember Palm Sunday when we all went home waving,hitting and ripping up the things and my mother screaming to fust throw the damn things away

    Like

  18. notquiteold says:

    When I was a little girl – a little Catholic girl – I always thought my ashes were really cute, and everyone else’s were really stupid-looking.

    Like

  19. I am stealing your mom’s line about the heavenly crown, it’s too good not to pass on ! We were told the ashes will wear away on their own, & to just leave them …..its not boasting to just say “oh, yeah, thats from Service….” and leave it at that. I just wrote about toddlers & tiarras; but have a feeling I see the show in a different light than you perhaps. Great post! http://nonstepmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/the-prestigious-edith-award/

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Thanks, and please use that line – it’s a great visual for a kid to keep in their sights.

      I’ll check out the post. I would never, EVER put my kid through that sort of thing, but still, I love that show. I’m so ashamed.

      Like

  20. Shannon says:

    Ah…so that’s why the librarian at school offered me the King Cake that had just been given her. She’s fasting! How rude of me not to have taken it. She must be sitting at her desk right now looking at that decadence, silently cursing the skinny girl who was satisfied to eat grass instead.

    Like

    • Shannon says:

      I’m new here, Peg, and I have to say bravo on your post. I enjoyed it! Definitely no one I know leaning on me for spiritual guidance.

      But for ashes symbolizing our return to the earth, hmm…not sure I get that one. Most folks I know get all gussied up and placed in a tightly-sealed protective coffin when their life expires. How is that comparable to the dead beaver that decomposed near my yard over the course of a few days, feeding wildlife, bugs, bacteria, fungi? I’ll bet even Lincoln is still looking pretty good.

      Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Most of us don’t need an excuse to curse the skinny girl. Just sayin’.

      Like

      • Shannon says:

        I know. That’s okay though. I get roughed up a lot by peers over being tall and skinny AND strong…and always going for seconds on that warm gooey brownie. I’ll take that over an Imelda-shoe-thing or a heroin habit any day.

        Like

        • Angie Z. says:

          I guess the skinny girls gotta have something to make up for the trauma we dealt with in high school when we had no boobs, no butt, no hips and, therefore, no boyfriends. (I’m thinking of us via my We Have to Get Naked post, Shannon. Ugggggh.)

          Like

        • pegoleg says:

          It seemed to me the boys weren’t all that interested in boobs and butts in high school – you HAD to be skinny to get a date. But maybe it’s all a matter of persective. Maybe it was just that you had to be a cheerleader, who all just so happened to be skinny. Yeah – lets all join together in hating on the cheerleaders!

          Like

      • Angie Z. says:

        I can assure you I was the anti-cheerleader. I discovered the reason I didn’t get voted into National Honor Society despite my stellar GPA was that I was perceived as having a poor attitude. Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah.

        Like

        • pegoleg says:

          Hey, me too! Not getting into National Honor Society junior year even though I was 3rd highest in the class. It wasn’t my attitude, though. That would have the consolation of being at least rather bad-ass. I think I didn’t get in because I was the clarinet-playing, fat, nerdy smart girl.

          Do you think the beautiful cheerleader-types ever had to develop a sense of humor as a defense mechanism? Just musing, here.

          Like

        • Angie Z. says:

          P.S. I had the 5th highest GPA in my class and, as such, was one of 5 who got to address the graduating class in a speech at our commencement. I was the only one who didn’t have the gold Honor Society tassels around my neck. Instead I had a large black anarchy symbol* on my hat.

          *In my dreams.

          Like

        • pegoleg says:

          I heard how well that tack worked for you when you shared it with the rest of the class (this reply goes up under the Apple Dumpling one)

          Like

  21. Amy says:

    Okay, you almost lost me when you confessed your love of “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Shows like that literally give me rage hives.
    But you turned it around and made such a great point in the end. So glad I kept reading!

    And loved Dark Shadows! I didn’t see it, ahem, the first time around, but I watched all the old episodes when I got hooked on the remake that they did in 1991.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I know, Amy. I’m so ashamed, but what can I do? I’m going through a 12-step program but the lure is so strong, I can’t fight it.

      They did a remake of Dark Shadows? I did not know that. I hear there’s a movie coming out that I’m going to have to see,

      Like

  22. Barb says:

    We went to the evening Ash Wednesday service. Then we went to Starbucks to mess with them. It makes a penitent night well rounded.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That MAY not be quite in the spirit of the day, but…sounds like a riot. They deserve it there!

      Like

      • Barb says:

        All the baristas must have been Catholic or Lutheran. They didn’t blink an eye at our blackened foreheads. It was the Pastor’s fault for implanting the Starbucks idea. His sermon said Lent was the time for some “cleaning out” and giving up chocolate just wouldn’t cut it. After that ….all I could think about was a hot chocolate.

        Like

  23. pattisj says:

    I do like your mom’s response. Nowhere does it say life is supposed to be fair. Hers is a good way to refocus on what is important. I remember watching Dark Shadows as a kid, but not sure I quite understood it.

    Like

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