Sinners & Tiaras

Some of you know my guilty secret of eternal shame, that I love the show Toddlers & Tiaras.That should clue you that I like a little bling.  Sometimes I have trouble balancing my love for the sparkly stuff with my desire to do the right thing, especially during Lent.

What do you mean?

Those not familiar with Christianity can be excused for thinking that Christmas is the most important day on the Christian calendar.  Au contraire.  Easter is the big kahuna because it commemorates Christ’s resurrection.  Just as it wouldn’t be smart to run the Boston Marathon without a little training, Christians get ready for Easter with a prep period called Lent.  The kick-off for Lent is Ash Wednesday, and that is this week.

At church on Ash Wednesday they smear the sign of the cross on your forehead with ashes.   This is a reminder that our earthly bodies are going to turn back to dirt when this life is over.  Sometimes you can’t even see the mark.  But if the person with the ashes has a big thumb, or is especially zealous, you wind up looking like one of the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins.

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), or when we couldn’t do something we DID want to do (like watch Dark Shadows, which we weren’t allowed to watch because it would corrupt our morals or something), there was bound to be some complaining.

My Mom’s favorite response to any and all such whining?  “Offer it up cheerfully.  You’re storing up jewels for your heavenly crown.”

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

Where do outward displays of generosity and piety 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 those donuts because it’s Lent and I’m fasting?  Because I’m holy – at least holier than most of thou-all in this break room.”

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

The dilemma I always have, is what to do with the ashes.  Do I wear the cross all day to help others remember 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?  If I get a reward of warm and fuzzy feelings here on earth, do I (this is the important part) forfeit the jewels in my heavenly crown?

What’s the proper balance here?

Years ago, Ash Wednesday rolled around soon after I had 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 say was, “Hey, I’m nobody’s spiritual guide.  I’m just a girl trying to get through this right.”

I guess that is the answer to my question.

All any of us can do is try to get through it right.  Life, I mean.  I need to keep reminding myself not to focus so much on buying the rhinestone tiara of the here-and-now, and put more effort into adding big diamonds to the crown I’ve got on layaway.



About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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69 Responses to Sinners & Tiaras

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    You couldn’t watch Dark Shadows?! You poor thing!


  2. I hear you! Sometimes I feel like I’m keeping a dark and dirty secret about going to church because I don’t want others to look at me strange and then launch into their own reasons for not going to church. I don’t care if they go to church just like I don’t want them to care that I go to church!
    I say wear your ashes with pride! I plan to… oh, but our service is in the evening so really it’s just me going home where no one will see me but the family… okay, just ignore me.
    Happy Lent!


  3. I think a good rule of thumb is that it’s not boasting if no one else has any clue what it is. In some circumstances (such as for those of us in the Bible Belt), it may function more as a way of singling out non-adherents… even if that’s not the intent.


  4. “all any of us can do it try to get through it right” — Amen to that, sister.

    I think you need another follow-up post explaining more about your love of Toddlers and Tiaras. Have you thought of writing your memoirs yet and getting them published? Your posts are always funny AND full of insight and wisdom. I learn something every time I visit you. (I’m being serious! Do it!)


    • pegoleg says:

      I think Toddles and Tiaras has been taking off the air. All they have on is Honey Boo Boo round the clock, and I haven’t fallen THAT low yet. I’m going through withdrawal!


  5. I grew up as a non-Catholic in Maryland, which began as “the Catholic colony.” Lots of ashy foreheads here. I always felt left out on Ash Wednesday. I still feel guilty if I dilly-dally before turning the channel if Toddlers & Tiaras comes on.


  6. franhunne4u says:

    If I see someone tomorrow with something dark on their forehead I will hopefully remember it is Ash Wednesday.. Nobody has to justify why they do things that are legal – and being a Christian is not illegal – not in the US nor here in Europe. At least is was not last time I checked … 😉
    Do, what you feel is right for you (and legal)! Do not excuse for following your believe. I hope one day all the believers or not believers will have gathered up enough tolerance to let the other one be.


  7. Marilyn Kriete says:

    Umm, how about bangs? Problem solved! (unless they suit you as poorly as Michelle’s did).


  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    I think your philosophy on life and the concept of a good-deeds tiara would make for a better premise than the actual Toddlers and Tiaras show. Of course, no one would watch, so the network would never go for it. But maybe if you went around with ash on your forehead and a tiara on your head but nothing else on your body, you’d probably have a good shot of landing a show. You could call it Nudity and Tiaras… 😉


  9. I remember as a little girl being told by a somewhat older relative that the ash print had to be left as is until it wore off naturally. If you wiped it off or washed it off, you were going STRAIGHT TO HELL! Guess that wasn’t true, ’cause I’m still here.


  10. Audrey says:

    Love this! It’s so easy to get caught up in second guessing everything but the real heart of the thing is our own hearts being in the right place. Simplicity really does help in all of this and I love the reminder someone once gave me that the whole Bible boils down to 1. Love God and 2. love your neighbor. Have a great day, lady!


  11. k8edid says:

    Okay, okay. You had me at “thou-all”. Mostly my parents threatened me with a reddened hind-end and never mentioned the possibility of a tiara…that might have impacted me more. I struggle with just trying to get through “this” right…some days I just want to “phone it in” or blow off 99% of my to-do list, but I feel compelled to do my best, and apparently to take on as many things as possible to do my best at (sorry to end with a preposition, there, on National Grammar day and all…

    I’m not Catholic, but I love the outward manifestations of any faith. They reassure me that some people believe what they believe and can wear it on their sleeve, so to speak.


    • pegoleg says:

      I agree. I love all expressions of devoutness, as long as blowing oneself up is not involved.

      And how did I miss Natl Grammar day? Dang! I’ll get busy dangling some participles to make up for my omission.


  12. Al says:

    I was a church-going Presbyterian for many years. I was an a Deacon, Elder and choir member. I’m now an agnostic. If I went to church this Wednesday, I’d be making a complete ash out of myself.


  13. The whole ashed and ashless forehead parade coming tomorrow kind of has a Dr. Seuss Star-Bellied Sneetches vibe to it. I’ll be among those with “none upon thars”.


  14. Pleun says:

    “But I get the impression that if I’m prancing around in a big, good-deeds tiara here on earth, I won’t get the heavenly crown. It’s a now or later proposition.” Really? Where did you get that impression? I never heard before of a heavenly crown (and I was raised catholic) so just to be on the safe side wear the good deeds tiara here whenever you can. 😉


  15. societycommentator says:

    When I was a kid, my mom took my sister & I to Mass before school & we were expected to leave the ashes on. Always tried to cover them up with my bangs so as to not be different. Now, I have to decide whether I can go to the communion/ashes service before work & not be late. And since I really don’t have bangs, I can proudly wear my ashes. (Although, I will probably have to answer questions from public school kids about what is on my forehead.) And what I’m giving up this year will probably make my family suffer as much as I do.


    • pegoleg says:

      We did the same thing – mass first thing in the morning and ashes all day. Maybe answering those questions is WHY we should wear them proudly – to help others without coming across as big braggarts.


  16. Elyse says:

    Clearly, I grew up in the wrong Catholic family. Shit. Because with that word I added a link to the chain I forged in life. My parents were, sadly, big Dickens fans.

    If humor and a good nature earn bling in the next life, Peg, your will be in the Tower.


  17. Elyse says:

    Oh SHIT. That should have said YOURS will be in the Tower (as in where they keep the Crown Jewels.

    And I just got another damn chain link….


  18. BillThePraiseAndWorshipGuy says:

    I’ll probably start with maybe 8 am mass, then 9:30 am school mass tomorrow, plus a noon ash service. After going to U of M for radiatiation, will try to get some rest before the 6:30 pm mass at church. Lots of ministry tomorrow! I will wear the ashes all day, most likely, without apology. Jesus was crushed for my sins and I can’t imagine how He must feel if I am ashamed by a dirty cross on my forehead.


    • pegoleg says:

      “wear the ashes?” After that schedule, you’ll look like you bathed in ashes!

      It’s not a question of shame, little bro, it’s a question of witnessing vs bragging. But you’re right – the bottom line is what it represents.


  19. poor man, he was probably terrified you’d damn him forever. heathen that he is


  20. notquiteold says:

    Excellent! I am also writing about Lent this week… I’m going to add a link to this post, since it really works well with my post.


  21. PinotNinja says:

    The things we do for the really big diamonds…


  22. Mary K. says:

    I’m so glad you don’t get into Honey BooBoo-that show is horrible. I did not lead you down the DARK path of Shadows! (Really liked that show but can’t tell you why now). Just came back from services and Dan had to run into the grocery store and a lady asked him what was on his forehead. He had a coherent answer. Makes a mother proud. See you this weekend.


    • pegoleg says:

      I am about 99.99999999% sure neither of my kids saw the inside of a church yesterday, with or without ashes. Makes a mother despair.

      Can’t wait to see all this weekend!


  23. I feel for the guy who tried to polish your head. When I was a kid all my Catholic friends went to Catholic school so it wasn’t until I got into high school that I first encountered someone with ash on their forehead. I did the same thing as your co-worker except I felt like a moron because I still didn’t know why the kid had dirt on his forehead even after I was chastised for mentioning it. I was made to feel like a complete idiot. How was I to know? We did not do that in our church. The following year I was completely prepared for it and did not mention it once.


    • pegoleg says:

      Oh, gee, sorry that happened to you. As kids, I think most of us assume that everybody else is just like us and knows what we know.

      I was talking to a Japanese lady the other day and she was trying to explain chopstick use. She said it is considered bad manners to pass food chopstick-to-chopstick, because that is part of a ritual to honor the dead. The things I still don’t know!


  24. I am drowning in Catholic guilt right now for not getting my ashes! I found out too late that there was a priest up town giving people ashes, sort of a drive-thru ash window. I missed it! That’s what I get for staying home all day, sinning!


  25. I think the last line is perfect, I could not agree more if I attempted to do so.


  26. Pingback: Good Heavens, It’s Lent. | notquiteold

  27. Dana says:

    Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but my sister was born on Ash Wednesday and is named Ashley Wednesday (but goes by Wednesday). How’s THAT for Catholic??

    I’m hoping it’s possible to have a rockin’ earth crown AND a heavenly tiara. Call me a dreamer, but I think it can be done. (All you need is love!)


  28. susielindau says:

    Why have I not heard your mother’s expression before this? My mother and I could have used it!!!l
    Kids are so literal. I would have really worked on my tiara!!!


  29. Moved from the SBS (Southern Baptist South) to Indianapolis, and the first time I saw the ashes I asked the girl how she was feeling after the accident that caused her to have a big bruise on her forehead. She was HIGHLY offended -by which I mean offended, because I still had my SD (Southern drawl) that first year. Sheesh. Way to miss an opportunity, I say. Bless her heart.


  30. TamrahJo says:

    This reminded me of a passage from The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers (which Sound of Music was based on)
    I’m paraphrasing, here, too lazy to pull out the book and type verbatim:
    “Guess I’ll give up nicotine” Georg declared
    “I’ll give up sweets” I sighed, because my weakness was a sweet tooth and thought I should match his extravagance.
    It was hard to convince the older children that the more ‘promises’ you make, the harder it is to keep any of them, “And I’ll carry the little one’s books to school and clean their rooms, and pray 7 times a day and….”
    Then there were those that you had to convince that the things offered for Lent were things you should be doing already, “I won’t pinch Rupert and I won’t hide frogs/snakes in my sisters’ bedroom …”



    • pegoleg says:

      This is my constant problem – making sure the lenten vows don’t morph into new year’s resolutions which are just things you should be doing, anyway.


      • TamrahJo says:

        Every December 31st, I write down all the new things I’ve learned, improvements I’ve made, etc., during the past year – – then backdate the list for Jan. 1st – 🙂


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