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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Nun Song

Last night we went to a local Venice Little Theater production of Nunsense. My penning of the song Sr. Mary Confusing should have been fair warning to those I went with that I might have serious issues with the subject matter of this play. Still, I went with an open mind. I was immediately creeped out by the sight of nuns doing their scary nun thing while singing, dancing and hinting at various ribald jokes. I was surprised I was so creeped out. The performances were very strong. Terrific cast. I was, however, restraining myself from bolting. I politely clapped in all the appropriate places. That left this morning's one hour bike sprint onto Venice Island and back for heavy self analysis...

It's not that every nun (and priest) I ever had in 17 years of Catholic school was horrible. There are a few I have fond memories of. But that didn't make them any less scary. My kindergarten nun was Sr. Mary Magdalene. She was a sweet grandmother type but I, nevertheless, cried about halfway through the first day. Had I been aware at age 5 the significance of the name of Jesus' lover juxtaposed on this old lady, I'm not sure I would have felt all that much better. The next three or four nuns I had in Philadelphia and South Jersey scared the bejesus out of me. I know they didn't always mean to. But often they did. They certainly planted the seeds for my later rejection of organized religion. It was in third grade in South Jersey that I was told by my piano teacher nun that I was too stupid to learn music. She later became my sixth grade nun. It was around this time I developed a nervous stomach that didn't go away until eighth grade. That nun was very sweet to me but no less crazy scary as she slapped the living crap out of the biggest guy in the room on a regular basis. The high school nuns were a mixed bag of sweet but totally inept teachers and frothing mad nasty ladies who I realized later were trapped in a hopelessly frustrating life style. One of them told me straight out that I couldn't sing. Yes, Sister. Thank you for your candor, Sister. May you suffocate in your wimple, Sister.

I even taught in a catholic elementary school in New York for three years while I got my masters degree in teaching. I'm grateful to the nun who hired me more than she could ever know. She was sweet. She saw something in me and gave me a shot. A few of the nuns on that faculty were also very nice to me. By this time, nuns were wearing dresses cut just below the knee and showing some hair and forearm. They were more like actual people. I also had a marvelous sister-in-law who was for a short time a nun. As it turns out nearly all of the nuns during this period, those that I liked the most, dropped out of the convent and resumed normal if not emotionally scarred lives.

So I certainly forgive these ladies who terrorized me and stifled my development and gave me bad dreams and serious doubts about myself. They were the products of an institution I have no good feelings for. It's hard sometimes to separate the institution from the people but I can and I do. I love hundreds of people whose beliefs I abhor. I just don't want to see singing, dancing, wisecracking nuns cavorting on stage as if that institution did nothing damaging to me. And many others, I should imagine. It was too much like watching Springtime For Hitler.

posted by Bud @ 9:08 AM

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