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Closer to Fine

31 Mar

The other day, as I ran errands, the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls came on the radio.

I of course, sang along, doing the higher harmony part.

But my mind wandered back to a time in the early 90’s at my small Catholic college, where one of the campus bands decided, for moral reasons, not to play their songs anymore. Because they were lesbians, and playing their music would be seen as condoning their lifestyle choices.

I remember being disappointed by the campus band’s choice, because I liked those songs, liked singing along with those songs. But my college was all about making “statements” and this was their statement to make. So my friends and I went back to singing along with “Closer to Fine” playing on cassette tapes in common rooms.

As I thought about that moment in the car, “Closer to Fine” playing in the background, I realized this was the only group that one campus band refused to play because of “moral reasons”. They were okay with playing Crosby, Stills, and Nash (a group comprised of men whose lifestyles included drugs and divorce), Bob Dylan (who had multiple relationships with women), Eric Clapton (who had a hit with the song “Cocaine”), and other such musicians whose “lifestyle choices” did not mesh with the Catholic Church.

But their songs, they could be sung.

Was it because they were all male? Was it because, while the multiple relationships were a bit frowned upon, were at least heterosexual? Was it because they were so established in society it was okay, but the Indigo Girls, they were new, and so had to be made an example of?

Who knows what their logic was for what they chose was morally okay and what was not. It was a strange place, my college campus, a place where I made lifelong friends and my husband, yet a place where I was also judged and shamed by people who didn’t get to know me for everything from musical choices to clothing choices (which I ignored – peer pressure has the opposite wanted affect on me – instead of bending to wills of others, I dug in my heels, and stayed true to me.)

Ironically, when I got home that day, thinking about these, a college friend published a story of judgment and shame she endured by roommates over a dress that was deemed immoral.

Have a seat.” One roommate called the meeting to order. “I found this in your closet.”

That’s when I noticed it. My dress. Laid across the table. Did they think I had stolen it? I had never stolen anything in my life, save a duck eraser from the prize box in fifth grade, but clearly that had riddled me with enough guilt that I was never one to foray into shoplifting. Between my guilt and the fear of getting caught, I had long since marked theft off of my list of must-tries.

“We know now. You were obviously sleeping with him.”

My heart started beating really fast. The room appeared to be spinning, and I saw spots. From what I could piece together, my concerned roommates had decided that my new, immodest dress was proof positive that I had been having sex with my now-ex-boyfriend. (I hadn’t been.) They had previously suspected as much because I had been so emotionally invested, but now this was their tangible proof that I was no longer a virgin. –  The Dress That Ended My Modesty Obsession, by Jenn Morson

I had no idea she had written this, and yet, the timing of it coinciding with my wondering why music by lesbians was banished, but music by men who had several marriages and did drugs was okay, well, it was a bit of a coincidence, was it not? Is it because now, we’re so far away from those days back at our conservative college, now that we’re raising children of our own, that we can look back and see what was maybe not the healthiest of atmospheres for a very young woman?

Because her incident with being confronted with her scandalous clothing choices wasn’t a singular tale. I vividly recall the day I wore a mini skirt (over leggings) and listened to a trail of “Wow, look at her skirt!” all day until a “friend” stopped me to say snidely “Isn’t your skirt a bit short?”

“Yeah, well so am I.” I snapped back, carting my tray of crappy cafeteria food to my table of friends.

Because flipping people the middle finger in the middle of the cafeteria was possibly frowned upon more than music by lesbians.

Ironically, if I want to flash back to my freshman year of college, it’s not one of the Christian artists that tips me off – frankly because I rarely if ever listened to them.

No, it’s “Closer to Fine” that puts me back there, with friends who are still friends of mine today, laughing, being too loud, too secular, and our own selves.

I spent five* years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper, and I was free…

*yes, I know, the original lyric is “four years” not five – but it took me five years to get that paper, and that’s how I sing it


Ah, sweet memories

9 Jun

This morning, my husband said to me, “Just think honey, twenty-one years ago today, we were trying to dodge bullets.”


“I know!”

And you may be saying “Wait…what? Which means you haven’t heard the story of the drug bust and our wedding rehearsal. 


just happy to have survived to see the wedding day

just happy to have survived to see the wedding day

So I had a chat with the other Target moms, and we agreed on something

23 Mar

And that something was that other parents need to calm the shit down on Easter and St. Patrick’s and Valentine’s Days.

We weren’t being Mean Moms. We had our fair share of Peeps and chocolate. But that was basically it. None of this “Easter gifts” crap. One mom complained about the gifts the leprechaun was supposed to bring, and I was all “Oh hell no.”

Seriously. People. Calm it all down. Otherwise, we’re going to hear ads in June for 4th of July gifts. Because on America’s birthday, shouldn’t everyone get a gift or seventeen?

Think about it.

Sounds stupid doesn’t it?

So why are we turning every freaking holiday into a gift holiday? So our kids feel special? So they can have more joy in stuff? So you can make yourself crazier as a parent making bunny footprints in sugar and moving the Leprechaun on the Ledge all of March? So that every month, we make ourselves crazy trying to surprise our kids, then lament that they have too much stuff or you don’t know what gift to get them for Easter because they got the doll they wanted for Valentine’s Day and the Leprechaun brought them bikes. Do you even know that two out of those three holidays are, in fact, the days a particular saint died?

“Hey, Happy Death Day of St. Patrick, have a gift!”

And now the poor overworked Easter Bunny is supposed to lug a sack of gifts as well as egg.s

Well, this Easter Bunny isn’t doing any of that crap. She never did. Oh sure, my kids are too old for the little things like bubbles and sidewalk chalk – you know, things to distract them from the fact that Mom didn’t actually put that much candy in their basket. But I’m not replaces $1 bubbles with $25 gift cards.

You know that line from “The Incredibles”, where Syndrome says “And when everyone’s super….no one will be.”? That’s what we’re doing to holidays. We’re taking away their individuality by turning them into big gift giving holidays. And when everything becomes that big gift giving holiday, they lose their charm.

When I was a kid, we celebrated all sorts of things, good Irish/Italian American Catholics that we were. But St. Patrick’s Day was that day when our big treat was getting a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s. We’d live for that. My grandma would carry her shamrock handkerchief, which I always looked for. We wore green. We proudly expressed our Irishness. Three days later was St. Joseph’s Day, which required the wearing of red, an Italian dinner, and cannolis. It’s how we celebrated our Italian heritage.

Nobody got a bike.

St. Valentine’s Day, we wore pink or red, there might be flowers, there was a small box of chocolates from parents and grandparents, maybe a card. And that was about it. Nothing huge. Nothing massive. But dang if we didn’t get all excited over those little boxes of chocolate.

Easter’s biggest deal was of course, the basket. Which we’d have to find. It never occurred to us that the Easter Bunny used the same baskets every year, those cheap colored wicker ones. Or we didn’t care. We were just in it for the candy – a chocolate bunny, some Peeps, jelly beans. Of course, there was that one year my mom, in a fit of health-consciousness, bought us carob bunnies. Which were not good. Not good at all. There was a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth (to get the carob off, because ew), and the evil not-chocolate bunnies were replaced the next day with proper chocolate ones.

But no one got a bike for Easter.

Oh sure, I hear “But my child’s birthday is in the winter!” Yeah, well, I got a bike for Christmas. In Chicago. You managed. Because life was simpler and full of those little lessons like “Hey, you don’t always get what you want at the best time, so you figure out how to ride a bike in the snow.” Or you learn to roller skate in the basement because it’s too snowy outside. And suddenly, that’s where the best memories come from. “Hey, remember that Christmas when we all got roller skates but it was too cold outside, so we skated in the basement?”

“Hey, remember that Easter when we couldn’t find one basket and spent hours looking for it only to realize the dog was sitting under it, staring up at it for hours?”

“Remember how Mom always got me a cannoli even though I hate them, and I’d let her eat mine? And how one year, Patrick asked for mine and I said yes and Mom was all “Wait! What? But I was going to eat that one too…”

And now, my kids have had that fun.

“Hey, remember the Christmas we had the big Nerf gun battle?”

“Hey, remember that Easter when one of the older grandkids hid a tiny frog in one of the eggs during the egg hunt and Collin got it?” (no frog was harmed.)

“Hey, remember that year we actually went to a parade in Ireland for St. Patrick’s and the nice people on the rooftop with us shared candy and waffles with us?”

Because life isn’t about what you get. Every holiday doesn’t have to have gifts to make it special. So let’s all chill a bit on it, m’kay? Give the poor Easter Bunny, and your wallet, a break this year.

I shall step off my soapbox now. Not sure how I got up here…oh, and tell those kids to get off my lawn…sheesh….in my day…


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