What a heathen gives up for Lent.

This is Joe’s senior picture. He graduated from an all-boys Jesuit high school in 1993 when I was 11 years old. I’m weak for bow ties, so you can see now why I fell for him. I needed some information about Lent, so I figured I’d go to the source.

I was jawing with my best friend Ro last week and she casually brought up this business of Lent. She said she was giving up pasta, and naturally I responded by saying, “What? For Jesus? Jesus wants you to give up pasta? If I were Jesus, I’d be like eat the pasta. It’s just a starch.”
And she responded (as she does every year) that Lent is a Catholic tradition, that she’s been giving up beloved foods since she was a kid, and like all good Catholics, she must sacrifice something she loves for Lent.
“Is it really a sacrifice?” I asked.
“Yes of course,” she said. “I love pasta.”
So I mulled it over – this hullabaloo over Lent – as I’ve mulled it over for years. Raised by an atheist mother and a non-practicing Lutheran father, who has an appetite like a bear, I’ve never been asked to give up pleasurable food for 40 days.
I could give you my heathen opinion on the matter, but who am I to tell gluttonous Catholics there’s a chance this ritual pleases Jesus less and Richard Simmons more? I’ve got plenty of asinine rituals myself (ie: crossing my fingers and kissing them twice before taking off in an airplane), so who am I to knock Lent when I believe crossing my fingers and kissing them twice keeps airplanes in the sky?
So I hung up the phone with Ro, and told Joe I was giving up sarcasm for Lent.
“Why sarcasm?”
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile.”
“What about food?”
“Nope. Who gives a shit if I give up a food? Jesus? This whole Lent thing seems bunk. If Jesus were in our kitchen right now, he’d make himself a turkey sammie, and tell me that when he gave up sarcasm he noticed a huge improvement in his gospels.”
Now understand: Joe is a writer too. A writer and editor at Tampa’s snarktastic Creative Loafing. Telling Joe you give up sarcasm is like telling Mrs. Butterworth you give up pancakes.
As I left the living room and turned the corner into the hallway, I shouted, “I want to return to writing more meaningful things! Things that make people sigh!”
Last night I interviewed Joe about Catholic sacrifices. The transcript is below.
Hey Joe? Can I interview you about Lent?




Before you became a heathen, what did you give up?
Chocolate ice cream.
You always gave up chocolate ice cream?
I always gave up chocolate ice cream.
Because you love it madly?
I was obsessed with the fact that I could have it for breakfast one day a year.
What day was that?
Easter. I had a deal with my folks that if I gave up chocolate ice cream for Lent, I could have it for breakfast on Easter.
Did you think you were a better person because of it?
I probably dug the God part of it then.
When did you stop giving up chocolate ice cream for Lent?
By my early teens I was off the religion bandwagon.
Yet you continued to go to an all-boys Catholic school? That’s like being a member of Styx and hating your No. 1 song.
Yes it is. It’s like being a member of Styx and hating Come Sail Away.
Why do people always give up food?
People typically give up things they do or enjoy that are frivolous or pleasurable.
What did your parents give up?
My dad gave up ketchup.
Do you know what a sacrifice that was for him? He puts ketchup on ketchup. You know, on Fridays during Lent you couldn’t eat meat either.
Yeah, I know. How did you survive without chicken and chocolate ice cream?
We had pizza night and tuna fish sandwich night. My mom used to make a giant plate of tuna fish sandwiches with potato chips. It was always more than we could ever eat. It was like nature’s bounty on the table.
I was always jealous of that part. I used to claim I was Catholic when my parents would force me to eat meat on Fridays.
Do you often interview people in a towel?
Only you.
Is that all m’am? I don’t usually talk to the press.
Yeah, I guess I’m done with you.
If you’d like to know what it’s like to eat a pound of chocolate ice cream for breakfast, I’d be happy to fill you in.


PS. Joe’s senior quote is from Guns N’ RosesEstranged. W.A.R = William Axl Rose. He felt the lyrics were a perfect senior quote. Melodramatic and angtsy … because nothing says Fuck You like a bow tie.



  1. Tabitha (From Single to Married) says

    So interesting (and funny too). I admit that I don’t know much about Lent or what it symbolizes, but can understand the concept. this reminds me that I need to learn more about other religions…some day. :)

  2. ModernMommy says

    Noooo! Don’t give up sarcasm please! I would much rather laugh than sigh. Okay maybe the occasional sigh here and there is nice but not ALL the time. K?
    I was raised catholic and now I am a non-denominational girl. I never remember giving anything up for lent (guess my parents didn’t practice that) but as I got older and learned more about it I actually kinda like it. I am all about sacrificing things that are dear to me for 6 weeks out of the year. It’s supposed to build character and all that good stuff. Living in the land of plenty we could all use a little more of that.
    With that being said I am not giving anything up this year because I feel like I have already cut out about as much as I can and everything else (like the occasional piece of chocolate) I need for my sanity.

  3. Vanessa says

    I can never seem to stick to giving something up for lent!!! Sheessh I need to worl on it I guess!! We never did this when I was a child but my mom would not let us eat meat on Fridays!

  4. RO says

    It’s strange to grow up in a Catholic family and have all of these traditions to keep up with..and even if it is a little silly they just stuck. When I was a waitress I loved lent because it doubled, even tripled our fish fry business and in college I always sported nice new expensive clothes on Spring Break because of this.
    I decided to give up pretzels and candy instead of pasta. I did that last year and needed a new challenge. I also resolved to go to mass every Sunday in an attempt to form a habit!
    Tell Joe I will be feasting on pretzels and Sour Patches on Easter for breakfast!

  5. Caroline says

    this blog cracked me up heid – joe was even more of a stud back in ’93 than he is now – ha.

    i never quite understood lent either, but i certainly enjoy not giving up things!

    good luck working on your sarcasm, i hope it doesn’t work out, because i enjoy your blogs too much!!!

    give PK a big hug and then slap her for never freakin’ calling me! 😉

  6. Robert says

    (Read the comments, didn’t have anything to say, but the word verification is once again priceless. I swear you must have it set to “funny words” or something somehow.)

    Word verification: preluser, definition “Someone whose popularity, skillset, or acclaim will peak in high school or just after.”

    Or something like that. I guess I’m not being helpful to you giving up sarcasm for lent. I think sacrifice is good when the motivations are right. But without any motivations to get better, it is like fasting without a prayer – you’re simply starving yourself. I’m not trying to be critical of your effort. I simply think the tradition is lost on many who follow it without understanding the reason for it. If you’re doing it to improve yourself through self-reflection, that’s great.

  7. C.Flower says

    Regardless of how Lent is reasoned in Catholicism, my reasoning for giving up sarcasm is precisely a self-reflection thing.

    But in thinking this over in the shower this morning – why I wanted to give up sarcasm in the first place – I realized it wasn’t that I wanted to give it up, it’s that I wanted to write more meaningful things, which brings me back to what I never understood about Lent.

    Lent is about sacrifice. And I never understood how sacrificing something you love would make you a better person. One year I said to Ro, “why not DO SOMETHING GOOD rather than GIVE UP SOMETHING you love?” Like, instead of giving up pasta entirely, why not begin eating more vegetables instead?

    If Lent were an opportunity to begin doing better things people would, over time, begin accumulating these good habits and in the end become better people, not through sacrifice but by learning to manage their vices while cultivating new tastes in food, exploring new hobbies and in general, growing as a person.

    But this ritual already exists. It’s non-denominational, and called making New Years resolutions.

    There are some aspects of Catholicism I’d love to embrace. I’ll pass on punishment and guilt.

    Now that I’ve aired my opinions and thought harder about this Lent thing, I think it’s possible to still be sarcastic (in small doses, like sour cream and onion chips) AND write more meaningful stories (every now and then, like canned spinach.)

    It’ll make me a more well-rounded person, no? Besides, I think a heathen can un-punish themselves at any time.

    Preluser. That’s awesome, Robert! I always tell Joe I peaked in high school! Seriously. This is great. I have a new word!

    “Baby, I’m a preluser. But hopefully I’ll get better now that I’ve misconstrued Lent to suit my needs.”

  8. Tammy says

    So Heids, I actually had this same argument with my adorable (yet hardcore Catholic) grandparents yesterday afternoon. They’ve been here since Jan. from CT and are staying til my bro’s wedding at the end of May. This may seem like a long time, but I’ll remind you that these are the coolest grandparents in the world… Anyhoo.
    We were going to go grab a bite to eat in between running errands (which usually involves me taking them to the three W’s: Wal-mart, Walgreens and Wachovia, which is fine with me because I get to park in the handicapped parking spots) and I said, “Man, I’m in the mood for a giant cheeseburger. Anyone else?
    They shouted in unison: “Tam, are you crazy? It’s Friday during Lent!”
    And then I remembered the deal… no meat. ehh.
    So, I asked them, what is the significance behind the no meat? I don’t get it. Shouldn’t I give up Cheez-its instead? And they replied, “Well you can give that up too. Just remember NO MEAT on FRIDAYS.”
    So, then I thought back to my earlier breakfast meal, in which I devoured a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich at a diner with some co-workers. And I said, “Wait a second! I already had meat today! I had bacon! Does that excuse me for the rest of the day?”
    To which Grams replies, “Well, it’s not a sin if you forget.”

    (Needless to say, we all enjoyed Fishimajig sandwiches from Friendly’s for lunch. Which were nowhere near as satisfying…. )

  9. C.Flower says

    Thank you, Tam for sharing your sin with me! Remember to “forget” again next Friday when you and your man order T-bone steaks.

    Miss you so much by the way.

    I started a post last night wherein I featured some random “Slice of the City” blurbs. I just deleted the whole thing due to technical difficulties!

  10. Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com says

    Since my husband comes from a Catholic family, I try not to make too many assumptions or have too many ideas about Catholicism and its traditions, such as Lent. Sarcasm does seem like it would be difficult to give up =) I have no idea what I would give up!

  11. RO says

    Refer to my previous post-I gave one thing up, plus I am doing one good thing…going to Mass. So that’s a good balance:)

    I know the whole Catholic thing insn’t your deal so I am glad the church I am getting married in is beautiful so you will have something to look at for one hour while you stand next to the priest and hold my bouquet! Love you:)

  12. Robert says

    Your idea about doing good instead of giving something up echoes a post over at this blog which I read and comment on frequently. Self improvement is the goal of Lent, so why not focus on the positive. I pointed out the post I was writing on strengths about a book from the school of Positive Psychology, Strengthsfinder 2.0.

    Am I blatantly using your post as a chance to put myself out there? You can take it that way. Me, I’m just having fun.

    Word verification: foluptal. Meaning – I can’t eat anything right now. I’ll be foluptal dinner.

  13. Robert says

    Okay, I really have to know what setting you have to pick to get such funny word verifications.

    lusers: people in such a pathetic state in life, they don’t even know how to spell losers.

    (that one failed for some reason, so I got)

    admenei: Well, at this point, I’ll take what I can get. I haven’t admenei offers yet.

  14. C.Flower says

    Just because I gave up sarcasm for Lent doesn’t mean my word verification settings have to.

  15. Robert says

    More word verification fun:
    yocaremp: We made his here clinic fo’ yo’ care, so we call it yocaremp. (another one, suinge) If you need a suinge, dey is in the box on da she’f. If you ain’ gon’ pay tho’, we gone (another one, ravocure) ravocure yo’ right to come hea.

    And you’re right, you can live on through your word verifications… else your sarcasm may die.

  16. Robert says

    Literally, for some reason, it took me three word verifications to get that comment up, so I kept having to (another one that came up after it finally went up, adiscin) adiscin because each’un was jes’ so funny.

    At least to me… maybe not to anyone else.

  17. C.Flower says

    Robert, I might put up an entire post dedicated to your word verification interpretations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *