Religious Classes and Other Social Concoctions

I parked Perlo, my pepper white MINI Cooper, five and half blocks away from my destination, leaving the car’s front and rear bumpers at the mercy of New York City drivers. I could have secured my ride in my friend’s garage, but that would involve me having to see her. Why was I going to my friend’s house, if I clearly didn’t want to see the woman? Well, I didn’t intend to visit her, I was on my way to see a second friend; and because Fate seems to enjoy the torture of my soul, they have been sharing a two-family home for the last three years. I should say that in this essay the word friend might be synonym for really close relative whose story I want to share, but not without the safeguard of plausible deniability. However, my precaution might be unnecessary, for I’m submitting this piece to The Witches’ Voice, and to quote my friend, she “won’t be caught dead, reading a website that deals with such unclassy religions.”

My friend’s ignorant ways when speaking about faiths, other than the one she practices publically, is not the only reason why I avoid her company. I keep my distance because according to her, “Classy ladies wear makeup, spend Thursdays at the beauty parlor [yes, she actually says ‘beauty parlor’] and are above any spiritual practice that promotes dancing barefoot in the woods.” And no, homemade lip gloss and the fact that I wash my hair every day, do not fulfill her classy lady requirements. The last time we talked, she went on for hours about how “curly hair is for the moneyless”. I opened my mouth to tell her that lip gloss and home hair washing suited me well then, but she froze my attempt by pointing a freshly manicured index finger at her teenage son, and shouting “Video games are the devil’s latest weapon of choice, Junior. They are stealing your soul, your brains and your class.”  

I laughed. My friend scowled. Her son closed his bedroom door. I left; still laughing because my friend’s use of the word ‘class’ brought to mind John Seabrook’s Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing + The Marketing of Culture, and the thought of religion and video games as class determinants was just too hilarious not to roar at. I stopped at the door, and seriously thought about turning around to calm her down, but I shook my head and walked out instead. I had no right to tell her that her 17-year-old son was trying to make sense of his life by merging the things he loves most, some of which happen to be quite classy if seen through his mother’s eyes. My friend’s child reminds me of Seabrook in “My Father’s Closet,” the second chapter of Nobrow. The author’s “father thought it was in poor taste to wear logos or brand names” on clothing (45). Seabrook suggested that he “could have tried to explain to [his] father that… in a system of status that values authenticity over quality, a Chemical Brother T-shirt” (47) meant something and it opened certain doors. I, too, could have told my friend that her son was a young genius who was using technology, literature and religion to create a comic strip he believed would bring people together. It sounds farfetched, I know, but it is not as insane if you have all the details.

Junior, my friend’s son, goes to a rather privileged faith based secondary school, and he wants to work in the school paper. He loves his mother, video games, classic literature, Catholicism and Witchcraft—the latter is practiced by his mother when she thinks no one is watching. He is also an amateur videogame builder. His latest project, “Classic Lit: Zombies and Spirits Combat,” is a spinoff featuring characters from a short story I wrote for him for his fifteenth birthday. The kid has liked T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer for a long time. He is crazy about zombies too. I am crazy about anyone who enjoys reading as much as he does, so I helped him with his gaming project by creating two of the zombie profiles. The part when Conrad’s main character says “With a gasp I saw revealed to my stare a pair of feet, the long legs, a broad livid back immersed right up to the neck in a greenish cadaverous glow. One hand, awash, clutched the bottom rung of the ladder. He was complete but for the head. A headless corpse! The cigar dropped out of my gaping mouth…” (9) provided one character for the game. The second zombie sprouted from Eliot’s “The Burial of the Dead”. Junior and I thought “That corpse you planted last year in your garden / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (71,72) would be the perfect addition to his lethal zombie team. The third and last undead was Lazarus who, if ever killed in the game, can call his friend Jesus to bring him back to life. Junior name his Jesus character Nekromancer.

I think the game is brilliant, and would be very proud of my son if he came up with it, but I know my friend would not approve. She was raised Caribbean Catholic, like me, and her family practiced Witchcraft as part of their spirituality. But things changed after she married Junior’s father, the sole heir to a successful meatpacking and processing chain. Meatpacking might not sound like a very elegant business, but it seems that the owners can keep their stylish persona as long as they are underpaying someone else to do the actual meatpacking. The day my friend became Mrs. Meatpacker Empire, she told all her close relations that she “was working on becoming a lady”—I’m not sure what she was before that. She began to do her hair every Thursday and quit attending our rituals in the woods. But that wasn’t enough; she also felt the need to put down anyone who still practiced Witchcraft. She dropped out of college because, in her mind, a woman of class shouldn’t do anything but fundraising for which she assumed no education was required. And when I thought things couldn’t get worse, she said, in front of my Colonel, that I was “possessed; nothing else could explain a decent woman not bathing every day or sleeping in tents with a bunch of soldiers”.

The same annoyance I felt, years ago, when she called me a soldier knowing well I was a Marine, brought me out of memory land right before I rang her bell. My feet and thoughts had taken me to her doorstep. I was ready to talk to her son about sharing the details of his project with her. I was sure if he told her the videogame was based on the works of Eliot, Conrad and the Christian Bible, she would give us the chance to explain exactly what that meant. Not that she would care much about the works of two great writers—the lady in question doesn’t have much reading time between manicures—or cares about the fact that video games might promote problem solving skills, but I thought she would be interested in the last video game night I had the opportunity to witness, at the house of a friend who happens to be a Harvard graduate. I was planning to woo her with the menu alone: we toasted with Veuve Clicquot, ate pistachios, prosciutto, mixed olives, a salad of cannellini beans and tuna with a white wine vinegar, olive oil, capers and Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Next, there was another salad of toasted walnuts, grapes, Gorgonzola Dolcelatte and lettuce with a walnut and sherry vinaigrette. And the evening that started with a discussion about hedge funds and state laws, ended late into the night after three fierce games of Halo and a tray of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. The devil didn’t show, the Harvard graduate remains intelligent, and a conductor and pianist—who, by the way, won the game—continues to conduct and play like an angel.   

All that went through my mind, as I tried to convince myself that ringing my friend’s doorbell would be a good idea. I didn’t. I walked back to my car, realizing that I couldn’t visit one friend and avoid the other, and that no one can make Junior’s mother see that we are living in a period of nobrow. The fact that class, religious or otherwise, has been reduced to an individual’s choice and taste, implies that my friend is likely to continue seeing things from her cultural perspective, as will I.    

Sources
The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
“The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

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25 comments:

  1. You had me at "homemade lip gloss". Your friend sounds like she leads a rather sad life, although, if she is happy, then that is what matters. That fact that she feels it is necessary to speak so harshly of what others believe is heartbreaking. Hope she finds what her heart is looking for one day.

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  2. Zombie Goddess - She looks happy sometimes. Other times I can't help but notice the longing in her eyes; it looks like she misses 'the good old times'. The issue is with her son. She is losing him and she doesn't seem to notice. The older he gets the further the distance between them. I hope she notices what a great boy she has before it is too late.

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  3. Geez, I'd rather not become a lady then. I like mud, books, booze and zombies, thank you very much.

    (Oh, and I am the only one in my family with a university degree. Guess that one was by mistake. ^^)

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  4. Diandra - University?! You are such a loser! You'll never be a lady. Guess you'll have to join the moneyless club (I'm already a member, so you won't be alone). Um, can I have some of the mud fun? ;-)

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  5. You are so zen.I envy that. I want to slap her a litle bit. I can not stand narrowminded people!
    When will you tell us how you make your lip gloss?
    The horse is definitely going to listen about a great lady named Magaly. After all we are running out of conversation topics. She does n't say much!She just demands more treats!
    Blessed be!
    Blessed be!

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  6. My epiphany for the day has come. I shall never be a lady of class. I love my showers, my camping, my books, my witchcraft and I served in the U.S. Navy. *sigh*

    Lol, what a great post, Magaly!

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  7. Like a person who quits smoking, they are very vehement that everyone should quit smoking...your 'friend', since she has changed, feels that everyone should change...too bad, as her son could probably use a mother rather than a critic...

    Check out my 'Ghost ship'...I think you'll like it...

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  8. I really liked this and so much of it rang true to my own experiences. Sounds like she is on a soapbox and is feeling a little "better than everyone else." I love that you are natural...we were made to be natural and be okay with who we are and what we are comfortable with. She seems to be putting on airs and pretending and that will get her no where at all except alone. Great share :)

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  9. Then I will never be a lady of class, and be glad of it. I love reading, only stopped playing most video games because so few are properly accessable to the blind, and would much rather be barefoot in the woods than getting manicures or whatever.

    Oh, and how do you make your lip gloss?

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  10. The first thought that comes to mind is that money certainly does not buy class and it is very unfortunate that she has not learned unconditional love for her son. It sounds as if she wants to make him everything she would be only in male form. For this I am sad for both of them.

    She is denying her true feminine energy that only comes from the inner lining of a woman in order to live up to a societal ideal that most likely leaves her empty and.

    I would rather be a woman than a lady any time, any day and you, my sweet, are an inspiration to us all with your gorgeous wild curls and homemade lip gloss.

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  11. Life is too short. I can say I feel sorry for her since she is missing out on a great kid. I hope she enjoys the "classy" stuff she does, and doesn't just do it because she thinks it is expected...how sad a life would that be?

    I think you are fully in the right on this one. Fine if you want to be a certain way, but to insult everyone around you for being individuals isn't right either.

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  12. I love this character you made up Magaly (tell me she's made up LOL), and so fitting her son is a major cool juxtaposition of religious & technological offerings which he is somehow stitching together to become a wonderfully unique functional young man... he won't make her happy I can tell, but if he stays true to himself he will be ;) I hope you stay in his life even though it's not ideal in his mothers...
    Ahh the meatpackers aspirations... how can any of us live up to that standard ;)

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  13. I guess I join the losers'! Ha! Since I have a degree and use power tools!!
    But I also get a mani and pedi every third or fourth week!! Ha!!
    Love you girl!
    And your hair is fabulous
    Hugs
    Sueann

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  14. Wow has she forgotten that Jesus spent time with prostitutes and gluttons? and curly hair is a bad thing? It's a gift from the Divine! I wish I had naturally curly hair!

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  15. GreekWitch - I'm not always this balanced, some people just don't deserve my trouble. I hope you had a blast with the horse and your tummy is doing better. And yes, I'm about to run out of lip gloss, so I'll share the recipe in a few days. I'm thinking about passion fruit flavor!

    Kallan - You are a lost case; guess you better hang out with Diandra and I.

    Judy - I never thought of that, but you are absolutely right. And I checked you ships and oh my!

    Tamara - I hope she reads this post and your comment.

    Toriz - You can act very unlady like with me ;-) And I'll share my recipe soon. I'm trying a new flavor and I want to see how it holds.

    Mina - I used to remember when she was happy and looked it. When she went swimming at night with us and was the one to lose her clothes first and make fun of the rest of us for making sure no one was looking before skinny dipping. I miss who she used to be, but don't really like who she has become. And I love my curls too lol

    Lilac - I hope she is happy too.

    Sunshineshelle - I wish she was, especially because of her son. I feel for him. He is always trying to so hard and she doesn't notice. I hope he doesn't get tired.

    SueAnn - I just pictured your lovely nails while using your power tools and giggled, my dear lady ;-)

    Sisterlisa - I've noticed that some people who say to follow the teachings of Jesus forget about his deeds. Selective reading, and back door insulting through the words of the Bible has become a nasty art form for some.

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  16. Magaly...I read that you are a skinny dipper...almost my favorite thing...can't get hubby to go with me...water on skin is great...water's warm right...guess where I'm headed???

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  17. Judy - I refuse to swim in cold or 'funny' looking water. I miss my Caribbean rivers sooo much. I miss having a pool on the back of my house. I don't miss the dogs stealing my towel and me having to wait until the neighbors were gone to come out, or just run to the house and hope for the best. I'm so jealous of you right now *sigh* "water on skin" mm, mm, mm!

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  18. Classy ladies wear makeup.

    Strike one. I haven't worn this for eons.

    Classy ladies are above spiritual practices that promote dancing barefoot in the woods.

    Strike two. I wouldn't want to be a part of any spiritual practice that freaking stuffy.

    Classy Ladies spend Thursday afternoons in the "beauty parlor".

    Strike three. I'd rather be dipped in fecal material and Kentucky Fried.

    I feel very sad for her son because I have seen this kind of thing before. He will grow to resent, and avoid his mother.:(

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  19. So sad Magaly! Why can't people be who they truly want to be, without judgement? Why can't we all get along and talk about things. Wouldn't that be interesting, instead of putting another person down? I just don't understand. I have been friends with a person now, for over 20 years and she is going through a lot. I was talking about "my ways", and her daughter was very interested in what I was saying. I haven't heard back from her, since May? Do they think I will turn them into frogs? What are people scared of? They are Catholic and I don't put them down? Or say anything mean! By the way, I love her hair ;o)) And, I would love to try some of your homemade lip gloss ;o) Hugs ;o)

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  20. I meant to say, I love "your" hair ;o)

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  21. LJ - You better stay away from me after your Kentucky bath or I might bite a chunk off of you ;-D

    Magic Love Crow - I've always been opened about my witchery, but two years ago I went cyber open. Many of my friends began to keep their distance, and that's okay with me as long as they don't try to change me or worse "save me". I'm sorry about your friend... and hm, I might have to order extra ingredients and give everybody lip balm for All Hallow's Eve ;-)

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  22. I meant to say, I love "your" hair ;o)

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  23. Magaly...I read that you are a skinny dipper...almost my favorite thing...can't get hubby to go with me...water on skin is great...water's warm right...guess where I'm headed???

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  24. Classy ladies wear makeup.

    Strike one. I haven't worn this for eons.

    Classy ladies are above spiritual practices that promote dancing barefoot in the woods.

    Strike two. I wouldn't want to be a part of any spiritual practice that freaking stuffy.

    Classy Ladies spend Thursday afternoons in the "beauty parlor".

    Strike three. I'd rather be dipped in fecal material and Kentucky Fried.

    I feel very sad for her son because I have seen this kind of thing before. He will grow to resent, and avoid his mother.:(

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