November 17, 2008
Bitch on the Onion
My sisters and I went to Catholic grammar school, but in 5th grade, I put my foot down and refused to go to school anymore. I was done with those people. I knew, even at the age of 10, that this just was not a good scene for someone like me.
My decision to stop going to school was not one I made lightly. Looking back on it, this small act of civil disobedience may have saved my very life. You see, I am one of those people who was born with an all-encompassing abyss of self-loathing. If my sister got punished, it was my fault. If our father was screaming and angry it was because I was a bad kid. At this point in life, I am tired of trying to figure out why this is or whose fault it is, I have just accepted that it is and that’s that.
I have a very vivid memory of being in 3rd grade at St. Philip Neri. I was sitting in Miss Lakey’s class with 29 other good Catholic boys and girls and we were reading a story out of our religion textbook/workbook. You are going to think I am making this up, but I assure you, I am not.
It was a story about a woman who was selfish and mean. She was so mean that when she died, she went to hell. While she was sitting in hell with all the other bad and evil people, she prayed to God to remove her from hell. God spoke to her and said, “You were mean and selfish your whole life. Why should I remove you from Hell? Tell me one time you weren’t selfish.”
The woman racked her boiling brain (yes, there was a cartoon drawing of her and the others drowning in flames) and remembered that one time a homeless person asked her for something to eat and she gave him an onion from her garden. So, she relayed the story of her selflessness to God.
God agreed that she had done something nice and sent down a giant onion from heaven. He told her she should grab onto the onion and he would pull her up to heaven. (Yes, there was a cartoon drawing of this image as well. Is it any wonder at all I am nuts?)
The giant onion comes down and she grabs on. When the other poor souls see her rising out of hell, they grab on to her feet. She gets scared that they are going to pull her off the onion and ruin her chances of getting out, so she ever-so-slightly starts shaking her feet to knock the dirty sinners off her onion. As soon as she does this, the onion vanishes and she plummets back to her fate of eternal damnation.
And God, I think kind of spitefully, tells her, “See, I told you. You are a selfish bitch. Fuck you, dirty whore.” OK, I might be paraphrasing that part, but I swear, that is what I heard.
That story has some really heavy concepts in it. I mean, these are things that most wise adults have a hard time grasping – love of all mankind, absolute selflessness, an acquired taste for onions. Why, I ask you, why on earth was this terrifying story in the religion textbook for 3rd graders?
Maybe they figured kids would say to themselves, “Ah yes Master, thus I will strive to be more selfless and loving.”
Well, what I thought is, “Oh shit, I am that bitch on the onion.” What else would someone who hates herself think?
That single experience and story dictated my entire relationship with organized religion for the better part of my life. It offered me no comfort or solace, but instead, I viewed God and religion as spiteful tricksters who could see through my normal exterior to my dark and irreversibly damaged soul. In short, I was fucked.
There are times that I am still that little girl. I feel like everyone else is kind and generous and got the memo about loving yourself and others and that I am sitting alone, engulfed in flames.