I went to St. Agnes, a private Catholic kindergarten-8 for elementary school. My parents thought it was better than the questionable inner city public school I would have otherwise attended. Starting at a strict Catholic school gave me an unquenchable lust for breaking the rules.
I was always at the top of my class, but also the one who was ready to challenge the status quo. I remember my first sit in – I was in 4th grade and my gym teacher (who will remain un-named) told the class that all the boys were going to play football and all the girls were going to play on the playground (like proper girls should).
I was a tomboy who was bullied due to my size. I always played football with the boys and even had Buffalo Bills season tickets. When I said I was playing, he said an utterly sexist thing: “Go play with the girls, football is for boys only!” I immediately charged over to the other girls and asked them if they would rather play football or swing on the stupid swings like proper ladies were supposed to.
Half of them were with me. We then stood our ground in the middle of the field demanding equal rights. Needless to say, nobody got to play football that day, and I never let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something based on my gender ever again.
My mother wasn’t even mad at me when the angry nun principal called her at home. She was proud that I stood up for what I believed in. I never believed that the God Almighty was a white man on a cloud. I like to think of the real God as Alanis Morrisette in the film Dogma.
In 7th grade, I wrote Horoscopes for the first ever school newspaper. They were all incredibly uplifting and completely un-serious, based on Teen magazines. The priest and sisters saw this as an act of pure heresy! Horoscopes are meant to gain insight on one’s future, the Bible forbids divination and sorcery. Therefore astrology is a sin. The first and last school newspaper published was pulled and confiscated from all students due to its unholy content.
Early on I knew I was an artist but I never felt challenged by the art program (or lack thereof) at my school. My art teacher’s idea of good art was having us copy her work exactly. The closer you were to the original, the better your grade was.
Knowing this was bullshit, I always went in my own direction. I produced my own version of the project, aka REAL ART! The teacher graded me poorly on every project, saying I did not follow school rules. I replied with the bold statement ART HAS NO RULES!
She was probably jealous of my artistic voice, now I realize that she was just doing her job, teaching a good Catholic curriculum. Thankfully my parents took me to outside art classes at a neighborhood art center and the Albright Knox Art Gallery. There I was able to flourish and learn about how to become a true unbridled creative human. I would never have made it without that artistic nourishment.
I have always been intrigued by queer counterculture. When the topic of marriage came up I was the first to speak up for human rights. My religion teacher never had a good response for why our church didn’t accept ALL kinds of love, just saying that same sex couples were wrong. I never accepted that and knew that any God who could hate people who love each other was the one who was wrong.
The music department was a joke. The joke was on them, though, when we sang a re-written version of openly gay George Michael’s “Faith” for the talent show. I wish I remembered more of the lyrics, but I clearly remember “Jesus, I know you’re asking me to pray” instead of “Baby, I know you’re asking me to stay.” The same night some of us also did choreography to a Spice Girls song. The girl power and queer voice was strong in that talent show. Years later, the Spice Girls would become the first band I ever did burlesque to.
For The Stripteasers’ Midnight Mass show I was dressed as the pope and there were also naughty nuns, bad school girls (much worse than Britney Spears) and an innocent alter boy. We simulated sodomy on stage to George Micheal’s “Father Figure” and it was incredible. That number is so blasphemous that people have walked out disgusted every time.
I was part of a Seven Deadly Sins show, but the one that takes the cake as my ticket to eternal damnation is the Oh Unholy a Night! show where, as The Zombettes, we parodied the nativity. I was Broseph and my best friend (who ironically I met at Catholic School) was the Virgin Mary.
She was actually eight months pregnant during the routine! Her bloody tears and inverted cross pasties were memorable. We danced to Marilyn Manson’s Personal Jesus and it was exquisite. Here’s the video:
The Zombettes also performed in the basement of a former Catholic Church now converted to performance space and I was a nun performing an exorcism. I tore pages from a real Bible while my bestie spit fake blood on to the audience, simulated master-bating with a crucifix, and screamed Whore of Christ! She was wearing the actual little plaid skirt that I wore when we met.
God, life is good when you are a non-believer.
Top image by John M. Borsa
* Also, on St-Patrick’s Day, Cat did win the Whiskernia contest she wrote about last week. Congrats!