I didn’t grow up celebrating Lent, or dreading Lent, as some do. I suppose the Pentecostal church of my youth simply hadn’t heard of Lent, nor were they informed of women wearing pants or the toxicity of snake venom. Yet, now that I am a card-carrying Episcopalian, I look forward to each fresh Lenten season as a time of reflection and penitence as well as an opportunity to flaunt my piety by unabashedly working into conversations the 40-day sacrifice I make to ensure my eternal salvation. Giving up chocolate is child’s play; try abstaining from pooping until Easter.
I often wonder what first attracted me to the Anglican faith. Was it its church’s red doors that I find so reminiscent of an Elizabeth Arden fragrance? Or perhaps it’s the throat-choking fog of incense that sends Vietnam veterans scuffling under the pews for their gas masks. No matter the reason, each Lenten season brings with it the promise of redemption and the occasion to prove oneself more worthy and virtuous than others.
This year, like in years previous, I am giving up shaving. Refraining from shaving is my personal reenactment of our Lord’s sacrifice of proper personal hygiene when he wandered in the wilderness for 40 days. However, unlike Christ, my beard is as thick as a 14-year-old Latina's; therefore, I’m obliged to fill in the patchy spots with mascara.
|GET THIS LOOK: To get Conor's bold and bushy beard, apply mascara liberally to thin |
spots and rub into beard to blend. For long-wear hold, finish with White Rain Firm
Hold Aerosol Hair Spray.
Aside from having the face of a babe and the whiskers of a menopausal woman, my beard of burden often gets me mistaken for Jesse Tyler Ferguson. I will concede, however, that like Asians, we redheads look more or less the same. Still, to be beamed at by buoyant women who just have to tell me who I look like for the next 40 days is, in some ways, my own Via Dolorosa.
Besides relinquishing my razor, I plan to stave off booze—save for the Blood of Christ, which according to the theology of transubstantiation, makes me something more akin to a vampire than an alcoholic who’s fallen off the wagon. And so, I’m trading in my usual spirits for the Holy sort.
Halting the hooch isn't all sacrifice, however. I won’t miss the headaches, nausea and vomiting. And I certainly won’t pine for those guilt-ridden occasions of trying to explain why I simply had to call you at two in the morning to ask your opinion of the last episode of Glee. I won’t miss sweating gin, leaving my office cubicle smelling like a pine forest, or the tremors and tantrums that come with withdrawal. But mostly, I won’t ache for the false confidence that assures me that I can actually sing "Alone" by Heart.
Noticing what I stand to gain by swearing off shaving and alcohol, this year I plan to emanate an aura of charity. For instance, I’m going to make eye contact with the homeless rather than staring at the sidewalk and muttering something in Spanish when they ask for my spare change. It will be a compassionate me who looks them square in the eye and says, “No hablo Ingles.”
I will give more money to my parish by leaving my entire five-dollar bill in the collection plate because I won’t be counting out the children’s dimes and nickels to make change.
And, I’m going to do something good for the environment. I’m going to put my soda cans in one trash bag before tossing them into the Dumpster instead of letting them mingle with my empty shampoo bottles and glass jars.
Yes, I can see it now; I am most assuredly guaranteed a place in Heaven.