The #1 Way to Ensure Eternal Damnation

So, I may not have told you everything that happened during my trip to Paris last week. I left out a crucial part of my time in Sacré Coeur, and now I realize this story just can’t not be told.

Basically, I’m going to hell.

I lied to a nun, and I’m pretty sure that grants me a fastpass through the line to eternal flame.

Sister Jeanne Marie was so kind and welcoming when I first arrived at the basilica. She took down my name and showed me to my room, and as she glided along the hallway she asked my reasons for coming to the night of adoration. I told her that it seemed like a beautiful opportunity for meditation, and as I started to say more she stopped me.

“But, you’re catholic, yes? You believe in la présence réelle?”

I panicked.

She was asking me if I believed in transubstantiation, the catholic doctrine whereby the bread and wine of the Eucharist literally transform into the body and blood of Christ. Well, no. I’m not, and I don’t.

Images of being escorted out by armed monks filled my mind. Sleeping on a bench under a Parisian bridge was not what I had expected for the night, especially since I’d already paid 4 euros for the pre-mass breakfast. So, with imaginary sirens of Vatican police cars whirring in my ears, I did what I had to do.

I lied to Sister Jeanne Marie.

“Well, I was raised protestant, but I’m thinking of converting.”

A giant walkie talkie appeared out of nowhere, and the next thing I know this nun is calling a priest on what I can only assume was a Code Blue: Imminent Conversion case. Grasping my hand in both of hers, she urged me to spend the evening in prayer, and then scurried off to organize the troops for my initiation.

The next morning, Sister Jeanne Marie met me downstairs for a long discussion about my “conversion”. She was so sweet and excited I could hardly stand it. I tried to do what I could to soften my earlier statement and to say that I was “questioning”, but it was useless. I felt terrible (even protestant-raised agnostics generally try not to lie to nuns), but at this point it was impossible to stop.

It was going to take every bit of my 10th grade AP European History knowledge to get me through this one. Dates and names started flying out of my mouth as we discussed the schism, bible translations, and the traditions of the catholic church. She asked me if I had begun to pray the rosary, if I had been to confession, if I prayed with the saints. Trying to translate what mediocre knowledge I have into French and making it sound like I had actually been personally researching the topic was terrifying. I was winging the interview of my life, and it was very nearly disastrous.

I was super pumped when she asked me what I thought of the Virgin Mary, but apparently saying “I love her! What a fascinating icon of women’s strength and the inner goddess within a patriarchal society!” was not the proper response. Naming Joan of Arc, who is basically the definition of aggressive feminism, as an on-the-spot potential confirmation saint, didn’t seem to win me any points, either, but I was in survival mode and literally naming any saints I could think of by then. I vaguely recall quoting Latin excerpts from choral pieces at one point. The B.S. got that real.

Rising from her seat with a smile from one edge of her habit to the other, Sister Jeanne Marie gave me the phone number for her direct line and urged me to call her the next time I was in Paris. We walked together through the church, and she gleefully told me that the next step would be for me to discuss all of these things again with a priest. She escorted me right up to the confessional booth, where I paused just long enough to see her turn the corner before I hightailed it out of there so fast I bet not even Jesus saw me moving.

So there’s my story, the new #1 most awkward conversation of my life. Hopefully, publishing this post and doing good deeds for the rest of my life will keep me from eternal damnation, but if anyone else has a good idea of what I should do, I’m certainly taking suggestions. Clearly, I need all the help I can get.

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Teachers Are Humans, Too.

When you’re a teacher in a small town, it’s not a matter of if, but when, you will awkwardly run into your students. For me, it was on Friday night at the Aluna George concert.

It being one of the other assistants’ birthdays, the crew got together on Friday night to celebrate and eat massive amounts of junk food. Following this time-honored ritual of noshing down a stomach-churning combination of cheetos, wine, quesadillas, cookies, apple pie, chocolate-beetroot cake, and a shot of tequila for good luck, we ventured into town to see what sort of trouble we might get into at the local music festival that’s been going on all week.

I should have known that all of my students would be there.

I should have known it’d be awkward as heck.

I awkwardly head-nodded  and smiled at a few of them to acknowledge their presence, and then went back to dancing along to the music. Of course, then I felt like all their eyes were on me and my American head-bobbing. (Apparently, the French prefer to show their appreciation for live music by standing stock-still and frowning as much as possible. They’re like the town from Footloose.)

Did anyone else ever hate the idea of seeing their teachers in public? I remember, even as a kid who loved school and the vast majority of her teachers, that running into them was always a bit surreal. I was pretty convinced that teachers just pulled a cot out from under their desks at the end of the day and slept at the school. There’s no way a teacher could have a family or spend any time thinking about anything other than bulletin board designs and lesson plans!

It turns out that teachers are real human beings with lives outside of school, and they find it just as weird as students do when they get caught out in public. Beyond that, I’m a foreign language teacher and in France that means that I’m supposed to speak ONLY English in the classroom: no French help allowed. But when I see a student in public, am I obliged to switch to English, or should I stick to French for the benefit of any non-anglophones around us?

It gets weird, and I usually end up busting out an awkward “Bonjour-‘ello!” before hustling off in whatever direction will get me farthest, fastest.

Such is my life.