How do you approach Lent?
“What are you giving up for Lent?” I asked my husband a couple of days before Ash Wednesday.
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m not Catholic.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “This is New Orleans. And besides, we’re Episcopalian, which is basically the same damn thing. Everybody gives something up.”
“Well, I’m giving up carbs,” I said. “I might even do the Whole 30, which would mean no alcohol or dairy or wheat or tofu or beans or sugar. And I’m going to give up being judgmental. And soda.”
“I’m giving up biting my nails!” Ruby chimed in.
“Good for you!” he said to her. “You’re not doing the Whole 30,” he said to me, and given that I was basically on the fence to begin with and he cooks the majority of my meals, I agreed.
So that was over before it even started. But I was still going to give up everything else and eat way healthier.
Then I ate pasta for lunch on Ash Wednesday. I had eaten two huge forkfuls before I realized, and I paused mid-chew, felt guilty, and then finished my bowl. I love pasta.
Thursday, I met a friend for lunch.
“How about Juan’s?” he suggested.
“OK, but I’m not eating chips,” I said.
“Fine, I’ll eat extra for you,” he said.
The chips came. I ate the chips. I love chips.
So I still had being less judgmental and not drinking soda.
But it’s impossible to have a Facebook account and not judge people.
So that left soda. I technically haven’t had soda. I have a couple LaCroixs a day, but they are just carbonated, not loaded with sugar. Today, I had a strawberry-lemonade, which is not carbonated but is loaded with sugar. I’ve decided in my head that as long as I don’t drink anything that is sweetened and carbonated, I’m in the clear.
As far as Ruby’s nail-biting, she fell off the wagon the first day. Then she painted her nails purple and had slightly better success — she still catches herself doing it at least once a day, but then she stops and tries, tries again.
In my office, we’ve had some pretty impressive bargaining going on. Giving up caffeine has become giving up caffeinated tea, which no one really drinks anyway. Giving up candy became giving up Starburst. Giving up french fries allowed for an addendum that said tater tots were acceptable.
None of this, probably, captures the true sense of sacrifice that Lent is supposed to embody — but given that one of the hallmarks of Lent is abstaining from meat on Friday, in a city famed for its fried oyster po’ boys, crawfish boils and blackened redfish, we all know that sometimes you can look like you’re making a sacrifice when really you’re just eating something else delicious that day.
Where do you fall on the Lenten sacrifice spectrum? Do you give up nothing? Do you give up several things, hoping that maybe one will stick? Do you keep trying in the face of setbacks? Do you find small ways to weasel out of or around your sacrifices?
And most important, how do you like your oyster po’ boys? (Dressed, with lemon, hot sauce and extra pickles for me, please.)