October 06, 2004


It's now Week 4 of the Daily News Scratch n' Match sweepstakes... and I still haven't won shit. I've even resorted to praying to help me win but alas, I have nothing to show for my newfound spirituality.

I don't have much luck when it comes to contests like this. I entered countless raffles in grammar school where top prize was a bike, a VCR, a computer, etc. And I never won. However, if the teachers put names in a hat to decide who was going to do a reading in front of a church full of people at the Confirmation ceremony, my name was miraculously selected. I also "won" the honor of doing a reading at my graduation right on the heels of my Confirmation performance.

Furthermore, in fifth grade, I was appointed to be the official welcome wagon when the parish got a new pastor. I had to sit through a REALLY long Mass attended by bishops and stuff and then go up and shake the priest's hand and say, "Welcome!"

I also had to crown the statue of the Virgin Mary at a well-attended church gathering on another occasion. Years later, I heard the song that goes, "Oh Mary We Crown Thee with Blossoms Today" and I believe I actually experienced a bout of panic. May Crownings are stressful! What if the wreath fell off Mary's head? What if I missed my cue and crowned her too early or too late? I was never good with the timing thing. In the third grade Christmas pageant, I forgot to stop rocking around the Christmas tree and continued circling it long after everyone else sat down. It was tres embarrassing.

I HATED doing these things. There were plenty of attention-starved and outgoing kids who would have jumped at the chance but instead, me -- the quiet, super self-conscious one -- was thrust in the spotlight and forced to perform. It was especially painful at the Confirmation because our public school peers -- the enemy -- were receiving the sacrament with us. They infiltrated our small, tight-knit group and scared the shit out of us quite frankly. We had a few smart-ass boys in my class and even they were speechless in the presence of the more wordly publics.

At the time, I was an awkward, pale and shy skinny little kid. The public school girls seemed so glamorous and mature to me. They wore makeup and gave their phone numbers to boys. I never concerned myself with such things before but suddenly, I was painfully aware of our differences. I dreaded getting up in front of them. I was certain they'd ridicule me. During the rehearsal, I read my assigned bit and was immediately chastised by the principal for not speaking loud enough. About 10 other students (both public and parochial) read yet she only picked on those of us who attended her school. Truthfully, she didn't expect much of the public school kids. In fact, we were always warned to take our valuables home on Mondays and Tuesdays when those kids attended catechism after we left for the day. Nice, right?

In addition to criticizing my volume, the nun took exception to the way I said the word "because." I guess I said it more like "becuz." She cut me off and yelled, "Miss McDimple! The proper pronunciation is 'bee-caawwwwwwse.' Now speak up and speak properly! You know better than that!" I just wanted to get up there, blurt out my bit and sit back down. Instead, she embarrassed me in front of all those kids and made me repeat myself about a billion times. At the risk of eternal damnation, I wanted to kill that fucking nun right then and there.

The worst was that the teachers actually tried to spin these gigs of forced public speaking as the most valuable prize of all. If by valuable they were referring to the small fortune I'd later have to fork over to a shrink and the makers of Paxil, then well, yes, I suppose they were right. I still would have happily "settled" for the Commodore 64.