I doubt I’d suffer half as many run-ins with my mother-in-law if she’d simply remember I’m Jewish. Problematically, for me, each time she forgets this minor detail, she interprets my failure to follow Catholic tenets as evidence of at least mortal sin and at most satanic possession. This year’s Lent controversy represents only the latest example.
At Sunday dinner yesterday, my wife asked her family what each of them had given up for Lent. The answers from my mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law were, respectively: “knitting”; “Home Depot”; and “cursing.” Before her husband could say a word, Gina spoke for him as well: “Giuseppe’s giving up whores this year.” (Clearly, a week’s passage hasn’t dimmed my sister-in-law’s furor after discovering her hubby’s $2,000 trip to a Nevada brothel in January.) She then hilariously compounded her Lenten breach by adding: “Shit! I cursed.”
Once the ensuing argument between Gina and Giuseppe died down, my mother-in-law asked me for the activity I’d suspended this year. I initially tried to sidestep the issue by paraphrasing a blonde joke I’d heard involving Lent. I told Maria: “I’d planned to sacrifice sex this year, but when I told Sophia I couldn’t make love to her because it’s Lent, she complained: ‘Well, who borrowed it? And why can’t you get it back?’”
No one laughed; big surprise. After several moments of appalled silence, Maria again piped up: “Quit joking, Richard. What’d you really give up for Lent?”
I know. I could’ve (and probably should’ve) replied: “Nothing … because I’m Jewish!” Instead, I opted for an alternative direction, after first confirming the fundamentals of a Lenten sacrifice: “I’m supposed to give up something I love, or I do all the time, right?”
My mother-in-law answered in the affirmative, while offering me her “What kind of Catholic doesn’t already know that?” look.
In what seems, in retrospect, an ill-advised decision, I announced without further ado: “I’m giving up devil worship for Lent!”
I use the term “ill-advised” because I should’ve known better than to feed Maria’s longstanding suspicions about my tainted Christianity. Thanks to my incautious remark, once Lent concludes I’ll need to watch my back. So Giuseppe informed me this morning, after overhearing snippets of the old lady’s telephone conversation with her priest: “Father, you said you wanted more proof before you’d agree to do an exorcism. Well, listen to what my son-in-law said yesterday!”