Monday, February 27, 2006

Ash Wednesday Etiquette

When I moved to the United States in 1985, I spent my first few years in Albany, New York. Like many American cities, Albany is heavily Catholic.

1986 was my first experience of Ash Wednesday in a predominantly Catholic town. At the time, I was working as a teller at the headquarters of Albany Savings Bank. I remember serving a woman with a conspicuous dark grey stain on her forehead. I distinctly recall thinking that it was probably a stain that she accidently smudged on her face after reading a loose-inked newspaper.

To this day I am so glad that I did not remark on the stain.

With this in mind, I thought it important to try my hand at a little parody entitled:

Ash Wednesday Etiquette ... in Massachusetts

Here's the appropriate etiquette for this Wednesday when you meet total strangers in Southie or the North End of Boston with ash on their forehead.

Adopt a pleasant Jewish grandmotherly kind of voice. You know, like the character played by Mike Myers on "Coffee Tawk" on Saturday Night Live.

Smile at person with smudged forehead. Lick your thumb. Say in pleasant Jewish grandmotherly kind of voice: "Wait. There's some schmutz on your lovely face. Let me wipe that off you."

Use your spit-wetted thumb to try to erase the ash from stranger's forehead.

As you wipe your saliva on the person's forehead, say this: "You know you shouldn't be reading those messy free newspapers. That Metro newsprint gets all over your hands. Why don't you read a nice glossy magazine instead like Cosmo, The Advocate, or Vanity Fair? Or even a free paper, such as Bay Windows, that won't end up messing your clothes and face."

If the stranger has not run away, called the police, or assaulted you before you finish, finish by saying: "There! That's better! You have such a lovely face. You should meet my son/daughter/intersexed offspring (use whichever is appropriate). He/she is an accountant/doctor/dentist/fetish model/same-sex marriage activist."

Repeat with every forehead-smudged stranger as needed or until you are exorcised or have your arm broken.

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