Tag Archives: teenagers

Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Charlie Charlie…I don’t care if you’re there

Charlie     I am currently standing in my dining room, staring at two pencils in the vague shape of a cross (or an X depending on where you are standing) waiting to see if something creepy happens. It’s been 10 minutes…and nothing.

I’m slightly surprised by this. After all, it took a while to get them to balance in the first place, which is interesting considering they are exactly the same length and octagonal. I assumed the flat sides would make this a dab easier, but with the metal and the eraser, there is a definite weight distribution issue and scientific principles being what they are I expected gravity to do its thing and cause something to topple fairly quickly. Yeah, not so much.

My son theorizes that the problem with this experiment may be in the fact that neither pencil is sharpened. He’s also pointed out that they are not sitting atop a piece of loose leaf paper festooned with a lot of yes or no options. However, perhaps the real problem is the fact that I have not called out The Question, guaranteed to get things moving. After all, I’m not that crazy!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, I am referring to the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” the latest craze to set social media abuzz since the infamous “dress” debacle a few months ago. “Charlie Charlie” is a game in which participants invoke the name of a supposed ancient Mexican demon and ask him yes or no questions. Rumor has it, if you manage to get him to answer your call, or um…pencils…you may not be able to get rid of him, could become possessed and may have to suffer an unpleasant Catholic ritual known as an exorcism. Lest you think this game is is nothing more than harmless teenage fun, real live exorcists have gone on the record (and gained a dab of publicity for themselves) warning kids not to play it. Naturally this means every kid in America is going to be staring at a couple of pencils this weekend and arguing with their friends over whether or not anyone accidentally jostled the table, blew on it or if that minuscule movement denoted a demonic presence or if it was merely coincidental.

Needless to say that as a professional cynic, I have all kinds of problems with this game starting with its name. How many ancient Mexican demons are named “Charlie” in the first place? I might believe Carlos or some derivation thereof but Charlie? That sounds like a cab driver, someone’s uncle or a lovable bald kid with a really cool dog. I have to say if I were going to come up with a bogus demon, I’m pretty sure I could come up with a better name than Charlie. Still, it’s nice and lyrical, everyone can pronounce it and I seem to be the only person questioning it, so…there ya go. I’m also stymied by his choice of communication tools. Pencils? Seriously? Outside of math, no one uses pencils anymore,  and if he insists on writing instruments, shouldn’t we get to see what a demon’s handwriting looks like? Yeah, I think so too.

Another point of contention is why he is only capable of answering a “yes” or “no” question? I suspect this has something to do with the fact that he can’t write, but come on Chuck, work with me here! If you are a representative of the underworld, I think we are entitled to a bit more, don’t you? If I can’t hear your manifesto on why you think evil trumps good, I really don’t want  you to tell me if I am a girl (yes) or if it is going to rain today (no).

I’m also unsure as to why kids think dialing up a demon is a great use of their time. Wouldn’t praying be more effective? We have about a gazillion patron saints to chat with (and they have proven track records to boot) but I guess good and holy people such as St. Francis, St. Theodora Guerin or even Saint Pope John Paul II lack the seedy forbidden fruit draw of satanic stooges such as…Charlie. Here’s a tip: give as much fervor to your prayers as you do balancing these pencils and staring at them and then let me know which one works out in your favor. I guarantee that in one of those scenarios, if you actually get an answer, you aren’t going to be calling a priest begging him to make it go away!

Look, I am not perfect. I played “Bloody Mary” with my friends when I was little (I never really understood the point of that game either, one of my friends swore that her aunt made contact with Janis Joplin so I was willing to give it a whirl) and at one point I had an Ouija board, but deep down inside, I really don’t believe in a lot of that stuff. No offense to demons, ghosts, spirits or the things that go bump in the night, but I don’t. If they don’t want to believe in me, that’s fine. In fact, I think it’s a fair trade off. However, I also don’t see the big whoop-dee-do about kids gathering around the table to argue about whether or not they made contact with the other side. I’m amazed that in this high tech world, kids will still gather around the most rudimentary of materials in order to give themselves a bit of a fright and oddly enough – it gives me a warm glow to know that the more kids change, the more they stay the same.

Of course if you are going to call on someone from the hereafter, why not Jimi Hendrix, Elvis or Freddie Mercury? My guess is that reaching them will have the same success rate as “Charlie” and your parents won’t freak out as much.


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March MHH Column: Mowing down my options

Grass    As a teenager, I was hardly an invaluable help around the house. Though I improved as an adult, I am ashamed to admit that I was once an inept pack rat that could barely make a bed, couldn’t do laundry or cook anything more ambitious than canned corn.

So why would I spontaneously decide to mow the grass at the age of 16?

Simple I wanted to go out that night, but my mother told me that she wanted my help with the yard work. (Read: I stood there and held the bag for the grass clippings.) I reasoned that if I mowed before she got home, she would be proud of my initiative and have no reason to keep me in for the night. It was a classic win-win situation.

I went to the shed and extracted the mower, taking care to check the gas tank prior to starting it. The dipstick read that it was full, but there was so little fuel on the metal that I thought I was reading it wrong. I squinted down the dark, narrow hole, but I couldn’t see anything so I got the gas can from the garage and began to “fill ‘er up.”

That’s when I noticed another screw cap on the other side of the engine. When I loosened it I saw that it was full of what was obviously gasoline and that I had just put fuel in the oil tank.

Now the way I saw it, I had two options. I could a.) Put it back and say nothing. It was unlikely my parents would suspect me in the first place, but they might think that someone broke in, vandalized our equipment and file a police report. Who needed that on their conscience? Or I could b.) Get it fixed before my mother came home.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that my neighbor did. He was the father of a friend and (even better) a teddy bear of a guy. I raced over to his driveway in gales of tears, threw myself on his mercy and told him what had happened.

“OK, why don’t you push it over here and I will drain the oil and get you set up before your mom gets home,” he smiled, understandingly

Thirty minutes later I was back in business and just as I suspected, my mother was so proud to see me working hard that she readily agreed to my plans for the evening. I could have gotten away with it, but a few weeks later, I confessed to what happened. My father seemed amused and after hearing my tale, he went to ask my friend’s father how much he owed him for the gas and the oil.

“No charge,” he told him. “One of these days my own daughter will end up in a mess and will need you to bail her out. We’ll call it even then.”

“Deal,” my dad told him with a handshake.


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Glo Column September: A whole new “period” in my life

red-gift     There is a video making the rounds on social media concerning a young lady so eager to grow up that she actually fakes a certain female experience. When her mother discovers that she is lying, she throws her a humiliating party to celebrate the supposed occasion. It’s funny, but also a little disturbing. A.) Who fakes something like that? and B.) Nice parenting skills, Lady! Your daughter will be in therapy for life!

I guess I was weird. I didn’t have the same fascination with the whole thing other girls my age did. In fact, I was perfectly OK with that parade passing me by completely. The whole operation seemed like a huge inconvenience, not to mention a bit of a mess and I wanted no part of it. I hoped that I might be a medical anomaly, the grand exception to the rule, or at the very least, would follow in my mother’s footsteps and avoid it until I was 16. No such luck. Two weeks after my 12th birthday, IT happened. The event I had been dreading ever since I read Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I became a woman…five minutes before entering the seventh grade.

There is something disconcerting about a routine trip to the restroom on the First Day of school turning into a life-altering right of passage; especially one that prompts mothers to become weepy and make ridiculous comments about this unwarranted and unwanted transformation like, “I guess you’re not my little girl anymore! Congratulations!”

This was not an accomplishment. I didn’t do anything, my ovaries did. And if I am no longer a little girl, then what the heck was I? Seriously, an hour before, I was a normal 12-year-old who still slept with a Cabbage Patch doll and played Barbies on a regular basis. Now after one little bathroom break, my reproductive system was fully developed and I was capable of bringing new life into the world.

I was so not ready for that level of responsibility.

Other womanly endeavors such as wearing pantyhose and training bras had proven to be big let downs and I suspected this would disappoint me as well. Not only would I have to deal with this hoopla on a monthly basis for the next four decades, but I would also have to endure possible stomach pains, migraines and avoid the color white until my mid 50’s. Thanks so much for the gift Mother Nature…what’s your return policy?

To her credit, my mother didn’t throw a party in honor of the occasion and was understated about the whole thing, but I still felt like there was a big neon sign above me announcing my condition. When the initial festivities were over, I stared at myself in the mirror to confirm that I didn’t look any different, (I would only do that one other time in my life.) However, I remained convinced that everyone would know. How I would make it through the school day? What if I ran out of supplies? How was I supposed to walk normally with what felt like a king-sized pillow shoved into my underwear? There were so many hypothetical questions running through my head, all punctuated with an unmistakable period and like it or not, I was going to have to get used to it. One down…only 509 to go.

Though it would happen time and time again, and on occasions far more embarrassing than the first day of school including field trips, graduation my wedding day and even family vacations. In that moment, I could not think of anything more mortifying than having to explain to my brand new (and male) teacher exactly why I needed to go to the girls’ room yet again.

Unless of course, it was telling my father.



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