What are you giving up for Lent?

February 13, 2013

I didn’t mean for this to be Catholicism week on my blog but it’s going that way. I don’t have an interview with a saint lined up for Friday or anything though, don’t worry.


A few days ago my friend Erica asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Ugh. It’s Lent again?

My first instinct was to say "Nintendo," which has been my joke answer since about 7th grade once I had passed the point of actually wanting to play Nintendo (unlike my brother, for whom giving up Nintendo would actually have been a sacrifice.) This is an example of your traditional sarcastic Catholic answer, which often takes the form of "Catholicism" when questioned "What are you giving up for Lent?" (This year the popular sarcastic answer is "The Pope.")

But Lent is a complicated time for Catholics who have one foot in and one foot out of the faith. Why do we get ashes, give things up, stop eating meat on Fridays? Many of us don't exactly remember but we do it anyway because it's ingrained, because it's strangely fun ("What are you giving up for Lent?" is a good conversation starter) and we have those old feelings of obligation.

My first thought was "Booze" and then I felt like Dan Aykroyd did in Ghostbusters when the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man popped into his head. "No wait! Sugar. Cheese. Facebook. Aargh!" The second I thought it, I knew that's what I needed to give up based on the fact that I really, really didn't want to.

After I had the baby, alcohol took on a new role in my life. I mean, I always enjoyed it. But a glass of wine at the end of the day after having a kid just takes on a different feeling and meaning than it did before, partially because to go out to a bar and get one is an expensive, inconvenient luxury that comes along a lot less often. Pre-baby, I rarely used to drink at home, except when people came over, but now people come over all the time, to see the baby, plus we’re home all the time. Holding the baby in one hand while balancing a glass in another is something I'm getting pretty good at. So maybe it’s worth just working on cutting back.

I'm also trying to lose those last ten baby pounds. Nobody cares if I lose this weight but me. I can fit into my clothes. I look more or less the same as I did before I had the baby. But I know I'd like to lose them and I'm pretty sure that cutting out the booze for a while will help, not to mention that I signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Mile race in a few months and I know it'd be a lot easier to run it without a ten pound barbell hanging from my neck. (I also decided to quit weighing this Lent, too, in a slightly more positive pledge.)

I looked at my calendar to see if I had many events coming up that would be utterly worthless without me drinking and sure enough there are some that will be tough: Valentine’s Day. Rosie Schaap's alcohol-themed reading this Friday. Funny Ha-Ha next Friday. Various get-togethers with friends. What was I thinking?

It's not that big a sacrifice, I know, but it's a challenge I knew I should take on by how much I didn't want to. "You just had a baby!" some friends offered to me as an excuse. "You didn't drink for nine whole months!" Well, that's not totally true and that argument doesn't really fly: this would be something I do for myself (and I guess maybe God? But I'm not going to get into that). I also don't buy into that whole exceptions thing: cheating is cheating, even if it's on Sundays. If my first thought was "You should go without drinking for a month and some change," it's probably worth trying.

So here we go. If I'm out and I'm at a bar, take a look at my hand and if I'm drinking something that looks suspiciously fun, feel free to say "But you published a blog about this" and shame me to death. Let's do this. Come Easter Sunday, it’ll be all about the mimosas at brunch, hold the O.J.

What are you giving up for Lent? (And if you’ve got a sarcastic answer, it had better be a really hilarious, original one, and “Giving up reading your blog” does not count.)