by Gabriela Barragan

When I discovered what the religiously-tinted definition of a prude was, back in the 6th grade, I decided I didn’t want to be one.

In my 11-year-old mind, already indoctrinated by a steady stream of Catholic-infused political beliefs and dogma, prudes didn’t sneak Guns N’ Roses tapes, heavy metal magazines, or try smoking an abandoned pack of cigarettes.

But I wasn’t about to turn full-fledged rebel.  In concert with the floweret of rebellion beginning to bloom there was a flash of the most boring of all adages, ready for harnessing at any moment (especially by dieters), and one my Mom stated constantly:  “Everything in moderation”.

So, while I was determined not be a pre-makeover Charlotte Vale from Now Voyager (young spinster goes from nunnery dress to sophisticate on celluloid in black and white) I also wasn’t going to manifest the exhibitionistic Catholic school girl stereotype, with a skirt hiked up to there – the maximal anti-prude.

But the rebel floweret inched a bit taller.  I may not have attempted to set my uniform skirt on fire, but I watched.  And I was disappointed, like everyone else, that the material kind of melted and curled, and that the resulting acrid stench made me and my adolescent comrades run away and stuff our mouths with contraband Hubba Bubba to stave off the caustic tang that permeated our polyester, our Peter Pan collars, and even it seemed, our skin.

More than 20 years later, I’m not as fascinated by cloying bubble gum flavors, burning my uniform in effigy, or espousing the Catholic doctrines I was taught by teachers with (mostly) good intentions.  In those 20 years I’ve met many people of diverse backgrounds.  Through more than a few I observed that faith (not religion, but faith) is not just housed among the very good, the very dogmatic, and those who shun all forms of venial sin.

A notable example:  The best yoga teacher I ever had, a former heroin addict, could drink a bottle of wine and get blazed the night before class and still teach with the kind of patience and in-the-moment presence only gifted instructors possess.  She was a good time gal, and a dedicated and very spiritual yogi – not an either/or.  It gradually became clear that I didn’t have to run from the religious prude archetype proffered by teachers back in my uniform days.  I just had to merely give it my regards and say, “No, thank you”.

I may have veered off the path my parents put me on back in Kindergarten, while they have become even more devout, but I now understand the importance of respecting their beliefs even though they are not okay with mine (maybe slightly alarmed is more like it).  We’ve even managed to have some conversations about our differences without skyrocketing blood pressures on either side (of the aisle).

So, instead of continuing to run, or drowning out the dogma with GN’R, I’ll listen.  I won’t necessarily accept or adopt, but I’ll listen.  My yoga instructor once said:  “flexible in the body, flexible in the mind”.  My sprint now is away from narrowness and rigidity, and toward a more catholic view – but allow me emphasize that lower-case “c”.

–Gabriela Barragan

Further Reading:

My Musical Corkage Fee by Gabriela Barragan, 7/21/09

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