Monday, 8 April 2013

Social Awkwardness: The Confession Stories

My biggest phobia since I was pretty young was socially awkward situations. Some people aren't affected by awkwardness. They walk into the awkward situation... and embrace the awkwardness. Or shrug it off, one of the two. I used to feel embarrassed to the roots of my very being. It was like I was blushing from the inside out. (Indian skin doesn't show blushes very well. Which I would count as a very good thing.)

Over the years, I learned to cope a little better with possibly socially awkward situations... mostly by avoiding them. Or pushing them to the back of my mind, so I don't think about them for years. Another great way to deal with such situations is to blog about them. Also, it helps to throw in the word' awkward' as much as possible.

You, lucky reader, get to be embarrassed WITH me! Now, when I experience awkwardness, I think, "This would make a great story!"

One of the best opportunities for social awkwardness for Catholics are Confessions. I mean, saying your sins aloud to a stranger (even though he is the representative of Christ, who isn't a stranger at all) is awkward in itself, but then you thrown in a dose of ME, and it just gets.... horribly awkward.

A couple of years ago I was about to go for Confession in an unfamiliar church. I've hardly ever used confessionals, usually I seem to be sitting in a chair close to the priest. (On one occasion, I was in a car in the parking lot of an airport. )

Anyway, I saw the line of people waiting to go in, so I waited in a pew. From where I was, it looked like there were two doors, and I saw people going in through both doors, so I assumed there were two priests, which made sense with the number of people waiting. Finally I saw someone emerge from one door, and I entered, and knelt down.

I peered through the grill, but didn't see a thing. "Is this normal?" I wondered. It was kind of dim. And I couldn't hear anything. "Do I wait for him to say something, or should I just start?" I was already hot and uncomfortable. I think what makes me feel the worst is when I'm not sure WHAT I'm supposed to.

So... I just started.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I last made my Confession in ...."

Without the slightest acknowledgement from the priest, I kept talking. I could hear the murmur of the other priest and confessor from the other side. But not a peep out of mine.Why didn't I just stop? Well, I didn't know what to say. "Father, are you there? Can you hear me? Because it feels like I'm talking to myself." Yeah, no. I just couldn't.

You are wincing, waiting to hear the worst, aren't you?

I WAS talking to myself.

But not quite. It turned out that there was just. one. priest. He took it in turns to turn to first one side of the confessional, and then the other. I was basically doing a run through of my entire confession. Aloud. But what was really awkward was that it was quite possible that while I was talking, the priest COULD hear me... and so could the other confessor.

Collective awkward wince, everyone.

I'm going to count it as a victory that I kept my cool, swallowed my embarrassment, and made my entire (identical) confession to the same priest a few minutes later, after I realized my mistake, and the grill really went up.

This story has no moral. 

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