The 1st time sex was first openly mentioned in parochial school was at the start of my freshman year. The first 3 days of school for freshmen girls at Notre Dame consisted of their assembly in the chapel for a religious retreat. There a Jesuit priest, Father Newhall, ranted about hell and the dangers of impure acts before marriage. Initially, I inferred he meant intercourse but it was worse, much worse. Kissing a boy for longer than three seconds was all it took. No problem, I never kissed a boy.
By the 3rd day he expanded into much more serious depravities, of girls touching girls and self-abuse. I sat enthralled on the potential perils of hell but also his expanding my comprehension of potential other sexual sins I never imagined until then.
As a good story teller, he paused when needed for emphasis. He would start with a whisper, slowly increase the tempo then rush into a roar of incredibility of how it could happen, why a girl would condemn herself to eternal damnation. Hitler was a piker compared to his oratory as we listened spellbound.
On the 3rd day he told a story of 2 girls. One visited the other for a sleep over. In the bedroom, they touched one another for a moments pleasure. In the morn, on the way home, the visiting girl’s car was stuck by a speeding train at the local crossing near Notre Dame. He graphically described her body, crushed, crumpled and stuck in the twisted car wreck, blood oozing from her popped out eyes. Her offending hand, however, was sliced off by broken glass and laid asunder splayed and crushed on the steel rail track, flattened to s squishy mess by the train’s wheels.
He then ranted how her corrupt soul, tainted for a moments pleasure, twirled down, down into eternal damnation. He concluded calmly, as matter-of-fact, of her screaming while being stuck upside down in a boiling sulfur pot a punishment too good for her transgression.
Stunned by the imagery I moved my hand away from my lap, relived I remained innocent. The pin drop silence then was broken by the wails of a couple of girls. They collapsed in their pew and were carried out wiling and sobbing, obviously guilty of some travesty.
The retreat was the first time I heard of these sex acts. I knew, however, from 8 years at Saint Clare’s to admit to nothing to nuns and adults but was relieved to be innocent.
Puberty, however, marched on. Hormones coursed through my body in stronger and stronger swirls. Working on a math problem, reading a book, staring out a window it didn’t matter my attention was suddenly diverted as hormones ended their journey in my brain. There was nothing taboo. Impure thoughts fought for attention despite my attempts to think of holy things. If I diverted an impure thought to Jesus crucified on the cross the hormones lifted His lion cloth.
At the start of my sophomore year my constant sex self-education expanded. A few girls at school admitted. "doing it", the euphemism for intercourse. A wild one even bragged about, "doing it" with different boys. She became an instant authority with the rest of us girls listening intently to any scrap of information she imparted. We learned it hurt the first time, boys constantly wanted it and there was a "rubber thing" to keep from getting pregnant.
To be better informed I returned to the city downtown library as sex was a taboo subject in the school library. Checking through books I saw again pictorials of my private parts presented in black and white sketched drawings.
I also checked out male anatomy but having seen younger brothers naked there was not much to learn other than things got a lot bigger at puberty.
Then in my sophomore year at Notre Dame, after two years of puberty, I committed my first mortal sin, a sin of sex. To save on water and gas bills we turned off the shower at home once wet and then soaped up with one of the little used soap bars Mom brought from work. The admonishment about “touching myself” or self-abuse kept me from playing with my private parts but I rationalized the sin of self-abuse excluded breasts. I soaped them, lathered them, squeezed them and washed them again then rinsed them and rubbed them with a towel drying.
After menstruation a through washing of my private area was justified. It kept telling me it needed more soap. I complied because it felt good but kept in mind the priest’s admonishments of self-abuse. Still my hand would dash down for a quick stroke.
Doing so I day dreamed and fantasized, typically about the boy who played basketball at Saint Clare’s in the 8th grade, or a romantic movie scene in one of the downtown theaters on First Street. When it happened, when I crossed the line and couldn’t stop stoking I was Louisa, (Pina Pellicer), the girl who smuggled a gun to Rio (Marlon Brando) in jail, in the movie, "One Eyed Jacks."
We were escaping on a galloping horse. I soaped my private parts, added a little stroking, rubbed my clitoris to the gait of the bouncing saddle. I crossed a line and I couldn’t stop. Just one more, then another. Bending over stroking it happened. A wave of intense pleasure spread across me from head to toe. I discovered sex, not as discussed or thought of but as felt. It felt great yet I knew it was bad, very bad.
I then descended into despair knowing I’d sinned. Worried others in the house heard, I turned on the water full blast to cleanse away guilt but knew I was guilty of a mortal sin, a sin the priest lectured about during "retreat" at the start of Notre Dame, an impure act of self-abuse.
My sin was not with a boy. It was much worse than three seconds of kissing, worse even than intercourse. It was a perversion. I had played with myself in self-abuse, an admission no girl, even the “expert”, at school admitted to.
I had to confess my transgression at school's Friday confession session. To avoid doing so risked eternal damnation, being stuck in burning sulfur or in a boiling pot. How could I bring myself to tell the priest? What was I going to confess to? I scripted my confession.
Bless me father, I have, sinned. In the shower, I touched my private parts and experienced an impure act. No, sounds like I’m a pervert. It’s worse than intercourse.
I committed self-abuse, skip the touched my private parts. No, he’ll ask what was my self-abuse, what private parts, what was I thinking, was it the first time, how did I come to commit this act of perversion? The questions could be endless.
I’ll keep it simple. I committed and impure act father. No, he’ll think intercourse, want to know the name of the boy, if we thwarted God's plan and used a "rubber thing", if I was pregnant, where we did it? Better to plea an impure thought. No, you can't lie in confession. It had to be the perversion of self-abuse, then the questions.
There was, however, a glimmer of hope, a possible easy out. When we were trooped to the nearby Saint Joseph’s church for our confessions there were only 4 priests. One, old Father Frankie, known among the girls as “Father Chomp” because he was always chomping his loose dentures never asked questions in the confessional. He was the chaplain for San Jose Hospital and could do a Mass under half an hour, the sermon limited a few words of, “Be good”. In the confessional, he waited until you finished enumerating your sins, blessed you clean and sent you out with a 3 Hail Mary penance, end of story. It was also rumored he was a bit deaf. Father Chomp could get me clean.
The other 3 were not easy outs and one, Father Pastoria, nick named Father Pastrami due to his breath, was also referred to as the ferret, the one to avoid. When he said Mass his sermons dragged on about the perils of hell and pushed the length of his Mass up to the next hour’s one. In the confessional, he wanted to know every detail, always on the lookout for sins you may have committed unknowingly or failed to report. Even a standard, “I disobeyed my parents,” was pursued with which, how and why.
Friday with classmates sitting in the church pew I awaited my time for confession as each girl went and the rest of us scooted closer to the pew’s edge and the confessional curtain. I prayed Hail Mary’s for the strength to tell the truth, my minding racing for the best phrase. I reminded myself to confess in a low voice to keep from being overheard by a classmate. Mostly, however, I prayed for Father Chomp. As the suspense built up it was apparent the confessions were taking to long for a Father Chomp out.
Eventually I was at the end of the pew and faced the red velvet curtain of truth. As the light blinked off my side of the priest's booth with the departure of a confessor I rose in trepidation from the pew, pushed the curtain aside, entered, I pulled the velvet curtain closed behind to ensure no classmate could see me and to deafen the sound of my confession and knelt before the screen behind which a little wood door was closed as the priest listened to the confessor on the other side, my heart pounding.
Suddenly the door slid open with the priest's ear bent to the screen to hear my sins. Even in the dark I could recognize him and knew he could me. It was Father Pastrami!
"Bless you, what’s your confession?"
I started out easy.
"Bless me father it has been one week since my last confession. I have sinned. I disobeyed my mother by not helping with the dishes. I teased my younger brothers. I argued with my father."
“Why did you argue with your father?”
“He won’t let me get a driver’s learning permit.”
A brief lecture ensued on needing to wait to drive and the virtue of patience.
Knowing as he rambled on about patience I needed more, I added as he finished.
"I cheated on a test"
The latter an offering gasp to offset my failure to mention my impure act of self-abuse. As I said it I knew it was another sin, another lie.
I’m lying to a priest! Must I now add my lies to self-abuse?
"Is there anything else?"
“Which subject did you cheat on?”
With a little further inquiry and lecture about studying to make cheating unnecessary I was let go.
As usual my penance was three Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers, normal venial sins retribution.
Drained, I crossed myself, got up and left the confessional. Instead of feeling clean as I pushed the curtain aside and exited to do my penance before the altar worse guilt assailed me than prior to entering. I was among the damned, in mortal sin, doomed to eternal hell if suddenly killed in an atomic attack or hit by a car. My vile hand sending my soul to perpetual hell of burning sulfur.
I considered doing a bigger penance to correct for my mortal sins but knew only a priest could wipe away my transgressions. I was damned unless I fessed up to it all which I couldn't.
Sunday Mom insisted I attend Mass and take Holy Communion as usual. I tried to eat something in the morning to provide an excuse not to as the Catholic Church required not only a soul cleansed of mortal sins but also a fast from midnight before communion back then. She, however, watched to ensure I didn’t eat.
At Mass, I genuflected and crossed myself as we entered theback in the pew pew while my mind raced for an excuse to skip communion. Kneeling in the pew, head bowed, as the altar boy rang bells to announce transubstantiation of the host my quandary found no resolution. With no excuse when Mom rose in the pew and motioned me to follow; I morosely tagged along to the altar railing, knelt, stuck out my tongue, and took communion and walked back to our pew with God the Trinity in my mouth and my soul in unrepentant mortal sin. Back in the pew, kneeling with eyes closed, I converted into obdurate sinner.
God’s in my impure body, there’s no salvation for me now. I’m on the dark side.
I tried to behave in the shower but soon sinned again. With mortal sins piling up and unable to wipe the slate clean I repudiated my parochial orthodoxy, stopped carrying Saint Teresa's holy picture in my purse and stopped wearing my Saint Christopher medal knowing I would never be a nun.
Accepting my soul was damned; committing other sins no longer mattered. I created an elaborate secret puppet shadow to placate my actions. My disingenuous puppet shadow abetted soapy showers, took communion in sin and eventually led me to a life of adultery.
Thereafter she looked forward to my showers.
Author Notes: With mortal sins piling up on her soul assumed to be going to hell a girl loses her religious outlook and develops a hidden life.