• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.


A Catholic church in the area recently sponsored a trip for teens to a local seminary. It appeared in the bulletin under the title "Hike and Hail Mary!" which makes it absolutely the most awesomely named thing I've seen since the article about a tightrope performer in Korea entitled "Skywalker Crosses Han Solo."

You have to do this with The Kids Today, I've found, because "Nuns are Neat-o!" probably isn't going to herd them in. At Notre Dame, the Office for Vocations scattered posters around the male dorms featuring two priests in full Roman collar and sunglasses, staring at the camera over the words "JOIN THE MEN IN BLACK." (At the time, I wasn't even aware that Saint Mary's, with its walking-around audience of 1600 women, even had an office for vocations. I had to look it up just now to make sure one existed at all.)

There is a severe priest and nun shortage on, and several orders, with shocking population pyramids far more dramatic than the one we face as a nation, are simply phasing themselves out-- no new sisters, no new brothers, because the leaders are projecting that there won't be enough future members to care for the religious who join right now.

Whereas not one single person ever sat me down with a veil and an application form, my parents received almost daily priest-and-nun job ads as they grew up. It was very much a part of the system, a strongly encouraged professional avenue from within Catholicism rather than the sensational "No! Really?" type of decision it is today. Maybe it's because the job field is so open to women and both sexes are now attending college in record numbers without the help of religious orders, but despite twenty-two years in the Catholic bowling ghetto, I know exactly zero ladies and two men of my generation who full-on chose this path. One man spent a year in Colorado Springs Holy Cross Novitiate. The other I chose to cheat on my then-boyfriend with. Both have since left the seminary.

Oh, crap, it's me. I'm the problem.

In more ways than one. In the days when the orders could pick and choose, my mother applied to the Sisters of Charity, who politely told her to kiss off. Their loss. My mom would have been an awesome nun. But you'll excuse me for a bit of selfishness when I announce that I'm really rather glad the Lord said, "Nooooooo-- I need you to give birth to a person who gets lost in handicapped bathroom stalls instead."

not on the SAT future career check-box at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Pain Don't Hurt

Thanks to Holy Week and the publication of this, I'm continuing to reflect on pain, the first emotion we are aware that another human being experiences (bong hit). I'm settling with the notion that as a writer, I sell my pain--wrap it up in adjectives and put it up for auction on the Internet.

Maybe this is why I could never bend myself to a normal, adult job. The same obsessive-compulsive disorder has mercifully not descended upon Julie The Nephews Mama-- it found no quarter in the sharp right angles of her accountant's mind. Josh The Pilot and I just signed our first joint tax return (I'm assuming that there is some gift shop in America which sells just the right greeting card for the occasion.) She prepared it for us. I paged through the neatly organized stacks of paper, the lines filled in precisely so, the directions highlighted. It reminded me of the evening my grandfather and Country The Brother-In-Law's grandfather once spent, seated on my parents' condo balcony and incredulously watching the lights of jet after jet descend into the Cincinnati airport. "Boy, they really know where they're going, don't they?" my grandfather said. "Right to it, every time!"

This was no big deal to the pilots and the controllers, of course. But for a person born only six years after the Wright Brothers' flight, it was something which awed and humbled him; it was logically understood and yet personally unattainable. It was exactly what I felt as I stared at the evenly arranged paper clips: How'd she do that? And where did she find the ability and the fortitude to spend day after day of her life doing it?

I suppose this is where my endless parade of day jobs comes in. The tributaries of pain and experience form a river of material-- it is rocky, dangerous, and wild, but it is deep. Shakespeare himself once drew from it. As a young man, he helped his father make gloves of flexible hide, hour after hour; later, in Twelfth Night, he compared truth to the highly stretchable kid leather. It's a deft metaphor which would have never appeared... had he not a day job.

my way or the highway at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Jam Out Amongst The People

For those of you who may have been having login issues over at JamsBio... the drama has ended. Go forth, log in, and jam. Many apologies for the beta-ness of it all. If there are still problems, screech to media@drinktothelasses.com. And the door's still wide open on the invites, so if you're all in, wave at us from the same address.


Welcome FreelanceSwitch Readers

Fear not Monday.

rose girl no more at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Eat and Grow

copy-of-100_2089.jpgWhen Will The Baby Nephew was an even younger nephew, maybe a month old, I'd lay down on a couch, settle him back-up on my chest and pull a blanket over us both. He'd put up with this. He had no choice. He was in Lump Stage, and not in a position to give me any lip.

There are still naps, which I covet, but now he will tolerate maybe one story and two minutes in a rocking chair before requesting that everyone leave his royal presence. I lamented this until Josh The Pilot pointed out, "He's one. That's his job right now. Eat and grow." My job is most certainly not to grow. If anything, I need to de-grow.

The child has discovered how to throw tantrums now, shrieking and beating his tiny little fists on the glass door separating him from his parents' computer if they dare to do anything with it but play McQueen's Desert Dash, for why else have a monitor and an Internet connection?

Most fittingly-- since he no doubt apparently learned this behavior from me--I was present for Will's very first fit: His parents were putting up the Christmas tree, and my job was to run Nephew Interference. We moved some DVD's out of the way to make room, at which point Will began wandering after the adults, whimpering piteously. I put the movies out of his reach. He wanted no part of Aunt Beth then and began tailing after his mother, who was darting around the kitchen, and if you have never seen one-year-old try to fully mirror the quick pivotations of a mother of two, I highly recommend it. He wound up making orbit after tearful, wobbly orbit in his mother's wake, a sad little space station.

We consulted worriedly with one another: Was he traumatized that we were upsetting the balance of his home? Was he hungry? Was he tired? Was he sick? Julie the NephewsMama put a concerned hand to his forehead. Finally I herded both boys away from the action with the promise of watching a movie on Aunt Beth's computer. Jim looked dubious, as though fearing some sort of trick (tm Tom Wolfe). Will wanted nothing to do with anything--until he saw me crack open a DVD case. Then? All smiles. "Hee!" he said, his vocal pronouncement of approval.

Mommy was two parts relieved, one part exasperated, one part incredulous. She called for children's father. "He's fine now," she said, pointing to the baby. "That was all about wanting to watch a movie. His first tantrum." Country The Brother-In-Law noted this as the probably the first of many, many, and many. "You," she said, making a face at her second child, imitating devil's horns at the back of her head. Will, oblivious, continued to squat on the floor, applauding Mickey Mouse.

copy-of-100_2102.jpgHis brother, meanwhile, is exploring his career options. We've already ruled out jockeydom; we may now add another to the list.

Last month, Uncle Josh helped him with a toddler computer game in which Jim was expected to move a little electronic bar at the bottom of the screen to catch a little electronic ball. It was single-player Pong for the new millennium, and therefore highly awesome. But instead of actually moving the bar, Jim instead preferred to watch the ball inch closer and closer, clutching his hair and wailing, "Oh no, oh no! What's gonna happen?!"

"You would make a terrible air traffic controller," his uncle said finally.

However, Jim may yet have a future on Project Runway. He was recently permitted to pick out his own clothes on the very day a blizzard moved across the Tri-State area. This is what he selected:



Sweatpants and a sweater vest. He ran around the house looking like Alex P. Keaton on the skids, wondering why his arms were cold.

But, having lived through the eighties, I've seen--and participated in--much, much worse. I purposefully arrayed myself in neon, people. I think we'll see this on Wall Street in a decade or so.

banana clip at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com