“That dimple on the inside of your wrist?” says Sister Mary Herman. “It’s a scar from Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s where the nails were hammered through. His agony was so great that you bear the mark of it. Remember his pain and your sin every time you move your hand.”
Sister Mary Herman teaches us to hate our bodies and ourselves. She doesn’t stop at the shameful dark places that already embarrass us. We are bad. We deserve the hell that is surely waiting for us.
We are ten years old.
She is one tough nun. Built like a linebacker with a five-o’clock shadow to match, Sister Mary Herman glares at us from beneath her wimple. She is heavily-upholstered and traditional – no modern habits for her. Her ankles hang over her sensible stern lace-up oxfords. Steel-rimmed glasses magnify her pale beady little eyes. She wields a ruler as a weapon.
And yet we are resilient.
We count the whiskers sprouting from her chin. We watch the spittle fly as she works up into some particularly gruesome tale of errant children rightly punished. We somehow know that she’s a crazy old bat.
She was probably my age at the time.
We carry the scars of her rough handling — but she didn’t win. We’ve all enjoyed the hell out of big ripe juicy lives, despite our shameful sinful wrists.
I do hear Sister Mary Herman’s voice in these trendy days of radical self-acceptance and love. She scoffs at every self-help article that tells me to forgive myself for my flaws. She snorts at popular wisdom that tells me to embrace my imperfections. She sneers and scowls out of the mirror at me.
Now, though, I can stick my tongue out at her. There are perks to being an adult.