On (not) being Catholic

I am, by any reasonable standard, a grown-ass man. Furthermore, by most reasonable standards I’ve been a grown-ass man for a couple of decades or more. You would think, after all this time, I would have some idea of what I was like. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that of all the available topics for me to know things about, “what I’m like” should really be at least in the top five or so in terms of how much I know about that topic compared to other people.

And yet.

I am an atheist. I have been an atheist for my entire life; there has never been even a single minute where I believed in God. My family is Catholic on both sides; my Mom actually attended Catholic schools for at least most of her pre-college education, and I think my Dad went to Catholic schools before high school. I could be wrong about that, but he’ll see this, so he can let me know. They made no attempt to raise me in the Church– I wasn’t baptized, never attended confirmation or anything like that, and we never went to church except for very rare occasions with my grandmother on Dad’s side. That said, I have referred to myself as “biologically Catholic” on any number of occasions– look, I just did it again right there— and I can fake Catholicism way better than I can fake other religions. My first teaching job was at a Catholic school– that’s the church right there, in that picture– and while I didn’t participate in prayers or anything like that I got along with everyone just fine and I was never aware of anyone being upset (or, frankly, aware) of the heathen in their midst.

Why do I mention this? We went to a funeral on Thursday, and said funeral was at a white Protestant church. And when I say “Protestant,” I don’t mean, like, Lutherans or something, where their Protestantism is basically Catholicism with some of the edges sanded off, I mean, like, there were chairs and shit, and there was a fucking drum set behind the altar. At one point a man got up to sing, and that man who was singing was wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt at a funeral.

The Lord’s Prayer cannot be made into a song, by the way. He tried. He tried mightily. And he was talented! But that prayer is not a song.

Now, I feel the need to make something clear here: I have spent plenty of time in my life attacking religion. I’ve mellowed out a lot about it as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve done it. This isn’t that. Everyone at that church was perfectly nice, the service was fine other than the singing-the-Lord’s-prayer bit, and other than basically thinking the entire thing is fundamentally ridiculous I don’t give much of a shit how people practice their religion so long as it doesn’t affect me, and that drum set on the stage did not affect me one bit. But I’ve got to admit something: I was really surprised at how strong my reaction to seeing the actual sanctuary was. That picture up there is what I’m used to, y’all. And I had twenty or thirty oh what the fuck moments within my first fifteen minutes or so inside that place. I’m not necessarily comfortable in Catholic churches but at least I understand them, right? This? This I don’t get. Like, I know most Christian denominations don’t really go for robes and stoles and collars and such but apparently I really like being able to pick the pastor out in a crowd? And this guy was just, like, a dude in a suit, like a dozen other people in the building.

Who knew.

An actual conversation that happened today

“Mr. Siler, I’m lonely. I need love.”

“I love all my students.”

“No, I mean physical love.”

“…I cannot help you with that. Go to class, please.”

In which no, you cannot

I discovered earlier today that this had happened– read the first couple of paragraphs if you don’t immediately see why I’m linking to it. The lady who wrote it sent me a very nice email about it, which I think deserves a response, if only to point out that I haven’t thrown myself down a hole or anything since I wrote that post. I was fascinated enough by it that I actually outed myself to the rest of the math team this afternoon so that I could share the article with them, so if any of my co-workers abruptly stop talking to me in the next few days I guess I know why.

I’m not quite sure what the hell happened today. My observing student taught his first lesson today, to my first and second hour, who were absolutely perfect for him, a feat that led to me spending $20 on candy this afternoon on the way home, and I intend to distribute every single piece tomorrow. Then third and fourth hours showed their asses in a big way; I had to put three kids out, and then the class period ended abruptly when the entire 8th grade got called downstairs for a meeting on no notice at all.

Oh, and Hosea asked four different girls to either be his girlfriend or to let him kiss them today, so I had to deal with that. One of them brought me a note he had written her. Check this out:

She has declined his offer to be her pudding.

I am not currently aware of whether the same poem was also used for the other girls, or whether those requests were in person.

God, I need tomorrow to be quiet.

On assistance, supernatural and otherwise

This post is mostly existential horror of some kind or another so here is a kitten.

I have a student in the hospital; it turns out that Covid-19 and sickle cell anemia are not, in fact, two great tastes that go great together. Those first seven words of the post are, at the moment, the sum total of my knowledge and I don’t know what kind of shape she’s in, beyond “bad enough that she’s in the hospital.”

I have never really believed that prayer or well-wishes or positive thoughts or anything like that actually held any power to change and/or fix anything, particularly in the lives of third parties, but if anybody has any spoons left to toss in the direction of a fourteen-year-old they’ve never met, I’m willing to be proven wrong.


You might remember Hosea, who I talked about a week or so ago. That post is rather down on Hosea as a human being, and while I didn’t write anything in there that I disagree with, one of the interesting things about the kid is that he’s also got a generous streak that, on the occasions when he allows it to surface, is a mile wide. The problem is that it doesn’t come out very often.

He stopped me at lunch today to ask me if I knew about the Gofundme he’d started. Oh God, I thought, because generally when someone starts a Gofundme it’s not because something wonderful has happened, and I have no idea why this kid might think that he needs money badly enough that he’s crowdfunding for it on the Internet. So I ask him what it’s for, and he tells me it’s “to improve the world,” and doesn’t really elaborate. It’s on Facebook, he says. I tell him I don’t have a Facebook account, but if he wants he can email me the URL and I’ll take a look at it.

And he does. And I do.

And this Gofundme starts off with this YouTube video, which I was able to watch until the point where the teacher tells her class “I’m going to step out for a minute” and just bounces, and then there’s his little spiel for his funding, which is literally that he wants to “make the world better.”

He wants ten thousand dollars.

There’s not, like, a plan or anything. Just, like, hey, “if you want to make the world a better place donate now!!” and yes, that’s a direct quote.

I, uh, don’t know what to do with this. He wants me to donate, of course, and I don’t want to be perceived as being against improving the world– I am, in fact, staunchly pro-improvement in all its facets– but, like, I’m not just going to hand this kid some money, am I? I mean, I could make a token contribution, I suppose, like, $5 or something like that; I don’t know if Gofundme works like Kickstarter does, where if you don’t hit your funding target you don’t get any of the money. And it’s not like the kid has any chance of hitting $10,000 short of some sort of bolt-from-the-blue viral explosion scenario. Plus, like, I don’t think 8th graders can even use Gofundme. That’s gotta be some sort of TOS violation, right?

Do I do anything else about it, though? Should I tell his mom or something? I mean, it’s not like it’s wrong for him to be trying to raise money to make the world a better place, and while it’s not necessarily any of my Goddamned business one way or the other, I feel like if my kid was trying to raise ten thousand bucks on the Internet even as a foolish and naïve expression of hope for the future, if some other adult I knew found out about it and didn’t let me know about it I might be a trifle peeved. I feel like if my kid is trying to get that kind of money from strangers, maybe as a parent that should be something I know about. But what if she knows? How the hell does that conversation go?

(For the record, this is also a bit of a Problem Parent, which complicates things. I don’t want the kid in trouble. I can imagine a world where this causes that.)

The best solution is probably to sit down with him for a few minutes and give him a better idea of what this site is actually for, and the idea that when you raise money you generally do it for something specific, possibly followed up with a promise to donate if he decides to do a fundraiser for the humane society or whatever rather than this nebulous “make the world better” thing.

(Thinking about this a bit more, how the hell do they give you the money if a Gofundme is successfully funded? This kid’s fourteen; surely he can’t have hooked up a bank account to the site or something. That’s the other “maybe notify Mom” detail; let’s say that hypothetically Hosea snookers four or five adults into donating money, and now he’s got $75 or whatever that Mom didn’t give him and when she asks he says the money is from his teachers? Christ.)

Advice or suggestions are welcome, obviously.

I swear this story is true

Or: how not to speak around middle school students.

I was walking down to the office to drop off some paperwork when I saw one of the new teachers in the building having a conversation with one of her students in the hallway. Because this is relevant to the story, I will reveal that she is a relatively new teacher– second or third-year, I think– and is of an appropriate age for that, so early/mid twenties or so. Seeing her reminded me that I’ve been meaning to email her about a mutual student we have for a couple of days and I keep forgetting to do it, so I thought I’d take a moment and just talk to her in person.

By the time I got to her room, she and the student were back inside, so I just stood in the doorway until she noticed me and asked a question, using these precise words, which would prove to be her undoing: “Could I borrow you for a sec?”

You might possibly already see where this is going. To her credit, she realized mid-sentence that she was in the midst of making a terrible mistake and just … powered through it like a damn champion, not breaking stride or stammering and joining me in the hallway, where we exchanged a glance that said we will never speak of this again, other than when I run to the rest of the math team and tell them, then tell the entire internet tonight, and somehow only a small number of her seventh-grade (thank God she didn’t have any of my 8th graders in the room) class seems to have noticed.

Because the exact words that she inadvertently chose to respond to my question, in perhaps the single most awkward exchange I have ever had with a young woman in my life, were “For you, Mr. Siler, I have all the secs you need.”

Say it out loud, if you need to.

I have a silly job.