12 Things Only People Who Grew Up Catholic Understand (That Guilt Never, Ever Goes Away)

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Comedian Stephen Colbert listens during a hearing before the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee September 24, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to examine the needs of immigration agricultural workers for the farming industry. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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I can spot someone who was raised in a Catholic family from several rosary-lengths away. The signs are all the same: apologizing for seemingly nothing, quietly fearing upside-down crosses, recalling the entirety of the Nicene Creed without even meaning to. Although I identify only as culturally Catholic now — feeling a slight mixture of tenderness and confusion toward the Church, but not subscribing to its core beliefs — the inherent guilt remains. 

Which isn't to say that growing up Catholic is inherently a negative experience. I absolutely have a lot of positive lessons to thank the Catholic church for. I generally striving to be a kind, compassionate human being, and feel inclined to be in a constant battle to abolish any expectation of reward for doing the right thing. I have the notion that doing the right thing should be enough. However, when you are a little kid and grown-ups you trust crouch down to confirm that actually, yeah, demons are real and scurry among us, well, that's bound to do a little lasting damage. It took years for me to stop secretly suspecting unfriendly ghosts were haunting my bedroom (sorry, roommates).

I personally, seriously have no hard feelings against Catholicism and/or being raised in it. I totally, 100 percent respect the Church and its followers. But growing up among a slew of holy water and non-sugar-coated Biblical images certainly did have an impact on how I formed as an adult person. And I know I'm not alone with that. 

You have a compulsive need to confess to everything

At a way too young age, I stole my mom's razor and unsuccessfully attempted to shave my legs. Immediately after excusing the leg slices as aftermath of tree-climbing, I burst into tears and told her the truth. This is less cute when, as an adult, you explain to a bored barista you were wrong last week — it was Anthropology, NOT Madewell, where you scored that cardigan she asked about. Most of the time you don't even have warning that this is about to happen.

You can't stop apologizing

It doesn't matter if you actually did something wrong. Nine times out of 10, even if something was a totally vanilla occurrence or even if you were squarely not to blame for something going wrong, it tends to feel like your fault. Someone body-slams you immediately upon train entry: My bad! You accidentally kick a rogue cat toy across your own apartment floor: Ahh, sorry! Literally any time there's a brief moment of silence, you're convinced it's because you did something wrong. Quick!! REMEDY IT WITH AN APOLOGY.

You can't shake the insatiable urge to please people

TSA employees almost definitely do not need your friendship. The same is true with DMV clerks, cable installation techs, your building's super. But that sure as hell doesn't stop you from relentlessly trying to please them. Cheerful conversation likely doesn't hurt, but you're really not impressing anyone by efficiently removing your combat boots pre-security screening and making little jokes about holiday travel. A short, pleasant smile would do, but of course that's not enough for us.

You're only half-kidding when you joke about going to Hell or "living in sin"

When it comes to blasphemy, you can wax as lewd as the best of 'em. However, hidden deep under the guffaws are incredibly quiet whispers of fear. Lucky, they're buried with the ease of living with your romantic partner out of wedlock, the fun of sleeping in on Sundays, and the overall treasure that is rock-and-roll (that's one, right?).

You have an abiding affinity for stained glass

It makes light way pretty! So subtle, so elegant, so... why don't more windows have it? It doesn't have the feature a bunch of bearded dudes and doves and stuff.

You never lose your disdain for PowerPoint presentations

You may have attended a Protestant friend's youth group meeting once or twice before. If you have, you understand that PowerPoint presentations are just weird. Slides that feature gospel verses but with animated transitions? Why aren't we kneeling?

Being shocked at how short and easy non-Catholic weddings are

Just 10 to 20 minutes of exchanging promises and now y'all are bound for life? I hardly had time to even get comfortable in this non-pew seat! I spent a whole afternoon hunting for a kneeling-appropriate dress for nothing! No no no, I'm fairly certain it takes closer to two hours and several lungfuls of incense smoke to really solidify that union. 

You always notice when someone you meet has your patron saint's name

Confirmation was about 15 years ago, but still, your name is Lucy? As in Lucia of Syracuse? Actually — no one probably gets that reference. This name also may or may not have served as a password for various logins at some point in your post-Catholic life.

You still have the strong desire to give up something for Lint

Old habits die hard, but this is one that isn't so bad. You're used to denying yourself of something you like a whole lot for 40 days and 40 nights each year. So if you're looking for an excuse to ditch an indulgent habit anyway, what's the harm in keeping up the practice? 

You have...complicated feelings about Billy Joel

The Piano Man made a few good points about that gorgeous stained glass curtain and looked pretty appealing with his dangerous crowd. But that confirmation party was actually a blast, true. BUT THEN AGAIN, the sinners can be heaps of fun. Plus, his swoony leather jacket is hard to argue with. 

Being just a little afraid during parts of The Craft

*nervous laughter*

Images: Getty Images; Giphy (12)

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