My street name is Hexmistress Jess, but in the convent halls I am known as Sistrrr Grim. If you are, like most Catholics, utterly unfamiliar with Catholic ministerial traditions, there are four steps to becoming a nun; the first of these is to become a candidate, which is what I am now. And will be ever. My attempt at proof: I have been a candidate for the last fifteen years. This is, as it sounds, unusual, but I do not feel ashamed about it in the slightest, because being on probation with the nuns has been deeply fulfilling, and, well, if the sistrrrs hadn’t taken me in: I might still be astray on the streets, selling myself to the gutters.
Fortunately, the nuns, whatever their failings, are sistrrrs of perpetual forgiveness, so I have an eternal free ticket to safe harbor. Believe it or not, Dear Readrrr, I do thank God.
I think candidacy is just right for me, anyway, because I am very candid and I’m fond of being on candid camera. Candidacy is sort of probationary, so I consider myself as having been ‘on probation’ for quite some time. Being on probation suits me, and I often fancy myself a visiting artist at the convent. Writing is my art, and sistrrrly life is my subject.
Being the perpetual probationary candidate that I am, there are many things I know about nuns that you might not know. For instance, ‘the nuns,’ as they like to be called and as I like to call them in jest, detest both heavy metal and sausage, and will not tolerate either on their abbey grounds. I am with them all the way on these and most other matters, except for one, to which this site is a testament: I talk openly about what nuns think, do, feel, and don’t say.
Familiar with the ways of the nuns and many of the protocols of being conventional and sistrrrly concurrently, I am someone you can trust to tell you the hard and grim facts about nuns in a meta-fictional way rife with parody and grief. But I must hasten to do so because, as I have said, I am on probation. My posts will be sporadic but worthwhile. A nun on probation can tell you what nuns who have taken vows cannot. And you should listen, because rarely has a nun ever truly spoken her heart and mind, except alone, in her private Hell, and to God. But I am here, by some miracle, to tell you, Dear Readrrr, what I know, and you, Dear Readrrr, I hope to your grave enjoyment, will learn everything there is to know about how to be a nun.
My knowledge of conventional life is endless but my tolerance for it is in the negative digits, hence why I am still a sistrrr on probation. There have been rare instances in which I have nearly made it to the novitiate phase of formation, but I serve another purpose for the nuns.
I have much love and admiration for my novitiate, temporarily professed, and perpetually professing sistrrrs (Dear Readrrr, do understand, I do so with a world of love: a love of such depth and breadth that I know God hymself lives in it; a love wherein forgiveness, empathy and understanding reign; a world divine and not of this world).
The first thing you should know about nuns is that they are misunderstood. Gravely. I have insider insight into the many factors that bring women into the sisterhood and I know the ramifications of being a sistrrr. I also know, now more than ever, the cruel and difficult fate of women who give themselves to God, rather than Man . I hope that you will come here and learn about nuns through me, as I witness and confess. Whatever I am or am not: I am a woman of God.
The nuns know me well. They know this. And they love me so dearly they would risk damnation to keep me in their convent. It’s not religiously correct, no; but it’s the Ruth-and-Naomi’s honest truth. They would walk to me, run to me, or crawl on their knees to me. But they would never tell you that. Hence, they would never tell me that. You see, Dear Readrrr, there is no denying: the nuns are wise. They know I have a big mouth and that I’ll never be a real nun, but they love me just the same.
Let me tell you a bit about my background and how I ended up at what I jokingly and lovingly call S/M. I have been studying and failingly attempting to self-deny with the Sistrrrs of Mercilessness (S/M) at Our Lady of Sorrows (known by the nuns as ‘Shabby Abbey’) since I, by a fluke of interruption in the stigmatic illness that was my childhood, ended up in a middle school sex education class and happened upon a grossly graphic video of a woman delivering a…something: a rat perhaps? It was in my parental unit’s dodge-worthy slate gray Dodge minivan that I decided that my future was Elsewhere: with my sistrrrs, at my safe harbor away from the penitentiary of penetrative fate.
In other words, I dreamed up a way of avoiding vaginal annihilation– and that way was the Way of the Wimple. I was called: to dodge the bullet, so to speak. But the dying vagina in my middle school face was not my only reason for wanting to pursue perpetual mortification among similarly con(vent)stituted women. I also had a little secret, one that I did not yet know.
That little secret was a wicked combination of ‘holier than thow’ and ‘hot for preacher.’ Well, in a phrase. I was, you could say, a thesbian on the (so-)down-Lo-(that-I-didn’t-know) and the idea of a stereotypic sequestery of virgin crones with hairy lips was very homo… do forgive: homey, to me. When my dearly departed mothrrr (who was -praise Hey Seuss- since reborn as my awesome blossom mothrrr) discovered that I was trying to take off on the Road Bless Traveled, Knot Taken and to Sindia, she confused Lesbos with Lucifer, and all she took away from it was (the L that leads to) Lucifer. Needless to say, for some time, I was lost in a lake of lectionary confusion. As it turns out, I managed to decipher a difference between Lesbos and Lucifer, I ended up choosing vaginal annihilation in order to give birth to angels, and I learned to embrace the conflated L-words, too, but somehow I could not give up the convent. Better said, I could not give up the nun-s trapped in the convent.
Now there is the question one might have as to whether or not I am or ever will be a tried and true nun. I assure you, Dear Skeptical Readrrr, that the Good Ship Sappho is every bit true and, unquestionably, tried. Alas, I will never be a real nun, and have no chance of canonical martyrdom, no matter what I do or sacrifice. I did indeed spend my childhood as a devout Catholic, worshiping and seeking salvation at many an ornate and poinsettia-decked altar, attending mass on weekdays and weekends willingly and eager-beaverly, repenting on the hour, rosarying ’round the clock, and denying myself what every good Catholic girl must deny herself: mostly herself.
Fast-forward through years of drama and trauma with me, Dear Attentive Readrrr, and we come to the ten year period in which I studied intensely with the renowned humanist scientist who taught me how to construct my thoughts through writing and how to up my game in the fight against tyranny. Despite my thorough nun-traditional schooling, it did not quite lead to what most would consider a “happy ending.” No, more like, an hextended nunexpected simultaneous stay in Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio. Bad Beatrice that I am, I struggled with this reality but eventually accepted that it was my destiny to learn through these unending trials, and it was what could connect me to my Sistine sistrrr-s.
After much learning, I learned more. And that secondary education led me to the path I am now on: here, with you, My Dear Readrrr, ready to unveil the wickedly beatific face of convent life.
Maybe, along the way if I’m lucky, I’ll knock some nunsense into you.
© Jessica Lowell Mason