Confirmed Rebel

Today’s guest post comes from Steve.

I’m not sure why my parents sent me to confirmation classes. Ours was not a very religious family. While my parents rarely felt moved to attend church services themselves, they had a fuzzy notion that it would be good for my sister and me to go, and so they sent us.

I have vivid memories of all the ways I conspired to avoid going to church. I learned to fake a fever (if you spin a thermometer fast enough in your mouth, the temperature goes up). I would always lie in bed deep into Sunday morning, hoping my mother would forget me, emerging when it was too late for her to order me to church.

My best ploy involved my “Sunday go to meeting pants,” the formal trousers that I only wore to church. One day my grandmother gave me a discarded library dictionary, a musty, leather-bound monster so heavy I barely could pick it up with two arms. I arranged my Sunday pants in a pile on top of the radiator in my room and put the dictionary on them. If Mom ever caught me on a Sunday morning and insisted that I go to church, I’d disappear into my room and come out with pants so horribly wrinkled that no homeless guy would wear them. “Look, Mom!” I’d cry, my voice ringing with disappointment, “I can’t go to church in THESE!” My mother purely hated ironing. This gimmick always worked.

But I didn’t need to dress up for Confirmation Class, so the pants couldn’t save me. I think I was 14 the year they taught that class. That was a bad time, a time when I was convinced I was one of life’s big losers. Since I didn’t think much of myself I could hardly expect anyone else to respect me. Worse, I was beginning to resent what seemed like arbitrary edicts from my parents. I’d always been a sweet and compliant child—you could call me a disgusting little apple polisher around all authority—but now I was beginning to see the world with my own eyes.

Confirmation class was not intellectually demanding, and I didn’t mind it much. We mostly chased each other around the big old brick church in noisy games of tag. When the teachers caught us and sat us down for bible lessons, I found those lessons curious but innocuous.

To celebrate our impending graduation from Confirmation class, our minister—who shall remain nameless here, although I am tempted—joined our class one evening as a sort of visiting celebrity. The minister was in a genial mood, entertaining us with funny stories. He was a dry old Scotsman who was mostly famous for interminable Sunday sermons so boring that the statue of Jesus sometimes went to sleep.

The first started with a question. “Catholic nuns wear those big cloaks that have their heads hidden under a cowl,” he said. “But did you ever wonder what a Catholic nun looks like underneath that cowl?” I never had given a moment’s thought to what nuns wore, and I was beginning to find this story creepy. “One night I visited a nun who wasn’t expecting company, and I caught her without her cowl. And guess what? She was bald as a billiard ball underneath! Bald as a billiard ball!”

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. This was the first time in my life I had encountered naked bigotry. I was shocked that this nasty, gossiping old man was the minister of my church.

The minister next plunged into the evolution controversy. “You probably have heard of this man Darwin and his screwball ideas,” said the minister. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not related to any monkey!”

That was totally confusing. Related to a monkey? Once again I felt disgust for the minister, but this time it felt better. Apparently there were people who thought differently from him. Somewhere in the world there was a guy named Darwin who said things that outraged my minister. Cool! I had an ally. I looked forward to learning more about this Darwin.

Here is a picture of the Confirmation Class of 1956. I’m the chubby dweeb just behind and to the left of the minister. What a smile! You’d never guess that I was at this moment struggling to hide my contempt for the first authority figure to spark rebellion in my heart. That ember of independent thinking would glow quietly for several years before it burst into flame, but it all started here.

Was there ever a time when you suddenly realized that you needed to rebel from authority?

72 thoughts on “Confirmed Rebel”

  1. i had those bald headed nuns to spur me on steve. they bring out the revoloutioary in the mildest of us. sister mary magdeine was the principle and it was 2nd grade when i fisrt got disiplined by her for playing incorrectly ib the playground. i think it was spring and the snow was melting. there was a puddle 4 inches deep and 20 feet long in the trough between the bys and girls playgrounds. i went over to the warminghouse where they sold christmas trees and grabbed a 2×12 about 10 feet long and was having a great time lifting it and leeting it drop in the puddle to make the big splash and get the dorks who had come to watch the exciting playground activity but were too dumb to get out of the front row. well sister someone else came out of her classroom to stop this abominabe behavior and when she yelled at me to drop that board i did and i nailer the entire front of her habit white hair wrapper and all. boy did she get a look of surprise out of me, the playground att large and herself all at once. it was a splash that paid compouund interest . up to the principe office where she put me under her desk down inn the knee hole for about an hour and that was my punishment. i vowed never to be placed in a dark hole between a nuns legs again …and to this day i havn’t.

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    1. I had guessed that the first response to my story would feature a nun as the villain! I never had a direct experience with a tough nun, but in junior high when the Catholic kids and Protestant kids got together for schooling we Protestants heard a lot about nuns like Godzilla. I will respect your oath to never spend time between a nun’s legs. Doesn’t sound very smart for a guy with all of my problems.

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  2. by the way steve those are some hot babes in your class. did you have any sleepless nights over that? those cats eye glases get me every time.

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    1. The first date of my life, tim, was with the blonde partly covering me up in the next row down. Margaret Schroeder. Her parents came along with us and sat between us at the picture show.

      The one truly pretty girl was Katie (first row, the third girl in from Reverend Allen). She was our class beauty. And she died the most tragic death of anyone in our class, a death directly due to her loveliness. I’m waiting for the right chance to tell the story.

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  3. 5th grade, Mrs. Grau, who I daresay is no longer with us.

    For spelling class, we were supposed to write lists of homonym, those words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. Ever the little over-acheiver (Hermione Granger is my hero) with no real outlet for it, I was determined to have the biggest list (as always).

    I was shocked and outraged to find that my third entry in the string, “there, their and they’re” was marked WRONG! WRONG I tell you. Undaunted, I gathered myself together, got the dictionary and proceeded to the desk of authority to make my case. All three listed in the dictionary with identical pronunciations! Still wrong, contractions are not words, dictionary notwithstanding.

    Yup, all done with authority for the sake of authority at that point. Got poor marks from that teacher on “respects authority” all year long. It was tough on my mother who also had to hear the complaints about me from that teacher.

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    1. I can imagine a pit into which you would put Mrs. Grau and I would put Miss Steele (the cruel idiot who taught my second grade) so we could watch the two of them duke it out. My mom spotted me walking home in the street after school one day. After punishing me, she asked “Why?” Well, Miss Steel had so humiliated me that I came home in the street half-hoping a car would knock me off.

      I wonder if such folks still get hired to teach in our schools. I don’t think so. There were at least two teachers in my elementary school who hated kids.

      Miss Steele died of Alzheimer’s. I did not shed a tear.

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      1. I actually don’t think Mrs. Grau hated kids or me in particular, I think she just didn’t like being publicly told by a 9-year-old that she was wrong.

        As I often tell the s&h, it is not always correct to be right.

        Hopefully he is getting the benefit of my many missteps. I mostly was told that I “talked back” to much and should knock it off. There are ways to do these things, and even very bright children need to learn that (lest they grow up to be adults who can never be wrong gracefully).

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      2. Miss Steele jumped me for the way I mispronounced words. I had used the word “good” in class. “Good” said Miss Steele should rhyme with “food” or “rude.” I said that wasn’t how people said “good.” She told me my error would be clear if I consulted the fact the “good” had two Os in it, so it should sound like “brood” or other double O words. So I walked home in the street because Miss Steele had made fun of my walk of talking.

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      3. In all likelihood, she took a look at a textbook and misunderstood.
        If you had confronted her with a piece of wood, a scrap of wool, and a cookbook, she would have been really shook.

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  4. My mother, bless her, thought that joining “Demolay” — a sort of junior freemasons — would be just the thing for a teenage boy with an absent father in the 1960’s. It didn’t take long for my inner cynic to kick in, but, what really led to my rebellion, was discovering that the “elders” of the chapter (whom we had to address as “Dad X” or “Dad Y”) would not allow our black friend to join. I still remember (with some pride and fondness for my teenaged self) the outraged howls of the “Dads” as we teenaged members rose one-by-one, announced the reason for our resignations, and departed from the “temple.”

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    1. too bad it never dawned on at that age all we had to do start our own was to say we were starting our own. good for you westerner and welcome. west as in montana or san diego?

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  5. Our family was a 4-H family. My oldest sister was a champion 4-H-er and my older sister did exciting things like raise pigs for a 4-H project. I don’t remember at what age I was “expected” to join 4-H, but it may have been after we moved to a less agricultural community. So I joined 4-H but I didn’t like the options open to me for projects – and I Hated the meetings. I Hated the 4-H pledge. I Hated sitting in a meeting after school when I could have been running around down by the lake or somewhere infinitely more interesting than a 4-H meeting. The other kids in 4-H were the goody-goody type and I didn’t fit in. So…I dropped out!

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    1. I was kinda like that about Girl Scouts for a while. Went for three years and must have decided: b..o..r..i..n..g, so when we moved to a new school I didn’t go. But there was no one to play with after school on Tuesdays because… yes, they were all at Scouts. So I rejoined the next year.

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  6. I became a rebel when I went to a Lutheran affiliated college and decided that I would be openly critical of and also not attend services or meetings sponsored by the more pietistic and evangelical students-meetings that reeked of having to be “born again” (something pretty antithetical to solid Lutheranism), meetings where you didn’t know if they were singing songs about their boyfriend or Jesus. I found those students strangely elitist and that really irritated me.

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    1. Just thinking about this is making me rebellious and irritable. I feel like shouting out of my office window “Gnostics! You are all gnostics and don’t even realize the implications!”

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      1. Do it, Renee! 🙂 Let us know what happens. Remember whats-iz-name in A Thousand Clowns? – “Good Morning, Campers!”

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      2. I wish Paddy Chayevsky had written that line into the film “Network”.
        Imagine if Howard Beale (The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves) had shouted at the camera “You are all gnostics and don’t even realize the implications!” instead of “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

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  7. Dweeb? Chubby? I don’t think so. Maybe ahead of your time, but the best looking kid in the group if you ask me.

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      1. I’m not. He’s a rebel and he’ll never ever be any good; but I’m pushing 43 years of being married to this guy, I guess I’m in it for the long haul ;-D Content in Chisago City.

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  8. Good morning to all a second time. Somehow, when I was a young college student, or maybe as a senior in high school, I became aware of the beatnicks and admired their rebel ways. I think even before the beatnicks, I become sort of a rebel by becoming a fan of rock and role music. In the early days of rock and roll, most adults hated it and said it was just a fad. Latter I became more rebellious as a war protestor and I still consider my self a rebel and I think everyone should be rebel in a world that is mostly on a destructive path.

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  9. That was one of my causes, too, Jim. In high school you were a jock, a Brain, a hood or a nobody. By the time I was graduating from college, another group had emerged, a group comprised of counter-culture characters more or less like “Beatnicks.” One of my friends in college fell in that category. When we had been out of college for a couple of years that group acquired a national identity as “hippies,” and my former friend was becoming famous as the leader of one of the largest hippie clans (the Family).

    My parents wanted to be critical of hippies for being dirty and subversive, but I kept arguing that these sweet souls were gentle, respectful and safer to be around than most other folks. My mother was softening her natural dread of hippies when America suddenly got spooked by drugs . . . and Mom quit listening to anything I said that was positive about hippies.

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  10. I learned in the 4th grade that sometimes the best rebellion is a quiet one. I had a teacher that year who was very set in his ways about what was appropriate for each grade level, everyone sat in neat rows in the same spot all year long, the Pledge of Allegiance and a “patriotic song” was sung each morning (I came to dislike both as “empty patriotism” and still think “This Land is Your Land” is one of the most patriotic songs out there), and I bet he alphabetized his closet by color. He wasn’t a bad man or a bad teacher, per se, just very set in his ways. Which meant that I, as a fourth grader, had to use the fourth grade reading book – no matter that it was far too easy. I was in fourth grade, therefore that was the reading book for me. What would I do in fifth grade if I had already used that reader in 4th grade? (As it happened, I skipped over the standard fifth grade reader and went to the sixth grade reading book in 5th grade and then in 6th grade there was a “advanced 6th” book to be used). So for one year, I put up with a boring reading book after my protestations fell on deaf ears (my mom tried, too, to no avail) and read voraciously outside of that book, snuck the 5th grade “extra credit” reading in as my extra credit – he couldn’t stop me from reading for extra credit and it was split 4th/5th class – and peeked at my 5th grade classmates readers as much as I could. A lesson in “how to work around the system when the system won’t bend.”

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    1. I did a lot of the quiet rebelling as well. As some of you know, I went to a very strict Wisconsin Lutheran day school, where I came to realize that as long as I didn’t say anything I could think whatever I wanted. I wish now I’d rebelled more, enough to not get confirmed. I’d stopped believing by 6th or 7th grade, but I had 4 more years of school with the same kids and I thought I didn’t need to make myself more of an outsider than I already was. Anyone know if the WELS unbaptizes and unconfirms apostates like myself?

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      1. We are in heavy theological seas here. Perhaps Clyde has an answer for this one. I kind of think you can renounce your own confirmation, but the baptism issue is a little trickier. I suppose you could renounce it yourself, but the Mormons might re-baptize you after you were dead, just like they did to Ann Frank.

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      2. I live in fear that some future grandchild or great grandchild (or great great – you get the idea) will convert to Mormonism and have me baptized by proxy. Then *poof* I will disappear from whatever paradise I have found (hopefully one with gin) and wind up someplace with no caffeine, no booze and weird undies.

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  11. I suppose the authotiry figure I rebelled against was my father, by leaving the teaching field, and then marrying (temporarily) a Jewish guy from New York. Oh yeah, and home-schooling for a short time. That was back in the 70s and 80s… Hmmm will have to think if there’s been anything more recent.

    A favorite image comes to mind, in a Norman Rockwell print called Jury Room: a young woman is sitting with her arms folded. The other 11 male jurors are milling around her, trying to get her to come to her senses. Smoke hangs heavy in the air.
    http://www.globaleditions.com/detail/61050/

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  12. This is very interesting to me… I went to public schools. Didn’t meet a nun until I was an adult; and that was a nun in modern dress who did lighting at the community theater. And she knew the dirtiest jokes!
    These days I frequently take lights up to the chapel at the local Nunnery; I think I’ve mentioned that before. ‘Assisi Heights’ here in Rochester; a beautiful space, and the nuns in there are all in modern dress and very friendly.

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  13. I envy those of you who have rebelled. I was and still am so cowed by authority that I rarely push against it. I actually got in trouble for rebelling TOWARD authority in Drivers Ed class. We had a terrible teacher with no class control from outside our school. We were taking a quiz once and all the other students were chatting and exchanging answers (not something that most of them would do in a different environment). a) I couldn’t concentrate on the quiz myself and b) I was upset with my peers for being “bad” and disrespectful and with the teacher for being such a wimp that I shouted “SHUT UP!”. I was sent out of the class for being disruptive.
    I was redeemed somewhat when, the next time we had class, the teacher apologized for sending me out and acknowledged that I had been somewhat justified in my complaint (though perhaps not in my delivery)

    My parents were so liberal (and the three of us were so good) that there wasn’t much room for rebellion there. I say to myself now that one of the reasons I stay up ridiculously late sometimes is that I am having a delayed rebellion. Unfortunately, no one notices except moi when I can’t stay awake in movies, plays, concerts.

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    1. Hmmm. I wonder if my occasional late nights are a rebellion against those summer nights when I was sent to bed while the sun was still up! and I could hear my older sisters playing outdoors. Unfortunately – like you – I’m the only one who notices my rebellion when I’m so tired I can barely function the next day.

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      1. what the heck? why can’t I make the italics end??? the italics were only supposed to be for “while the sun was still up.” I need some serious help for formatting.

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  14. My mother was so intrusive & distrustful of me that nothing could be private: diaries, letters to friends, phone conversations, slumber parties, etc. I could expect a critique of my behavior immediately following any activity with visiting friends. As a result, my adolescent rebellion had to wait until I was out of the home in my 20s, married & the mother of two babies. I went a little overboard with my long-awaited “freedom” and began fighting every possible cause: Viet Nam, prisoner’s rights, women’s rights, and civil rights. One might say that I was rebelling against all collective authority?

    Ultimately, I filed the first sex discrimination case in Minnesota after being laughed at for demanding a raise from my manager at the Linclon Del. He had me training a man into the deli department with no experience and I’d been there 1.5 years. The guy informed me that he was earning 70 cents more an hour than I was. It was my first exposure to personal discrimination and I couldn’t tolerate it. I didn’t even know that there was a new law, much less that the Human Rights Commission was eagerly awaiting some hapless woman to come along and be its test pilot. I’d run head long into the old boy’s club this time! Prior to this action, I’d had the relative safety in my cause-fighting of a like-minded group, so standing alone in the face of fierce media interest was extremely traumatizing.

    The story is too involved to write about on this forum, but I did win. Sort of. Would I do something this audacious again? Absolutely not, but I was young and idealistic in those days and simply without the capacity to back down.

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  15. When I first took over the farm, as in we lived there and technically I “ran” it but Dad was still coming out daily to help, it took me a long time to stop thinking ‘What would Dad do?’ And it was frustrating to myself that I didn’t feel like I could make a decision on my own.
    Even when I would intentionally start a project on my own, like a tractor repair job, Dad came into the middle of it, told me I was doing it wrong, and sort of took over from there. Fine, you do it, I’ll go find something you don’t know anything about, like theater lighting!
    Mind you, he didn’t do that often, but that incident has really stuck with me and I think partially why I’m rather prickly about criticism.

    It wasn’t a ‘sudden need to rebel’ because we didn’t do that in my family, but it was a growing ‘this is my idea, not yours’ mentality.

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    1. Changed it. The original was no prize and after covering countless pages with different variations of Mrs His Name, my first name/his last name, etc., it never crossed my mind 43 years ago to do anything else. I think I would still change it today if for no other reason than ease in identification of children.

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    2. Changed twice and wasn’t really happy with either one. I thought about hyphenating with the first one since that was all the rage at the time but we would have ended up with a 6 syllable, 21 character name so that didn’t seem wise. After Wasband Deux, I went back to my original and I’m very happy with it.
      My two nephews who got my brother/SIL’s hyphenated name seem to have abandoned it for my brother’s/my name alone on FB at least. I don’t know if my SIL (whose name was the abandoned one) knows what they have done. Only the young ‘uns are on FB.

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    3. First time I changed it, then went back to Maiden after divorce. Second time kept mine until Child was in school, when it just got too complicated – I wanted us to all have the same name, so changed to Husband’s. Costs more that way, though.

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    4. Kept my name… it’s so unique that the only ones I know who have it are relatives of mine. Plus, it gives me a strong sense of my heritage. I couldn’t see giving up my long German name (complete with double H’s) and changing it to “Hall”.

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  16. I like Dale’s 2 post rebellion. I went to girls’ Catholic school where the winter uniform included a blackwatch plaid skirt and navy blue knee socks. I led an uprising for green knee socks. It was truly the principle because I didn’t own any green knee socks (and there was almost as much green in the skirt as navy.).

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  17. Anyone been outside lately? Got home from chorus (rain, luckily, not freezing when we were out) to find branches of our pines lower in our driveway than they’ve ever been. Every needle is in its own little casing of ice. Can’t wait to see it in the morning.

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    1. Right now it looks mostly rainy and wet here. By morning maybe this ugly duckling of an evening will have turned into a swan.

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  18. My father was one of 14 children, yes, Catholic. My 2 oldest Aunts were nuns, lovely and kind. And there were the visiting nuns who took over our 4-room country schoolhouse for 2 weeks in the summer; they were angels teaching of a gentle God; we had many classes outdoors, took turns sitting in their laps, holding their rosaries, etc. When I got older, I went to Catholic school and encountered one of those evil nuns—brought out the rebel in me. After listening to her go on and on about how the communists ruled by force and by using and teaching with propaganda, I raised my hand and asked how they were different from the way the leaders of the church told us what to believe. It was a long four years.

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