When I was a boy being introduced to confession, along with its bonus companion for life, guilt, I was pretty sure that I was the only one who actually had to make stuff up before going into the dark confessional.
By Tom McDermott
When I was a boy being introduced to confession, along with its bonus companion for life, guilt, I was pretty sure that I was the only one who actually had to make stuff up before going into the dark confessional. Since I had to be there, it followed that I must have done some pretty nasty things during the previous week or two. It now occurs to me that this may have been the beginning of my having a need to tell stories and taking more than a bit of poetic license in the telling.
Years later, of course, I discovered that just about everyone had to make stuff up to look kind of bad. How our hidden confessors must have rejoiced at the sound of a brand new voice, probably from another parish to ensure secrecy, which began telling a tale of really bad deeds done. How imaginations must have been fired to come up with some new penalty with bite!
All for a good cause: salvation.
These days, in our increasingly secular world, many of us seem driven to hear athletes, celebrities, and politicians make very public confessions in Tweets or ghostwritten tomes. But, there is only one true Uber-Confessor our culture turns to when it’s time for some Mr. or Ms. Big Stuff to tell the whole wide world their nasty little secret.
Enter Oprah, who invented a new cable world called OWN, as in, Time to OWN Up, Pal! (And, raising those ratings wouldn’t hurt either.)
So many of us fall for this every time, despite the fact that we know that whatever Ms. Big Liar has to say for themselves (it’s entirely about themselves and Oprah, not us), we already know to be untrue; or, in the recent case of Lance Armstrong, he is the only person left on the planet who thinks that he was telling the truth, AKA the Clemens Effect. Or, is it the Monica Effect? I can never remember.
What, I wondered, would it be like if Oprah invited me to come on her show to reveal some of the secrets I’ve been burdened with for years. Such as these whoppers:
I confess, Oprah! When I was 10, I really did break that bedroom window of the first-floor apartment in the courtyard where I used to hit tennis balls against the brick wall for hours and hours. Somehow I thought I’d never get caught, despite the fact that it was my best friend’s bedroom window, and his whole family knew I was the only one who could have done it. The shame of it all.
This is tough, Oprah. I really did not hear our family dentist’s nurse say after I entered the office for my appointment in 1960, “Oh, we’re very backed-up today and we had to change your appointment. Sorry.” The truth is that I was scared to death of mean Dr. Cushing, our family dentist, who raged that my orthodontist should be in jail and then took it out on my jaw. I waited until my mother’s car had turned the corner and then I headed in the opposite direction. The nurse called mom wondering where I was and a frantic search ensued until I innocently walked in the front door with my flimsy story, which, amazingly, held up for years. I think.
I actually did get kicked out of college twice, not once as my parents and grandparents mistakenly thought. I did not feel obligated to report it, since I was saved by a clerical error. When I arrived at the bursar’s with a blank (yes, I agree, very foolish) check from my grandfather’s account, it seems that the letter was in my file, having never been sent. The clerk checked with a higher authority who made the decision any self-respecting private college would make: Take The Money and let him “back.”
I feel so much better for having Oprah-ed up in public, except that my editor might never completely trust me again.