“BJ, what do you mean you ate pepperoni pizza at lunch today?” my brother Kaz asked. I think I might have been 8 or 9 years old. It was Friday in that time period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, that time period where we were supposed to give something up, that time period we weren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays. And I totally forgot. I grabbed a rectangular slice of pepperoni pizza served on a Styrofoam tray. On pizza day they had the Styrofoam trays that didn’t have the compartments molded into them, they had the flat ones for pizza day. It pains me to think of how many of those trays I’d thrown into the trash as a child.

I felt horrible for forgetting about no meat on Friday. That was the thing for Lent. We could have fish; my mom wasn’t a fan of fish but she made it because my dad loves it and she wanted us to have something with protein in it. It was breaded and pan fried, and I picked at it until the piles of flakes scattered on my plate were convincing enough to make it look like I’d eaten enough of it.

She didn’t like making fish. So she made other things that I crave as an adult. She’d make crepes, and she grated apples into a skillet and doused them with cinnamon. She heated the grated apples until the cinnamon infused with them. Then we slathered the apples on a hot crepe and rolled it up. I could eat those all day.

But it wasn’t until I was in 6th grade that I’d realized that there were other things we weren’t supposed to do. “I can’t go, guys,” I said to my friends at lunch. There was a dance coming up that Friday. That was the year when I started going to dances. The first one was the Halloween dance, and I half-assedly went as a clown. “Why can’t you go?” My best friend Sue had asked. I rolled my eyes and recounted the argument with my mom from the night before.

“Mom, can you give me a ride to the dance on Friday night?” I asked. My mom had been game enough to drive me here and there for school events. I was getting to that age where I was no longer content to come right home from school. I had sports, I had band, I had this and that.

“You’re not going to a dance on Friday night, are you crazy?” she asked.

“What do you mean? You let me go to the last one!” I was preparing to get into full stomp mode.

“BJ, it’s Lent. You can’t go to a dance during Lent. I don't know why the school is even having one. We're supposed to be giving things up...” she went on. I went to religion class every Saturday, but none of the lessons really sunk in. I was getting to the age where I wasn't content to sit back and believe all the things that the nuns and volunteer teachers told us to believe. I was getting to the age where I started to question the material in the text book. It wasn't until I was in 8th grade that I'd managed to work up the courage to express my questions in class. The nun who was the teacher that year got super irritated with me, and honestly I was a bit of a shit about pestering her with my questions that weren't really questions.

“What do you mean?” I asked my mom. Since when couldn’t we go to a dance during Lent? This wasn’t an issue the year before because there weren’t dances in 5th grade. I was still in the elementary school for 5th grade. It was amazing how in 5th grade I played the Queen of the Honey Bees in the Cabbage Patch Kids play, but in 6th grade I was waiting for boys to ask me to dance and wondering if we'd kiss. That’s a far cry from the cabbage patch.

(I still remember the song from that play though….

“Cabbage Patch Kids, growing in the garden.
Cabbage Patch Kids, growing in the sun.
And the most amazing thing about a Cabbage Patch Kid,
Is that each one grows to be a special one.”


“Mom, everyone is going!” This dance was the event of the year! Of my life! It was a BFD! How could I not go to this dance! The boy I liked, an eighth grader, was probably going to be there. I hadn’t been courageous enough to actually confirm that. But surely he’d be there!

I stayed home that Friday night and the rest of the Friday nights until Easter. And I vowed to be smarter in 7th grade, when I wouldn’t say it was a dance, so I could go. My brother or my sister could drive me instead. Until my mom would ask “Where are you taking her? How’s she getting home?” And the gig was up, foiled by Lent again.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.