We Americans are justly proud of our ignorance. Along with obesity and braggadocio, having our heads up our asses is the trait for which we are best known around the globe. Regardless whether you count yourself among these mouth-breathing legions of half-witted cretins, or rather, take pride in the fruits of your three semesters of community college, every American can bask in the oily thrill of being an ignoramus. Holidays like Ash Wednesday provide just such an opportunity.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, 40 days of rigorous self-denial practiced by Catholics and also by some of the lamer protestant sects. Catholics, in particular, mark the day by smudging their foreheads with ash as a sign of atonement to a God Who is, after all, pretty vengeful.
Although you may be entirely familiar with the customs of this day, feigning ignorance should be simple enough.¹ When you see a friend, coworker or complete stranger with ash on his or her forehead, go ahead and ask about it. However, by no means should you ask with anything approaching decorum or propriety. We recommend Hey–what’s wrong with your forehead? or Dude–you’ve got some shit on your forehead! The good-natured among your Catholic friends won’t rise easily to the challenge, and may even patiently explain the scriptural significance of the ritual the first several times you loudly call attention to dirty foreheads. But with dedication, persistence and a little luck, you’ll have established your asshole bona fides by lunchtime. Go get ’em, tiger!