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During the five minutes a year I imagine having kids, my dream progeny are goths. I picture helping little Azrael or Wednesday with her essay on what she wants to be when she grows up: "Death Angel is two words, honey." I imagine becoming exasperated when little Damien paints his eyelids with my expensive L'Oreal lipstick instead of the cheap Artmatic brand. I imagine supervising media intake: "Maleficence, if you're going to acupuncture the cat's face every time, I'm just not renting "Hellraiser" anymore. Now give me those needles." Kids are so cute.

The five minutes is up when I realize I could end up with some well-adjusted, fresh-faced, perky creature who likes sports. Eew. I'm not having kids until you can get them off eBay.

It makes me wonder what my mother must have thought. She's a granola athlete outdoors woman whose 5-year-old insisted on wearing black to Easter mass. Catholic school didn't help. Under the influence of nuns and television, by 8 I was determined to be a saint or be Cher.

From a child's perspective they're no different. They're both famous. They get costumes: saints in robes and halos, Cher in gowns and headdresses. And they lead exciting, passionate lives by having their own TV show or being violently martyred.

But saints don't put out records, so Cher won, and my mom had to say, "You cannot dye your hair black until you are 18, case closed," every day for years. She still drinks.

Kick the habit

Since Catholics and Cher were two of my major influences, it pleases me to see them locked in battle, like if your id and your ego went on "Celebrity Death Match." On her new album, "Not.Com.mercial," Cher has written a song about a time during her infancy when she says her mother had to put her in the Sisters of Mercy orphanage temporarily because she was working a night shift and couldn't care for the child. Went she went to retrieve Cher, the nuns declined to return her. They said her mom was unfit. It took six months for her mom to get Cher back.

Cher is still pissed. Who wouldn't be? In her song "Sisters of Mercy," she refers to the nuns as "daughters of hell," "masters of pain" and "a cruel and heartless mob." Doesn't sound like a bouncy dance tune, does it? It's cool that Cher is still a mouthy rocker at 54; she can change her bone structure all she wants, but thank God she can't change what she is.

And under all the surgery and wigs, Cher is a singer and songwriter, and she's doing what songwriters sometimes do: bitch in 4/4 time. And this isn't a typical, whiny break-up song. This is hell to pay.

Now the church is pissed, too. Her song, they've said, is unfair and undermining of the nuns' good work. Patrick Scully of the Catholic League wondered if she had had a hard time with any other minority would it be OK to slam them all 50 years later. He also called her bitterness at being kept from her mother "ridiculous."

For openers, nuns aren't a minority; they're professionals whose job is to be kind. When you set yourself up that high, any fall is going to be a hard one. Second, as for "ridiculous" -- nice show of compassion, similar to the one that got the song written in the first place. That shot was at his own foot; it reflects worse on the attitude of moralists than anything Cher could say.

Nun the less

Before I bring up the possibility that church folk should care for the sick and leave the pop-culture criticisms to "The List," I'll venture that most people won't tar all nuns with the same brush because of one Cher tune. Grownups realize there are boneheads in every organization. Even the Apostles had a Judas. The Sisters' screw-up in this case just happened to involve Cher. It's like the lesson of the Good Samaritan: Always be nice because you never know who could be Christ, or a future international diva. I'm sure the nuns would want us all to remember that.

Even Cher says she just wanted to tell her mother's story and doesn't hate nuns; she even wanted to be one when she was in Catholic school. I never had evil nuns, either: sweet ones, crazy ones, long, tall, skinny ones, big, fat, juicy ones, maybe a cranky fossil or two, but none were evil. In the long run, she got the gowns and headdresses like her idols, just like I got the long black hair and smart-ass mouth like mine.

Come to think of it, I'm thinking Chastity and I were switched at birth. That's where my mom's no-makeup-sensible-shoes kid went while I should have been wearing French-cut beaded Bob Mackie diapers with a feathered sleeping cap.

That makes it fun to think about having kids again: "I don't care how many tattoos grandma has on her ass, Ba'al. You're not getting one until you're 18. Case closed."

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