in case you were wondering.
in case you were wondering.
I don’t even know where to begin. You’ve grown and lived and thrived and your life journey is a beautiful work of art, it almost feels wrong to bring up Quivering Daughters even just to say thank you. But I’m not speaking just for me, when I say, sincerely, thank you for writing through your journey, for taking care of us as we left our families, for writing Quivering Daughters and leaving the blog up. Your tender heart and kind words were the gentle encouragement we needed to start moving forward ourselves. You didn’t judge and yet firmly confirmed that abuse was happening, that we weren’t wrong or broken for feeling how we did – you opened up the doors to healing for so many more of us than you know.
And I just really, truly, with all the warmth in the depths of my soul want to say thank you. Thank you for being the big sister so many of us needed, even though it was and is heart wrenching and hard and messy and exhausting. Thank you for moving forward in your own journey towards healing and showing us that it’s okay to embrace ourselves and make our life what we need it to be.
You are a beautiful human being and Quivering Daughters and now your art + life journey, mean so much to me, and so many of us.
Thank you. Thank you for being gentle and kind and healing. Thank you for lighting the way for so many more people than you realize.
When I was 19 I had the opportunity to write out…basically my life story and post it to a website with a lot of readers. It helped me start processing my life and was the catalyst for rethinking all the things I was taught and starting to see my abuse for what it was. I’ve requested the author of the site to take the articles down because I feel the site no longer represents or seeks to aid survivors of abuse like mine – but I still feel like my story – though I have grown and changed massively in the last six years – is important and can maybe still help people like me. So I’m posting it here. It was originally published in 6 parts, but I’m posting it in one fell swoop with handy navigation.
This was my start. I was just out of my parents house and still talking to them, facing a world of unknowns, and clinging to religion and the hope of a healthy family. Where I was then is still important, because it gave me the courage to become who I am now.
Just because someone is smiling in public does not mean everything in their life is happy, perfect, and healthy.
I’m reminded of this, in light of the Josh Duggar situation, because both parent-like sets of people in my life see the Duggars as The Best Family Ever. And because the Duggars are good at being The Best Family Ever, it makes it hard for their fan base to see past the barrage of smiles and actually listen to what’s being said and taught and what the consequences of those are for the Duggar kids.
My family was a poorer, less popular, less business-savvy version of the Duggars. Bill Gothard aside, they believe basically the same things the Duggars do. As much as the Duggars want to tell you they just love kids and are totally not quiverfull, their line about just “doing what God wants them to do” re: breeding is quiverfull ideology, and my parents (like the Duggars) are quiverfull.
My parents spent my and my siblings childhoods training us to always smile and look/act/be happy even when that wasn’t the emotion we were having. Happiness was godly, happiness meant no one thought anything was wrong, happiness made my parents the go-to parents in our local community for child-rearing tips and advice.
So it pains me when people don’t see that the smiles are fake. They look at families like mine, like the Duggars, like countless others, and say “But look, they’re smiling! they’re happy! everything is obviously great!” as if the mouth is not a series of muscles that can be willed into an upside-down frown on demand, or out of necessity.
A smile does not indicate a healthy, happy situation. It doesn’t take much to see past the plasticity and into the tired eyes behind the upturned lips.
Just because a family is smiling on tv doesn’t mean it’s happy. Us quiverfull kids are great at smiling. Listen to our words and our silence, not our masked faces.
Use your empathy.
Cynthia touched on it in the first part of her post “Freeing Self-Deceived Fundamentalists“. My family has glorified death for a really long time. I remember Columbine, like she was talking about – being something almost revered – not remotely tragic. When things were shitty(-er than normal) or if I was making a life choice my mom didn’t agree with she would say “well the end times are coming and we’ll be raptured soon [so we won’t have deal with XYZ]”. Going to heaven was all my parents really cared about, they instilled a sense of life being almost useless into me, unintentionally.
Why bother living here when life will be so much better after you die?
When parents neglect or kill their children because they think god told them to or that they’re saving them.
When parents talk about how brave Abraham was for almost murdering Isaac.
When I remember that my parents coped with my two still-born siblings by talking about how lucky they were that they got to be in heaven while we had to suffer on earth…
I used to be afraid, or worried sometimes……..that something like that would happen. That “god” would tell my parents to murder us, and they would. Or that I would be murdered (martyred) because I was a (true) christian in America, and I WOULD look down that gun barrel at columbine and say “Jesus will save me” or “Get behind me satan” or whatever clever bible phrase I could come up with before my imminent death.
And my parents wouldn’t mourn – they’d talk about how much better off I was dead than alive, how everyone needs to be a christian so they can wait out their miserable existence and go to paradise.
It’s really depressing thinking about it. But it explains a lot about why, I guess, I’ve rarely been afraid of dying and have always just been kinda nonchalant about it.
It’s not a good thing, because it adds intensity to depression: why bother living, anyway? Now that I don’t believe in god and don’t believe that suicide would nullify my non-existent salvation.
But when I was a child…
The emphasis my parents put on dying and going to heaven always bothered me.
It was like they were SO READY for our lives to be over.
They didn’t want to live.
They communicated that living was a waste of time. After all, we’re citizens of heaven, not earth, so why care about the world?
And that always fucked with me because I wanted to live, and I felt guilty for wanting to live, fully, and make the most of my time and help people while I was here, and even, (gasp) enjoy my life here. Because some part of me understood that being here mattered, even though I didn’t – and sometimes still don’t – know why.
I was so hurt when my mom would rather I die/be raptured than marry my spouse. She said, hopefully, that Jesus would probably come back before I even had that chance.
I can’t explain to you with words how much that messes with a person. When your parents whole life revolves around the end of their, yours, and everyone else’s life………when rapture is the answer to things that you don’t like…and pretend like everyone who wants to live and love now is silly because obviously they should just be working on getting into heaven.
Everything my parents do is motivated by being the best christians so they get all the heavenly kudos.
I think my parents were really really depressed.
And I think that messed with me in a lot of ways, too.
I found our last two bibles in the closet the other day, one of which is KJV (of course). I spent this evening trying to do art with/deface it, and I got up to leviticus before getting bored/having it in my face started getting to me. It’s weird how triggering objects can be – bibles, dental floss, strollers, big vans…
I’ve felt weirdly out of it this week, kinda listless and unfocused, but antsy. So I’ve been puttering. Puttering is a weird word, it’s really fun to say, but it was also a word my parents used a lot, but it’s also a word I don’t know how to replace. Puttering: doing random busy work/cleaning that doesn’t require too much thought or result in much stress energy. I putter around on the sites I manage – make tweaks and updates, I’ve been de-cluttering random stuff IRL (actually only have two reachable surfaces left)…puttering. The phrase is like a low grade trigger.
And maybe it’s that, and a run-in with general triggery things this weekend that’s been making the phrase my dad repeated ad-nauseam stuck in my head all day.
Being a girl is just better
I don’t know what made him think that – maybe a little bit of jealousy because my mom got to stay home and sit in a recliner in a state almost-constant pregnancy, or maybe because in their sexist complimentarian marriage, he had to carry all the weight?
What wasn’t said at the end of the phrase was strongly implied:
Being a girl is just better:
Being a girl is just better because who needs autonomy anyway?
Being a girl meant:
I didn’t get to decide anything (and that was better because decisions are hard)
I always had someone to take the fall (which was better than me having responsibility for myself)
I didn’t need to learn “male” skills – like basic building, or how to pump gas or change a tire (I could just have a guy do it for me)
If I could cook, hold my tongue, and produce children, I would be a success (because women don’t need their own thoughts)
My dad/husband/brother could/would get me out of any situation and defend me (because I couldn’t defend myself)
In exchange for my autonomy I get a pre-defined life of luxury (if luxury = breeder, chef, teacher, house keeper, and sex toy)
Even though no one has told me that phrase in years, sometimes, with conversations with people, it’s still a really strong undertone.
Because even though other people never phrased it quite like my dad did, this insidious patriarchal brain worm, this line they tell people-born-with-uteri: Life is better for you, great for you even, just stay in line, and you’ll never want for anything.
I think being reminded that I’m not what any of the parent-figures in my life had planned for me to be, is just another version of the same line.
Being a girl is just better: just stay in line, and everything will be perfect*.
But even when I was a little kid, and I was told that my lot in life was just better… I knew it was a lie.
Maybe some people can happily trade their autonomy and agency for being “taken care of”, but that deal never seemed sweet to me, it seemed wrong and unfair, though I didn’t have any words for it or any way to express it.
Being a human adult may be more work, require more effort, and mean I have to own my decisions, but I lived without autonomy for my whole childhood, and I’d much rather own my decisions than be denied my agency.
I don’t care if that means I’m not who I was planned to be.
Fuck the patriarchy.