I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Said Hello to Courtship, Met a Boy, and Got Married

My parents said they wanted to talk to me one day. I was like 8 or 10 or something innocuous and the thought of boys and kissing was still gross (ew, spit). They said that they decided I wouldn’t be allowed to date, that I would court instead. I said okay, having no idea what this meant and being decidedly not into boys because they ruined my horse parades anyway. They seemed surprised that I took it so well. They explained that courting meant that a boy had to get permission from them to start seeing me romantically, and at 8/10 years old this seemed fine (more barriers to people destroying my caravan of ponies). They spent years extolling the virtues of courting. I was given I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl when I was a young teen and read them, absorbed them, and lived by them – most of my friends did as well.

I’ve talked about our courtship and the hell that it was.

I’m going to talk about a different aspect that goes along with all of this, and that is being a Stay At Home Daughter (unless your parents let you out). Many of the stories featured in IKDG and BMG featured women who either worked in their father’s business or church sanctioned place, or stayed at home to learn how to be helpmeets. Few, if any of the women featured had a life outside of their family’s home, or any time on their own before getting married.

I went straight from living with my family learning how to be a helpmeet, to living with my in-laws, to being married. I had no time on my own to discover who I was and what I liked. I have never been alone.

I was never meant to live on my own. My family, like many others bought into the idea that daughters are to live under their father’s authority until their father passes that authority to their husband. Having any time between living at my parents to being married was unheard of. No time was spent preparing me to live without being under any kind of authority because that was never going to be an option.

I was to be married forever, until death happened – and in the result of death, I would move back in with my parents (ha). I would never need to know how to choose things for myself (instead of for/with other people), how to live responsibly alone, how to take care of myself – because I was supposed to have someone there to do that for me, forever.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl encouraged my parents to restrict the amount of life experience I was allowed to have in the name of godliness. These books, similar books, and purity culture advocated that women stay hidden and sheltered to guard their hearts and wait for a prince (any prince) to come whisk them away to a castle to fill with babies. They never talked about compatibility on any level other than spiritual – these books and this culture have ruined the marriages of those they sought to protect.

By feeding an entire generation unrealistic expectations for themselves – denying our rights to exist and experience human emotion, being told that anything we desire is sinful just because we desire it, and that to explore our identities, feelings, and attractions is wrong and damages our intrinsic value – courtship advocates have destroyed relationships between spouses, and families, and friends. They have stunted our growth, torn us apart, and left us to pick up the pieces of ourselves and each other while learning how to live on our own for the first time.

I courted, I got married, and seven years later I’m getting divorced; on my own for the first time, trying to learn how to survive, and realizing that this was so far outside of the realm of possibility that I was prepared for anything but this. This one, basic thing, that most people experience: navigating life on your own. I was never meant to live on my own, but I’m doing it. I’m doing it clumsily, but I’m doing it, and there are lots more of us out here doing it too.

lmtp5

Preparing A Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things (Written in 2010)

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.

  1. Big Girls Don’t Feel
  2. Maintaining Appearances
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Growing Up
  5. Waking Up
  6. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

 

Continue reading “Preparing A Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things (Written in 2010)”

Book Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

IMG_0166I have to admit, I was really hesitant to start reading Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – not because I doubted it’s good-ness (she worked with my friend Hännah on it, so I knew it would be good) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the story I know so well, again. Devoted is about a Quiverfull daughter escaping, and Jennifer worked really hard to get the story, and the feeling, and capture everything it means to leave that environment right, without making it over the top. She did so beautifully.

It was painful and cathartic, as a former quiverfull daughter myself – I remember what it was like to leave and not say goodbye, I remember what it was like to have to clear my browser history, and feel like the eight of us who existed just weren’t enough. Devoted captures those experiences perfectly, and I think people who are curious about what it’s like to grow up in that environment, now have a way that they can understand.

If you’ve ever been curious about what my childhood felt like, this book is it. Read it. This is the book I wish I could give to everyone who wonders, or everyone who thinks maybe this lifestyle is totally awesome.

If you’re an escapee from this environment, Devoted is so good it hurts. Someone else understands, and I can’t put into words how good that feels. We’re not alone, we’re not freaks, and we are undeniably tough as nails.

Devoted comes out June 2nd. Go buy it. My copy is tear-stained, so.

On Death (and life)

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, (gaspenjoy 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.

Reason

I’ve been triggering myself a little lately, getting introspective about life and the meaning. Nothing weird I guess, but in my dreams I found myself missing things I don’t actually miss, missing rituals and set answers – things I consciously don’t actually value.

I’m not particularly sentimental, and I don’t really care about tradition for tradition’s sake – in fact, I’ve found more freedom and healing in abandoning tradition as much as possible lately.

So, anyway, when I’ve been finding myself in these introspective loops – at least after outing myself as an agnostic, none of the pat answers that I used to have are there anymore (for good reason), but it’s like I’ve taken another step into the unknown and I don’t know why I exist again, or why I make things, or why I feel the way I do, I just know that I do, and the bit of fundamentalism that’s still clacking around in my brain jumps on it.

They were right all along, it says. You need religion to matter, it tells me. All these things I know are false – at least, for me – because religion (christianity specifically) is an unsafe place for me, and is the place I can trace back to when I want to find out why I feel worthless to start with.

I know it’s wrong, because I never found the answers I needed in religion – the pat answers and just don’t think about it too much cliches aren’t useful to me. So it’s weird when I suddenly find myself feeling depressed and reaching for those non-existent platitudes.

And it’s taken me all of this week to figure out what I’ve known all along.

I don’t need to have a reason for everything all the time. Unknowns are perfectly okay and legitimate. I don’t live in an environment anymore where I need to have an answer for everything.

And that’s gloriously freeing.

Being a Girl is Just Better

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:

  • because you don’t have to worry about responsibility
  • you don’t have to make hard decisions
  • you don’t have to fight or stand up for yourself or your family
  • you always have a man to protect you
  • you don’t have to get a job or do anything but homemaking (fun?)
  • you don’t have to think about anything
  • you don’t need to be smart or have thoughts of your own
  • you get to be served by men (by staying home and doing what they want you to do in exchange for dates and some of their income?)

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.