Category Writing

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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.

Pepper Potts in an Iron Man Suit

Pepper Potts was in an Iron Man suit. The suit was keeping her alive. She couldn’t just take it off whenever she wanted to, because to do so before she was in a place to receive proper and necessary medical care would be her death. As it was, the condition that lead her to live in an Iron Man suit was complicated and treatment wasn’t easy, not even for someone close to Mr. Stark. So Pepper Potts wore an Iron Man suit. She wore it every day and every night. She wore it to parties and running errands, work, and taking out the trash.
Tony was supportive, he knew Pepper was in the suit, and that living in the suit was hard for her. He kept her company and made her as comfortable as possible. He taught her how to use it and tried to show her the plus sides to living in a suit. He was there to listen when she had problems, to hold her iron clad hands and watch netflix, but most importantly, he saw her. He saw Pepper for who she was, not the suit she was wearing.
Whenever Pepper left her home she had to make a decision – a decision that was revisited upon every interaction with every human she encountered during her day. She could go out in the suit and be mistaken for Iron Man, talked to as if she were Iron Man, or reveal her identity as Pepper and be disbelieved, ignored, or beaten, harassed, and tormented. Of course, there was the off chance that some people would believe her when she said “I’m Pepper Potts, this is just a suit, it’s not a reflection of me” but those people are rare in public.
Most often, she got called “fake” and her life experiences were invalidated because all people could see of Pepper was the suit she was wearing. They thought, well if there’s an Iron Man suit, obviously it’s only Iron Man in it, and as soon as they learned otherwise, they harassed, threatened, and called her a poser, just trying to get attention, a wannabe, not real.
But it’s only Pepper Potts in an Iron Man suit. We all know that what we wear isn’t who we are. 
Sometimes I feel like my skin is a suit. It’s something I wear, something I have to wear because this suit is what’s keeping me alive. But whenever I go out, because of my suit, I have to decide if I want to put up with the misogyny and misgendering that my suit brings me, or risk confrontation. I often opt for keeping my head down and avoiding conflict. It doesn’t make the way people treat me – when they see my suit and harass me because of it, or keep calling me her when I’ve told them I’m not – feel any less painful; it’s just sometimes easier to ignore it than fight it, until I have the energy to. I haven’t found my powers yet.
My skin is a suit, it isn’t me. I’m inside of it. And the people who see through the suit and into me are the people I want to keep around. I want to be seen, my suit doesn’t define me. 

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 5

And then we ran away and lived happily ever after, right?!


Well….
After I got up to Maine my parents began this routine where they were suddenly super nice! Sent me my clothes, told me I could come back…and then would also be really mean. Back and forth, back and forth.


I had just escaped an extremely traumatic…decade, and suddenly I was so tired. I did a lot of sleeping. Alex made sure I was able to get as much sleep as I could. I stayed between my in-laws house and their pastor (the pastor I had been talking to). At the time it was exactly what I needed, they gave me space and let me talk, let me sleep, confirmed that what I was experiencing from my parents was not okay. My dad even called the pastor and when the pastor got off the phone with him he came to me and was like, yeah, you were not remotely exaggerating about your parents.


In April Alex proposed to me, and thus began another round of drama.

But before I get into that, I want to say. I was 18 and Alex was 20. I do not recommend getting married this early. It worked out for us, yeah, but I am not going to extrapolate that to everyone. We got married because we love each other and wanted to just be together (still do) and that was the only way we knew how to do it. The concept of bounded choice applies here. We wouldn’t have been able to just move in together – legally, yes, but not….while retaining relationships with people we needed support from at the time. So it worked out, but the fact that it worked is a combination of magic, that Alex and I  had a strangely healthy relationship given our backgrounds, and a lot of work.

At the very least, wait until you can actually legally buy the champagne to have at your wedding.

And I do recommend living with the person before hand, because seriously, it’s smart.

Alright, now that’s out of the way…


Within like a month or so of courting my mom took me dress shopping (I told you they rushed it!), and we found the PERFECT dress, ON SALE, so we got it, and it was in my closet. I got engaged and my parents had been nice and so I asked if they’d send it, and they said no – that they didn’t support my marriage and sending my dress would be like giving money to a homeless person (who would spend it on booze). Needless to say they didn’t offer to pay for it either. They then began to sabotage my wedding. Sending my pastor a tome of papers, emails, with notes in the margins, about why Alex and I shouldn’t be married.

The pastor did his due diligence and read over the tome and was like, dude, I don’t see anything here. My parents were pissed. They pleaded, begged, tried to garner as much sympathy as they could from everyone. The only family on my side that came to my wedding, were my grandparents, even though I’d sent invites to everyone else.


Honestly though, I’m happy my parents didn’t come. I could do without the sabotage and backbiting and expressing their loathing for me and Alex. I definitely didn’t want to deal with that on my wedding day.


My entire goal for my wedding was for it to be over. I got a dress at a used dress shop, the seamstress also did the photography (she took pictures with a DSLR and gave us the SD card, she’s….not really a photographer), I basically didn’t plan much of my wedding. We chose the vows that were the shortest, I told my Mother in Law that I wanted the colors to be red and white and that I’d like to have roses for the wedding party, but that was basically all I had decided. We had a morning wedding with Hors d’oeuvres and Cream Soda and tea and coffee, and our cake was vanilla with strawberry filling and chocolate covered strawberries as a cake decoration.

I walked down the aisle solo, to Concerning Hobbits, and we did not include any room for people to object.


Like 30 people came, we had a small wedding party, and I made a playlist for the reception. Tablecloths and plates and silverware were from walmart and I didn’t give a shit. I was just happy to have gotten this far.
During the reception the pastor asked me how I was feeling and I told him: relieved.


The funniest part is that my Mother in Law was talking to people about how it was our first kiss (it wasn’t), and romanticizes that we had cream soda instead of champagne. But nothing is more lame than having champagne on your wedding that neither you nor your spouse can drink. Seriously. It’s not for lack of wanting it, just lack of ability to acquire legally.
Which is why I said you should wait until you can drink to have a wedding, you will need it.


Alex and I work because we both know we’re human, we try not to invalidate each other’s experiences, and we listen. We are equal.
But that we work that way is fucking magic. There are many broken hearts and casualties in the wake of courtship and purity culture. When you start with people who have no business or ultimate involvement in a relationship having the most authority in it, it’s always bad. Just don’t. okay. Just don’t do it.


Date. Have Consensual Sex. Move in together. Get married if that’s what you want. Ultimately, be honest with yourself and your partner. Communicate. Know you’re both human.


But don’t give your autonomy to other people because “authority”. Only you know what’s best for you.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 4

I went a couple weeks listening to my parents and not talking to Alex. Making sure they weren’t monitoring me, etc. As they became convinced I had moved on (apparently cutting my hair in an effort to defy them = moving on) I went into planning mode. Alex and I had figured out ways of communication my parents didn’t know about. Living in the basement does have it’s perks.


One of our friends from TeenPact was running for congress in NH that year and asked me to help him campaign, my parents agreed, though were worried I’d see Alex,  I convinced them that wouldn’t happen, and so I flew to Boston and took the bus to NH (my parents also didn’t know about the bus part). Alex met me at the airport. He took the bus from Maine to Logan to meet me, and we put our faces together and smushed our lips into each others for the first time, because fuck it.


He rode with me until the last 30 minutes of the trip to NH, and I went on my way like nothing happened. He met me at Logan on the return trip too and waited with me until I had to go through security to fly home. He told me he didn’t hate me and I wasn’t damaged and he still loved me and it was good.


Came home like nothing happened, no one asked questions, although I did have to lie while I was on the bus, about the bus, which was exciting.
In November I also started carrying my messenger bag around with me (stuffed with a jacket) so my parents wouldn’t think anything of it when I left with it on my birthday. My mom had ordered me to send my promise ring back and I hid it in a drawer and told her I lost it, until Nov/Dec when I started wearing it on a chain around my neck tucked into my bra so they wouldn’t notice. They weren’t overly observant, or didn’t care once they had decided I was over it and they could continue to use me as they had for the last decade.


Meanwhile, I still had a hope chest full of supplies for my future. A hope chest that was in my bedroom as a constant horrible reminder of everything that went down in flames. A hope chest full of things I bought that I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring when I moved out. A hope chest, ironically, full of dashed hopes and broken dreams. I had about $1k of supplies in there, everything from pyrex glass measuring cups to towels and linens, and suddenly I needed a way to get rid of it. I told my parents I wanted to get rid of it because having it bothered me (which wasn’t completely untrue), but mostly, I wanted to have that giant, valuable, loose end tied up before I left.


There was a family at our church who had just moved to the area and apparently had nothing and were sleeping on towels on the floor. This was perfect. I immediately offered them everything (save for one bedding set and keepsakes) in my hope chest and they took it. Everyone was so proud of me and my generosity and I was told I would receive what I had given up 10-fold (yay christianity).


 
But I didn’t care, and didn’t count on it. I actually felt a little guilty because I wasn’t giving my hope chest away out of the goodness of my heart, I was giving it away because of practicality. I would rather have had it go to someone else than my family be able to keep it and use as some kind of bargaining chip. I don’t tell this story often, because people tend to attribute philanthropy to something that I still feel was an entirely selfish move. I wish I had been able to keep my hope chest, but I knew it wasn’t possible.

When your entire teen life is spent hearing about how having a hope chest is so important, and it’s such a good idea, and then you don’t have one when you need it, it’s hard not to feel judged. It’s weird. The feeling of being an example for everyone you know because you’re the first to embark on the journey they’ve all been waiting for is intense too. Something I’ll need to talk about more I think, but back to our story.


I broached the subject about meeting friends at the mall by myself for my 18th Birthday in November too, to give them time to get comfortable with the idea and not flip out about it. It took a lot of work but I managed to convince them to let that happen before January, and in January, I went to Florida to get my driver’s license.


I only had one shot at getting my license. To my parents and grandparents, it was no big deal if I didn’t pass the first time, but I knew if I didn’t get it done in January, I wouldn’t be able to again, I’d have to start all over with a new permit at age 18 because I would be living in Maine at that point. So I worked really hard and I passed the test in January, much to my relief. In order to get my license, I needed my vital records (convenient), so I grabbed my birth certificate and SS card to take to the DMV.

When I got back my mom asked me where they were, I said I had brought them with me and they were in my room and that I’d put them back….but I actually just hid them away safely, along with my diploma, and thumb drive with my “transcript”.


My mom was due any time in February and I hoped beyond hope that she would have the baby before my birthday. Before I left.


My birthday approached and no baby. I knew I only had one shot at leaving too, and if I missed it…….my life was over in more than one way. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but that was my reality. I needed to leave, or I wasn’t going to make it. The toxic hell-hole of my existence was becoming all too clear. I had even spent several months talking to a pastor who didn’t know my parents about the situation and they agreed it was unhealthy, so I felt like it was okay, as far as god was concerned (because I was still christian at the time) to leave.


There was this problem though: I was my siblings primary caretaker at this point, and if the baby wasn’t born before my birthday…who would take care of them?


My grandparents came up the week before my birthday, took me to get red highlights in my hair and were around to help with the new baby, so my plan was still a go. I knew if I left without the baby being born, then at least other adults would be around to take care of my siblings, and I wouldn’t be leaving them completely alone. I had some amazon money from christmas, I divvied up my stuff to my siblings and I bought them each a toy and left it in a backpack by my bed. It was, and is still, important to me that my siblings know I didn’t leave because of them, that I love them, that I didn’t want to abandon them, but I didn’t really have a choice. 


I don’t know if they’ll ever know that. But leaving them tore me apart. I almost didn’t leave. But I had to.


One of my friends had joined the military and was stationed in GA and graduated the day or two before my birthday, so Alex came down for that (and to get me), and a couple other friends of mine picked me up and we went to his graduation and more relevant to my interests, I got to chill with Alex for a while. As a group we agreed not to post any pictures or anything on Facebook until Alex and I were safely away.


–aside– my online friend community was THE BEST and I wouldn’t be here without them, they were supportive and understanding, and I am so happy I know them –/aside–


On my birthday, I convinced my family to celebrate it early because my plan was to go to a movie and I wouldn’t be home until the kids were in bed. So they grudgingly obliged, and my presents were all conveniently travel sized, so I could throw everything in my messenger bag along with a change of clothes, my laptop, and my vital records. Then I hit the mall and my friend and I took pictures outside of Olive Garden while we waited for everyone else to get there, we were adorable.


So everything was going to plan, but instead of going to a movie, Alex and I booked it out of GA and called my parents when we crossed the border.
They…..lost it. Threatened to call the police (thankfully, a police officer already knew, and also I was an adult and wasn’t kidnapped, so :P) and even wrote up a fake police report on Facebook, went between love-bombing guilt trips (“we would have helped you pack!”) to calling me a liar and deceiver and otherwise horrible person. The trip up the coast was intense, but finally, finally we were alone and had privacy and could just fucking be.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 3

Spring Break was tense, and tension just kept rising. In May, something broke. I cannot remember what it was in specific. As much as I’ve tried to block off most of these memories, that one was just….I can’t get to it. I know it happened, I know I felt betrayed by my parents in a way I’d never felt betrayed before, but I can’t give you the context for it, because there is a wall there. I hope you’ll indulge me in taking my word for it. I decided in May that there was no way I would be able to trust my parents in the future, that nothing they told me was trust worthy.

In essence, May 2008 is when I really started seeing their bullshit for what it was. I basically decided I wouldn’t tell them anything personal, anything that could hurt me, from there on out. I knew they weren’t safe and I knew that everything in my life was going to come to a screeching halt, and then crash, and then burn.
I wasn’t wrong.


My parents had started trying to make me doubt my relationship with Alex.
I feel like I should point out here, at any point my parents could have tried to get to know Alex and his family beyond just a casual hello. They chose not to. They would rather just run off of their unfounded assumptions about people than ask questions and believe the answers. They live for conflict.


Still talking to him every night for hours on end, and actually asking questions, and paying attention….none of their issues were founded. Their issues weren’t actual problems with our relationship itself, their issues were with his beliefs and his family’s beliefs being ever so slightly different from theirs!


–aside– At some point shortly after we started courting, this family we were home-churching with gave me The Courtship Series, to help me with my courtship, as I was the first in our group to start courting (and I wasn’t even the oldest). This series encouraged women to be quiet and not say anything or express any preference beyond what their suitor expressed. I’m still angry about that to this day. I’ve always been outspoken, and trying to fit inside The Courtship Series, and Josh Harris’ boxes only hurt our relationship. Eventually we were just like, this isn’t working, this isn’t us, lets go back to just being ourselves, and that was much better. –/aside–


Somehow, and I don’t remember how, my parents agreed to let me visit Maine again in June. I think this was their last-ditch effort to get me married and if he didn’t propose this trip (spoiler alert: he didn’t), then clearly he wasn’t interested.


It was that June trip, however, where we both knew things were heading south and made a plan. We took a walk for an hour – the only way we could privacy of any kind – and decided that if my parents broke us up, because that’s what it felt like was going to happen, that we would wait, and when I was 18, he would come get me, and we’d run away together. We both sincerely hoped it didn’t come to that.


Barely two weeks after I got back, mom told me she was pregnant. I was devastated. I knew it was only a matter of time before my life ended again. I wasn’t wrong.


My parents couched it in terms of losing their faith in Alex’s commitment and gave me three days to break up with him before they did it themselves. I refused. They offered me money and a car. I still refused. So I woke up one morning to an email from my parents, to me, Alex, and Alex’s parents, saying they are breaking us up and they forbid Alex and I from speaking to each other again.

It was August. I was 17 and a half. I only had 6 months.
rewind One day in July my parents cornered me and were arguing with me about Alex and how he really should have proposed by now and disappointed them and whatever their other problems were, I can’t remember now. And I told them the plan we made in June. Because they were like, we don’t want to, but we will break you up if we need to. And I was like, well you can try, but it won’t work. THEY CONVENIENTLY FORGOT THIS CONVERSATION EVER HAPPENED.


When I got the email I let out a scream like Wesley in The Princess Bride. Inhuman, guttural, the sound of a broken heart. I knew I couldn’t trust my parents. I saw that they were using me now that they were pregnant again (though they would never admit it).


I ran outside to yell into the wind and my mom ran out to tell me to go back inside or the neighbors would think something was wrong (no shit).
She tried to tell me she knew how I felt (nope). The only thing I managed to say to her was “Only for six months“. She rolled her eyes, told me not to talk like that, and left.


I was depressed. I was borderline suicidal – by that I mean, I ideated A LOT, but I never tried anything. I spent 6 months with my life on hold, yet again, being the broom, doing my mom’s job, while she was in her chair being pregnant. I don’t remember saying more than a sentence to my parents on any given day for those 6 months. I didn’t talk except to get orders. I kept my head down and stayed quiet.


I thought about cutting, I thought about killing myself. I had a gun (16th birthday present), I knew where it was, I knew where we kept the ammo but I was terrified of the kids catching me on my way out (there was this empty lot a few houses down that I would go to cry alone and was away from everyone who could get hurt) and also dooming myself to hell. I had a few friends who knew I was thinking about suicide, who told me it would defeat the purpose, and if I went they’d go with me, which staid my hand at the time. First, good point, Second, well, that wouldn’t be okay, so. I didn’t cut because I thought I had a low pain tolerance, and I didn’t want to be caught or noticed. My #1 goal was don’t be noticed. So, I didn’t do anything to cause alarm (read: more lectures).


 
I felt so worthless. So so so unbelievably worthless. My parents, having broken us up, left me to pick up the pieces and they moved on with their being pregnant and shit. Didn’t try to check in on me besides this attempt at comfort: Well, you got to experience love, so.


Because of purity culture, I was sure that even Alex wouldn’t love me still/anymore. Because I was damaged. I knew for sure no one else would. I had loved. I had given my heart away. Therefore, even to return to the person who loved me, I would still be tarnished and unwanted. I would be the glass of water with a drop of milk in it, turned into this disgusting murky substance.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author Part 2

Alex’s dad called mine because he wanted Alex not to be crushed if he asked and dad said no. Or so the story goes.


Anyway, not long after, maybe the next day or later that night, Alex called and asked dad The Question (because asking to court is basically asking to marry me. I’m not joking either, courtship is “dating with the intent of marriage, and also with no privacy, and your parents controlling everything” but I think in the actual quote they use the word accountability), and to my surprise, my dad said yes. My mom was ecstatic, because her life-long dream of being pregnant with me simultaneously might actually be a thing.


We started courting (marionette dating) when I was 16 and he was 18, my mom heard wedding bells immediately. We had maybe a month of courting in peace before my parents (mom) started asking when he was going to propose if I really wanted to marry him or not. Something along the lines of, you graduated high school, now you can get married! was said, to normalize, I suppose, the pressure they were suddenly putting on their 16 year old to….tie the knot. And I told them then, and I said this before, it’s not that I didn’t want to marry him, eventually, but neither of us were ready.

To their detriment, in their eagerness to marry me off, they spent the last half of the year I was 16 drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions even though I was still technically a minor.


I ended up being in the general vicinity of his college a couple times that fall, due to campaigning and TeenPact events, so we got to see each other a couple times, though, never alone (obviously). Which was so nice. We even gasp held hands a couple times. This was happening simultaneously with my leg infection, and one of the campaigning trips I was on (where I walked for 10 hours with an abscess on my knee) was the one he was at, and he hung back and walked at my pace with me, while I hobbled along. Why didn’t he just carry me? because RULES YOU GUYS. RULES. Nonetheless, while everyone was miles ahead and oblivious, I didn’t mind having the company…and the relative privacy.


–aside– My brother went with me on one of the TeenPact trips (the one pictured) where Alex got a pass from his school to go because it counted for some class or other, and at first I was annoyed, but then figured out that siblings can totally piggyback and no one cares. So that was the best. Honestly, I feel bad that I didn’t want him to come, because it was actually fun to have him there (not just because I didn’t have to walk in heels the whole time). Go figure.–/aside–


The first time we held hands, it was like trying to put together a puzzle while blindfolded. It took us a while to figure it out. I’m not kidding. It was awkward and weird, and we were trying to be sneaky, and anyway. We eventually DID figure it out, but man, fingers, guys, they are complicated.

I went up to meet his family in December. It was intense because my parents and his parents (who to this day, have never met) were already starting to have issues with each other. Mostly because his parents were like, no, you can’t get married yet, and my parents were like, YEAH HUH THEY CAN. And they pressured Alex into buying me a promise ring, if not an engagement ring, because…my parents really wanted me married.


Being as excited as they were, however, they wasted no time in taking me to turn in my bonds and fully stock my hopechest.


You know, because two months into courting is totally the time to fully prepare for your future together.


When I came home from Maine and I wasn’t engaged (keep in mind, we’d been officially a couple for barely 4 months) my parents were disappointed. There was other drama, that at the moment is sort of blocked out. Needless to say both sets of parents were draining me and I wasn’t thrilled with them. My parents started questioning his commitment to me because he didn’t ask me to marry him that trip.


They started being more outspoken about their reservations when he still didn’t propose after he came to surprise me for Valentines day. Not that he would have been able to anyway, because I and everyone else had the flu and I sort of willed myself better to hangout with him but still. Funny though, because it was a surprise, so I didn’t know, so I was chilling on the couch being sick and my mom kept asking me if I wanted to brush my hair. All afternoon she asked me this, and I was like no, I don’t want to brush my hair, I’m sick. I don’t care if it’s messy. And then Alex came and she was like THIS IS WHY I SAID YOU SHOULD BRUSH YOUR HAIR. And I was like, eh, he won’t care. He didn’t.


Alex came to visit me over spring break 2008 (we’re 17 and 19 at this point), met my paternal grandmother, who’s still the strongest woman I know and it was one of those weird trips where it’s like, well, Gramme has to like him, and she did, even though she was like, months away from parting. At the time, both sets of my grandparents lived in Florida, so that meant a 10 hour car ride south, Alex, my brother, and I in the back seat of the 15 passenger, to meet my grandparents and go on our annual “vacation”/fulfill some of our residency requirement, to Florida. I showed him around the city I grew up in sorta. We went on an incredibly awkward and overdressed date, but we looked cuute.


Short trip to my hometown and to see my Gramme aside, most of what happened was Disney World and Sea World which sounds like it would be THE BEST THING EVER, but in reality was…not. My parents had unspoken expectations of things they didn’t communicate (not unlike the time the year before, they said we could do whatever at a GA park thing and were livid that we didn’t hang with my brother, despite not having told me to), said we could wander and got upset over stupid stuff that wouldn’t have been an issue if they told us ahead of time. Were mad about my phone dying, and mad about Alex and I talking (just talking, not anything questionable) at the timeshare my grandparents had gotten for everyone, and about us getting stuck on a ride (mechanical failure). Generally, it was a horrid trip, my parents were insane and tense and ready to explode at any given thing – even the kids were on edge and anything they or I did just……it was bad. I don’t remember a lot of details, just a lot of awfulness.


I need to go back to Orlando without my family there to enjoy it again sans the horrid baggage and guilt that came with that trip.


The ride back to GA was even worse. My parents stopped at chick-fil-a near the GA/FL border and sent the kids to the outside climbing area and sat down with Alex and I and gave us a stern talk, because we had fallen asleep in the back seat. All three of us had (my brother was there too), and my parents were like, WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE YOU, YOU COULD BE DOING WHO KNOWS WHAT BACK THERE. And we were just…aghast at the violent outburst in such a public place.

My parents were angry, because Alex, my brother, and I fell asleep on a 10 hour car trip and all three of us were leaning on each other. They said we were doing foreplay and didn’t listen to us when we said 1) no, we weren’t and 2) we didn’t even know what that was. Which was TRUE. Because we were homeschoolers who’s parents thought it best to give NO EDUCATION TO AT FUCKING ALL and decide that meant we were equipped for life.


Your teenager hearing the word foreplay for the first time during a lecture from you in which you are mad at them and then you refuse to explain what it is and also disbelieve them when they tell you they’ve never heard of it. Just no.


I didn’t learn about what foreplay was until months later, on fucking wikipedia thank you.


Things went south (even more) quickly after that.

Well Then, God is a Shitty Author

cracks knuckles
So, I was looking in the archives and realized that in the ~5 years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve only mentioned courting like, 4 times (swear it feels like more though), and it’s such a huge part of my story….but also an intensely emotional and painful one, which is why it’s referenced but never really talked about. This is going to change. Probably. Maybe. If I can stick it out long enough to finish it. My locally crafted whiskey and moonshine may be coming in handy for what will most likely become a series – so I can’t promise the best writing ever (which, actually isn’t something I ever promise), but, I think it’s time.


We met at TeenPact National Convention, but we’d followed each other’s blogs before that. He was SmartHomeschool and I was Politically InCorrect. We and a handful of other people were first timer’s at the camp and everyone else we knew had run off to hang with their already established friends, and as we wandered, we kept running into each other and finding a handful of other loners at random times to make our group more TPA. We called ourselves The Magnets, because, we just sort of all ended up at the same place at the same time, snacking on skittles and starbursts.

 
Alex, I will have you know, was a tough cookie to crack. Super shy and awkward, I made a point to open up his little clam-shell-self that week, because I just REALLY wanted to know what was inside his brain. Which sounds weird, but I’ve never really felt that much curiosity for anyone else. Plus he was cute to boot, but I would never have admitted it. boops baby alex’s nose SO I MARRIED HIM. THE END.

Just kidding.
If only it were that simple camp love story.

Anyway, back to reality.
Alex was a cool person, we became fast friends, not just because we were more or less stuck together for a week, but he was thoughtful and smart, and interesting to talk to. He argued with me when no one else would, and didn’t just take whatever I said and leave it. We were equal. Which is sort of an unheard-of dynamic in our circles.

When we went back home, we would spend hours every night IMing each other about everything under the sun. We had a lot in common, and we had a lot not in common. Eventually he brought me on the board of the magazine he started with some other homeschoolers and everyone basically started shipping us immediately.


We, of course, didn’t see it. We were friends, best friends, equals, that’s it. Everything we knew about marital relationships involved whatever sex was and submission (and not the fun kind), so, we went about our lives as best friends.


Alex came to visit me for my graduation party the week before TeenPact National Convention 2007, and that was when things started changing.
That visit was intense for reasons that actually have nothing to do with Alex and everything to do with my extremely pregnant mother.


It was that trip that Alex learned things weren’t sunshine and rainbows with my family. The day or two before National Convention, my parents sat me down upstairs and started yelling at me about laundry and shirking my responsibilities (Alex, who had been staying in my room while I camped with my sisters, heard everything from the basement). I came downstairs in tears to do the laundry they had exploded about – really the whole thing was a miscommunication, as was…..well, usual. I hadn’t done the laundry because I had to take a shower, mom had told me to do both without specifying the order, but then I had to make dinner and get the kids to bed and do all her other work, so I was going to get to the laundry, but apparently I hadn’t done it fast enough, or enough of it.


I got downstairs to the laundry which was adjacent to my room, and I just collapsed into a pile of tears. I forgot Alex was there and he came over and I tried to brush it off like everything was fine. I think I told him I deserved the verbal abuse my parents had just thrown at me, loudly, for an hour. I sat there and took it and apologized to them. I apologized to him for crying in front of him, and told me it was okay (to cry). He helped me with the laundry (he actually attempted to help me with all of my chores that week, but as soon as mom noticed she’d give me more shit to do), and was just there.

I….never had anyone do that before. I always tried to never cry, because my mom told me crying was weak and would get me made fun of. Alex didn’t make fun of me, he was just present and calm and…helpful.
Anyway his visit with my family was full of shit like that happening, it wasn’t really awesome and I felt really bad about it, but then we went to camp again and I got to escape it for a while, even if camp was full of religious guilt that just reinforced that my parents were right about me.


After he went back to Maine, and the life of being a mother resumed for me, things just….I felt halved. I powered through one of the most intense pregnancies my mom had ever had, probably the most intense actually, because she had an emergency c-section after having essentially a one-month long contraction. I had slept everywhere but my room for a large part of June (NC was end of may), including often the floor or a couch upstairs so my parents could wake me to man the house if mom went into labor.


But that’s another story. Anyway, time to myself after that was really scarce, I would be up until 2am because the only time I could talk to Alex was after everyone else had gone to bed and most of it involved him trying to tell me I wasn’t loosing my mind because of everything that was happening.


rewind When we were saying our goodbyes at camp, he told me to look under the coffee cup full of Reece’s in my room (his graduation present to me. Seriously, best. ever.) so that was, naturally, the first thing I did when I got home. He’d written me a letter that…reading it now, basically just said I love you for two pages, but at the time mostly was just the most validating thing I’d ever heard and desperately needed. That I wasn’t a horrible sister, that I was really strong, that what my parents were asking of me was insane and I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly.


I miss you” was said with all the weight and meaning of “I love you” when it’s said for the first time.


blah blah blah pregnancy, june, july, GenJ camp, CPS visit, all other stories….September.


Alex and I had written each other letters by hand over the summer because it was fun and….I don’t remember why we started, but anyway, he was heading off to college in the fall and I was worried he’d fall off the planet and I’d be alone without anyone I could talk to about life who would really understand. All naturally platonic, stupid shit, jokes; we were basically pen pals who were madly in love with each other and refused to acknowledge it (but secretly hoped).


So one day in September, out of the blue, Alex’s dad calls my dad, and asks what his answer would be if Alex asked him for permission to court me.
And so it began.
 

Giving Too Much part 2

When I was 11 we came home one day to find someone we’d met at a homeless shelter/food kitchen/church thingy on our doorstep, with her infant. We’ll call her Missy.
I don’t know how she got our address, or why she was there.
But she was.

And I gave up my bedroom and moved in with my sisters and Missy stayed with us for a very long time.

She stayed with us through the aforementioned foreclosure, where my parents stopped paying their mortgage in lieu of paying someone else’s.
She stayed with us so she could get her two other kids (and nephew?) back in her custody.


Our house was foreclosed on and we were facing homelessness – not just for our family, but for Missy’s as well.

My parents traveled all over the city, and even a few hours north of where we lived, trying to find some place to live, but because we were being foreclosed on, no one was taking my parents + another family, because they didn’t trust they’d pay.

On the day we had to be out (the people who bought our house granted us an extra week or two on account of they were nice and we had a shit ton of people to move – although, Missy did most of the packing because….I think mom and dad were busy looking for houses and also hanging on to “god saving our home”) we had nowhere to go, we were looking at being homeless, and Missy was still going to follow us around.

The plan was for me and my siblings to stay at my grandparents while my parents continued to travel anywhere to find somewhere who’d let a two-family-one-income household rent from them. It was a really terrifying day. Not knowing where we were going to sleep, or live, or if I’d see the people in my homeschool group ever again…

But then my grandparents mentioned that the house next door just went up for rent, and so my parents went over and the guy who bought the place just wanted the land, so he didn’t ask questions and said as long as we’d paid the rent we could stay there. So we did.


When I was 12 mom got pregnant again, which meant that pubescent Kiery got to take over everything again, except this time….not only was my mom telling me what to do, and having me run the house, but Missy was too.
I was cooking and doing chores not just for my family, but hers as well.

Let me mention this again: I was 12 years old.
I was taking care of two families single handedly.
I was not okay.

Eventually my parents confronted Missy about using me as her slave too, and set up a chore list so other people had to also cook and clean and do laundry. Mostly, just that Missy had to take care of her family’s stuff, and we alternated cooking days. Zero introspection on the part of my parents regarding…I don’t know, placing too much responsibility on a twelve year old.


My parents got mad at me for my “attitudes” (because I was adolescent, exhausted, run ragged, burnt out, and barely keeping up with everything, including school), and blamed it on Missy’s 15 year old daughter’s influence (because I shared a room with her – even though we weren’t close). Very little came of this besides my trying extra hard to be totally happy all the time.


It was Missy’s older child who alerted me to the fact that my period had started when I was studying in a tree with my brother, her cousin, and some of the other kids. My brother was very concerned, and I panicked. Missy had then asked me, at random, if I was pregnant or not because I would sometimes wrap my arm around my abdomen (because cramps. and no meds.), and I was mortified. Half because I didn’t know what sex was or how to do it, and half because that’s not something you ask an isolated twelve year old who just started having periods.
 


My parents paid Missy $40 a week to stay with us and homeschool her kids. That way, she could say she had a job to the CPS people, while still fulfilling her god-ordained plan to be a stay at home mother and educator. I…don’t remember this going well. To be honest I’m not sure if she even did anything more to educate her kids than through books at them, like my mom did with me, but I don’t remember. I was otherwise occupied.

Missy was, however, a far superior cook than my mom, and fish and frog-legs aside, she made some really good food. This is the only pleasant memory I have of her. Graham cracker cake and home-made Chinese food.


Shortly before/after my 13th birthday, my parents discovered that Missy had been abusing pharmaceuticals and kicked her and her family out.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that I only had one mom around any more, and my own room. Also, my brother got to move out of the closet and into Missy’s alcove, which was nice…and I was maybe jealous.
The second stillborn happened two weeks before my 13th birthday.


After Missy, my parents decided not to let random families live with us again. Turns out my mom didn’t like having another lady in the house either.
 


2003 dance recital

My mom got pregnant almost instantly after the stillborn and I had to get my own rides to ballet (which meant asking my teacher to pick me up and coming home with my grandma). My ballet teacher was a wonderful adult to have in my life at the time. She made me feel valued and cared for at a time when I really needed it, because I wasn’t getting that from my mom.


In fact, that was often one of the things that hurt me so much as a child – I never had time with my mom, and I’d get upset and we’d have a mother-daughter day, but that would happen all of three times before she would get pregnant again and it would end and I just became an object. I tried to explain this to her once, but she never really understood it.


She spent so much time talking to and being there for other people, acting like she knew all the things about being a good wife (helpmeet), homeschooling, and parenting – but was never there for me, never there for her kids.

I never doubted my parents heart for giving.
I’ve always doubted their love for me. 

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.