Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

The (polished) lives of others

16 Comments

I remember dreaming about life the way I had seen it in those P/QF books and magazines and occasional home making blogs. It’s funny because it was never that way at our house. But I always thought that one day, I would live one of those beautiful lives.

I’d have a pantry filled with homemade juices and marmalade and sauces and relishes. I’d have a beautiful, antique and yet modern kitchen. I’d have a great view from my kitchen windows, and I’d wear a beautiful apron. I’d be… hm. One of those fairytale housewives, I guess.

My life would be quiet, relaxed. I’d be busy decorating a beautiful home, not really worrying about money and how to get by. My husband would be thrilled to see my newest crafty decoration idea and I’d have people come over for tea, who would praise my exquisite taste and the heavenly homemade biscuits.

My living room would have one of those open fire places and no TV in it, a beautiful sofa and a large bookshelf with old books – funny enough, that shelf was filled with books I wasn’t encouraged to read. But hey, who cares, they were only decoration anyway. They would show my guests how polished my education was, how knowledgable and ‘classical’ I was. After all, those classics are the center of a good education!

Yes, people would be impressed by my family and me. After tea, the female guests would offer to help me in the kitchen, but I’d say no. I’d offer them to come to the kitchen with me anyway, and then I would show them the many jars filled with strawberry-vanilla-lemon jelly and blackberry-cherry marmalade and tomato relish (my secret ingredient was a red, sweet apple). They’d look at the jars and go “How on earth do you manage?” and I would just smile and say “Oh, you know, I just can’t stand not using up the things we grow in our garden.” (just to point them to the fact that I had a rich garden). I would fill up the plates with more biscuits, different kinds, and gracefully fly back into the living room, or the dining room. There’d be fresh flowers everywhere. And the women would ask me where I got this and that, where my antique teacups were from, and I would have a different story about everything, an amazing, magical, filled with adventure story.

And yes, my kids. How well-behaved they were, and how clean and neat and obedient and whatnot. How tidy their rooms were, how tidy the house was, how lush the gardens! Yes, I was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

At the end of the day, my tall dark and handsome husband, who made assloads of money doing something real godly, would put his hands on my shoulders and gently kiss my neck and whisper that I was truly the wife of his dreams and no other even came close to me.

Yes, I would enjoy those moments that made me feel so superior to everybody else. I would brag about it, discreetly, a constant, charming smile on my face, my beautiful hair naturally falling perfectly on my shoulders, my dress so polished and modern. My beautiful husband and kids, my beautiful self, my beautiful home. Oh everything would be beauty. And I would walk past the other P/QF trailer trash and show them that if you REALLY had God in your life, you could be the same. No, they weren’t as godly as I was. They weren’t. I was the true picture of what God did for his followers. Yes, I was better. Better than all of them. I was more sacred, had more godly beauty, more blessed. And they would know, and they’d crawl back into their messy holes and beg God for forgiveness for whatever they had done to deserve less than me.

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Thinking back, this makes me despise myself. I always dreamed to be one of those women. You know them, they are in every church. Except, back then, I was the trailer trash girl, crawling back into her hole and into her messy life, wondering why God didn’t give us the money and space we needed, why it was always too much for us to do, why, no matter how hard we tried, we could never have the fancy china and the old books and the crafty ideas.

I was filled up with rage because God didn’t keep his promise. And then we were there, left in the dark, looking at those polished lives of the woman who were truly graceful and blessed.

We were the ones envying gardens and staring at the beautiful kitchens. We were the ones to be gifted that strawberry-vanilla-lemon jelly, with a pitying smile and a “I got more than we can eat!”, or that tomato relish, with a wink and a “A big, ripe, red apple is the secret ingredient!”.

I was the one of the sideline, knowing that they were better, and hoping that I’d join them one day.

It’s not just purity that’s turned into a contest. It’s all of it. Who’s the purest, who has the most godly, most proverbs-31 house with the beautiful stuff in it, who has the best husband, who has most blessings from god.

I was despicable. I’m happy I’m out of that pressure. I don’t have to despise anybody anymore – not the poor P/QF families who think that they don’t need all that stuff to be happy (but actually, they do), not the families who can boast with their blessings of beauty and craftiness and tidiness. I pity them, even. Because both sides are never satisfied. Both sides are striving to show everybody what God can do by hoarding up blessings, both in form of children and of possessions. They think they are beyond materialism, but they aren’t. In fact, they sell it as “Godly, beautiful, set apart feminine lifestyle”.

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As I am writing this, I’m sitting on my made bed, covered  in h&m sheets (I love them!), a room filled with stuff that was gifted to me, that I fixed up. That doesn’t quite fit, is always a little off. Now, I will go into my old but homely kitchen, take two cups out of the shelf – two different looking ones, because we do not have two cups of the same design on that shelf – and make a cup of coffee with my good old-fashioned coffee machine. One for me, one for my roommate. And then, who knows. Maybe we’ll just go shopping. Because, fortunately, we do not have a garden to harvest, jellies to cook, or cookies to bake. No, we are free of all those pressures – at least for today.

I hear the new cafe has amazing cookies. Maybe we’ll try those.

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16 thoughts on “The (polished) lives of others

  1. What legalists of all religions don’t realize and don’t want to believe is that Godliness is within and shows in behavior and not in “stuff.” Having the gift (and it’s a gift) of canning, jelly-making and decorating are nice but they have nothing to do with true Godliness. Perfect homes are a lot of work and well-behaved children have as much to do with either fear of severe punishment or genetics as anything else. I’ve seen well-behaved children and I’ve also seen children who are too busy to be well-behaved by some people’s standards.

    All little girls dream of the home and family they want to have. Reality is different. Just remember, you only saw a few minutes of those other women’s lives and not the whole picture. You may some day have a home that is perfectly neat with well-behaved children. Or you may not. It’s as much your own gifts or personality and genetics as it is anything else.

    And you are not the only formerly P/QF lady to complain about “one-up-manship” in the movement. It’s as much a sin as lying and may, in many cases, be a case of lying. It’s likely that that sort of pride is the sort that does go before a fall. It’s also likely they believe God is lucky to have them. God actually isn’t impressed at all with the feeling she/they left you with at all.

    • Oh yes, I didn’t mean to demean abilities around the house like canning and cooking and craftiness. I love being crafty myself.

      It’s sad to see this pressure in the churches to conform to this “perfect housewife” image many of the P/QF materials (books and such) promote – take, for instance, the Ludy books, partially the Pearl books, Above Rubies materials, and all of the other things you can find on “joyfully homemaking”. Plus, the flood of blog of those supposedly perfect wives (usually termed “joyfully at home” or “homesteading”, for the more rural picturesque families).
      It’s an immense pressure to conform – young girls are raised to believe they must absolutely have those abilities to be good home makers and that they have to meet a certain standard to succeed. And that bar is very, very high.

      I know of both blogs about those perfect wives who end up in depression because the workload is too much, or because they believe they fail (when they’re really not, objectively), and of young married girls who are suddenly in the situation of having to meet the standards set up by their mothers and other wives within their community. “Failure” is the only option when you’re trying to follow the standards set up by short glimpses of “Lady’s teas” and such.

      There’s always someone who’s supposedly “more blessed”, “more feminine”, “more sacred and godly” and it ends up being nothing but a competition who brings the most glory to Jesus.

  2. “Because both sides are never satisfied.” Wow. This post is completely awesome.

  3. The non-P/QF ladies have this too. It’s called “Martha Stewart Living”.

  4. Pingback: The (polished) lives of others « A Quiver Full of Information

  5. Pingback: Wearing Your Virginity on Your Sleeve

  6. when i was only 19 and after a miscarriage unhappy very sad … i hadnt learned how to cook and would frigg out but luckily my bf would say it is ok you cant cook because ive needed more time due to the workload i use to compete with other woman thinking they were beautiful and i was not due to hating me and the abuse i went through when i was only 17 and 18 and 19 just getting out of it it has been harder for woman who suffered longer…. but i have gained just new strength after not living with my bf fam and having well needed space from the situation that was falling to pieces where god did not want me forever… and now i am a student and worker! but whether i get high fashioned clothes now from being a waitress I do love all people with more or less money (GOD OVER MONEY) the same because jesus loves people who give up more of self, and comes to help people being christian ~+~ because everyone has different gifts from jesus christ

  7. meANING i use to be a waitress now have a resume after working hard since i was 16 many jobs and promotional ones

  8. one day i would love to help the orphans without much. no way in my heart do i think i am any superior to these the same as me humans is how i see it just because they need help does not mean life is not lovely since they are still alive today !!! amen in jesus name

  9. we need to bring peoples lives up in jesus and love nothing less

  10. andwhat i had to learn is envy is a sin!! jealously in the bible it states of the starving that stole i can understand if they urged for help that a christian should be alending hand to the needy because jesus is blessing me with my jobs so one day i should have money set aside!!! SOUP KITCHEN ANYONE??

  11. H & M makes sheets? And they are super comfy and soft?

    Powerful writing, by the way. I love the “assloads of money doing something really godly.”

    • Yes, European h&m has a “Home”-line which sells everything from sheets to pillows, kitchen towels, shower curtains, everything that is decoration and soft pretty much. The sheets tend to be pure, very smooth, soft cotton and they get really really crisp when you iron them right. That’s why I love them :X Plus, the patterns are beautiful! (click me!)

  12. Wow. I am so glad to find someone else post-QF online. I’m the eldest of 9 kids, raised in ATI/QF, and can attest to the one-upmanship and judgmental social controls in the organization. Thanks so much for posting this; you have no idea how much you’ve encouraged me.

    • There are soooo many others! Here’s a link to a very good blog list of others: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/survivor-blogs

    • *raises hand* oldest of seven, here, and we were in ATI for awhile, though for the most part we were just generically fundie – I’m not familiar with QF by that name but it sure sounds like the way I was raised. my dad was a pastor so we had even more of a pressure to be the best and ‘set an example’, holy god I hate that phrase. I’m only just discovering that blogs like this exist – I wish I would have found it ten years ago, but I thought I was the only one for a long, long time. and you don’t really realise how built on legalism it is until you get free.

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