Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Training up this child- Part 17 – I want to hold your hand

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This chapter has been particularly hard for me to write. Up to this day, I’m ashamed of what I did to a good person, out of a fanatic belief that only my “biblical” way was the right way. I realize that none of this was actually biblical. I have apologized many times to the person and I apologize again here to him as well as to everybody who feels like me, that a terrible thing has been done and the pain probably can’t be fixed.

While I was sitting on the couch with Tiffany, I slowly formed a plan. I was convinced Beth was wrong, and even more, I was convinced that she tried to pull me into her world of sin. She might just be so sinful that she herself wanted company in her sorry state. I felt like I needed to prove her wrong, no matter the cost. I was so hurt and confused, feeling betrayed by the only person I ever felt I could trust in. I gathered my emotions from Tiffany’s living room carpet, stuffed them into my little box and locked it up tightly. The only thing I decided to keep out was betrayal.

After I went home, I quickly excused myself from family life in order to pray and study. I sat down with my bible, rereading the passages which usually put me back into place over and over. Praying frenetically. I simply needed to prove Beth wrong. I needed to love Harry. And the way I figured out was the only way I ever learned about love: Love is actions, not emotions.

I started pacing things up with Harry. I wanted to prove, by actions, that I did in fact, love him. My first step was to call him more often. I chewed on my parents until they would allow me half an hour each day. They were a bit sceptic at first, but seeing that things were moving closer to engagement and marriage, they finally gave in. The first few days, Harry didn’t comment it at all but seemed very pleased. After a week or so he finally asked me why I called him that often. I had waited for that question like a predator for its’ prey. “Well, because, you know, I like talking to you. A lot. I just want to hear your voice more often.” He went quiet but somehow, through the silence, I could hear his excitement. He was very cheery after that, laughing a lot, telling a lot of funny stories. I laughed like I had never heard anything funnier. Manipulative? Yes, a lot. That’s what you get from raising your kids to be emotional nutjobs.

The following weekend Harry visited again, for the first time without his family. Due to lasting stress with Beth, they wanted to stay at home, settling things. Harry had gone through a fight to be allowed to stay at my house for a night.

We had quite some fun on that weekend and I had prepared a number of things (actions) that I could do to show him my “love”. I made a very special snack for him. You need to know that my mother actually isn’t American but an immigrant and I know how to cook a lot of stuff from her home. He was ecstatic, a huge smile on his face while eating, not getting enough of telling me just how good of a chef I am.

After that, we spent some time doing garden work which he helped me with, lots of talking and just sitting around with my siblings, playing games. In retrospective I have to admit, these times were bliss for me too. The fact that he was alone there and everything went great made me feel… right. I felt so superior to Beth with her boyfriend, living in some what I imagined could only be a rat hole, probably doing things I couldn’t even imagine.

One of my sisters, a very wild, energetic personality, came up with the idea that we should play Tag outside. We all agreed and went outside to play. It was a beautiful evening with warm, orange light shining. Harry was just great with kids, giving everybody the chance to tag him and acting extra slow to make the slower runners feel good about themselves. It was a lot of screaming and laughing going on. There was somewhat of a silent agreement that Harry and I wouldn’t tag each other as we weren’t allowed to touch at all. Whenever either of us was tagged, the other didn’t run but stand somewhat in the middle watching. I ended up being tagged (the smaller ones always tagged either Harry or me) at some point, kind of out of breath, standing in the middle holding my sides and watching over the field of giggling siblings running close and off again. Harry stood a step or two from me, obviously not in the least out of breath. I decided to do something wild, knowing that both of my parents were neglecting to watch us. I took a step to the side and just slightly brushed Harry’s arm with my palm. He looked at me somewhat shocked. Not sure what to do. “Well Harry, I’m guessing I just tagged you…” and ran off with the smaller ones. It took him a moment to realize the situation and he started laughing again, chasing the smaller ones down, making funny noises for them.

As dinner was ready, we ate together and spent some time with a short bible study. As it was getting dark outside and my mom brought the kids into bed, my dad got busy doing some more (unnecessary) garden work in order to be able to watch me and Harry while we sat outside in the garden on a bench. We just watched the sun set and the stars rise, not talking at all. I thought about the day we spent together. We had a great time and Harry was everything a woman could ask for and more. And he seemed to love me. For the first time ever I realized that I actually did care about Harry. It was what I today can only consider a form of love like you love somebody you admire their qualities. A person who’s your friend with qualities you wish your lover had, but that person isn’t quite your lover, if that makes sense. After what must have been an hour we went to bed.

The next morning was quiet and calm. We went to church, something we did only on occasion when my dad thought the sermon was good for us. We ate lunch and Harry still had some more hours left before he had to drive back home.

Sunday was relaxing day and I managed to convince my parents to let Harry and me take a walk on the field at the back of our house. They could still see us from the garden and after some objections agreed.

We walked around talking about this and that, plans for future visits, his schedule at work, when the best time for our phone calls were. At some point he looked around as if he was trying to make sure nobody was watching us too closely. He lifted his hand to stroke a bit of my shoulder. “You’re tagged. It’s your turn to say something now.” he said. I didn’t get what he wanted from me at all but I tried to come up with something. “I really enjoyed the weekend. It was great getting to spend so much time talking. Doesn’t work with all the siblings around like usually.” We both went quiet and the silence felt uncomfortable to me. I touched his arm and said “Tag, your turn now.” He smiled and went on talking about the snack I had made and how much he was hoping that he’d always get good food like that. We stopped walking was the way before us would have been our of sight for my parents. Looking around again, he took my hand and I felt for the first time how hard his skin was, worked down hands, now sweaty from what I can only guess what his nervousness. He looked at my fingers in his hand, fiddling around on them with his thumb. “You know, you have pretty hands. I like pretty hands on women. I was really doubting if this courtship was a great idea. I liked you before but you always seemed distant, like you had a hard time dealing with me. And now it’s so different.” “Yes” I said because it was really the only thing I could say. “Was it because of my family?” he asked me. “It’s always because of the family. Everything is because of the family.” I figured that was a smart way to avoid a real, honest answer. “Do you love me?” he wanted to know. I thought about it for a moment and came up with the only answer possible for a woman in the movement. “It’s not my job to go hunting for you, confessing and asking things a man should confess and ask.” He nodded and said “Well, I do.” I nodded and smiled but didn’t know what to say. After what felt like minutes, I blurted out the only definition I could come up with. “I call you a lot. I like talking to you. I made you a snack and I will do that and a lot more if we get married. So what do you think?” And poor Harry, who grew up believing just the same crap about love, smiled, thinking that I just told him that I really did.

2 thoughts on “Training up this child- Part 17 – I want to hold your hand

  1. Thank you for having the courage and honesty to write this.

  2. This one broke my heart- it reminds me of the good heart of a young man I knew in Fundie-dom. The system is just as cruel to boys as it is to girls.😦

    **hugs**

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