Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


15 Comments

Preparing for marriage and kids

Much of the way girls are raised in the QF/P movements is to prepare them for married life. Of course, some families and communities support college for girls to ensure a well-rounded character (within the limits of that group or family, of course). You will typically see girls and young women taking online courses on things such as literature, culture, nursing and other medical classes, nutrition and so on. It’s easy to tell that all of this is things you can use at home, either to teach your own girls the beautiful girly things (literature), to be able to perform first aid and to cook a well-balanced meal. You’ll hardly ever see these girls taking classes like law, architecture or physics. It’s just not a useful thing to know as a wife and mother.

But among the most important preparations to be a wife is child-rearing. Of course there’s always children around. If the family doesn’t have enough children on their own the daughters will help other big families and perform ministries that prepare them for a lot of kids.

My family was lucky enough to have a big bunch of kids that I could prepare with. Except that I didn’t feel like I was being prepared at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love my siblings more than anything. I simply didn’t have the patience to take care of 4-6 kids at a time. If I had only one or two I was fine. That seemed easy to me. I was able to stay in relative control of the situation. But as soon as there were 3 or more, things got really messy. You know how kids are, they scream, run and tease each other. They fight. They might play nice for half an hour and suddenly one starts crying for one reason or another.

I had a completely different style of relating to my siblings than my mother did. My Mom was always a good Mom, but she was very much a hen. It started to upset me that she acted this way with the younger ones when I was in my teens, knowing that she would “ruin” what I had accomplished the day before. Whenever one of the kids got hurt – and you know they fall or hurt themselves a lot – she focused on the tiniest things. If one fell outside in the garden and barely even scratched his or her knee, she would swoon all over the little one, showering it with pity and hugs and kisses and sentences like “Oh it looks so bad. Does it hurt? My poor baby!”. I caught myself rolling my eyes more than once a day at that. It was barely a scratch! It didn’t bleed! She fell on the grass, it couldn’t possibly hurt that much! But no, my Mother had them sit on their lap for about 10 minutes, letting them cry, telling them how bad it is and so on. Whenever one fell when I was close, I grabbed them, sat them on the kitchen counter, checked their knees and cleaned them if necessary, told them it’s not bad at all and quickly changed to a cheerful conversation of what we had to do next. As long as Mom wasn’t close, they quickly forgot about their tiny hurts and started laughing again. But whenever Mom was in range, they’d scream my ears off and push me away so they could get Mom’s attention. I mean, I understand that this was partially because it meant individual time with Mom, but it upset me that I had to deal with a cranky little one for 30 minutes just because Mom had to put so much attention to tiny matters. Once the little one came back from Mom, it would stand a bit further away, hugging a teddy or a blanket, and when the other ones asked the little one to come back to play, they’d say something along the lines of “I can’t. I’m hurt badly.” Eye rolling from me.

On other occasions, I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer needs of the kids. I remember days where I had only 2 or 3 of them to watch, that wasn’t many kids at all! And yet I could be close to tears and feel so ashamed for being unable to deal with that little kids. I felt like I was going to make a terrible wife.

I remember one occasion where I had 2 of the boys and one of the smaller girls to watch. They played in the boy’s room while I was sorting through their closet. They jumped on the beds, played dragon and princess and screamed bloody hell. I was exhausted that day, I had gotten up even earlier than usual, got scolded by my parents for not doing some chores the day before (because I didn’t have time, just to add that) and had to those chores as well as the new ones. And the screaming of the kids made me incredibly angry. I stood there repeating over and over “Keep it down guys!” – “Be careful, don’t jump!” – “Don’t hit your sister with a stick!” – “Keep it DOWN!”. This went on for about 20 minutes and wouldn’t stop, so I turned around, grabbed them all by their arms, had them look at me and told them to either keep it down and play nice or to go outside. The oldest of the three, my brother, laughed at me and said “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not Mom!”. I grabbed his arm a bit harder and said, very seriously: “Mom told me to watch you. I CAN tell you what to do!” He kept laughing and wriggled his arm free. He them took his “sword” and yelled: “LISA IS THE DRAGON! ATTACK!” and all three of them started whacking at me with their swords, my little sister grabbed one too even. The other two were too small to really get it. Oh wow was I angry. I was feeling tears in my eyes and an incredible urge to – excuse me – beat my brother with anything I could find. Instead, I took his sword away, grabbed him by the arms and held him, yelled at the two small ones to sit down RIGHT NOW, dragged my brother to the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet and told him to stay there until I called him back in. He screamed and screamed at me, face red, kicked at me, the full show. The other two started crying because I had yelled at them, my brother ran off and screamed and cried and left me sitting in the bathroom. I locked myself in for half an hour to calm down and cry some.

I was so ashamed of being such a terrible mother. I couldn’t even control 3, how should I ever managed 10 or more? And this is just one example. This happened so often, me trying to be nice and not use any violence and ending up with something like that – me defeated, the kids winning and laughing at me. I would never make a good mother.

And then again, there were situations were I got upset at my sisters for doing what they were supposed to do. I remember one occasion where one of my smaller sisters, she was 5 or 6 at that time, played with the real small ones of another family. The little girl was just starting to walk and wanted to explore, of course. My little sister kept holding her hand and helping her around. But she wanted to play doll with that little girl, so she kept sitting the little one on her lap. The little one struggled to get away from my sister to play with the other kids, who were playing and running around on the grass. My sister kept holding her. When the little one started to wail because she couldn’t get away from my sister, my sister started to “console” the crying little one, sang songs and rocked it back and forth. She didn’t get the little one didn’t want to stay. The others ran over and asked my sister to come play but she replied “I can’t. I have the baby and she’s crying.”. I watched the scene and felt anger rise up in me. Why was she so insistent to keep the baby? The little one cried more and more, my sister looking all serious, asking what’s wrong, shhhing it, singing and looking like a little Mom, while watching the others play. And that was the point where I lost my patience. I went over to her and told her that the baby didn’t want to sit on her lap. She answered “Yes she doesn, she’s crying can’t you see?”. I told her the baby was crying because she was holding it. She let it go then and the baby quickly got to her feet and started walking away, now happy again. I turned around to go away, after a few steps looking back at the scene just to see my sister off to catch the baby again, forcing it on her lap, doing the same thing. NOW I was angry. I stomped over to her, took the baby away and yelled at her:

“Stop it! Quit acting like you’re a grown up! You’re a kid, go play! YOU’RE NOT A GROWN UP! You’re not supposed to play baby’s Mom!”

I can’t explain where that came from. She was supposed to do exactly that. But seeing it made me so angry. She started crying and ran inside. I let the baby down, the baby just being happy to be finally free. But I felt so bad. Had I just yelled at my sister for doing what we were trying to teach her? She ran to my parents and told them about it, my Dad coming outside to yell at me what I was thinking, that I did the wrong thing and I should let her play with the baby. I went inside, excusing myself, to cry about my weird behaviour. I didn’t get why I said that. I didn’t get why it made me so angry. Once again I felt ashamed for being such a terrible mother.

You see, while all of that was supposed to prepare me for married life and kids, it instead scared me. It made me feel inadequate and stupid. Until this day I feel like the only thing it taught me was that I neither want nor am able to have more than two kids myself. I feel like I have already raised enough kids in my life and doing it again doesn’t seem like something I want to do any time soon. The fact that I love my siblings doesn’t change that I don’t feel suited to raise kids. I keep wondering, if I didn’t have this many siblings, our family would’ve been so different, I might have never left, and might have gotten married, and might have ended up with 10 myself. I’d be thrown into the cold water just to realize that I’m not made for that. I guess I’m glad I could at least learn that.


9 Comments

Leaving churches and periods

As I was working on filling out the Q&A project by Libby Anne, I started thinking about the different churches we were visiting as a family. There was always some reason why we would leave a community rather quickly. And then, I remembered one incident when I was 10, which caused us yet again to leave another community.

We had been members of that community for a few months at that point. We weren’t crazily involved with them (yet) because it was a bit of a drive to get to church and we couldn’t be there for everything. Nevertheless we went there almost every sunday for sermons and community gatherings.

This church wasn’t all about QF families, but there were some. Others were fundamentalist, but not QF like we were. Others again were people my Dad called “luke warm christians”, so basically, they were average, worldly christians.

That one sunday after sermon and community lunch, I was playing outside with the other kids. The church had a small but nice play ground. My parents were inside – my Dad talking to the elders, my Mom helping with cleaning up and talking to the women. Some older girls were babysitting us, but they just sat around, a bit further away, talking about their own stuff. They were 16-18 so they didn’t really want to play with us smaller ones. I was playing with some of the QF girls, singing songs and such. One of the girls I played with was 13 or 14, I don’t remember. Anyways, there was another group of girls, the luke warm girls, who were giggling and talking about how boring church was. That older girl I played with got upset and decided to lecture them – not a good idea. She stood in front of them like a grown up and told them not to speak that way of Jesus and the church. The girls didn’t take her serious at all and started laughing. One of them exclaimed: “I think she’s on her period!” and the other girls started laughing and agreed. “Yeah, totally!” “Aaaah that’s why she’s so moody!”. The older girl was very embarrassed, turned and walked away to sit in the sand further away.

Here’s where the joke comes in: I had no idea what they were talking about. Why was that so funny? What was “period”? How did you get “on” it? And how did you get off? (Please note, if they said “unclean”, I would have had a tiny idea but no knowledge either)

So of course I asked rather loudly “What’s a period?!?!”

At first, the girls looked shocked and humoured. And then, they started laughing hysterically.

“WHAT?! You… don’t know? You don’t know what a period is?!”

I figured that this thing they were talking about was something so essential to my existence that not knowing what it was made me look like a 3-year-old. I blushed, I think, I know my head turned so hot I was afraid my brain would melt.

“Of course I know!!!” I yelled. The girl they picked on earlier yelled at them to leave me alone, she’d tell on them. That scared them a bit, but not enough to drop the subject. They started talking to each other, loud enough for me to hear – of course that was on purpose:

“What’s Lisa going to do once she gets her period???” – “I bet she’ll cry and be like ‘Mommy, mommy look!” – “Yeah, or she’ll get a vacuum cleaner and suck it all out!” – “Oh yeah, ‘vacuum cleaner Lisa’!”

They actually said that part about the vacuum cleaner and today, I can only laugh. It is kind of creative to think that way, I guess. Any way, I was humiliated and close to tears, still standing in the middle between the group of girls and the bigger girl still sitting in the sand, just as humiliated.

“Come here, Lisa, it’s all just fun, I’ll explain” one of the laughing girls said. So I went over and the girls exchanged knowing looks. “Your period is when blood comes out, down there, you know”. They giggled, but I was HORRIFIED. “Down there?!? Blood?!?!” I asked and thought about it. “You mean, out of my butt?” They laughed again. “Noooooo Lisa, not your butt. Where your pee comes out!” Of course, I thought. And I was still horrified. Why would such a thing happen? Did it mean I was sick? I went back to the older girl and told her I was sorry she was on her period. The girl stood up and left, I had no clue why. I didn’t want to stay outside with the mean girls and I was too shocked anyway, so I decided to find my mother.

Later that night, I went to ask my mother about it. “Mom, am I going to get my period?” “Yes, eventually” she answered, clearly embarrassed. “Why? Is it that I’m sick then?” I wanted to know. “You’re only 10 sweety,” she answered, “you don’t need to know until the day comes. Why do you ask anyway?” I told her the story about the girls and my mom was shocked. “These are bad, bad girls and you shouldn’t talk to them any more.”

I bet you already figured that these girls weren’t as educated on the matter as they thought they were. Well, my mother talked to my Dad about it, who was equally shocked that these girls were so oversexualised. He decided that contact with them was unhealthy for us, and we never attended that church again. It’s funny to think how such stupid girl’s fights could stir up so much suspicion in adults. And considering the fact that ever since that I was even more scared of growing up, it shows that it’s not the best idea to keep this stuff a secret. I think my Mom would’ve saved me many worries if she’d come clear that night when I asked her about it.


8 Comments

My quote of the day: Kids are pretty evil.

One of my favourite (cough) authors has done it again. She hit the nail on the head:

“Being a mother of four little kiddos constantly reminds me that foolishness (i.e. sin and selfishness) is bound up in the heart of every child.  There is no “goodness” in them, no matter how cute or sweet they might appear at first glance.  Screaming, whining, demanding, and bullying comes far more naturally to them than sharing, giving, blessing, and serving.”

(read the whole masterpiece here http://setapartgirl.com/blog/Entries/2012/2/27_Mamahood__A_Glimpse_of_What_God_Will_Do.html)

You know, just when I’m about to accept her as a good-hearted person, one who might be misunderstood (especially by me!), someone who has a good thing in mind when she talks, I read something like this.

Of course kids are screaming and demanding. Especially when they can’t put whatever it is they need into words yet. Of course they are whining. They are new to this scary huge world and need somebody to tell them what’s normal and what’s not. While all of the things she says about children’s behaviour are true, I still think it is a dangerous statement to say that kids have no goodness in them.

I don’t know, I don’t know what to make out of her anymore. It’s so sad that a woman who is fully aware of her influence on young girls and future mothers blurts out statements like that, with no foundation, no explanation, no other comment. It’s plain dangerous. Especially because it’s such a stand-alone statement, you’d be tempted to find a way how get that natural evilness out of your children. And what else could possibly pop up on the large christian internet community than the Pearls and their twisted ideas of training children to be good people?

Yeah, you get the point, why it annoys me so much.


26 Comments

JOY isn’t always a reason to be happy

A while ago Daniel and I were sitting in his kitchen. I was working on some school stuff while he was doing his laundry. The washing machine was running and he was ironing his clothes for work. One shirt after another. He took very, very long and I had troubles concentrating on my school work because he was just doing everything in a way that made things much more complicated. At some point I offered to show him a trick how to iron his clothes faster. I got up and showed him how to get the shirt into a position that will allow you to iron without ironing more wrinkles into it. I ended up ironing that shirt myself because I told him that now I started, I might as well finish that shirt. So he pulled the next one out and attempted to iron again. I saw that he wasn’t doing it the way I showed him and took over again. Another shirt. He was getting impatient with my bossy attitude and told me to stop ironing his stuff. I told him that I didn’t mind doing it. After all, I could iron three shirts in the time it took him to finish one. He said he minds, though. I told him to quit acting all hurt just because I criticized him. It was just a shirt! He started explaining to me that it wasn’t me criticizing him that annoyed him. It was the fact that he could very well do it on his own, even if it took him much longer. It was his work to do, his chores. He didn’t want me to act like his slave. That made me kind of angry and I ended up saying “I don’t mind doing it, I like to help. Don’t go all weird on me.” He was kind of upset at this point and shot “I won’T go all weird if you won’t go all quiverfull and shit.” Outch.

I left the kitchen and started to watch some TV. I was really upset and hurt. I don’t like having people throw things like that into my face. “Going all quiverfull”.

A while later he joined me in the living room and apologized for saying it the way he said it, but explained that it’s this thing I do all the time, to everyone. The thing where I “help” without looking after myself. The thing where I do things for others and drop all my own issues, even if it means that I’ll have a hard time catching up with my own stuff. Like dropping the schoolwork to iron his shirts.

Of course I denied that this was true. But deep inside I knew he was right. The same thing kept repeating in my head: J O Y, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Was I still doing that?

We kept talking about it and he could name a whole lot of occasions where I was acting this way. I ignore my own schedule to help others by driving them places whenever need be. When being asked what I’d like to do, I always say “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” and then end up doing that no matter what. When somebody asks me where I would like to go for dinner, what I’d like to have, I always say I don’t care. I’ll eat Pizza when I’d rather have chinese. When we do a cooking night, I always ask people what I should cook. When they ask me what I want, I say “I don’t care, what do YOU want?”. When it comes to seeing a movie, I do the same. The list goes on…. and on…. and on….

It’s so frustrating. I never realized I was doing it. I asked my friends and they all agreed. Pretty shocking to me.

All of this put me into somewhat of a depression for two days. I thought I had changed, my life had changed and then I saw that one of the most painful philosophies of the QF movement was still the major philosophy in my life.

Daniel came up with a 6 week “challenge” for me. Whenever he would ask me what I wanted, I’d have to give him and honest, “selfish” answer. Of course, he would sometimes decide what to do, but about half of the time, I was supposed to make the decision. If I would say something like “I don’t know”, he would ignore me and do it on his own. Like, go and eat on his own when I didn’t know what we should have. I’d have to get my own then as well. It didn’t sound so bad. Boy was I wrong! It is so hard.

Three days later, he asked me what I wanted for dinner. I gave it a quick thought, remembering that I couldn’t just ask him back and then answered a casserole dish that I know he loves. He gave me a very sort of humored, sort of disappointed look. “You can’t just pick my favourite dish, especially when I know you don’t like it.” He was right. I do not like that dish very much. I eat it when I have to. I was so disappointed with myself. It sounded like such an easy thing to do. Why couldn’t I just say what I want?

Since we started I’ve been constantly feeling guilty about my decisions. Whenever I have to pick, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

As weird as it sounds… I want others to make those decisions. I don’t care if I end up eating food I don’t really like, or watching a movie I’m not interested in. I feel so guilty and selfish, selfish, selfish when we end up doing something that I want to do.

We’re still on the six weeks and it’s a nightmare for me. Every single day he doesn’t ask me what I want is a relief. I do want to change… but it’s so hard.


7 Comments

Thank God I’m not there yet

I’ve written before that I often look at girls younger than me, feeling jealous that they are so free and happy. For the last two or three weeks however, I find myself looking at women my age, or maybe a bit older, specifically the married ones and the ones with little children.

I see young women carrying around babies of about six months or a year of age and it just hits me every time: That could’ve been you. That is what you were supposed to be. I’m not saying that they look sad or anything, quite the opposite (i hope!).

I look at them and I realize more than ever that this would be reality for me! I find myself wondering: Would I have one by now or just be pregnant? Would I already have a second on the way? Would I look this happy on the outside too?

Whenever these thoughts come to my mind I smile. Not because I’m thinking of the child(ren) I could have by now but simply because of the fact that I don’t have them! I thank God that this fate did not hit me. I know people say that once you have a baby, you’ll love it and be happy to have it. I just can’t imagine that for myself right now!

I used to believe that I was ready for that. I think that started at the age of 16 for me. But I didn’t really think that way – I was told to think that way and so I did. There was no “teen age” for us. You were a child, and then a young Lady, until you got married, then you were a Lady. A full-grown woman. Hence we weren’t allowed to think for ourselves in a way that would make us enjoy life without a family of our own. Our entire purpose was to have babies.

They tell you all kinds of crap to scare you into believing them. Not having children causes breast cancer, or cervical cancer, or really, pick any cancer. It makes you depressive. It makes you selfish.

Maybe the reason why I believed I was ready to have kids was partially based on my wish to be in control somehow. You see, as a daughter you have no rights, but as a mother you do. You don’t have to obey anymore, you’re being obeyed. You actually have a say in decisions (unless your husband is home).

I was longing to be married with kids. I always imagined I’d have a husband who gave me his full attention. Is that because I never had my parent’s full attention? I dreamed of a baby of my own, to love. Is that because I was never entirely loved the way I needed it (or felt that way)?

Being where I am right now I know more than ever that I was not ready to be married and have kids. I’m still not ready to be married and have kids. I don’t know when I’ll be ready and that is ok. I’ll know when the time comes.

And for now I’ll keep looking at the young moms, thinking that I’m happy for them, but that I’m also happy for myself.


18 Comments

Training up this child – Part 20 – Hurt

(As some of you might have recognized I name many of my posts after songs or movies. I usually pick out a song that suits the mood of each post, usually googling “songs about XY” and then listening to my options. This time, I was torn between two song: Chris Isaak – Wicked game and Johnny Cash – Hurt. I ended up with Hurt because, well I think it sums up a lot of how I felt. I know that some of my readers are just as unworldly as me, so here’s a link to the song on youtube in case you don’t know the song.) Harry’s mother seemed a lot more excited than usual. She made compliments about how I looked, how nicely we decorated the house, how amazing the prepared food smelled. Everybody had a huge smile on their faces, a smile I immediately thought was… retarded. It felt as if the universe had shifted. I was no longer in the real world but in some weird dimension, full of retarded people who don’t even know that some sort of magical boss is shoving lies down their throats. I felt as if they looked at me like I was about to join their sect, go through a weird ritual where they’d take out parts of my brain to make me smile just as stupid as they did. I can’t recall much of this. I was in trance. I talked but it wasn’t me who talked. I heard myself speak and my voice was different, strange, not mine at all. My words didn’t come out of my brain – I didn’t know what I was saying and at the same time wondering how I came up with the things I said. Cold sweat was covering my entire body, my skin felt cold and tacky, but I still felt like that person wasn’t me. There must have been some sort of small talk, some sort of prayer, some words of encouragement but I memorized nothing at all. The only thing I can remember was looking at my shaky hands, covered in freezing sweat and desperately trying not to throw up all over the place. My insides were rotating and I was truly afraid my heart would stop beating any second out of sheer fear. I remember at some point Harry asked me to go outside with him, sit in the garden for a bit. I agreed, my face frozen in I don’t know what position and a very strong, sudden urge the really throw up. I think I held my hand in front of my mouth for a second, because my Dad gave me an encourage stroke on my head and opened the door to the garden for us. As soon as I was outside my mind started screaming: “RUN! Now’s the chance! Run away and don’t turn back!”. But I didn’t. Instead, I followed Harry to the bench in the garden and sat down. I was completely quiet and the sweat started to run down my neck and back. My hands were so wet, they sparkled in the evening sun as if they were powered with diamonds. Harry spoke up: “Do you like the flowers?” “Yes” I said, “Lilies are lovely. My favourite flower.” That was true. “I think so too. You know, you’re like a lily to me. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” “That’s true” I said, not knowing how to react. “Lisa, you know, I have been watching you for such a long time. Years now. I can’t imagine that there is anybody more beautiful and lovely than you.” He said and took my hand, squeezing it, which embarrassed me because my hands were freezing cold and soaking wet. “I didn’t have to think much about if you were the one. I knew it all along. I would’ve done this so much earlier but I felt I needed to wait and be patient on you. I was doubting your feelings for such a long time but now I feel like it’s different. I feel like we’re made for each other.” Harry looked at me, but I just started into the grass next to my shoes. I hadn’t looked at him during this entire conversation and I couldn’t find the courage to look into his eyes now. He was silent for a few seconds, but then let go of my hand. He stood up, slowly. My stomach twisted, making me feel sicker every second, my heart skipped at least 10 beats. Harry stood in front of me. And then, he did it. He got on one knee, found a little box in his pocket, opened it with shaky hands and presented a lovely ring to me. I stared at the ring and the universe shifted yet some more, completely separating my body and my mind at this point. And as I stared at the ring with my body, and my mind stared at myself sitting there, not knowing what to do, Harry finally said it: “Lisa Franziska Bennet, will you marry me?” I didn’t say a thing. I stared at the ring in Harry’s wet shaky hands and almost heard my mind laughing. This is crazy, this is unreal. “Lisa?” he said after some time which could have been hours for all I know. And for the first time I looked into his eyes and what I saw there I will never forget. I don’t think one can describe the horror and fear I saw on his face that moment. I looked back at the ring, then back into Harry’s eyes. Terror. An entire world crashing down, hands shaking violently, tears starting to fill his eyes. My, a lot worse than I could’ve possibly imagined. I still hadn’t said a word but I felt the need to react somehow. I took the ring in my hand, not putting it on and looked at the pretty little diamond. I could almost feel Harry dying inside and wanted to hold on to him, to make sure he wouldn’t just stop breathing. I put my hand on his hand, then on his cheek, stroking through his hair and while I did that I just slightly shook my head. I was still a mute. “Does that mean no?” he asked and I nodded just as slightly. Harry now sat in front of me, on his knees, staring into nothingness. “Do you really mean no? Why not? What’s wrong? What did I do wrong? I can make it right, just tell me what I have to do, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything.” I shrugged, silent, just staring at Harry sitting there in the grass, at my feet, not knowing what he or I should do next. Finally I found some words somewhere in the back of my head: “I’m so sorry”. There were some tears on Harry’s face, but he wasn’t really crying. “Well, tell me why you’re saying no. I thought everything went well.” My cheeks were burning as I tried to explain. That I felt like I wasn’t ready for marriage, that I was doubting practices and beliefs in the movement, that I didn’t feel quite right about marrying him. He took a seat next to me again, thought about what I said for a bit and then asked me “Ok, so what do you want? I’ll give you anything you ask for if you marry me.” I told him how I wanted an education and maybe a job, how I was afraid of having so many kids, especially right now, and that I wanted a different life, not as set apart from the real world and other people. I wanted to have friends. I wanted to be normal. Harry was quick to answer. “You can have that. You can find yourself some friends once we settled down. You can go to school if we can afford it and you can work until we have kids.” I told him that by our beliefs, we’d have a kid within the next year. He told me that I couldn’t say that. God would time them. And if we did, God’s way would still be perfect. That he thought if I kept following God’s plan, I couldn’t possibly be happier. As he told me all that, the truth started sinking in, the truth Beth predicted: I couldn’t change his mind, I couldn’t make some sort of deal with him that our marriage would be different. He was too convinced of his beliefs. “This isn’t going to work” I finally said. “We’re too different in too many ways. You’re sure that your beliefs are right while I’m doubting everything. You can trust God while I can’t. You dream of a biblical family, I dread it. How can we possibly be happy together? It might just be a phase for me, but I don’t know that yet. If it is, and we are meant for each other, we will be together eventually. But if it isn’t, you’ll be stuck with a wife and family you’re too good for. Is that really what you want?” Harry was quiet, crying and so was I. “If that’s what you want, if that’s what you can deal with, I’ll marry you.” I hadn’t said that because I wanted it. I said that because at this point, I realized what I got myself into. Two families were waiting for a happy, engaged couple. They weren’t going to get one. I was very, very afraid of what waited for me back inside. I was clueless how to explain all of this. I think at some point I wished he’d agree and still want to marry me so that I could avoid what was sure to come: Anger, hate, disappointment, being kicked out of the house into a world I didn’t know, cut off from my family. I realized the extent of what I just had done and it was just as scary as my other option. I was trapped with no way out. “No, I think you might be right. You’re obviously not in the right state of mind to make a good wife. You need time.” Harry’s answer was partially a relief and partially the scariest situation I could imagine. I took his hand again and for whatever reason I said Thank you. I was emotionally broken down to bits and pieces and started crying violently. “What do I do now?” I asked him. “What will we say?”. Harry just shook his head. “I don’t know.” I cried even more at that and Harry must’ve felt sorry for me, because next thing I know was that he put his arm around my shoulders. I couldn’t resist and hugged him, crying harder, begging him “Please don’t let me do this alone, please help me, please do something, I can’t do it.” We sat there for a few more minutes, until I found a tissue in my pocket, cleaned up my face as well as I could. “We should go back in. I bet they’re wondering what’s going on.” Harry stood up, but I just couldn’t find the strength to do it. He took my hand again and pulled me off the bench. “Come on, we’re in this together.” He didn’t let go of my hand, which I’m deeply thankful in retrospective. We slowly walked over to the back door of our house. My mind was empty, fear struck me but somewhere deep inside I felt that I had done the right thing. Harry held the door open for me, and inside I went to wash away those stupid smiles off my parent’s faces.


18 Comments

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the purest of them all?

Ages after we abolished paying money to a father so that he would let you marry his daughter, we still somehow see virgins as something desirable. Though we might not measure in gold or land anymore, we certainly put a price tag on every woman, spiritually, emotionally, culturally.

These price tags are especially important in christian fundamentalism. And that price goes WAY down if only the slightest scratch was ever attained (though, it was only right at the back of the knee and didn’t leave a scar).

We’re not talking about physical virginity here. That is important, though, because once that’s gone, a man might as well marry a street-walker.

We’re talking about emotional purity here. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? That’s old news. Why buy the cow when you can look at it for free would be much more accurate to describe what fundamentalism is doing to its’ daughters.

There is only one way a woman can stay pure: If she never even had an emotional attachment of any sorts with a man. And with this mindset, purity become the impossible good. A girl will be damaged goods if she has had a deep friendship with a boy. A girl is damaged goods if she ever held hands or “flirted” with a guy. And flirting is stretched very far here. Laughing about a joke a guy tells might be flirting if the wrong people see it. Being in a room with a boy who’s not part of your family is considered damaging to the girl’s purity. Purity becomes a minefield and the only way to avoid it is, I’m sad to say this, staying at home. Inside your house. Seriously, don’t even take out the garbage because some boy might say hi and talk to you, and you would be flirting. And anyway, what if somebody saw you? They’d gossip their mouths fuzzy that you’re having a secret boyfriend and once that’s in people’s minds, you’re about as damaged as a vase somebody dropped out the 13th floor on the hard concrete sidewalk.

And what about men? Well, men are so focused on sex even at a young age, you can’t really blame them for a slip here and there. A man who wastes his purity on, say, holding hands, will not be “as impure” as a woman doing it. And even worse: A man who admits his “sin” is considered strong, spiritually mature and godly. His purity is easy fixed in the minds of people. A woman admitting her “sin” is still damaged. The reputation of being impure will always follow her around.

I grew up in an environment where even talking to a guy could make me look like a slut. Any interaction between boys and girls was so dangerous and at a young age lead to strict discipline that I stopped interacting with boys completely. I wouldn’t talk to them in church or at conventions unless a male relative of mine was right next to me. They don’t tell you to behave that way, but it’s expected.

I couldn’t go out alone, or with girls only, or, much worse, with boys who weren’t related to me. Whenever I wanted to do something outside the house, I needed a male relative with me. Even at the supermarket I couldn’t move too far away from my mother (unless one of my smaller brothers went with me). My smaller brothers were trained to “protect” their sisters, us older ones as well as the younger ones. Age didn’t matter, gender did. A girl out alone, walking down the street to bring something to that nice old lady a living a quarter mile away? Can’t have that! There’s all those horny, sexually perverse, monkey-like men just waiting for to pick you up, tell you you’re so pretty and they feel an instant connection. And of course us girls are stupid enough to hop right into bed with them. Or into the car, whatever. No joke, I had to take my younger brother with me in order to bring that old lady a pot of soup when she was sick.

The very few times I got to talk to boys and later men was when my brothers were around. At church, my brothers would talk to their friends while us girls stood next to them, smiled and acted quiet and meek. We were not to look into their eyes, or to laugh about their jokes as this would imply interest in them, not to ask questions because that again would imply interest in them, not to mention that we were supposed to look godly, and godly girls and women are meek and quiet, not straight-forward asking a bunch of questions.

Our lessons for school were different. We learned female things like cleaning, sewing, music and cooking, together with girls from like-minded families. There were meetings with other women from our community, old and young, teaching us different instruments and exchanging “secrets”. How do you get grass stains out of those jeans? What can you do when you overcooked potatoes? It was treated like secret, sacred knowledge. We were miles ahead of those secular feminists who couldn’t even boil water without burning down the house.

We also had lessons on men. How to treat them, how to act around them, what they liked and didn’t like. Wise tips and tricks were given. Always have a glass of your husband’s or Dad’s favourite drink ready when he gets home. Don’t bother him with questions. Cheerfully eat the food you hate once a week if that’s his favourite food.

We were given advice how to dress, too. Our clothes were checked for potential immodesty: Was the neckline too low? Would the top show the skin on your back when you kneeled down to pick something up? Would the skirt outline your butt if you picked something up or was it still lose and modest?

I had a time, or better phase in my life, I was 15, 16, where I discovered a love for colorful hair bands. They made my long, boring hair look somewhat fashionable and allowed different hairstyles than the typical modest braid. I could wear it up, wear it open, wear it in different braids artistically wrapped around my head and top it off with a cool looking hair band. My intention in this wasn’t any other than trying to look somewhat worldly. It had a surprising effect: I was praised for covering my hair. It started a whole discussion whether women should cover or not, and I was asked why I did it – to which I replied “Because I think it looks pretty”. They didn’t realize I meant fashionable, they thought I meant modest and godly. I never corrected them and quiet this practice a while after.

Purity goes far beyond sexual relations. Extreme purity is something that has an effect on every area in your life. I was considered one of the really pure girls in our community. My fear of being anything else was too big to be rebellious.