Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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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.


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What about the grandparents?

I just logged on my blog, feeling a bit uninspired, not knowing what to write but wanting to post when I read Mary’s great comment on my last post and suddenly felt all inspired to write about it!

Here’s what she wrote:

“Hi Lisa

There’s something I’ve been wondering about the fundamentalist / QF / patriarchal ‘movement’: there is obviously a strong emphasis on family but everything I’ve read seems to focus on courtship, marriage and having loads on kids. The emphasis always seems to be on the relationship between relatively young parents in their 20s and 30s and their young children to the exclusion of other family relationships. What particularly stands out for me is that they never seem to talk about older people and especially elderly grandparents. How do these couples with 10+ young children cope with ageing parents as well? Why don’t they talk about it? (or do they? Maybe it’s just my imagination). I imagine that in a family with 15 kids the parents are quite old when the youngest children are still in their teens – do they end up taking care of their parents? Or do their older, married siblings take on the responsibility for everyone? Do older relatives tend to live in nursing homes?

I guess the ultra-fundamentalist movement is still quite ‘young’ so families like the Duggars haven’t had to go through this phase of life yet (maybe?).”

You are right, the movement is quite young so some of the things I’m saying are more of a logical conclusion than something I have actually experienced.

Generally, you would first have to take a look at the family stance on medicine. Some don’t really “believe” in medicine, and I’m very sure those families would never give any family member away to be cared for my nurses or doctors. They would certainly keep them at home until they die, no matter the cost.

But those aren’t the general norm, so let’s talk about the ones who actually believe in medical care.

First off, yes, those families have many kids. But they also start young. Let’s take 22 for an average age here (of course, there are many exceptions!). If they had their first child by the age of 22, it would already be 20 when the parents have the last (or one of the last) kids. You’d have multiple kids at a “grown” age, say over 14, among them a number of daughters, who would be there to help with the younger, help with the house and so on. Maybe one or two would already be out of the house. Let’s just say the grandparents are 60-70 at that point and need someone to take care of them. Of course, they would be taken into the house, since there are enough oldest kids to help with the other chores.

Keep in mind that many grandparents aren’t members of the movement at this point. I’ve known families where the grandparents didn’t want much contact at all, thinking it was wrong to have that many kids. Others do have contact but don’t think they should go live with their kids when they are old and sick – they prefer nursing homes themselves. Others again feel like they’d be a burden and manage themselves. There simply aren’t that many grandparents yet.

Now let’s suppose you do have a pair of grandparents with 10+ grown and married kids, who have 10 kids themselves. How would they decide who’s to take care of them?

There isn’t “hard” biblical proof for that. But the first choice would be the family of their oldest son. This is mainly because once a daughter marries, she isn’t a member of her own family anymore but a member of the husband’s family. Sons would always be first choice because they are still “direct, real” family. Plus, the oldest daughter and her husband are first choice for her husband’s parents. Then, of course, they would look at the kid with the best possibilities to take care of them. Here, a daughter might actually be first choice because she has less kids than her siblings or her husband makes more money. But generally they would try to avoid a daughter. After all, he is to support his OWN family, and not the family of his wife. But it does happen (see Duggars. Grandma Duggar is Michelle’s Mom and I believe they take care of her). It wouldn’t be unheard of for the oldest son to volunteer, even insist he take care of his parents. Oldest sons have a sort of duty to do that.

Also, something you shouldn’t ignore, is the HUGE network that comes with a big family. You’ll have plenty of aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers (in law) and so on. Taking care of sick family members might be shared among a number of 20 people!

Generally it really depends a lot on the individual family… The more I think about it the more options come up in my mind. What would happen in the family was missioning, living in another far off country? I don’t think you’d move the grandparents there… I haven’t heard of such a case though.

It’s very hard to say and depends so much on the family that you can’t give a round explanation. But I do think that “abandoning” the grandparents to live in a nursery home is not an option for most movement families, unless the medical care the grandparents need is so intense that it’s simply not doable at home. If the grandparents are fit and healthy, I don’t see why they wouldn’t move in with one of their kids with an especially big number of kids who needs help. Or a kid that is struggling in some area (finances, health, etc) who could use an extra hand.

It’s true though, the issue isn’t very big right now and I don’t think it ever will be for one simple reason: The movement IS very “youth” oriented. By getting into a solid, “godly” marriage, one supposed that that’s the best foundation for the entire life of a person and if that one thing works out well, there won’t be an issue when it comes to looking after your own parents one day.


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Natural curiosity and life unfolding

I received a comment tell me to stop asking “why”. At first I thought to myself “Easier said than done!”. I pondered it for a few days. How can I stop asking why?

In science, curiosity and the question of “why” are a central mechanism for advance. Scientists ask why all the time and then they go out to find the answer. Biologists might ask them why a plant has a certain ability. Doctors wonder what a certain chemical will do and why, and so on. And theologists? They seem to do a lot of why asking as well.

But what does that have to do with me? It’s great when a biologist finds out why a plant has a certain color. It’s great when scientists find a new cure for an illness. But at the end of the day I personally don’t care about the answer to that “why”. I enjoy the beautiful flowers and I’m happy about the medication that makes me better.

And suddenly I saw the whole point of the comment. Asking why won’t help me, personally, in this case. I’m not going to find out in this life, that’s for sure. The only thing I can do is make the best of it.

I haven’t written in so long! I was just not feeling it, I guess. A lot of things around here have changed, a lot for the better. I’m seeing things clearer now. It feels like I finally caught a glimpse of the compass I was looking for so desperately. I feel more secure where I should go next.

It’s a strange thing to say “I have a boyfriend now”, especially since that usually makes people think of that relationship in a certain way. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to elaborate every single detail of my relationship but I somehow feel the need to justify it here, simply because I don’t want people to think I’ve jumped into something physical in a moment of spiritual and emotional instability.

Daniel has been very good to me ever since we met. He has never pressured me into anything at all, not even the tiniest bit. He accepted when I didn’t want to go to the movies with him alone. He accepted the many times I asked him to leave because I thought it was inappropriate for him to stay in the house with me alone. He has never taken any physical action to “show” me his feelings. All of this was solely verbal and, I guess, emotional. When he asked me to be with him (aka be his girlfriend), he still didn’t take any steps in a physical direction. When I explained to him that I couldn’t even promise him holding hands, he accepted that as well. We were girlfriend and boyfriend without touching. Very much like a relationship in the movement, even if I hate to admit this. He agreed that I, and only I, would be the one to take directions in the physical area, be it holding hands or anything else. He was there for me whenever I needed him, being exactly what I needed. He has given up a lot of things to appeal to me, to be with me.

Because of all the respect he had for my feelings and borders I didn’t want to cross, I think that’s why I could finally trust him. I could FINALLY stop seeing him like I see every other man: a hairy, sex-obsessed, angry, authoritative monster. He still deals with the fact that he doesn’t get everything he might want in a relationship, or what people usually consider normal for a relationship. Things like sex are still very much off-limits for me and I do not know for sure yet just how my values are on this. I know some will see red flags in this sentence again but really, I can’t fall back into this legalistic mindset again where i say “not before marriage” or even “definitely before we get married”. I don’t know and I don’t worry about that now. I know Daniel of course would like that (after all, he’s still human), but he ensured me that he doesn’t mind waiting on me as long as he needs to. I told him it might be years and he said that was fine. I don’t know if he really caught the meaning of that, maybe he’s got this blinded by love thing going on, but right now I could care less.

If I lock myself up in a cage, in a tower, where nobody can get to me, nobody can hurt me, nobody can get to know me, where I will always be set apart from the rest, then what did I leave the movement for?

The truth is: I want to be in a relationship at this point. I want to know what it’s like. I’m excited about it. I’m still too… too shocked, too shy, too burned to do stupid things and easily trust others, even Daniel, to easily give away pieces of me that can be used to hurt me a lot at this point. It’s got nothing to do with a fundamentalist mindset anymore, though. I realize I’m still in a process of growing to be myself. I don’t want to damage this process by making some silly mistake, but if I never risk anything at all, I don’t think I can even finish the process.

And out of these terrible times, I suddenly see something great developing. Pain, a broken heart in so many ways, fear. But also – a friend, someone who seems to genuinely love me, coming to my house to cook spaghetti with me and watch a movie afterwards. Someone who will hug me, kiss me on the forehead and make me popcorn. Get a blanket for me when I’m cold. Between pain and joy, brokenness and happiness, desperation and stillness I suddenly found something else: Life. I’m so alive in every way.

 


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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.


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Who is their mother?

Dear Mom,

You delivered every single one of my siblings. You had them.

But once they were born, you gave them to me.

You were training them.

I was kissing them.

You were spanking them.

I comforted them.

You were their home school teacher.

I answered the questions they didn’t dare to ask you.

You cooked dinner.

I spoon-fed them.

You were busy with the new babies.

I played with the older ones.

You had to sleep a lot because it was so exhausting.

I took care of them the many hours of the day you couldn’t.

You were changing the diapers of the babies, breastfeeding them, while talking to Dad.

Meanwhile, I read the bedtime stories, kissed them goodnight and tucked them in.

You were busy with other things, taking care of other families, baking for church meetings.

I made sure they were washed and dressed, made sure nobody got into a fight.

You sent them outside to play because it was too much for you.

I kissed their bloody knees better when they fell.

Dear Mom, you are many things. Trainer, teacher, chef, servant of the community, wife and many others. But there is one thing you are not: Their mother. Who is?


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The silent treatment

One of the things that bugged me the most about my Dad was the silent treatment. I know this sounds weird, but as a child I prefered a spanking, because that would end and only affect me. The silent treatment was something my entire family would suffer from and you never knew when it would end.

The silent treatment would usually follow when Dad wasn’t worshipped enough as the Lord of the house. Say mom spontaneously drove to town when Dad was at work to shop for a new jacket for one of us kids without asking him at least 24 hours prior.

That was the rule: Everything had to be mentioned to Dad AT LEAST 24 hours prior to doing it. Better would be 48 hours. If it was bigger things, you had to tell him up to 7 days prior to doing it (friends visiting, for example). The biggest problem with this was that my Dad forgot a lot of stuff or simply didn’t listen to anybody well enough to actually understand what was being talked about. You had to mention it again and again to make sure he remembered. But this could cause problems too! You had to word it correctly. You couldn’t say (on Sunday) “Dad, don’t forget I told you Wednesday I want to go shopping for a dress on Monday.” That was insulting to him because we questioned his mental abilities. Asking something like this would result in a very loud lecture about how he is NOT stupid, NOT deaf, NOT retarded and that he is VERY disappointed and ANGRY that we speak to him like this. The only way to really get out of the remind-daddy-of-something game was to put all the blame on yourself: “Daddy, did I mention I wanted to shop for a dress on Monday? I’m not sure if I did…” Then he usually remembered we actually had mentioned it before and he would rather calmly say “Yes you did. Sometimes I’m worried that you forget so much.”

If you forgot to remind him of something and he felt it was inappropriately close to said event, he’d get really angry. Say I told him on Sunday evening for the first time that I wanted to shop on Monday, he’d freak. He’d yell stuff like “Who do you think I am? Why am I NEVER told ANYTHING you plan? I’m the head of the house and you treat me like a family dog!”. He’d go on and on and on about it, and then suddenly… silence. Silence that could last for days and was directed at everyone in the family, not only the offender. My mom as well as all us kids.

The silent treatment meant more than just silence. It meant a complete absence of all family life.

I’m not sure about regular lunch and dinner customs in normal American families, but we applied European customs. That meant that the food wasn’t put directly onto the plates by one single person. All of the pots, pans, bowls and so on were put on the dining table and the rule was to serve yourself. In this set of dining habits, it’s very impolite NOT to serve yourself. Of course, small kids are served but everyone above 10 is to do it themselves. Of course you can ask people “May I have some potatoes?” because they sit closer to the potatoes and then have them serve you. But, say, wordless handing of the plate awaiting to be served is so beyond rude… It’s about as bad as eating from another persons plate without asking them. Just so you get the point. Well, if the silent treatment was in effect, my Dad refused to serve himself. Not only that, he even denied holding the plate up for mom to serve him. I can’t word just how rude that is in our family. He sat there, hands folded on the table, staring into the air. Waiting. My mom usually tried to ignore it and served the small ones first, but usually my dad was really quick to grab food and so it was obvious we were getting the treatment again. My mom then proceeded to take his plate and fill it. She’d put it back in front of him and he would start eating, staring at nothing else but his food. When he was finished, he stood up without waiting on the others – something that would result in a spanking for us kids! He went to sit alone in his office room and read all night till bedtime. My mom was left alone with the kids. When everybody went to bed, my Dad left his office and went straight to bed without just looking at anyone.

The silent treatment also meant that, for example, if you knocked at the bathroom door and asked “Anybody in there?”, no answer would follow. We could tell Dad was in there because the door was locked. There was also no family time, not even bible study. He didn’t say goodbye in the morning, or hello when he came home. He didn’t ask for anything, just hold out things to the next best person to be served, like holding up an empty cup in order to get coffee.

This form of behaviour made me incredibly angry. I was angry at Dad mostly, but I was also upset with Mom. Why on earth would she put up with that? Why would she still serve him like a slave? Why would she talk to him, hoping to get an answer, only to end up not even being looked at???

It made me so angry, so frustrated, I usually hid somewhere away from my entire family. My favourite activity was locking myself away in the bathroom. I’d be in trouble if my parents found out I did that without a real reason – we couldn’t lock doors unless it was an emergency. I couldn’t say it was to shower, showering for an hour would be considered wasteful and would get me in trouble, plus, there was no water running. So every time someone knocked on the door to be let in, the conversation went like this: “Who’s in there?” – “It’s me, Lisa.” – “Lisa, you’ve been in there for ages! Get out! I want in!” “I can’t!” – “Why not?!?” – “Uhmmm… I have diarreah.”

Yes, that was my actual excuse and secured me the bathroom all to myself for at least an hour, sometimes two. While I was in there, all I really did was sitting on the bathroom floor with the small mirror in my hands. I stared at my own face, sometimes for minutes without a break. I waited until you get that feeling, you know, that you’re not looking at your own face anymore, but somebody else, and you can observe the whole situation from outside and feel really strange. I stared at the ends of my hair, cutting off split ends with a small pair of scissors. I cut my nails. I hummed melodies. I lay on the floor and dreamed about other place. Being on the beach in a bikini somewhere on a lonely island. Seeing historic European cities. Shopping like the girls on TV do in New York City. Sometimes, I played out entire scenarios in my mind. How I sit at a cafe with two girlfriends and we talk about our lives, or feelings, everything. Those two girls actually appeared very often, and they would always listen, always understand me, and they considered me their best friend. Once I cooled off in my bathroom (no worries, we had 2 bathrooms so everybody could still pee!) I went to my room or straight to bed.

I asked my mom a bunch of times why she let Dad treat her like that. Why she wouldn’t tell him that he acted like a spoiled little boy and not like the head of the house, she told me that women must ALWAYS be submissive. It was ok Dad did this, because she was his wife and she would be obedient no matter what. I feared to end up with a man like that. I hated my Dad so much for it. For showing us off like little circus monkeys, proving us that even without words, he can make us jump again and again.

I can’t tell you how many times my night-time prayer included stuff like “Please God, don’t let me marry a man who acts like this. Please send me a man who can at least fill his own plate, no matter what I did wrong. Please send me a man who can talk about his issues, and not ignore me for days.”


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More on being bilingual and Europe

(No worries, fundamentalist weddings 2 is coming, got it 90% finished, just thinking of the small funny details I forgot!)

So, some of you might remember my post about growing up bilingual. I was surprised to hear I’m not the only one! When I was younger, I felt we were the only ones who did this… well, us and the mexicans who could speak spanish and english! Today I want to talk further about what it meant for my life to grow up bilingual.

When I left the movement, I moved to a place not too far from where my parents live. I didn’t have anybody but Beth really. I had never had friends outside the movement, and contacting the ones inside the movement was out of question for me. I still felt very attached to my former lifestyle and I was afraid that I’d be talked back in. I needed time to sort out my thoughts, emotions, desires, and living so close to the community I grew up in made me feel like I could never rest. They have eyes everywhere, and they gossip. I was afraid to be somebody else than who I was before, afraid to hurt my parent’s reputation, and my own.

I realized I had to move again, some place different from where I grew up in – definitely into a different state. I just couldn’t stay there anymore. At the same time, I tried to work out a plan how I could get by, make a living, going back to school and such. I calculated my options and I always ended up with something that would face me with an insane amount of debt and really no idea where I should go. The big cities were no option for me, as I grew up very rural, I was simply afraid that I could not get by in a big city. Plus, I was afraid of big cities due to what my parents thought about them. The few relatives from my father’s side weren’t an option to turn to. My dad is a strong personality, he certainly had told them about my stunts and why would they believe me? They were Christians and had a good relationship with my dad.

Well, long story short, I had no friends, no family, no money, no idea where to go. At some point, I decided to contact my aunt, the one from my mother’s side. My dad didn’t think very highly of her as she isn’t a strong Christian, and she had also spoken against our lifestyle a few times. We were in loose contact with her because she was very important to my mom, but that’s about it. Well, I did contact her and she helped me a bunch. I had no idea of any sort of paperwork and she helped me figure out a lot of options. But I was still faced with the fact that my life wouldn’t be easy on my own, for a girl like me with no education and no idea how the world works. I was getting really desperate.

At that point, my aunt invited me to stay with her and figure out my options in Europe. At first, I was very opposed to the idea. Wouldn’t that whole different culture there be too much of a shock for me? Together with Beth and my aunt I came to a conclusion: It didn’t matter what culture I lived in. Whether I stayed in the states, went to Europe for a while, or moved to Japan even, the shock would be there either way, and probably the same for all three options. After a long time of considering my options, I realized that even if I stayed for only a short while, Europe would still be my best choice. At least I’d have some weeks to get away and sort out my thoughts.

My aunt and I decided I should come over and stay for 3 months. She is financially well off, so I wouldn’t be a burden to her. Her kids are older than me and they are all out of the house on their own, so there was plenty of room left. I was still hesitant, but Beth promised me I could come back and she would help me any time I wanted. My aunt too promised me to get me a ticket back any time I wanted.

Well, so it happened that last fall, I fly over to Europe to see what would happen there. I could stay as long as I wanted actually, because due to my mother’s nationality, I have dual citizenship. My parents were eager to get that for me once I was old enough, thinking it might come in handy at some point, say if I married a man who was missioning a lot.

The first few days I didn’t feel like much of a change had been made. I stayed at home mostly and spent long hours talking to my aunt and her husband, my dear uncle. There was lots of crying, lots of misunderstandings between the parts of the family, lots of sadness. But I felt comfortable, knowing that at least the stress of life was taken off my shoulders for a short while. My aunt tried very hard to get me used to normal culture. She assisted me with driving around, going shopping, going out to eat, going to the movies, all these things. She also explained a lot of basic life rules to me, like what a utility bill is. It felt good to have someone explain these things without making me feel stupid. Two weeks after I arrived, my cousins came over for a visit. The two guys are working and living in different cities with their girlfriends, one is 30, the other 28. The girl, Sandra, who is 25, still goes to university in a far away city but has many many friends around here still. They were really nice and curious, talking to me a lot and just making me feel part of the family. Sandra acted a bit motherly around me and tried her best to entertain me. She introduced me to many people and they took me out with them, never making me feel like I was a burden but much rather a friend.

Sandra’s friends who had siblings my age introduced me to the people who lived around and were my age. Everybody was very welcoming and warm, something I didn’t expect. Though I’m an introvert person, I quickly found a group of people who I was friends with.

Time was passing and passing and before I realized it, it had been three months in Europe. My aunt sat down with me to ask me what my next step would be. I hadn’t even really thought about it yet, I was just too busy enjoying to be a part of a group of people who didn’t put me under some pseudo-biblical law.

After a few days of consideration, I decided to stay longer. I didn’t know how long I wanted to stay, but I knew that I had good options. Suddenly, I had friends and family, something I couldn’t count on back in the states. I decided to stay and try to finish my school until I could go to college/university.

My aunt and I did all the paperwork necessary for me to stay. We figured out my driver’s license would become invalid at the 6-month mark, so I did a test on that to keep it. We made sure I could work and go to school.

We found me a school were I could get my general high school education done, and it turned out to be free because I was still young. Then, we went looking for a small job I could work to support myself to some degree. Since I’m not qualified for anything, waitress was really my only option. I really didn’t want to go to McDonalds because the hours are terrible. After that, I heard that the sister of my cousins friend, Kathy, was looking for a roommate so should could move out of her parent’s house. She’s 24, so it was time for her. I had become friends with Kathy within my first three months so we decided it would be great fun to live together for a while. We found a pretty, quiet apartment in a safe place of town and moved in December.

Well, and that’s pretty much where I am right now. I’m doing my school, working my job and have my friends here at the moment and I’m content with the situation. Of course, life here is much different from life in the states. But it’s alright this way. I don’t know whether I’ll move back to the states when I’m finished with school. There’s a lot of factors I need to watch and I just can’t say right now. I would definitely like to move back at some point and there are days where I feel home sick and I just miss certain things. I think if I moved back now, there’d be thing I miss in the states, just like here, I miss things from the states. But you can’t have the cake and eat it too (or as we say here: You’ve got to die one death). But I’m proud of the small life have built over here and I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can.