Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Courtship – engagement – weddings (1)

It’s time for another courtship – engagement – wedding post.

There is something weird about courtship I realized. I never read anything about this particular issue and it doesn’t exist in every family, but in some (or many) it does.

Why do so many families keep it a secret when a daughter is starting to court? And it’s not like that for men – at least, not that I know of! When a man starts courting, he will say that he “has a feeling” or that “he thinks God is showing him something”. He might not directly admit “Yes, I’m courting”, but he won’t say no either. With girls, it’s different. A lot of fathers tell their daughters not to talk about it until the biggest deal breakers are out-of-the-way. Why is that?

I think it’s got a lot do with 1. the image of female purity and 2. submission of the female part in a relationship.

About the first: While evangelical circles deny that there is such a thing as a difference between purity in women and in men, we all know these differences exist. It’s got a lot to do with the image of how each gender “loves”. While women tend to get emotionally involved very quickly – and therefore give pieces of their hearts away – men love more on a physical level, physical attraction and sex are the major things a man will crave when he is in love, and not the emotional aspect of a relationship. Hence, once a courtship starts, the woman is much more likely to lose her purity and pieces of her heart while the man is only looking for sex and by that, won’t give away pieces of his heart. The emotional attachment comes much later (if it ever comes!).

And I see this as a major reason why so many families are eager to hide a new courtship of a daughter. This might go on for just a week or two, it might take months for the parents to allow the daughter to admit to it, depending on a large number of circumstances. But it is done on a regular basis.

I think for many families there’s a huge fear of  their girls being “damaged goods” as soon as she enters a courtship relationship. To avoid this, the rules on courting seem to get stricter and stricter, and likewise, the girls seem to pick up a “holier than thou” attitude that wasn’t there before.

While holding hands or even kissing wasn’t “as bad” a few years ago – many fundamentalist couples admit to kissing before getting married – the younger generations, particularly the girls who are just getting into the age of being eligable for marriage. Kissing seems totally off-limits these days and the view of holding hands before marriage is changing as well. There are plenty of people who do not hold hands these days but instead hold a stick on each end to “imitate” holding hands. If you look around in the blogosphere of this group of girls, you will find an awful lot who are against any form of physical contact before marriage – we’re talking actual marriage here, not engagement. It goes as far as even the man not putting the engagement ring on the woman’s hand – he will give the ring to her father, who then will put it on her finger – to avoid physical contact.

I find this behaviour to lead down dangerous streets. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with purity, but the fact that you would avoid every form of physical contact in a way like this goes beyond my understanding. While only acts of sexual sin made you physically impure a few years ago, we’re already at physical impurity when it comes to sliding on that engagement ring.

But back to the discussion of keeping a courtship a secret. The second reason why I think it’s kept secret was submission. This might sound strange to you at first, but –

If a women went out to tell any of her friends, anybody really, about her courtship with a man, and even if that’s all she would tell them, she would put a sort of pressure on him. We all know about expectations from your environment and as soon as you’re in a courtship, certainly thing are expected from you. While many say that a courtship might as well fail, this is hardly ever the case. A courtship is typically only allowed once the father of the girl has already thoroughly inspected the suitor. The biggest deal breakers after starting a courtship would be coming from the girl or the boy, such as not getting along or wanting totally different things, feeling different callings. But that almost never happens. Most courtships are broken for reasons such as sexual sin and rebellion.

Now, once a woman goes out to talk about her courtship, the environment expects them to get along, to make it work. A courting couple in the mind of the people is almost engaged, and engaged is almost married. The simple act of telling others about it might be understood as a way of pressuring the man into taking further steps. But, as we know, that isn’t allowed. Even in courtship, a woman is expected to submissive – let him take each and every step in the relationship, the only thing you’re really allowed to do is follow quietly. Every form of trying to push a man are understood as a sign of a lack of submissiveness. And this, in fact, can be a deal breaker for young men.

Due to the fact that my next issue differs greatly from this one, I’ll split it into another post.

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How to find a spouse?! – Part 2

I love my commentors! hehe Yesterday’s post received a comment and I wanted to add some more along the lines.

Comment by Latebloomer: “In my family’s church, the spin was a little bit different because compatibility was downplayed. The pastor taught that marriage was about sanctification, not happiness, so really any godly person could marry any other godly person. Your personality didn’t matter. In my opinion, this is a really irresponsible teaching to direct at singles, and I’m glad I found someone that I had a deep connection with because we are very compatible. I actually just wrote about this on my blog yesterday, haha. It must be spring :) .”

I didn’t even think about happiness and emotion when I wrote my post, but it’s such a huge deal!

Now, even when you’re believing that there is “the one”, emotion, happiness and love aren’t what you’re looking for. To quote countless sites and people talking about this issue: “Love is not an emotion, it’s an action. Love is not an adjective, it’s a verb. It’s something you do, not something you feel.”

I think this pretty much sums up what the movement preachers think about marriage. You don’t marry someone you love, you (as a woman) marry someone whom you can support and help achieve life goals, such as missioning. And as a man, you look for a woman who has all the abilities you need as support. Emotion is generally something that is not needed to start a courtship or get engaged. Love (emotion) isn’t even something you need to feel once you’re married!

For them, as love isn’t an emotion, all you need to do to “love” someone is.. well… let’s make a list!

Men loving a woman: Providing for her, listening to her, giving her gifts, respecting her mood swings, protecting her, being her spiritual leader, correcting her, training her.

Woman loving a man: Submit to him, respect him, fulfill his sexual needs whenever he needs it, follow him, share his vision, be a good mother and home maker, don’t talk back, don’t correct him even when he’s clearly wrong.

These are just the most common ones I could name off the top of my head. Depending on the author/church you’re looking at, there might be much more things to do to “love” someone. And some of the points I mentioned do sound very weird! For example the giving gifts part. They might not express it the way I did, but they certainly all mean it: A man should buy flowers/candies/give her massages every once in a while. The core of this idea is a very nice one, but it’s turned into an obligation here, and in that it means nothing if you ask me. Gifts are only worth something if they come from the heart, if they show thought, and as obligation they are nothing more than a meaningless duty.

One point that has bothered me to great extend, even more than the “submit” talk, is the “fulfill his sexual needs” part. Believe me, during my courtship I was given plenty of books to prepare to be a good wife and all of them stressed this issue. What you’ll typically read is something like this: “even if you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Get pretty and do it. Offer it even if you’re tired and not in the mood. Be cheerful and happy during, show him that you enjoy it, even if you don’t.”

Can you imagine that? Out of the seven days the week has, would you feel good having sex with your husband every day if you don’t feel like it at all on 5 of the 7 days? As a man, would you enjoy it if you knew that there is no enjoyment for the woman? That she does it only and purely out of obligation? I think that’s a terrible thought. I know I wouldn’t enjoy something the other person is forced to do. Just like the gifts, it means nothing when it isn’t done out of love and honest joy.

So where does all that talk leave christian couples?

All of those fundamentalist speakers, authors and churches talk about the fact that there are so many divorces among the non-believers. They blame it on the fact that people marry out of emotion-love, not action-love. Besides the fact that this is untrue, because with emotion-love action-love usually comes naturally, of course christian couples don’t get divorces because they don’t love each other anymore! They didn’t love each other to begin with. Sure there are couples who are in love. Sure most couples have at least a crush on each other when they’re courting. But that doesn’t mean that emotional love will actually come – and stay. And because this part of a relationship is so unimportant, it’s easy to say you’re still loving each other when by love you mean actions out of obligation. None of the partners in a fundamentalist christian marriage want to break biblical law, hence they will keep up all the actions needed to qualify as “love”.

I’m not saying that none of the points I mentioned before are bad or not a sign of true love. If you bring your woman flowers because you thought of her that day, want to apologize, or simply want to see her happy smile, perfect! Go for it! If you give up your dream to help your husband fulfill his dream because you love him, good for you (and him)! Do it before you end up wondering for the rest of your life! Everything you do out of true, emotional love is worth doing in my opinion. Everything you do out of pure obligation, something you despise or would not do unless forced by some sort of law, give it some honest thought if your actions are really worth the price.

What good is it for the partners if nothing is done out of true love, but only because they have to? Of course we all have to do things we don’t like doing sometimes. That’s life. But if life is nothing but obligation, and your only joy the freedom of guilt, not the joy of seeing the other person’s smile when you did something for them… Yeah… That’s not the life us fundamentalist girls dream of when we wait for Prince Charming.


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How to find a spouse?!

There are two beliefs within the movement about looking for a spouse (that I know of, there might be more). Basically, beliefs divide into two groups here: The ones who believe in “the one” and the ones who believe in “choice”.

Basically, the choice believers believe that God didn’t make two people who are absolutely perfect for one another. There are multiple people in the world who would end up being a good match for each person and you still got to pick one of them. There’s choice involved in this.

The other (bigger) group believes that God made one single perfect match for everyone. You have to wait for God to bring that person into your life and nobody else can make a marriage as perfect as this single person could. These are usually the people who strongly believe in the purity movements.

My family belonged to the latter group. While the first group leaves choice and preferences, allowing a man to actually “look” for a wife, the other group doesn’t allow “looking”. It’s all about waiting and seeing what happens – obviously the man still has to make the first step, but only if he feels God is telling him that this is “the one”.

I have major issues with the entire mindset of waiting on God, believing in “the one” and, maybe, even being called to stay single for life. I do not think that the bible means to express this mindset. I think it’s false prophesy and causes a lot of hurt in a lot of people.

Why? Well, I base my belief on the following verse:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.(1 Cor 7, 8-9)

Uh uh. So… where did that “one” go? Where did that “God will bring them into your life if you’re supposed to marry” go? I don’t think that’s what’s meant here. What I read is: Paul thinks people should decide whether they should marry or not depending on the fact if they can stay pure without being married (or not). I think this single verse blows up the entire construct of waiting and just taking it if God doesn’t send you “the one”.

I have always had major issues with people discussing this verse away, trying to spin the actual, literal meaning. I think that this is a general issue with Paul’s writings. Too often they are abused and twisted to suit the needs of the individual. Paul has written some of the most beautiful passages in the bible, and some of the most misunderstood, and yes, some of Paul’s writings are the complete opposite of something else in the bible.

I’m not trying to say that there isn’t “the one” for you, neither am I saying that there’s only “one”. I don’t really know what I’m saying, to be quite honest with you. I don’t know what to believe in this area. It’s just hard for me to imagine that there could be only one single person you can spend your life with, you know? I mean, I like to think I’m pretty easy-going, social life wise. I might not be the woman everyone looks up to, respects, is impressed by, but neither am I the person people don’t like or even hate. It’s easy for me to get along with different personalities because I try to accept everyone for what they are – the posh, heavy make up girly girl who talks about lipstick all day long, I understand her because it’s something that she enjoys, just like I can talk to the tomboy type of woman who likes football more than anything and cries when her favourite team lost. And likewise, I love the different personalities of several men I know, some are more quiet, deep thinking and emotional, others loud, funny and sporty. They’re all fine the way they are.

When I was out with some friends on the weekend, I had a quiet conversation with a friend of a friend, a man. I’ll admit he was a bit drunk, but we talked about his family and his struggles, something that he hardly ever talks about. Suddenly he asked me if I could imagine to date him. I laughed because I didn’t take that question very serious, after all, he was drunk! But he put on a serious face and I gave it a quick thought and this is what I said: “Well, you’re really handsome, you’re smart, much smarter than me, you’re a good listener and a hard worker, you’re interesting and lots of fun to be around, all in all you’re the type of guy all women would like to date – but no, I can’t imagine dating you – at all.” All of what I said was 100% true. I keep wondering why my answer was no. Well, obviously I can’t imagine because I already have a wonderful man I date, but that’s not all of it. There must be something more to it. By no means I believe I found “the one” with Daniel. I can’t say that after such a short time! I don’t know, I just keep wondering! The man who asked me this question looks A LOT like Daniel – the stereotypical tall dark and handsome guy.

At the end of the day what I end up with is: I think most people are compatible with a larger amount of people. In this group of matches, there might be one, two, maybe even three exceptionally perfect ones. But you can make it work either way. Does that make sense?


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Don’t waste your love!

Oh my dear readers! I’m having a tough day as I’m studying my brains out (I’m afraid it will melt, run out of my ears and end up on the floor!). Right now, I’m taking a small break with a cup of coffee and figured I’d post something on here.

I’ve been wondering – yet again! – about love. I’ll admit, it’s my favourite thing in the world.

I think it was Libby over at lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com who wrote about how love doesn’t just run out when you give it away. See we’ve all been raised to believe that you will eventually have no more love to give to anybody if you “spend” it all on “unimportant” people. This is mainly used to argue pro waiting on God’s perfect man for you. After all, you can’t give your husband all your love if you loved a man before. And I think Libby too came up with this amazing way to prove that this might not be correct:

If you have a child, you love it. If you have another, you love it too. Do you love your second child less because you already gave your love to the first one (or vice versa)? I think every mother would laugh hysterically (or scream) if somebody supposed this idea to her!

In the same way, do you love multiple siblings less because the one that came first took all your love? Of course not.

Libby said that it seems that love grows more the more you give it away. It’s endless. It’s not a pool of water that will run empty eventually. It’s an endless source you can take from whenever need be.

I think that’s a beautiful way to say it. And it’s so true. Libby, I can’t tell you how much of a gift you gave me with that wonderful post of yours.

A while ago I was watching youtube videos (the internet is evil and does NOT want me to study!). Among them was a tag game and one of the questions was “Would you rather be loved and never love back, or love and not be loved back?”

I was surprised to hear my own answer: It’s the second option. I’d MUCH rather feel love for someone, even if he or she doesn’t love me back, than be the admired girl who is empty of love. I think my answer would’ve been completely different back when I was living with my family.

Since I left I started to feel all sorts of things, and love is one of them. I love the family I have here, but I don’t love my family in the US any less because of that. I love my friends. I love my life here.

Feeling that is so amazing. I am because I love and it doesn’t matter if that love is returned or not. The feeling of actually feeling something like that is enough to give me all I need. I wasn’t allowed to love people outside of my family this way. “Loving” your friends is discouraged. Now I can give away feely what I have and I realize that it really doesn’t grow less. Of course it’s all different ways, how you love certain people. But as the saying goes, love is always the same flowers, just sometimes the blossoms have a different color. And like a flower, it exists in me, just for me. I don’t need people to admire it, to help me tend it. I can do that very well on my own. It’s like a garden, growing bigger and bigger and more beautiful each day. So if I’m not loved back, if nobody comes to help me water my flowers and admire them, does it make them less pretty? Of course not. But obviously, it’s a great joy when others come to take a look anyway!


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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.


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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.


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Onan the Barbarian and my version of “the talk”

Warning: Embarrassing, mature content ahead. I did it again – I abused a movie title, twisted it up and used it as the headline for my post. I learned how to do this in my Dad’s bible study. I have not seen Conan the Barbarian, but somehow I deemed this a suitable title for this post.

In my last post I talked about the extreme standard of purity me and many other girls in the different fundamentalist movements have to live up to (and usually fail, which causes deadly guilt in them).

Under the covers it looks quite a bit different. There’s a whole lot not-so-pure things going on.

Which, at this point, brings me to masturbation. I remember when I was a kid I was taught all about purity for ever since I can remember. But my parents missed the point a bit there: They never explained to me acts that would make me impure. So, while I strongly believed in purity, I just didn’t know that I could do impure things with myself. A kid of 10 years is too young to learn about these things, I guess, because once you get started talking about masturbation, you better expect the kid asking more questions about sex in every version of it.

So the point I’m getting at: Of course I did things my parents would sent me to the prayer closet for. And I didn’t even know that I wasn’t supposed to do it. I didn’t know of “masturbation” in the sense of it being a sexual practice and not ok, hence why I never really considered the actual act as that “wrong”. It took me a while to realize that I couldn’t do that, my parents would freak out about it. I must’ve been about 12 or 13 when I could sense what all of the fuzz was about, but I was yet somehow too silly to connect it with the fact that I was actually doing it myself occasionally. It didn’t occur to me, this connection. Can’t tell you why. I think I was like 14 when I finally made that connection and realized: “Oooops. That’s not supposed to happen!”. On I went, into the prayer closet, apologizing to God for the sodomy and stuff. But deep in my heart I couldn’t see the big deal. I didn’t see how it was adultery to my future husband – I didn’t think or fantasize about men at all!

However I want to point out that I didn’t know the “technical” side of it. I didn’t  know what an orgasm was (though I had had one at some point, I’m guessing) and I also didn’t know how sex between a man and a woman worked. My best friend and I had a talk about my upbringing in the area of sex and the idea that I didn’t come to some sort of conclusion how it physically works on my own was oblivious to her. First I thought I was a bit dumb for not realizing it on my own until I found out why I never connected male and female genitals to their actual purpose: I think as a girl, you need to know that a man can have an erection to connect this. I never knew about that. Can you imagine a woman  in her 20s and how she reacts upon finding out? “What?!?! How’s that working? That’s like… magic!”.

This and others I found out when my friend bought a book for me. It was a book on sex for teens and it was just the basic knowledge really. At first I acted like I didn’t need or want to read it but I crept into the kitchen, secretly, late at night, to get it and read it in bed. On almost every page I had a wow-moment. Not only did I learn about men for the first time in my life, I also learned about women.

I didn’t know about how pregnancies worked, or how the female body worked to begin with. I didn’t know that having your period actually had a physical function! I thought it was about being unclean and had something to do with growing up. I didn’t know the eggs business! I believed that a woman was just an incubator and that the babies were actually supplied only by the man! Part of this is due to the teaching that sin (and therefore the soul) is transferred to a child only by the father – which is why Mary didn’t give birth to a sinful, human child. She couldn’t because she was an incubator, like every other woman.

I was really shy about this topic, but my friend figured that me not knowing about it would make life in the real world harder for me. After all, I needed to know what I was getting into in case I wanted a relationship. And I guess she was right because the rate of unwanted pregnancies because people just don’T know how it works is pretty high.

A few months ago my roommate and best friend declared that she wanted to have “the talk” with me. She’d get some others to join in and explain to me what’s it all about. I was nervous, refused, yelled at her that she was stupid and embarrassing and I didn’t need her help at all. But deep inside I was excited to have this opportunity. She gave me a few days to make up my mind and while I felt like a stupid kid at first, I was so curious to find out so many new things. I decided that I wanted her to talk to me about it. So a few days later she asked me if I thought about her offer and I replied “I guess, if it makes you feel better…” with clear annoyance in my voice and excitement in my heart.

As I came home two days later, it was early evening and I had been at work, she was in the kitchen, cooking dinner with two male friends and another female friend of hers. I didn’t realize that it was the day of the talk. We ate together and afterwards had a glass of white wine. Finally, my roommate initiated a conversation about her experiences with love and sex. And then one of the guys went and everybody ended up discussing and exchanging. I thought the talk would be horribly embarrassing, but that actually felt natural and fun. I wasn’t demanded to ask questions or answer things. I could just sit and listen. They described a lot of different situations. Like how they reacted when their boyfriend wanted to have sex but they weren’t ready. How their first times went. What they felt about it in general, how important it was to them, what they find acceptable and so on. Especially interesting for me was when one of the guys talked about his experience with a one-night-stand (something I didn’t know but do now!). I expected him to be happy about it and show off, because we all know men are sex-obsessed monkeys, but the opposite was true. He felt it wasn’t for him, he had regrets about it because he felt he had disgraced himself and the girl and he feels like love is most important to have sex.

I was baffled. Everything I learned about sex and love was questioned that night. Could it be true that having sex before marriage doesn’t always break a person? That love sometimes doesn’t last a lifetime? That society doesn’t see sex as something cheap and easy but as sacred and special? That worldly men thought such a thing?

I still don’t know much on the subject, only what I have read and been told by my friends so far, but that didn’t make me go out and sleep around. I’m doubting that the abstinence only and purity movement is the only way to teach a responsible sexuality. But I’m really glad that finally, after over two decades of not knowing what this purity deal was even about I have at least a tiny idea of what’s going on between men and women.

In retrospective I have to say that I believe my wedding night would’ve been a traumatic event for me. So many things I didn’t know, I wasn’t taught about. How shocked would I have reacted, being thrown into that situation? Would it have messed up my view of sexuality? I’m pretty sure it would’ve had tough consequences for me and my entire life and I’m so glad I saved myself from something I couldn’t even grasp back when I ran away from it.