The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part One

Barn

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on August 2, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

 Part One: The Day I Turned Bad

My earliest childhood memories are all good. Playing “cave spelunking” in our basement with my dad and siblings, the big climbing tree in our backyard, playing Indians with shell-face-paint at the beach with my cousins, going fishing with my dad, capturing fishflies and keeping them as pets: a collection of small childhood pleasures like those most of us have stored away in memory somewhere. I liked my early childhood. It was good. I liked my family. My life was safe and happy, and I don’t take those two things lightly!  By some odd quirk of personality, I was one of those kids that lived to please.  I was not only happy to do my own chores but other people’s as well, and I used to get scolded for using up whole boxes of Kleenex to wrap miscellaneous small things to give as gifts to all and sundry (no laughing, Kleenex is the imaginative child’s wrapping paper!)  My mom would call me “her little sunshine”, and I think in many ways I was my parent’s golden child. My older sister, R, was a free spirit, quite mischievous, with just enormous quantities of energy that she had to expend every waking moment!  She was in constant motion for at least 8 straight years.  With such an energetic first child, having a second-born who was quiet and lived-to-please must have seemed like a godsend to my parents! My little brother B, who arrived two years after I did, took after my older sister.  So that made it two to one and probably wore my parents out good and proper, while making my halo glow even brighter by comparison!

I was probably about 6 when I came to the dawning revelation that my eagerness to please and do things for everyone was leaving me with quite the unequal work load.

I would make my own twin bed in the morning…then my sister’s…then my brother’s…then my parent’s big double-bed, which was quite a feat for a small 6-year-old!  I was also a budding perfectionist, so sometimes I just re-did everyone else’s work after they did it, just so it could be done better, to my own strict and exacting standards.  In retrospect I sound rather obnoxious, even to myself!  In any case, I noticed that I was the one always getting asked to help with everything, while my sister and brother got out of work by virtue of complaining.  My good nature was being taken advantage of!  This unpleasant discovery rankled in my small soul.  I decided it was unfair, and from now on, I was just going to do my own work and no-one else’s.

I always looked at this decision as the moment when I started to “go bad”.  I don’t know if I remember the exact moment or not, but it was kept fresh in my memory, because my mom was always asking me about it, for years and years afterwards. “Do you remember the day you decided to stop being sweet and helpful?” she’d ask, sighing a little.  “You used to be such a sweet little girl.”

She would heave another sigh, and then ask, “Do you remember why you decided to stop being sweet and good? Did Satan talk to you, and put that idea in your head?  That was when you turned into a selfish girl.

I think this was just my mom’s way of complaining for the good ol’ days when she had at least ONE easy child to deal with. But at the time it instilled all sorts of guilt in me and left me wondering if I had, indeed, made a pact with Satan that day, because certainly I didn’t act as nice afterwards.  This actually became a major point of doubting my own salvation for me, because I had “said the sinner’s prayer” at the ripe old age of 3, and wasn’t I supposed to keep getting better and better after I was saved? But here I was, turning selfish and bad at the age of 6, when I should instead have been comfortably far down the road of righteousness!  These doubts and guilt plagued me for years; I’m sorry to say.  I always think one should explain salvation a little better, even to young children, so they don’t fall into these sorts of theological pitfalls. Over-simplistic theology definitely never helped me as a child, and I bet I’m not the only one.  Anyway, after I “turned bad” at the age of 6, I went on still enjoying my life despite being the selfish little sinner that I now knew I was.  Then, when I was about 7, we met Joe and Mary LaQuiere.

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

Part Two>

Emotional Purity and Courtship: A Few Years Later

untitled-0519

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on March 23rd, 2015. Butterfly photograph by Darcy S., used with permission. 

Four years ago, when I was beginning to process my life story and to critically think through the things I had been taught, believed, and practiced growing up in homeschool culture, I wrote a piece called “How The Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships”. It was just my thoughts on the courtship movement and teachings about emotional purity that had dominated mine and my friends’ teen years. I had no idea it would be my most popular post ever, that it would still be read 4 years later and re-posted by thousands of people. I’m glad it’s helped and given clarity to so many stuck in that system. I never dreamed it would be so popular or that my experience was shared by so many until the comments started rolling in with stories just like mine.

I read back over it today as it popped up yet again in my Facebook feed, remembering where I was when I wrote it. I still agree with some of what I wrote back then, but my journey has been so vast since that time. Covered so much space. I suppose blogging is much like journaling in that respect, only in public where you can all see my thoughts and the evolution of my soul.

In my original post, I argued three negative outcomes that often are the result of the teachings of emotional purity. I spoke from still inside the paradigm of Christianity, using scriptural ideas and assuming Christianity as a framework for my thoughts.

But, like most journeys, you never stay in the same place. You might come back around to it eventually or you might leave never to return. The me of 4 years ago that wrote about how God doesn’t do formulas is not the me of today.

The me of today doesn’t believe I need to use God to justify my choices.

I’ve done that my whole life….used scripture and God and “God’s will” to make decisions and defend them to everyone who thought I was wrong or had an opinion about me. And no matter what the choice was or how well I defended it “from scripture” someone always thought it was wrong. Because they too could defend their belief about my wrongness from scripture. It always turned into a “who has better hermeneutics” war, which I often won, given my upbringing steeped in knowledge of the Bible and Bible interpretation. But what I didn’t realize for so long is that all these mental and scriptural gymnastics were unnecessary. Even from a Christian stand-point, it really wasn’t anyone else’s business telling me what God wanted from me. In that belief system, we were supposed to “hear God for ourselves” and discern His will on our own (unless of course we were of the persuasion that our parents did that for us).

But the most important point and perspective comes now from outside that theoretical framework. From a more humanistic one that says that all people have value and innate human rights. Among those rights are the right to live, to love, to choose, and to not be controlled and manipulated by others; our value is not determined by them and how well we followed the rules. The same rights our parents took for themselves when they chose to go against the rules and the status quo and live their lives their way were denied to us. In the Name of their God. With Biblical justification.

I wrote my courtship story in brief for Homeschoolers Anonymous’ courtship series. My conclusion of that entire fiasco is also my thoughts on what I wrote four years ago on the subject:

“I read my journals and even the story I wrote out 6 years ago, and I am angered. I should not have had to use God to justify my choices. I should not have had to invoke His will for my life, to try to convince my parents that I knew my own mind and could “hear God for myself”. I should not have had to field emotional abuse and manipulation and spiritual control of my mind and heart and body. I should not have had to flee home just to get away from them and find peace. I was an adult, that should have been enough to make my own choices. But in our world, it was not. In the world for which courtship was invented, the ultimate sin was rebellion against God’s order of authority, against what your parents wanted for you, and choosing to walk on your own amid cries of “rebellion”. In this world, men could not be trusted and women were assets to be controlled, and the two could only meet under many layers of rules meant to keep us dependent on our authorities, despising of our own desires, and mistrusting of our own hearts and minds. It has always amazed me how two people who were declared not mature enough to conduct a relationship without supervision and under extreme outside constraint could somehow be mature enough to begin a marriage.

It took me until about 4 years ago to finally stop making spiritual-sounding excuses for why we conducted a secret relationship, why we rejected courtship, why we did everything “wrong” and against my parents’ will; to stop trying to get anyone listening to acknowledge the legitimacy of our choices by invoking God’s will.

To finally simply declare, “Because it was what we wanted and we had that right”.
Such a basic idea yet so foreign to those of us who are refugees from the homeschooling movement. We have that right….the right to love, to choose, to live. To not have our adult choices dictated by another, our autonomy robbed in the name of “because God says so”, coerced by ideologies that left us no real choice because “do this or suffer hell” is not a real choice. It was what we wanted. And that should have been enough.”

Do I still think that these teachings cause “pride, shame, and dysfunction”, as I wrote years ago? Sure. But I think those things are far less important than the idea that our human rights were violated. That we were taught to allow them to be violated from a very young age. That we were assets to be controlled and not people in our own right. That idea, far above all the rest, is far more damaging in my mind these days.

A loving relationship between two autonomous human beings, on our terms, was what we wanted. And that should have been enough. The teachings of courtship and emotional purity stole that from us and we let them because we had been convinced that “God wants this from you”.

And that remains the biggest problem of all.

Man Shares Personal Testimony of How Bill Gothard Used Bible Verses Which Led to the Abuse of Children

Belt

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

Last month, “Dash” commented on an older SSB article, Bill Gothard’s New Program/Ministry: Total Success Power Teams. He used some strong words to describe his experience:

I am a survivor of Gothard’s cult. I experienced unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from my mother and father, who were at one point among Gothard’s “model parents.” Gothard is not human. Gothard does not deserve compassion. Gothard is not a man, and he does not have the slightest shred of decency or humanity within him. Bill Gothard is a monster in human form, and as far as I am concerned, he can’t die soon enough.

In the comments, Dash was asked to share more, and did so with me privately. I have compiled them into this article (and at least one more article). Dash’s words were difficult for me to read, especially because of my own abusive childhood, but also because of many years of teachings I was subjected to as a parent, including Gothard’s materials, so I am going to issue trigger warnings for anyone who might be triggered by childhood abuse, by spiritual abuse, etc.

triggerzone1

Dash Explains Why He is Telling His Story Now

I have chosen to share my story with you because I’m 44 years old and it’s time for me to start talking, to anyone who cares enough to listen. I’ve already lost more than half my time to Gothard, and I want my life back. He’s 80 years old and I believe he is still damaging people in alarming ways, and he is leaving behind a deeply rooted, vile and secretively violent institution that seems to be poised to grind forth in his absence and continue churning out his awful work upon the next generation. I want to put a stop to IBLP, and I want to end Gothard’s legacy as utterly as possible. Everything he has ever written, touched, or talked about is poisoned and poisonous, and it must be destroyed.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about those aspects of Gothard’s teachings which were protocols for physical abuse: examples include blanket training, beating children with rods, and the sheer exasperation of parents whose children failed the rules of the program which would result in explosions of rage and indiscriminate hitting. In particular, Gothard’s distortions of the following verse were extremely detrimental:

Proverbs 23:13- Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Gothard devoted a great deal of written material, both IBLP and ATI, to using this verse as a premise for encouraging brutal beatings, albeit using roundabout phrasing and “soft” language which absolved him legally of any actual responsibility. At least, that’s how my parents interpreted it.

Part of my frustration in confronting Gothard stems from the fact that my family threw out a lot of Gothard’s most offensive ATI literature, some of which included blatantly racist arguments encouraging white followers to apply the “Quiverfull” practice, and to avoid miscegenation (in addition to the pamphlets encouraging beatings). So I can’t document a lot of these anecdotes. The basic literature quoting Proverbs 23:13, however, is part of the Red Book I believe; so it begins there.

“Spanking” vs Beatings

Also, I would like to be very clear about this point: “spanking” was not what we experienced in my family. These were actual beatings, ranging anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more. The beatings were delivered to the buttocks, thighs, and lower back, and sometimes the hands, fingers, and forearms (defensive injuries), in response to any perceived slight, offense, or rules violation.

Depending on the severity of the punishment, anything from a wooden spoon to a 3/4″x2′ dowel rod was used. My parents actually had an array of dowel rods to choose from (at least a dozen) ranging from a thin one about 1/8″ thick to the 3/4″ terror previously described. Occasionally my dad would use his belt, a heavy leather belt with a weighty brass buckle. Not often, though, because the belt would leave visible bruises.

My sister and I would go to school with huge black and purple welts across our buttocks, carefully placed so that they were covered by our clothes, and we would sit at our desks in excruciating pain with tears streaming silently down our faces. This was during our initial participation in ATI, but before we enrolled full-bore in home-schooling.

My parents were very clear that these practices were part of our Gothard instruction.

On the few occasions when I met Gothard in person, he actually stated that he believed spanking made children healthier and more successful. He would then quote the proverb about beating. He was very good about mincing words in order to evade responsibility.

If you have questions at this point, it would help the dialogue. I’m happy to type everything I can think of, but I get so bogged-down and blinded with rage that it becomes difficult to think clearly. Answering questions is very focusing for me.

(JA note:  On the next post, I have asked Dash specific questions and he responds to those questions.)

I’m not interested in confronting Gothard on Christian terms, in accordance with church protocols. He forfeited that privilege decades ago. I want worldly justice. I want a genuine reckoning from the man. I want to burn his entire legacy to the ground, and stand amid the ashes and say to the world, “This was a man who ruined thousands upon thousands of lives. Nothing to see here. Please move along.”

The greatest and most dangerous fallacy that I keep hearing from Gothard apologists is the argument “Gothard may be imperfect, but his teachings are still right.” No, no and no. This is a lie: an ugly, flat-out foul and evil lie, intended to continue perpetuating Gothard’s abusive legacy. Everything Gothard teaches is wrong, all of it, even his direct Scripture quotes, because the CONTEXT is wrong. It places Gothard in the seat of worship instead of Christ. Everything Gothard ever taught or ever will teach must be discarded. If people want answers, they should listen to the Holy Spirit, and not any human teacher.

The Dangerous Fallacies of Gothard Apologists

I’ve stated this in a previous email, but it bears repeating. The greatest and most dangerous fallacy that I hear from Gothard apologists is the argument “Gothard may be imperfect, but his teachings are still right.” This is blatantly false. Everything Gothard teaches is wrong, all of it, even his direct Scripture quotes, because the CONTEXT is wrong. It places Gothard in the seat of worship instead of Christ.

Everything Gothard ever taught or ever will teach must be discarded. If people want answers, they should read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit. They should not listen to Gothard or any other human teacher; they should make up their own minds.

The second greatest fallacy I hear from Gothard apologists is “Many families have a great experience in IBLP and ATI. If your family had a bad experience, it’s because you misinterpreted Gothard’s intentions.” This is also blatantly false. I believe Gothard does in fact intend for parents to beat their children. I would argue that anyone who claims to have had a good experience with Gothard, IBLP, or ATI is either lying, deluded, or sadists themselves. If you got 4-5 years into ATI and you actually applied everything in the publications that Gothard sent you, especially the material based on Proverbs 23:13, you would have had an identical experience to mine.

I would argue that those who believe that they had a positive experience with Gothard are the ones who are in fact misinterpreting his intentions… just as I would argue that those who defend his behavior from the ongoing accusations of sexual misconduct are deluding themselves as to his true nature, and are blind to the damage he has inflicted.

Dash Believes Bill Gothard to be a Con Artist and Explains Why

I believe that Gothard is a consummate con artist. In spite of the endless documentation of the damage he has done, Gothard still manages to convince his inner circle of friends that he is a good man with good intentions who merely stumbled a little bit, and his victims are more to blame than he is for making such a big deal out of “nothing.” There are two explanations for this phenomenon:

  •  The first explanation is that genuinely hurting people, like my mother, who are desperate for real answers and a real connection with God, are easily misled by Gothard’s overpowering charm, his carefully crafted image, and his claims of secret knowledge and a special understanding of the Bible. These people are broken to begin with, and the hurt piled on hurt that Gothard inflicts is too much for them to comprehend; they defend Gothard out of reflex as all abuse victims will defend an abuser, due to Stockholm syndrome and an inability to comprehend their own damages and failures.
  • The second explanation is that Gothard appeals to genuine sadists and sociopaths, such as your commenter Alfred who obviously has zero concern for Gothard’s victims and is committed entirely to defending Gothard and behaving as vindictively toward his accusers as possible. These people are reprehensible scumbags. I would use a more graceful word to describe them, but there isn’t one.

JA note: Alfred, who was mentioned above, is Alfred Corduan, who commented on this SSB postYou can also see his comments on articles at the Gothard survivor site, Recovering Grace websitewhere he continually defends Bill Gothard. 

 I would like to close at this time by saying that while I no longer call myself a Christian, I never gave up on Christ. I still believe in the Great Commandment:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I don’t do so well with the first part; loving God is next to impossible when I don’t know who God is, and I blame Gothard for that. I may yet end up in hell, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I focus on the second part, and I try to love my fellow-man as best I can. That’s the best I can do. I can’t save myself. Only God can do that, if he wants to.

Part Two>

photo credit: bark via photopin cc

Pleading for Death: Trista’s Story

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Trista” is a pseudonym.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes/Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies/Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee/In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I sat between two graves, softly singing this verse over and over. Going home was terrifying and death was an appealing thought.

As a child I was told I was “defective” and “half-aborted”.

When my mom would become upset with me, she would become psychotic and scream about how I was, “brainwashed at youth. It is surprising you can even think at all.” When I ‘rebelled’ again, I was told I could not think for myself because I was “half-aborted.” This was why I had to be protected by my father, who was the portal through which God and God’s will came to me.

As soon as my dad got home and I was released from school, I would lie to my parents, telling them I was going to the back of our five acre lot to the creek. I was still not allowed off the property alone, but they didn’t mind if I roamed through the backyard. Sometimes, I would go back to the creek, but usually I would walk back to the nearest trees and then cut through the neighbor’s yard and ran as fast as I could to the cemetery near our house.

The cemetery was only a half mile away and it offered me an outlet for the dark emotions I felt. I would sit between two graves and sing “Abide with Me” over and over. In between singing I would pray for God to kill me, begging with him to strike me dead.

Imagination was my only solace.

Because I was monitored daily by my parents, it was impossible to self-harm. But I thought about death, pain and torture daily. I wanted to hurt myself, but was terrified that if my parents found out they would refuse to send me to college, leaving me a victim in their house till the day I died.

With the fear of discovery always present, I used my imagination as an outlet. I would imagine various scenarios where I was in extreme pain. I would chew my nails until they bled as a form of pain because no one suspected I was doing this to hurt myself. The things I would dream about always involved death and pain. I imagined being beaten, shot, strangled, and stabbed to death. I contemplated different ways of committing suicide. There was a pond near the cemetery, and I would imagine drowning myself.

I loved the cemetery because it made me feel closer to death, closer to home. I hated my earthly home. It was full of pain and darkness. I was always alone, told I was stupid and useless. My father would mock women. In my home, being a woman made you worse than men. I wanted so bad to be a man, but I could not change my gender. 18 years of being in the cage of patriarchy made me hopeless. Happiness was not possible. I wanted death.

My daily prayer was “Jesus, take me home. I want to go home and be with you.” This was my way of pleading for death. I was trapped in a world and life that I had no control over. I was an object upon which my parents acted. I had no rights, and my desires did not matter.

The world I lived in told me I had no power.

The only power I had was in prayer, and I prayed for rescue, which for me meant death because I saw no other alternative to the pain in my life.

When I left for college two years later, I thought my preoccupation with suicide, pain and death were over, but I was very wrong.

Awkward!:Jeri Lofland’s Story

Jeri Lofland blogs at Heresy in the Heartland. The following was originally published by Jeri on March 25, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.

Recently a friend described a situation as “awkward” and I laughed.

Not because it wasn’t true, but because I spent decades developing a resistance to awkwardness. It’s not that I don’t still feel it, I just have a vast collection of awkwardness to compare against and as a result, I probably disregard awkward feelings more than some.

Because awkward is keeping a chamber pot under the seat of the family van.

Awkward is a family of seven camping inside a Suburban with said chamber pot.

Awkward is bringing the family plunger when you stay at a hotel.

Awkward is showing your grandma your new cotton swim-dress and matching pettipants.

Awkward is being mistaken for a reenactor’s child at a historical park because of your dress and sunbonnet.

Awkward is dead flies dropping from the sticky flytape coils above to the kitchen counter when guests are present.

Awkward is being the only one wearing a dress and bloomers at a public beach, or at a swim party.

Awkward is swimming with your brothers in an outdoor hotel pool–you in a blouse and denim skirt with tights, them in rolled-up pajamas.

Awkward is the housekeeping staff gawking when your whole family swims fully-clothed in the indoor pool in the center of the hotel courtyard.

Awkward is abandoning the beach as soon as normally-clad swimmers show up.

Awkward is your mom placing a rolled-up comforter down the middle of the hotel bed to make sure you and your twelve-year-old brother don’t touch.

Awkward is your family being invited to someone’ home for a meal and your father accepting, then informing the host that your family follows Levitical dietary prohibitions against pork and some seafood.

Awkward is you trying not to enjoy it too much when an elderly relative serves ham anyway and your dad decides it would be more godly to eat it than to refuse.

Awkward is returning and exchanging the Narnia book you won as a Sunday School prize.

Awkward is your mom substituting “special” for “magic” in the poem you are to recite for the kindergarten program.

Awkward is not quite explaining that you’re afraid to watch Titanic with your aunt because you heard there was nudity in it. (Because at 23, you’ve never seen nudity in a movie. So you hide in her guest room with your brother instead.)

Awkward is your family of eight standing and filing out of the church pew during a vocal solo–again. It is standing around the lobby not making eye contact with the ushers and then filing back into the empty row and taking sermon notes as if nothing ever happened.

Awkward is being instructed to write a letter (for “school”) to a church family protesting the Halloween party they are hosting for the church at their farm. And wanting to hide from said family every Sunday from then on.

Awkward is looking stupidly at expectant trick-or-treaters who show up at your family’s home when you’ve forgotten that it’s even Halloween. What to say?

Awkward is writing a thank-you note for the Christmas gift your parents wouldn’t let you open.

Awkward is turning the placemats face-down when celebrating a family milestone at Chinese restaurant.

Awkward is your dad telling the server not to bring fortune cookies.

Awkward is your sister telling you to stop shaking the bed you share, when you’re masturbating.

Awkward is explaining to homeschooled friends…

…why you aren’t allowed to read Anne of Green Gables.
…why you don’t use Saxon math.
…why you don’t have a Christmas tree.

Awkward is a carload of strangers stopping at your house to tour your mom’s organized closets.

Awkward is the cashier saying, “Good luck, whatever you’re hoping!” when your virginal self is purchasing a pregnancy test for your mother.

Awkward is forcing a smile back for the cashier’s sake and saying, “Thanks!” before driving home in the family Suburban, stomach knotted.

Awkward is asking the restaurant staff to lower/shut off the music. Extra awkward points if you are in a foreign country.

Awkward is not knowing what grade you are in.

Awkward is asking your younger brother if your shirt is “modest”.

Awkward is being the adult in charge while your mother gives birth upstairs.

Awkward is waking up to find a test tube of umbilical cord blood in the refrigerator.

Awkward is going to the laundromat with your teenage brother to wash linens from a homebirth, because the ancient septic system at home has given up.

Awkward is being wedged between your grown brothers in a car back seat while wearing shorts for the first time as an adult.

Awkward is being a university student and not knowing the name of even one of the Beatles.

Awkward is trying to make out with your fiance without letting your lips touch.

Awkward is a plane ride with your new fiance, wondering when he wants to hold your hand for the first time.

Awkward is saying goodbye to a good friend without touching them.

Awkward is being the only single girl at church:

with bangs,
or wearing jewelry,
or not wearing a headcovering.

Awkward is your parents awarding you a high school diploma (backdated fourteen years) in front of your three kids.

Awkward is church leaders asking your family not to attend anymore. More awkward is still running into their family members socially.

Awkward is a family friend coming to the door and your mom only talking to him through the nearby window.

Awkward is reading your teenage diary, or your family’s old Christmas letters.

Awkward is standing in the moonlight gazing down at the Golden Gate Bridge on the cusp of turning 21, with your… dad.

Awkward is realizing you were once a bridesmaid in a gay man’s wedding.

Awkward is being “caught” watching a Jimmy Stewart movie with your college-age friends and fellow cult members–and trying to figure out how to apologize to whom for what.

Awkward is your toddler deciding that a dinner with company from church is the place to share her [limited] knowledge of penises.

Awkward is realizing that your wedding photos are too triggering to display anymore.

Awkward is explaining to a classmate who saw you having a full-fledged panic attack on the side of the road minutes earlier.

bean

A photograph may capture a memory, but awkwardness sears the deeper emotional experience into the brain. And that’s not always a bad thing!

We love to watch how others manage awkward situations–in sitcoms like Seinfeld, for example, where Kramer seems impervious to embarrassment, while George appears to lean in to it. And the more uncomfortable the scenario, the better we remember the episode, grateful that it isn’t happening to us. My daughter used to cringe when we watched The Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife’s character embodying her worst fears of humiliation. Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean is even better, completely and, yes, awkwardly, unaware of how horribly uncomfortable he is making everyone around him.

So, a little awkwardness? Sure, it’s an inevitable part of trying new things, having complex relationships, living a full life. We encourage our kids not to fear harmless awkwardness, and sometimes they give us surprising opportunities to model the nonchalance we preach. While embarrassment might make my face redden for a few minutes, I’m a lot more resilient than I think!

Pills and Popsicles: Mahalath’s Story

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mahalath” is a pseudonym.

My mother up and decided around the time of puberty that I had ADD. She’d just bring it up randomly, saying that’s why I wasn’t focusing on my work, getting good grades, etc. There were two problems with this. The first was that she demonized ADD. It was a “condition” that made me lesser than my peers.

I was treated like I was broken.

Some days, depending on her mood, I was purposefully causing it; other days it was something I could not help that would plague me for the rest of my life. She spoke to me in a high voice, like you would a baby, and would constantly ask me if I understood the simplest things. It took me some time many years later to get a proper understanding of ADD because of this.

The second problem was that I did not have ADD. Immediately upon her initial announcement, I did some research of my own and discovered that with the exception of some memory issues (hereditary from my dad) I did not display any symptoms.

Many years later, professionals confirmed for me what I had believed as a child: I do not have ADD. I have never had ADD.

I tried and still do try to convince my mother of this every time the subject is brought up. But there was no convincing her. She started checking magazines about special needs children from the library and reading them around me. After homeschool conventions she’d bring back these weird things that were supposed to help me “focus”. There was this weird beanbag thing I was supposed to keep on my lap, a plastic spinning thing for the end of my pencil, an enormous timer for each assignment. None of these did any good, apparently. So she started making me take these caffeine pills. They were stupid and yellow, bought from Walmart in bottles of fifty. They didn’t do anything for me. Really, I felt no effects at all. But I had to take two every day, regardless of where I was. She literally pulled me aside at a youth event because it was “time for my pill”. I kept telling her they didn’t work, and it was ages before she realized I was right.

So around the age of fifteen, I was in the office of my pediatrician (a small private practice), and they made me take this test with colored boxes. I tried to answer as normally as possible. Then they came back with big smiles and said I no longer had to take the caffeine pills. I was thrilled, but then the doctor held up a paper of blue and yellow pills and said that these were my new ones. They proceeded to talk about the price, effects and frequency, completely ignoring my frantic questions. When I left that day, the only thing I knew was that I only had to take one per day at breakfast. This seemed more reasonable, so I was willing to give it a try.

The first day I took this new pill was the day of a friend’s 16th birthday party. It was at the church, so I was allowed to attend unchaperoned as long as I was picked up early. Soon after entering the designated party area I realized something was wrong. It wasn’t that I was quite overdressed and old fashioned (which I was), or that everyone already knew everyone else and I was alone (which I was). There was a movie playing on the TVs at both ends of the room, so I tried to focus on the Phantom of the Opera, which I had never seen before. Yet even this opportunity to learn about popular culture could not hold my attention.

I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. All the noises seemed far away, and my mind seemed foggy and dark. Everything seemed duller, almost as if it was not there at all. And I realized suddenly that this was due to the medication. I was horrified. The rest of the party was spent silently crying the darkness of the “movie house” theme as the beautiful normal people laughed and ate cake.

Perhaps I was still adjusting, I reassured myself. These effects could be temporary. But these side effects continued on, and soon the most terrible truth hit me between the eyes: because of the pills, I could no longer daydream. This was indeed what the pills had been designed for, but I needed to daydream. Escaping to my private world of fantasy was my primary coping mechanism to surviving my homeschool experience. When I couldn’t stand the emotional abuse, the ever increasing rules, the loneliness, I retreated into my head. Suddenly, I became a starship captain, mountain climber, or long lost princess. I’d paint a Hitler mustache or bunny ears on my unsuspecting parents as they screamed at me, and it made things better for a bit. Dreams were my oxygen, and now I couldn’t breathe.

That year became “the year of hell”. My schoolwork suffered. Depression overwhelmed me once again, almost stronger than the initial onset. I read books like they were food, bargained for every extra scrap of TV, played music constantly to keep the pain at bay. Any stimulation for my suddenly still brain was coveted. I begged my parents to let me stop. When they refused, I hid pills in increasingly complicated ways. Upon discovery of my schemes, it became mandatory to watch me take the pills every day, like a prisoner. Choked breakfast table sobs went unrecognized, and discussion was not permitted.

A year later, I went for my yearly doctor’s appointment. I had planned how, in calm tones, I would make my case directly to the pediatrician. As soon as the topic was brought up, my mother started to babble on about how wonderful the medicine was and how much better I was. I began my piece, but immediately I was shouted down by both pediatrician and parent, claiming that I didn’t know what was best for me. I looked a lot better now, insisted the physician, and my mother claimed my behavior had improved. Denying her claims did not help.

Asking about the test I had taken a year ago was fruitless: it “didn’t mean anything”. When I inquired as to the basis for this knowledge, she said, “I see you in Bible study every week. You are a lot more focused now.”

It was then that the true nature of the situation became apparent. The doctor and my mother were friends. Close friends, it seemed, as they chatted about the most recent passage that the group had been studying. Of course this woman believed her. This group that I was marched to every Thursday morning was quite large, but I was still stunned. How had I never noticed before?

All of my carefully constructed calm was gone. In tears and hysteria I pleaded my case yet again. I explained how the medication was hurting me, how I couldn’t focus on anything, why I needed to be able to daydream. With everything in me I tried to make them understand what they were doing to me, but it was all for naught. They simply smiled thinly, reiterated my “disease”, and told me that I would continue to take the medicine. In fact, the pediatrician suggested, a higher dose might be a good idea.

They exited the room, and I broke down. What if it was like this forever? What if I never got away from my parent’s home and I wasted away, lifeless and desperate?

I started sobbing hard and I couldn’t stop, because I’d lost control over my own mind, quite literally, and there was nothing I could do.

A soft knock on the door frame caused me to look up. A student nurse stood in the open doorway, looking concerned. She had sat in the corner during my examination, silent and observing. Now she tiptoed inside again to where I was curled in a ball on the crinkly paper of the counter. In a soft voice, she asked if I wanted a popsicle.

I was touched by this tiny act of sympathy, and said yes. She flitted away, returning in a minute with the orange flavored treat. Remaining in the room a moment longer before rushing out again, she rubbed my back and looked at me with sympathy. She did not say a word, but this little act of kindness helped calm me down and gave me hope that not everyone was out to get me. Student nurse, if you ever read this, thank you for what you did for me.

Some time after this, I was informed that I would no longer have to take the blue and yellow pills and would resume the caffeine pills twice a day. Any annoyance at this earlier means of control was gone, and I reacted joyfully. Of course, I asked why. Why did I no longer have to take the prescription drugs? Could it be that someone had finally heard my cry for help? No. The pills had just gotten too expensive.

I cannot overstate how much of an impact this experience had on my life.

To this day I become agitated in all matters concerning medication, doctors, or really anything to do with the medical practice.

Yes, if something became seriously wrong I would force myself to take medicine. I would get myself to a hospital if the need arose. But these convictions have only been a recent development, and the condition would need to be quite serious (a.k.a. detached limb). This is not a healthy view, I know. I’m working on it.

This doctor was a close friend of my mother. They went to Bible Study together. They were friends. Other than that test that “didn’t matter”, her diagnosis of me was based on my mother’s accounting of my behavior. There was no actual medical analysis involved in the whole affair, nor did anyone bother to explain things to me or ask how I felt, physically or emotionally. And of course, mother knows best.

While on medication, it was as if someone had erected a brick wall in my mind, keeping all the creative, imaginative parts of me blocked off, so I couldn’t access them. I could not think beyond the here and now, and even that seemed all blurry and dark. My head hurt sometimes, a few times I literally felt short of breath. I lost any faint sense of time that I possessed. Everything ran together in my mind and got confused and jumbled up. I had trouble focusing on the words on a page. It was terrifying.

The worst part was when I began to doubt my own sanity.

Perhaps my mother was right? Perhaps I really did have ADD? Perhaps this WAS the way normal people felt? Well, if this was normal I didn’t want it. It hurt. Besides, I didn’t have ADD. I didn’t! Or did I? I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, sure that I was losing my mind. It is only now, after a professional diagnosis (utterly terrifying, by the way) that I can confidently say that I do not have ADD, nor did I have it as a younger child.

Even though I’ve chucked the bottle of caffeine pills my mother sent me for college, even though I’ve had someone properly assess me, even though I am learning about medical care in a whole new light, it is not over for me. I am safe, I tell myself, no one will ever force me to take pills again. But I was still misdiagnosed and improperly medicated.

The scars from this will never go away

The Courtship That Wasn’t: Darcy’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5

Nothing about my courtship or marriage was supposed to happen.

I wasn’t supposed to give my heart away, not even a piece. Especially not to an unapproved guy whose family did not share our standards. They were good enough to be our friends, but definitely not intended for future marriage prospects. And I was only 17 anyway. 17-yr-olds were supposed to be concerned with serving the Lord and their families and weren’t anywhere near mature enough to know their own minds. “The heart is deceitful”, after all, especially when you’re 17.

But there I was, fallen from grace, in love with a boy. It was completely unintentional. I never meant for it to happen. But he was my friend and suddenly he was more. This is why we weren’t supposed to be friends with boys. Falling in love was something that ungodly dating people did. We practiced courtship and emotional purity and that meant no falling in love, no giving away pieces of your heart, no emotional fornication, only parent-approved courtship to one person who would end up my husband through a means of careful formulas to be sure no mistakes were made.

But I failed. I was in love. I was no better than The World after all.

The agony of coming to grips with my failure, of pleading with God to take away this forbidden feeling, to make my heart whole again, the guilt that I had somehow let this happen and had failed myself and my parents and my entire sub-culture was more than any teenage girl could bear. I begged God for forgiveness, I tried avoiding The Boy, I tried reading my Bible more and spent hours praying and throwing myself into my schoolwork and church activities. But it was apparent that, regardless of what I had been taught and what had been drilled into me by the courtship books, love is not something you can control.

And my whole carefully constructed world came crashing down around me.

I had to come to grips with the fact that everything I had believed was a lie. That many of the teachings on purity and “guarding your heart” and courtship and relationships were not at all reality, but some grand scheme made up to try to control other people’s lives. I couldn’t even find these ideas in my well-worn Bible, nor logically work them out in my head. Yet I knew that if my parents had any inkling of what was swirling around my head, there would be hell to pay and my life would be even more miserable than it already was. I was not free to have my own beliefs on this matter, even as an adult.

I kept it from them, my budding secret relationship with The Boy, my feelings and our talks (because if feeling emotional attachment for someone was forbidden, talking about it to them was even worse). I kept it from them until the day they told me they had to, for my own good, keep me away from him because he liked me and that couldn’t be allowed. Here’s my written account of what went down that day, taken from my journal of that time:

“We need to talk,” they said. “We’ve decided that you and Sky are spending too much time together. It’s not good for either of you. He’s obviously attracted to you and we feel we need to guard your heart so you don’t end up giving it away to the wrong person at the wrong time. I know you’re good friends and we’d like to keep it that way so we feel like you shouldn’t spend so much time together.”

Dad was about to go on when I blurted out “It’s too late!”

They just looked at me while I gathered all the courage I had and declared, “I’m in love with him.”

They looked at each other and my mom sighed dramatically. “This is exactly what we were trying to avoid. It’s OK,” my mom patted my lap. “We’re in this together and we’ll help you get through this.”

“I don’t want to get through this” I said quietly. They looked at me in silent shock.


Then I told them all…But I knew they didn’t understand. “Don’t you think,” my dad said, “that if this were God’s will for you, that He would tell me?”

“Maybe, maybe not”, I replied. “Maybe He wants you to hear it from me. Maybe part of growing up is learning to listen to God on my own.”

“You know,” Mom tried, “sometimes we can want something so badly that we think God is telling us something that He’s not. This could all be coming from your own heart. Our hearts are deceitful, after all.”

“Mom,” I said, “do you believe that I have a strong relationship with the Lord?”

“Well, yes,” she replied.

“So why is it so hard to believe that He would speak to me and show me the direction He wants me to go in my life?” I asked earnestly.

The answer was pretty much what I thought it would be: because the direction God was supposedly showing me was not the direction they had planned. I came away from that talk with the impression that they thought this was just a phase that would run its course. Once again they proved how little they knew me and how little they really wanted to.

It all went downhill from there. I documented the entire story on my blog, in 12 parts. It’s painful to read, difficult even now to relive the agony of the girl I was, the girl who had to fight, to be strong, the girl whose heart was ripped out again and again by the very people who claimed to protect it, all in the name of God. The girl who wanted nothing more than to please God, who had to use spiritual-sounding language and justifications to do what should’ve been a normal part of growing up. But that’s what happens when you’re raised to be, not yourself, not an autonomous person, but an asset to be controlled.

I read my journals and even the story I wrote out 6 years ago, and I am angered. I should not have had to use God to justify my choices. I should not have had to invoke His will for my life, to try to convince my parents that I knew my own mind and could “hear God for myself”. I should not have had to field emotional abuse and manipulation and spiritual control of my mind and heart and body. I should not have had to flee home just to get away from them and find peace. I was an adult, that should have been enough to make my own choices.

But in our world, it was not. In the world for which courtship was invented, the ultimate sin was rebellion against God’s order of authority, against what your parents wanted for you, and choosing to walk on your own amid cries of “rebellion”. In this world, men could not be trusted and women were assets to be controlled, and the two could only meet under many layers of rules meant to keep us dependent on our authorities, despising of our own desires, and mistrusting of our own hearts and minds. It has always amazed me how two people who were declared not mature enough to conduct a relationship without supervision and under extreme outside constraint could somehow be mature enough to begin a marriage.

It took me until about 4 years ago to finally stop making spiritual-sounding excuses for why we conducted a secret relationship, why we rejected courtship, why we did everything “wrong” and against my parents’ will, to stop trying to get anyone listening to acknowledge the legitimacy of our choices by invoking God’s will.

To finally simply declare, “Because it was what we wanted and we had that right”.

Such a basic idea yet so foreign to those of us who are refugees from the homeschooling movement. We have that right….the right to love, to choose, to live. To not have our adult choices dictated by another, our autonomy robbed in the name of “because God says so”, coerced by ideologies that left us no real choice because “do this or suffer hell” is not a real choice.

It was what we wanted. And that should have been enough.

Don’t Touch Me — A Reflection on Courtship and Purity: Merab’s Story, Part Three

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Merab” is a pseudonym.

< Part Two

Part Three

After the Stephen incident, I relocated and began teaching eighth grade language arts. One day, I went with a friend to a local church Halloween party, dressed as a nerd. At the party, I met a tall man dressed like Felix Baumgartner (the man who has the record for the longest space jump). He was a meteorologist, and when I told him I was terrified of tornadoes, he got my phone number in order to put me on his “tornado notification list.”

The next morning, I woke up to a text from him. We spoke over text and on the phone, and the next week, he took me on our first date. We didn’t talk at length about whether we were ready for marriage; we talked about time travel. We went on several other dates throughout the week, and I didn’t ask him to call my dad for permission.

And then he dropped a bomb on me.

This man felt comfortable and vulnerable enough to be open about his past: He had been married before. He was divorced, following a five-year relationship and two-year marriage during which his ex-wife was unfaithful and left him.

My mind only heard: He had sex before.

He wasn’t pure. He wasn’t whole. He could never be fully mine. How would a relationship work? I still hadn’t kissed anyone. Our first kiss should be at the altar, but he’d had so many kisses before that ours would not even matter to him.

(Now, how convoluted that mindset seems to me, thinking that I wouldn’t matter to him and that he had nothing to offer me because he had sex with someone else before. It is exactly what I Kissed Dating Goodbye taught, though; I still remember the dream Joshua had in which he realized he had given everything away and had nothing left for a significant other.)

Crying, I left. Later, he told me he felt I would never want to see him again.

I called my mother, convinced that she would tell me to run, that this man was tainted goods. She told me I was acting crazy, that God loved everyone regardless of circumstance, and that this man was allowed to love again.

He wasn’t pure, I said. She said, what even was purity? What right did I have to say that someone wasn’t pure?

That night, I began to seriously evaluate my mindset towards purity and the courtship movement.

I viewed myself as being on some pedestal, looking down on the world at all the fornicators who were happily kissing their significant others. I speak out of my own experience when I say this; I am not implying that all people who choose not to kiss before marriage are judgmental in this way.

I allowed my interpretation of the courtship movement to condense a relationship into two all-important factors: physicality, and the avoidance of it. I was not thinking how this man could be affected by his divorce or how much I appreciated his honesty about it; I could only think about him kissing his ex-wife.

After much prayer and discussion with him, I confronted this mindset. I told him how guilty I felt holding hands or hugging for too long, and we deconstructed the guilt through conversation. He and I continued in our relationship, and I kissed him after four months. Even now, writing that, I still feel the need to justify why I kissed him: we loved each other, we wanted to get married, we were committed.

Lastly, I want to be achingly real about my experience with sex. Partly due to the fact I would have felt too guilty and unclean, we waited to have sex until our wedding night. On our wedding night, I felt so bad about finally losing my virginity, losing the purity I had “fought for” for so long, that it was impossible for me to just give it up simply because I had said a few words in a vow. I was so tense and unyielding that we did not have sex until we were married for over two weeks, and even then, I felt guilty. I was frank about this with my husband (who is a saint), and we have worked through this. Adhering to the courtship mindset and its purity reliance made having a physical relationship with my husband more difficult.

I can’t wait to teach my children that sexual experience does not dictate their dignity and value.

End of series.

Our Courtship, Part Seven: Engagement and Marriage

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on January 29, 2015.

< Part Six

Part Seven: Engagement and Marriage

As the wedding date approached, my parents got more frantic to prepare me to be a wife. Dad tried touching me more, even putting his fingers in the belt loop of my jeans in a very possessive way. When me trying to pull away wasn’t getting the hint across, I finally told Mom (why not Dad? I don’t know, unhealthy relationship dynamics I guess) that it felt very creepy. Dad stopped, but explained at one point that he was worried I wouldn’t let Luke touch me enough and so was trying to get me more comfortable with being touched.

My dad, for his part, was just trying to be a good father-in-law and present not only a sexually pure daughter, but a sexually responsive one (my mom’s big advice was ‘don’t say no too often’). This caused me to enter marriage with a warped view of my own (and Luke’s) sexuality.

My parents, again, were worried that Luke and I were too emotionally intimate for an engaged couple. One thing they did to keep this intimacy from growing was not allow me to go to church with Luke. Church was a thing I was supposed to do with the family, and for now I belonged to my dad, not Luke. My parents grudgingly let me attend Luke’s church once when he was preaching, and maybe for another couple special occasions. After we were married, I was expected to go to Luke’s church three times a week, and be a contributing member of the congregation (Luke’s dad is a pastor), and know everyone and hug everyone and there was no easing into everyone’s expectations of me. I wish I had been allowed to gradually get to know everyone there without suddenly being ‘family’ to them. We ended up leaving the church a year after we got married.

There were many other issues during this time of courtship and engagement, including but not limited to squabbles between our mothers, which I was in the middle of, and many expectations of how courtship was supposed to function. Also Luke’s mom (with whom I get along quite well nowadays) seemed to be hanging on to her firstborn for dear life, which caused still more issues. Courtship was easily the most stressful time of my life. Add in the fact that I was undiagnosed bipolar 2 (mostly depressive) and you have a recipe for misery.

As the wedding drew nearer, I was nervous about getting married (after being infantilized during my teen years, I was being thrust into adulthood and responsibility). I was in turns mocked and criticized by my mother for these nerves, with threats of canceling the wedding because I was worried/stressed. This didn’t strike me as a kind offer but rather a ‘you better shape up’ threat.

Dad, on the other hand, was concerned. He told me we could cancel the wedding if I wanted to. I didn’t want to, but my response was actually ‘no, we can’t’. In my mind, I had given up to much of my heart to back out, even if I wanted to, because according to what they had taught me, I thought I would be unfit to marry anyone else, and as a woman my value was in getting married and having babies. He was really disturbed by this ‘no, we can’t’ response, but he shouldn’t have been surprised. He was the one who taught me all that.

Luke and I got married May 23, 2008, exactly nine months after we started courting. We had a beautiful ceremony – my mom is an excellent decorator. Luke and I held hands for the first time during the ceremony, and shared our first kiss at the end of the ceremony. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been – the pictures are alright.

We had an awkward wedding night (not quite this bad), but the cuddling was special.

I’d like to say we lived happily ever after and all the drama was over, but it wasn’t quite.

My mother-in-law still had to learn to let go. My parents were still controlling. I was still sick. Church was a problem. Luke and I had to figure out how relationships work without parents quite so involved. We had to figure out, like everyone does, everything physical and how to work around different sex drives and expectations, which have changed several times throughout the years.

My parents continued trying to control me (and Luke) for years — I think they loved me, but maybe they loved owning me more. Eventually there came a day that they chewed me out yet again, but now I was done being controlled, so I talked back more than I ever had (I called them abusive, but I don’t regret it). After that, they stopped inviting us over or contacting us.

We still have a good relationship with Luke’s family.

My parents said several times in the courtship days that we should write a book about our courtship — they had, at that point, a different view of how it went down than we do. I think this is probably as close as I’ll get to writing a book, and it’s not quite the courtship-lauding masterpiece they were picturing.

Luke and I did everything ‘right’ in our courtship, and still had a marriage with stuff to figure out. We didn’t automatically have the perfect relationship we were promised, but that’s ok.

If we could survive courtship together, we think we can survive anything.

End of series.

Don’t Touch Me — A Reflection on Courtship and Purity: Merab’s Story, Part Two

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Merab” is a pseudonym.

< Part One

Part Two

Sometime after my first boyfriend and I broke up, Stephen (my old friend from the NCFCA) surprisingly called me. He and I caught up about our lives, about college, and reminisced about our golden debate years. One memory still sticks out in my mind: several years prior, we had gone to NCFCA Nationals; at the afterparty, Stephen had led me up multiple flights of stairs to the top of an historic statue, and we looked out over the city and talked.

I had been convinced I was going to marry him, and now, two years later, he was calling me!

We had been talking on the phone for several months when one day he called me again, his voice different. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “and I’m just not sure we should be talking on the phone like this. What’s it going to lead to?”

“I’m…I’m not sure,” I said.

“I just think that we don’t want to encourage something that can’t happen right now. I’m just in college, and not in a position to be with someone or support anyone. I don’t want us to spend time leading each other on with no point to it,” he said.

I really respected this guy as a friend, a rational being, and a “good” Christian man, so I immediately agreed. How respectful of me he was, putting us first, breaking things off so our emotional purity was not jeopardized.

I felt like this for a few minutes after I hung up the phone, and then I realized—wait, how we were going to talk?

After thinking some more, I resolved to wait until he was ready. He’d know when the time was right, when God told him he could court someone. If we were supposed to be together, God would bring us together.

And wait I did.

I didn’t have a boyfriend for two years, chiefly because I couldn’t find someone I liked as much as Stephen, who was sweet, rational, artistic, and intelligent—and shared my ideology about dating.

Then, in my senior year of college, the waiting paid off. Stephen got in touch with me again. One conversation led to another and I agreed to make the three-hour drive to his university so we could see each other.

The evening was perfect. We went out to dinner, talking about our families and politics and pasts and dreams for the future. I had just found a job as a teacher after graduation, and he was going to travel. We watched a television show with some of his friends, sitting next to each other but not touching. When it was time for me to leave, he walked me out to my car.

We lingered outside in the cold, neither of us wanting to leave. Finally, stepping closer, he said, “I’ve liked you for a long time.” I told him I had liked him too. After we hugged (quickly), he closed my car door for me, smiling. I felt joyful—everything was finally working out.

But then, nothing. He didn’t call or text me. The silence continued for a week. By now it was Christmas break, and at home my sister saw me miserable with apprehension, so she messaged him on Facebook and asked him to get in touch.

He called me the next day. “I’m sorry I said what I did,” he said. “I’m very fond of you as a friend. I’m still not in a position to be with you; I’m studying abroad next term.”

“I completely understand,” I said calmly, my eyes filling up with tears. I sobbed uncontrollably after he hung up. I didn’t care that we would have had to be in a long-distance relationship; I felt I would have waited years for him, a champion of purity. I finally began to view his dating ideology as an excuse for not stepping up and being real with me. I wish he had cut the “I can’t support a wife” line and just said, “I’m not sure if I like you romantically.”

To me, the courtship movement gave men and women alike a ready excuse to not speak the truth.

Even when I knew Stephen was using the “I’m not in a position to support you” statement as an excuse, I still pretended to agree with this because I was supposed to, according to the courtship movement. If someone couldn’t support a wife, he couldn’t support a wife.

At about this time, I began to realize that I could support myself, and that the previous statement was problematic, implying a power structure that favored male earning of income. As more and more of my public-schooled college friends began to date without constantly questioning their purity and value in life, dating also lost its stigma for me. I concluded that I would never be able to know if I wanted to marry someone if I didn’t actually spend time with them, even if I wasn’t ready to drop everything and get married that instant.

I resolved to focus on the work of teaching.

God would still send the right pure man along for me, and we would ride off into a glorious sunset (and have amazing sex because we were pure).

Part Three >