I admit it. Some of what happened I did to myself. I took what my parents taught me and ran with it, embracing Christian Patriarchy and all that it included almost more than they did. My like-minded friends and I pushed each other to be more extreme. I embraced it, all of it, with all of my being. It came to define me, who I was, and what I wanted for my life. It shaped how I saw the world, how I saw myself, my dreams, hopes, and everything about me. I wish with all my heart I hadn’t thrown myself into it like this, but I did.
Not knowing anything about popular culture became a matter of pride. Being different became a matter of pride. Only wearing handmade dresses was similar. Not wearing makeup made me feel somehow more holy, more godly. Embracing the concept of male authority and female submission made to the extreme made me better than other people. Staring blankly when someone made a popular culture reference meant that I was less worldly than them. Being a second mother to my siblings, disciplining, raising, and schooling them meant I was following what God wanted, and that I was better than all those empty-minded worldly girls. I proudly ran in the opposite direction from my best interests and I never looked back. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t complain about anything about how my parents raised me, because I am as much to blame for the things I regret as they are.
But am I to blame? Maybe. But I have to remind myself that my parents are the ones who taught me to think this way in the first place. They taught me that kids in public schools are worldly, and that we needed to be different, set apart. They taught me about male authority and female submission, and expected me to serve as a second mother to my siblings. All I really did was believe these things they taught me and take them to their natural conclusion. What else did I really know? I tried to be just what they, and God, wanted, and then some. I tried to be everything they wanted to be, and I found purpose and belonging through embracing these patriarchal beliefs wholesale. How was this anything but a natural reaction to the way my parents were raising me and what they were teaching me? Sometimes I wonder, though. Did I possibly help push my parents further into the world of Christian Patriarchy through my avid devotion to it? Am I partly to blame for that?
Regardless of the problems I brought on myself, and possibly my family as well, by my devotion to the beliefs of Christian Patriarchy, my friends only helped to cement this process. They were all girls like me, raised in similar households with similar beliefs, and we together drove each other more extreme in our quest for holiness. We thought about wearing headcoverings, even though our families didn’t. We liked the idea of having a home church, though our parents never tried it. And more than that, we discussed whether girls should perhaps stay home from college. In fact, even though my parents expected me to go to college and always had, some of my friends almost talked me out of going. I concluded in the end that my friend was right, that girls shouldn’t go to college, but that I still needed to do what my parents expected of me and make the best of it.
And now I have to wonder, what was I thinking? I wish so much that I had questioned. Why is it that some girls make all those beliefs theirs like I did, and others never really buy it? I envy those girls, girls who knew it was crazy from the get go. I wish I had questioned these things my parents taught me, questioned them rather than imbibing them wholesale. I wish I had asked to be involved in things outside of my insular world, that I searched out friends who had different beliefs, that I had read popular novels instead of Elsie Dinsmore. I wish that I had at least tried to be normal. If I had tried, maybe I wouldn’t experience quite so much cultural disconnection as I did. And maybe my transition to the normal world would have gone more smoothly.
Because I had so embraced their beliefs, my parents never expected me to question or leave. When I did both they were utterly shocked. I think it went worse for me because I had tried so hard before to be everything they wanted and even more. I think that if I hadn’t been so lockstep behind their beliefs, even taking them further than they themselves did, my parents might have been more understanding when I began to change my mind on these issues. I’m not saying it would have been perfect – it wouldn’t have. I just think that surely, surely it would have been easier and less huge and dramatic than it was. Surely their disappointment would have been less. And so, I place some of the blame for what happened on myself even as I wish that it had been different.
There is something here I really don’t understand. Why do some girls embrace Christian Patriarchy wholeheartedly and others see through it right from the beginning? Why do some girls make it their entire identities while others long for the change to get away? What makes the difference?