Dear Mom: It Could Be Worse

Longtime reader Petticoat Philosopher just left the following comment on my post about brainwashing and fleshly lusts:

Oh yes, Libby, you are such a wild woman–marrying your first boyfriend young and having children and all. Seriously, those fleshly lusts are driving you straight to destruction.

The truth is, I’m not much of a rebel by most people’s standards. Not a rebel at all, actually. I don’t have piercings and I dress normally. I’ve never smoked, never been drunk, never broken the law. Like Petticoat Philosopher says, I married young and my husband and I now have two children while still in our twenties. The life we live is really very typical. We go to work, we come home and go swimming with the kids. For hobbies, we garden, sew, and bike. By any standard but my parents’, I majorly fail at being a rebel. And sometimes I really want to remind my mom that while she may disapprove of how I lead my life, it could be worse.

Petticoat Philosopher’s comment reminded me of a (satirical) letter I composed in my head back when I was an undergrad and the conflict between my parents and I over things like creationism and paternal authority were in full force. It went something like this:

Dear Mom,

I’m writing from jail. I got caught trying to break into a house because, well, I was short on cash. See, I lost my scholarship because my grades dropped, and now I’m in the process of being expelled because I got caught plagiarizing. I’ve been making some money writing papers for some frat kids, but not enough. Anyway, I need you to bail me out. Oh, and it would be dandy if you could help with some of my credit card debt too – some of it has gone to a collections agency.

Just kidding. None of that is true. I’m still a straight A student and haven’t gotten so much as a parking ticket. But the truth is, I believe in female equality and see myself as equal and independent, and I have questions about the religious beliefs you and dad taught us growing up and am exploring other traditions and ideas. That’s all.

Your loving daughter,


Somehow, composing that in my head, back when things were really not going well between me and my mom, was really cathartic – even though I never wrote it down or sent it.

Have you ever done something like this?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Sarah

    For a lot of people getting married without dating other people and having children at a young age is seen as rebellious because it is unusual, but for religious fundamentalists its not. I guess in your case the fact that you only have two children and do not intend to have more is would be seen as rebellious to conservatives.

  • Azel

    If by “something similar” you mean “taking your parents arguments to their logical end and see what appens” I did. And I have to say you are a far better person than I am: I had been far crueler about that, I sent the letter (well, an email) and used its contents in subsequents arguments.
    Your letter was calm, not too extreme and didn’t disparage your parents, that’s a good thing> And hopefully, that made them think.

  • Lina

    V and I both have wanted to send those types of letters. We can’t count the number of times we’ve said “Really, if they would only stop and think…” It’s hard, though, when for parents (especially hers), being gay is The Worst Thing – they’d rather she get knocked up, or flunk out of college, or end up in debt. Heaven forbid she be happily married, in a master’s program, and on her way to career success!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Yeah, when I’ve been really angry at someone but don’t want to make a huge mess for whatever reason, I’ve on more than one occasion written them a letter I don’t send. I find that, even if I don’t say what I am feeling to the person, people able to organize and articulate my thoughts in words helps me process the anger more. It’s, as you say, cathartic. Not a bad tactic.

  • Jaimie

    It doesn’t matter how good you are or how normal you are. That you have left their tiny box of beliefs and are branching out is simply unthinkable. I try to have some compassion for them instead of anger. After all, they have been discouraged to use the most basic of critical thinking skills. Asking questions is bad, wrong, and they totally believe in a god that is holding every conceivable aspect of their lives over a cosmic microscope. The fear these people live in is overwhelming. After a while believing what is told instead of seeking out answers is the comfortable accepted norm. I hate to say this but most of them cannot go from A to B to C in a rational discussion.

  • Rosie

    Sometimes I think it’s actually harder on them to see you succeed at life while ditching the beliefs. If you were a complete rebel and failure, that would fit into their worldview. But happy, successful people who don’t agree with them? It crashes the religionist hard drive.