Now that I had given up on being anything but what my parents wanted from me, I began to gain some sort of sense of contentment. I was still afraid that I was going to be a stay at home daughter the rest of my life, but I had hope that “the time of the singing” would eventually come. So I poured myself into being the best daughter I could be. I had discovered some food allergies that had been impacting my health, and after removing the troublesome food from my diet, I had more energy. I got better and better at cooking and cleaning, I dreamed about how I would run my own house someday. I was usually too tired to work on anything for my hope chest, but I was “happier” than I had been in a long time.
When I was almost 19, my family started going to a church for the first time in 10 years, and I looked forward to the service and fellowship every single week. Breaking out of the isolation my family had been in for so long was making a difference in my life. My skills at the violin were improving, and since music teaching was something I was possibly able to do out of the home if my husband ever needed extra money, I was allowed to get certification in Suzuki Violin Training. I had half a dozen students and I taught once a week at a local music group. I was good at it, and I enjoyed the chance to have an outlet.
I tried not to think about how long I could be waiting for the “time of the singing” to arrive, and spent the time as best I could. I got up early every Sunday morning and my sisters and I tried to get everything ready so we would be able to go to church which was almost an hour away. Every Sunday I would hold my breath and wonder if any of the young men would notice me. We were even allowed to participate in the bi-monthly Young Peoples group since it was attended and led by the parents. So I was getting more time around other teenagers than I ever had.
I had hopes for one young man, but he never really showed any interest. There was another young man I’ll call “Dave” who came over to say hi almost every Sunday, and I hoped that perhaps there was something there. I wrote down everything he ever said to me in my journal, hardly believing that anyone actually sought me out to talk with me. But months went by and nothing further ever happened, no other prospects appeared.
The pastor’s son (who was planning on going into ministry himself) offered a class in biblical Greek, and my Dad decided that this was a great chance for all of us to get better at it, so two of my sisters, myself and my Dad all went together each monday night to study Greek together.
It was an interesting class, and the teacher was fun. “Hunk” was my age, but I never really considered him as a potential mate. He was tall and had tons of poofy blond hair that stuck up all over his head. He seemed to be a decided nerd, always dressed in dress pants and a polo shirt. He was very smart, and when we had been to dinner at their house earlier that summer, he and I had ended up talking for some time about the Greek language and the recent reading I had been doing on the history of Israel. But he had been interested in another girl from the church, and I was sure that they were going to be together soon, if they weren’t already. Plus he was kind of loud and energetic. You could often hear him talking from the opposite side of the room, and that made my serious reserved self a little uncomfortable.
After awhile, my Dad started to make it to class less and less, he was busy with work, so he would send us girls by ourselves. Sometimes after class we would all hang out for a few minutes and talk before heading home, and I liked this teacher. “Hunk” was interesting to talk to, and he was considerate and smart. But I still never thought of him in a romantic way. Class ended early in the year, and “Dave” who had continued chatting with me every Sunday still hadn’t made a decisive move. I was starting to think that there was no one in our church for me to marry.
In early April, (close to a year after we’d begun attending church) we invited a church family over for dinner, and a few days later the Father called my Dad and they chatted about how the oldest son in this family was interested in courting me. “Jay” was in the military, so it would have to be long distance at first, but he was hoping to get stationed just a few states away and then maybe he could drive to see me sometimes. My parents were fine with the match, and told me that I was free to start exchanging letters if that was what I wanted. I felt so overwhelmed. This was the moment I had been waiting for, right? Why didn’t I feel excited? I tried to see it all objectively, this could be my chance to get out. “Jay” was a decent enough young man. He was employed, he was a Christian from a Christian family with similar beliefs to ours, and based on his conservative upbringing he was sure to be a virgin.
Why was I hesitating?
He was short and not really very attractive to me, but wasn’t that somewhat superficial? He was a socially awkward home schooled boy, who was overly sure of himself. He had a lisp (which my Dad assured me he could get speech therapy for) and I had actually seen him pick his nose in public. But weren’t we all a bit socially awkward? Was that really a good enough reason to say no? And what if this was my only chance? I had only met “Jay” once, but I had been around his younger brothers and Dad a bit, and I was frustrated by their attitude towards women, I remembered one conversation where they had joked that you shouldn’t hit a lady, but if she slapped you she was obviously not a lady, so you were free to hit her back. I had no plans to hit anyone, but the mindset still bothered me.
After a few days of stressing about it, I just couldn’t say yes. I told my Dad to relay the message that I did not feel I knew “Jay” well enough to enter into a relationship. I will be forever grateful that my Dad let me make that decision for myself. Despite my Dad’s beliefs about parent-directed courtship, he had always maintained that I was “the one who would have to live with the guy”, so after his stamp of approval it was up to me if I wanted to let the relationship go anywhere, as long as I adhered to my parent’s guidelines. This is not always the case in Patriarchal families where girls can be betrothed without their consent or forced into “courtship” with a guy their father has selected without their consent.
I felt a huge sense of relief saying no to “Jay”, but also depressed. I felt as though I was letting my parent’s down by saying no to a courtship possibility. I felt bad for rejecting the poor guy. I wrote in my journal that there was no one out there for me to marry. I even included a list of the young men in our church that would never work for me, ironically my future husband was included in that list.
To be continued . . .
For all the posts in this series, click here.