A Guest Post by Melissa
Note: I’m reposting Melissa’s series, originally written in February 2011, with her permission. Why now? Put simply, because it was one of the first things that came to my mind when I heard about Jessa Duggar courting. This is something I wish she could read. This is for Jessa.
For all the posts in this series, click here.
Hunk and I and our parents set the wedding date that same night. He was going to graduate school (3 hours away) that August, and we both knew that we did not want to risk our parents nixing a wedding before next summer. A wedding over Christmas or spring break sounded complicated, and we both knew that he would be distracted from his schoolwork driving down to see me. Secretly I felt that I would go insane if I had to go days and days without seeing him. After a few calls to family members who lived some distance away, we settled on a date in July, eight short weeks away.
I now had a ring on my finger, and people who knew me at violin classes were shocked, they hadn’t even known I was dating anybody, and now I was engaged? I was getting married that summer? Who was this guy? Even at our conservative church there were similar reactions, and rumours started circulating that we were pregnant. One of my acquaintances in the church told me that I was being risky, that I “didn’t know that “Hunk” had been after pretty much every girl in the church.” That bothered me some, why would someone say that about him? I didn’t remember seeing that aspect of him over the year I had been in the church. I even talked to my Dad about it, wondering if I should ask “Hunk” what that girl had been talking about. My Dad said that peers opinions were pointless, the real people that mattered were “Hunks” parents, did they have good things to say about their son? Then everything must be fine. In the end I considered the source of the negative comments and decided to ignore it.
I stressed alot about leaving my family. As the oldest sibling I had so many responsibilities, would my mom be able to do it all without me? I knew my leaving meant that the sisters next down in the birth order would be taking on my chores, and I felt guilty for leaving them with that burden. I felt a burden to be a protector and encourager of my siblings, and even though I failed miserably at times, I loved them all so much. Someone else would be fixing their hair, practicing violin with them, and baking with them. Would any of them even remember me once I moved out? I tried to make time to connect with each sibling by taking each of them out on a date with me in the weeks before the wedding.
I felt the worst about leaving my six year old sister. This was the sister that I had cared for since my mom had put in my bedroom as an infant. I had been almost exclusively responsible for dressing her, grooming and bathing her, feeding her and correcting her. In recent years I had been homeschooling her as well, and she was making good progress in reading and writing and violin. Would she get the attention she needed after I was gone? She was very angry about my getting married, and told me that I couldn’t do it because “then I would have to move in with ‘him’”. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to live with “Hunk”, but that I still loved her and I would miss her so much. She didn’t take it well, and would hardly talk to me over the next six months or so. It was very hard for me to leave her.
Engagement was a really awkward and frustrating time in relating to my parents. They continued to control so much of our relationship, and it was hard for us to set any boundaries because in the patriarchal mindset I was still under my father’s authority. I really wanted to make it to the wedding smoothly without too much conflict, so I continued to try and balance my relationship with my fiancé’ with obedience to my parents. But in my heart, my loyalties were already shifting to “Hunk”. I was tired of asking my parents permission for every little thing, and “Hunk” would sometimes get frustrated with my inability to make decisions on my own.
I tried to focus on spending as much time as I could with my fiancé and took a backseat in the wedding planning. It was easier to just let the parents plan most of it, instead of arguing over stuff. My mantra was “As long as I get to walk down the aisle in a white dress, I’m happy.” And for the most part that was true.
We did put our foot down once. “Hunk” had arranged to borrow a relatives’ brand new condo for our honeymoon the week after the wedding, but my Dad had a problem with the fact that it was 3 hours away. According to him, once we were officially married the first thing we would want to do was have sex, 3 hours away was too long of a drive for us to handle. We explained that we were sure that we could make it a bit longer in order to get to our destination, and it might even be nice to have a drive and relax after the hubbub of the wedding. But he insisted that we would regret it. He even offered to get us a hotel room 20 minutes from the church where we could stay for two nights before heading up to the condo. We compromised by agreeing to let him get the hotel room with the understanding that he and mom could go there themselves for a nice getaway if “Hunk” and I decided on making the drive after the wedding.
In early June (1 month after our courtship had begun) I went on a trip with “Hunk” and his family a two days drive away, to attend a wedding of a friend of the family. The trip was wonderful. At the wedding dinner I had a glass of champagne (my first alcohol ever) and we danced slowly together at the reception. I felt so beautiful around him. I soaked up all the uninterrupted time with My Love, and we talked more than ever.
His family allowed us a bit more freedom since we were engaged, so the whole drive down we were together in the backseat sitting as closely together as possible and talking. I got to go to the Atlantic ocean for the first time in my life, and we spent a day there in the sun and the water. Even though my parents were still against physical contact, “Hunk” and I ended up getting a lot closer on that trip. After a long day at the beach, we snuggled tiredly in a hammock together and when his mom took a picture of us I joked that she shouldn’t develop that picture until after the wedding, since according to my dad we weren’t even allowed to hug yet. We were still trying to keep from kissing each other, so even though we spent hours with our foreheads touching looking into each others eyes thinking about kissing, we refrained.
One night we walked down to the beach together, and spent some time looking at the stars that hung so low it was almost as though I could reach out and grab them out of the sky. It felt so peaceful there, I wished we could stay forever. I was starting to feel so comfortable with “Hunk”, I was more and more certain of my choice to marry him, it felt like freedom. We danced together in the moonlight, barefoot in the surf. Then “Hunk” picked me up to swing me around, and in the dark my lips bumped into his. A moment later we sprang away from each other and I covered my mouth with my hand wondering if this was my first kiss? “Hunk” apologized right away, and I tried to explain it away in my head. It couldn’t really be a kiss right? There was no pre-meditation (on my part at least and our lips had barely touched. As we walked back to join his family at the place we were all staying, I decided that it was kind of a kiss, after all it was such a romantic place to have a first kiss! I wanted to kiss him again (for real this time!) But I had been told over and over how kissing would instantly lead to sex, and I wanted to obey my parents and be a good example to my siblings of “purity”. This kiss had felt so beautiful and natural, not bad or dirty at all. But there was no way I was telling my parents about this, I resolved to redouble our efforts to be more careful from now on.
On the drive back home, I was sad. Still so many weeks till the wedding, it seemed like an eternity away. I didn’t really want to go back to living in my parent’s home till then. We snuggled in the back seat, and “Hunk” reassured me that he would be coming to see me pretty much every day, we would make it alright. When we pulled up to my family’s house and all the kids spilled out of the door to greet us, I could tell right away my parents were displeased. My shoulders were badly burned from our day at the sunny beach, and I had worn a tank top (normally reserved for layering under shirts to make my necklines more modest) for the drive home. My mom pulled me aside and told me that Dad wanted me to change. I tried to explain about my painful shoulders, but she said that I was not only deliberately tempting my fiancé by wearing it, I was being a bad example to my younger siblings. I changed my shirt.
And counted down the days.
To be Continued…