Off to College??


Laura circa 1981

When I was a sophmore in High School, I was a cheerleader. Go Mustangs!!

That year we went to Cheer Camp at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). It was fun as you can imagine. During my senior year I started looking at colleges and UCSB was on the top of my list. I love the ocean and it was right there. I had some familiarity with the school having spent a week there at camp.

I applied to some other schools when the time came and, of course, filled out all those financial aid and grant applications. I waited…and then the acceptance letters started coming in. I was a good student and was accepted to every school I applied to.

Now the time came to decide which school to go to… I chose UCSB. For many reasons one of which was that my boyfriend at the time lived in Southern California and we could continue our long distance relationship. Now to wait to hear on the financial aid… Sure enough, being a child in a low income single parent family helped me to be eligible for just about everything out there. My good grades and test scores didn’t hurt either! I was approved for the Pell grant and the Cal grant and all sorts of other things that I can’t remember now! I was set and ready. My costs were covered and I was looking at a bright and interesting future as a Psychology major in the fall.

Then I met my husband to be..and Jesus…and my new life of Christianity.

When I started seeing my future husband, I was a senior in high school, the female lead in “Bye Bye Birdie,” an alto in the “audition only” Jazz Choir and had a taste for fun, boys and rebellion. No one could tell me what to do. If they tried, I would blow them off and do what I pleased. I guess you could say I was strong-willed, hard-headed and a bit wild around the edges. I was also only 17.

When I met Dale, he shared his faith with me as I have described before. I looked up to him. I idolized him. I practically worshiped him. He was Jesus with skin on to me. What ever he said, I swallowed hook, line and sinker. He was so honest, so kind, so grateful to me for any little thing I did for him. He was also older than me and had already graduated.

I remember talking with him one day about my upcoming school plans – going to UCSB and how it was all paid for with the grants and scholarships I qualified for. He looked me straight in the eye and asked me if I thought my moms had been totally honest when we filled out the paperwork on our financial situation.

Hmmm…I wasn’t sure.

You see, ever since I had gotten mixed up with this guy, I looked at my moms with suspicion. They were living an immoral lifestyle after all. And they didn’t approve of my dating Dale in the slightest. In fact, he was the only boy they forbade me to date. Didn’t work for me as I just did my usual and blew them off.

So this question about their honesty in filling out the forms really brought me up short. I never asked my moms if they had fudged on the forms. There really would have been no need as we lived under the poverty level. But because of my new-found negative attitude toward them, I figured they MUST have lied. I mean, hey, they already were sinners beyond belief weren’t they? Of course they would have lied. Just so that they wouldn’t have to pay any money for my education. All these thought went through my head in a matter of seconds. I replied to Dale that I guess they could have been dishonest on the forms.

He said to me,”Well, then you can’t take that money. It would be stealing.” He was absolutely right…wasn’t he? I mean, I was a new baby Christian and I couldn’t figure these things out for myself. I wanted so much to please him and God and do what I thought they wanted me to. Surely it would be wrong and a sin for me to take the money.

I said,”Thanks, but no thanks” to all the grants and scholarships and told UCSB I would not be attending in the Fall. I never talked to my moms about it that I can remember. I never went to college. I got married 5 months later and that was that.

It’s as if when I met Dale, I turned off my brain. It has taken 25 years to find the on/off switch and turn it on again.

Laura’s Story:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13

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  • aimai

    Laura,What a stunning post. I’ve been reading around in the field of scams and con games–because of the similarities between the current financial crisis and ponzi/scams generally and I am pretty sure that Dale’s determination to separate you form your moms, and his question to you “were they honest” is analagous to the way confidence men and scam artists work slowly to separate the victim from his social moorings and then his money. The first part of the confidence game is to *gain the confidence* of the victim by undermining their confidence in other authority figures, friends, and relations. I’m sure it succeeded beyond Dale’s wildest dreams. I doubt very much that anyone would have thought an “innocent question” would lead you to throw aside all your scholarships and plunge deeply into his control. But it sounds like he’d been subtly undermining your moms and your life all along and this one question tipped the balance. I haven’t read it yet but this book, by a friend of my mother’s the poet Fanny Howe ( details her very difficult life as the wife of an abusive, controlling, man, a life that she more or less “willingly” submitted to. In the book, or to my mother, she describes herself as “living in a fugue state” for years and years that it is impossible to look back on with other than wonder and horror. But when you are in the cage–as Vyckie has written–you can’t imagine life outside of it.aimai aimai

  • Anonymous

    This is so sad 🙁

  • an atheist in the Bible belt

    It’s an very common indicator of an abuser that he (or she) tries to separate you from your family and friends so that he’s “the only person you need” and you become increasingly dependent on him. It’s not too late to take some college classes if it’s still a dream of yours 🙂

  • jemand

    :(I also echo the “it’s not too late” of the previous poster. The fact you would have studied Psychology is so ironic, you might have learned the family pattern Dale insisted on was unhealthy.Perhaps that was one reason he was against it?

  • Anonymous

    That is so true about an abuser. I was with one for two years of my life that were flushed down the toilet. That’s exactly what he did, isolated me to the point of thinking I had nobody else. I have seen it in my friends lives, too…but sadly, many of them choose to stay. It is heartbreaking. I remember being broken down and thinking there is nobody else that would ever want me during the time I was with that guy. Now, I have an amazing husband who bends over backwards for me every second….oftentimes I even think he does too much. He is a living, breathing, example of a man who constantly loves me and lays down his life for me. I have no idea how life would be without him. He makes me feel like the most amazing, beautiful, intelligent wife and momma ever….even though I don’t believe those things about myself. And before my husband, I wanted so badly to marry that abusive guy. I wanted to marry him, have a family, etc. He would change, right? I always told myself that. The scary thing is that it took him breaking up with me (after two years of pure hell for me). Had he not done that, I’m not sure where I’d be. I’d like to think that I would eventually have seen the light, though. And yes, like any typical abuser, he came crawling back soon after. But my eyes had been opened. Amen to the school thing, too!!! It’s never too late!-Jesnicole-

  • adventuresinmercy

    Ah, I did the whole, “Stopped Going to College Because It Wasn’t Godly” thing myself. *groaning sigh* Just by way of encouragement, I’m taking classes online and finishing up my Bach. It’s harder now, as a mom of many, but now that I’m not homeschooling anymore (*grin*), it’s do-able, especially going online since that can fit into my schedule much easier than attending classes can. There are some scam online colleges out there, but there are also some excellent ones with great accreditation, and as a mom of many on a horrible income, the Pell grant covers much of the cost. (I ended up choosing Liberty, which can be annoying as I’m not a fundamentalist Baptist at all, and yet their online program is so nicely streamlined and their price is so great. It’s just a matter of getting through a few of the required Theo classes without losing one’s lunch in the process)… I figured it was always something I’d wanted to do and really regretted putting it aside… Since I wasn’t going to get any younger, I decided I might as well start plugging away at it instead of just wishing I would have. 🙂 My original plan was to go for my Masters next, but now I’m not sure…it all depends on if I’m going to be an “official” single mother or not (still in limbo about that one, not sure what to do)… So I may have to put a hold on the Masters and go straight into a job…but at least I’ll have the Bachelor’s and the rest of it will come when it can.

  • jemand

    “And yes, like any typical abuser, he came crawling back soon after.”Wow, I actually did not know that was typical behavior. I had a total of two months experience dating a controlling guy, he was jealous of all my friends, he was jealous even of my HOMEWORK! Because it meant I didn’t spend every waking hour on him. (for that matter he thought I slept too much as well…) He broke up with me in an attempt to “play chicken” I think and make me change my mind on my beliefs, expecting I would quickly capitulate and take him back after he’d showed me who was boss.Of course, after only two months he hadn’t been able to alienate me from anyone, and therefore had made a tremendous tactical error, I was quite happy to have him gone.I wonder how many women have NEVER had an experience with an emotionally controlling, abusive or borderline abusive guy? Why don’t we teach girls more about these situations earlier? For that matter, why don’t we teach boys too! Some of them might have been different if there had been early enough intervention from authority figures! (not at ALL approving a girl’s attempts to “save” an abusive guy, but an adult authority might have better luck)

  • Fi Brown

    Have spent the day reading through your blog and am so glad I did.I admire you both for your strength and resilience; both in surviving the lifestyle and taking the decision to get out of it. I came to your blog through the Salon article when googling to find out more about QF. I read the blog of someone who seems happy in the QF lifestyle and the way she wrote about it made me crave aspects of the lifestyle for myself. That despite the fact I don’t believe in God! Screwed up? Definitely.As a single working Mum, from the outside looking in, there were aspects which sounded, oh so wonderful. You have provided a very timely reminder for me not to mess with things of which I know little.I wish you both all the best for the future and will keep reading if that is ok.

  • Vyckie

    Welcome, Fi Brown ~ and thank you so much for posting your comment ~ this is EXACTLY why we’re here telling our experiences and thought processes! Wow. Cool!

  • Cathy W

    (Found you through Salon, originally, and the blog was relinked on Livejournal yesterday…)Fi Brown, I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that – I find I can’t read too much about Quiverfull/submitted wife families because it almost starts to sound like a good idea. It seems so much simpler…take care of a house, raise some babies, let Hubby take care of everything else.(I mentioned this to Hubby, and he laughed. ‘Well, as head of your family, I want your equal input and participation and honest thoughts and feelings, and you’re now obligated to provide them.’ I’m so grateful for Hubby.)What really drove it home to me that yes, the whole setup is toxic, was the story about the Bosch mixer. I just sat there in stunned silence for a minute, twice as grateful for Hubby as ever.Laura and Vyckie, I’m so glad you were able to escape. (And no, it’s never too late to go back to school. You’ll probably find that there’s financial aid for non-traditional students – like women in their 40s – on top of whatever you might qualify for economically.)

  • Fi Brown

    Cathy W Also glad to hear I am not the only one. I was rapidly getting immersed in reading about QF. Went so far as to buy a bible, which will do me no harm to read as a reminder as to why I am an atheist.Back to the original post, absolutely pursue school/Uni/Whatever your dreams are. I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when (if) I grow up. Sometimes I wonder if education is wasted on the young. Fi

  • Anonymous

    Dear Laura,I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning but never felt I had to comment until I realized that my honesty was in question. I’m the “other” mom in Laura’s life. Because of the fact that we are a same sex couple and our relationship is not recognized by the federal government, we were to report only one income on the financial aid applications. I wish we could have spoken about this at the time. I wish we could have spoken about what was going on in your life while it was happening. It hurts now more than ever to know that things were happening that were so hurtful and we couldn’t be there for you. I wish now that we would have tried harder. I really thought you were happy with the lifestyle you had chosen. Thank you for making things “all better” now and for becoming the person we always knew you could be.Love,ShellyMom

  • Laura

    Dear Shellymom,I don’t think you could have done anything to sway me from the path I was heading down. You know how strong willed and rebellious I was. I do think I am the luckiest girl in the world though. I have two moms who love me unconditionally. Thank you!L,L

  • Arietty

    Laura, so hard to read this one. Such a future snuffed out 🙁 I sometimes see women who remind me of myself in some way who didn’t end up with abusers and giving away their life but who have gone on to do things that I think I would have done.. and it’s painful. “That could have been me” plays on me at times. Still, it’s not like life was a blank, we can use that which we have been through and learned in those years.Jemand you are SO right about need to teach young girls about these dynamics. I have been thinking lately how great it would be to have some basic feminist 101 class in school curriculum, just to these topics out there as topics relevant to teenage girls. It needs to be talked about a LOT. When have you ever heard teenagers talking about their relationships in terms of them being healthy or not healthy? Myself, never. That should be a part of our language from a young age.I know with my own daughters I must sound like a broken record sometimes. What scared me as a parent reading your post was how young you were and how your life did a 180 like that so quickly.

  • Charis

    I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when (if) I grow up. Sometimes I wonder if education is wasted on the young. -FiDitto!I am a self identified QF mom. Have 8 children, pregnant 11 times (three in heaven). Fundamentalist Christian, used to be on the QF Digest e-mail loop and subscribe to Douglas Wilson’s “Credenda Agenda”…. But I sure am not stereotypical!My testimony as a teenager was that I was raised in an abusive home with an alcoholic father who was repeatedly adulterous, and left my mother in a huge burst of violence against her and my two teenage sisters who still lived at home. I went to college absolutely bound and determined that I would never be so dependent upon a man that I could not support myself. This was in the early seventies, and I agreed with the feminists of that day “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” and I believed them when they said “a woman can do anything!”.So I studied engineering- just because I knew it paid well, and I liked the challenge of being one of only two girls in a class of a couple hundred. I went to graduate school at a top engineering school, graduated, and worked as an engineer, married my husband whom I met in graduate school. I had become an evangelical christian about a year before him. We were both new at it.Fast forward,,, When I gave birth to my first daughter in 1984, I figured out why engineering is not a traditionally female field. It is a very intense schedule- salaried with lots of overtime and travel, no part time work to be had. I have discipled my daughters since they were knee high not to choose a field which is inflexible. I’m happy to see that thus far, they have chosen medical fields. The oldest is in med school, and the second is in PA school.I still need to figure out what I will be when I grow up 🙂 My engineering training is obsolete after 25 years of child rearing. Now that I am not homeschooling anymore, I am having a little breathing room because I was very tired. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that getting the brass ring of college when young is not necessarily the ticket to paradise. Nor was my QF lifestyle a ticket to paradise. It appealed to me because I thought I could keep my children safe and give them a better childhood than I had, and I thought it would please my heavenly parent. I hadn’t yet learned that His love is not dependent upon my “performance”.

  • Charis

    BTW, Laura, My 13 yo is a cheerleader (photo). Its a miracle! Back in my “modesty gestapo” days I would never have allowed it! Guess who talked me into letting her do it? My 20 yo daughter. My kids are like a “union”. They stick up for each other and team negotiate for benefits. 🙂

  • jemand

    Charis, your story is amazing, I’m a science girl myself! I’m going to grad school in physics next year… While biology and mathematics have more female representation now, physics is still very predominantly male. I love it but I also want a family, I hope I can balance it. I hope it will be a little easier now, plus I have the mentorship of an established female physicist with a young son whom I’ve worked with a couple summers, but still, I hope I’ll be able to pull it off. I’ve heard so many stories of women quitting professional careers when their children come along… there is just something wrong with that somehow, there should be more flexibility. My mentor is able to work from home some days so maybe some things are changing slowly.Your daughter is beautiful! I never did anything like cheerleading dancing was/is “sinful” in my parents church and the church school in their denomination is even against competitive sports exept for exercise within the school…I’m amazed at the little community in the posters here, I read all the stories and am quite fascinated.

  • Charis

    Hey Jemand,You go girl! If you can, I suggest pressing on through a PhD and be a physics professor at a small college, the hours are very family friendly. My hubby’s a physicist and “professored” for 17 years. Nowadays, he’s an engineer and its just as bad as when I was doing it.

  • Jadehawk

    charis, that’s a fascinating story! especially so because part of it is so like my mom’s story. my mom studied physics and engineering in college, too. one of two girls in her class, as well! my mom got pregnant with me at the end of her studies (i was born in 82), then my brother came along. as a result, my mom didn’t work for 6 years in a row (this was in poland, a mother got 3 years paid maternity leave for each child). here’s where the story starts looking differently. for one, she found a job in the physics department very easily. two, she didn’t have any more children after that. three, she eventually got sick of living in Poland and took my brother and me to live in Germany, where she re-trained and now works in IT. all the female members of my family have careers and children. I think it has a lot to do with whether society as a whole, and men in particular, are willing to pitch in more, so that women don’t have to be full-time parent and full-time career-woman, while men always get to focus solely on their career, even when they have bunches of children. some countries do that now: they have laws where a company must give an employee parental leave (this is for both father and mother; who gets how much off depends on the country. i like the equal-time arrangement and the flexible “you get 1 year total, split it between the two of you as you like” systems best), and also must rehire that person when they come back. with just maternity leave, you get companies that don’t wanna hire women, but when both the men and the women are equally likely to take a kid-break, it gives everyone a chance at being parent and being a career person!and also: we need to get back to multi-generational families. i know my mom would love babysitting once she’s retired (and once there’s grandkids to babysit, of course), but of course that doesn’t work when i’m in a different country!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ladies, Gotta say the college thing is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I feel it is definitely ok for girls to go to college. I wanted to be an airline pilot back in the day. Very few women were doing this in the late 80’s Family circumstances and illness prevented me from going that route. Believe it or not, me an evangelical, recently read “The Feminist Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts and am in agreement with quite a bit of it. My father died when I was very young, my mom who had been a store manager before having kids, had not worked in 12 years. He passed after 2 years of being ill, during that time, we were financially strapped and came very close to foreclosure. Not fun when you are a teenager. In a comment on another part of this blog. I talked about the fact of my infertility. A few years back my husband and I were in church and I told him if I heard “Q/F” one more time I was going to through a hymnal at the person who said it. Later after we left that particular church. I became aware of a new school of thought coming from the “Q/F” type movement that maybe daughters should not go to college. YIKES!!!! Elizabeth C.

  • Bronwyn

    That’s just disgusting, that he robbed you of your education like that. It wasn’t good enough for you to just adore him, no, he wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t be able to recognize abuse, wouldn’t be able to make a good living without him, wouldn’t learn how to think without him. I am so glad you have won free of this horrible person.

  • Becky

    Laura, so hard to read this one. Such a future snuffed out 🙁 It is hard for me to read comments like this. Laura’s “future” wasn’t “snuffed out”. Her future was changed. She still has a future and a bunch of apparently really nice kids to go along with it. She wouldn’t have had those kids if she hadn’t followed the movement. I’m not at all QF, but let’s be honest, Laura –or whoever–, which kid would you rather “not have had” now that you know them all?) I hope if you have one in mind that you wouldn’t ever voice it!

  • Linnea

    I wonder if Dale believed that no women should go to college, or just his wife.Nowadays, there are religious “authorities” writing about how women SHOULD NOT go to college – and I read an excerpt from Kathryn Joyce’s book, where she quotes some guy saying, in effect, “I wouldn’t worry about a homeschooled 9-year-old girl who can’t read, as long as she knows how to take care of her younger siblings . . .”Seems like the logical extension of patriarchy is that women don’t need to learn anything except cooking and cleaning.

  • Sam

    I've been out of my controlling marriage for a decade now. My girls are 21, 17 and 15 & 15. My goal for the last decade was making sure that my girls were educated through college and able to earn their own money and never be trapped a bunch of little children and no way out.