I am not sure when I learned that my dad would give me a purity ring they day I turned thirteen, but it must have been fairly early on because I remember thinking “I’m only seven and it will be six more years until I get my purity ring! How am I going to wait that long?” And indeed, I couldn’t wait. Finally, on my thirteenth birthday, my dad gave me the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. It was love at first sight.
I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris, and loved it. There was a lot of other literature too, most of it from No Greater Joy and Vision Forum. My parents read the these materials too, though I am not sure when. What I do know is that I cannot remember a time when courtship was not the expectation. I embraced the idea of courtship as wholeheartedly as my parents, and used to daydream about young men asking my father’s permission to court me.
I never found not dating as a teenager odd, and I think that this was for two reasons. First, I did not meet many boys my age. In fact, I did not have a single male friend. Sure, I saw my brothers’ friends, but they were younger than I and thus not marriage material. Through some strange coincidence, all of the families my family associated with had only girls my age, and their brothers were all younger. So in other words, I never had a guy that I was close to, or even really knew at all, so there was never any desire to date anyone, or even any opportunity to court. But then, I knew that would come eventually. The second reason not dating didn’t seem odd was that none of my friends dated either.
While I knew I believed in courtship, I had very little idea about how it would unfold in practice. I guess I figured that my father would handle it when the time came. Every time I saw an article on courtship in No Greater Joy magazine, I hoped my dad would read it and take notes. At some point, dad gave me a list of requirements that a candidate for my hand would have to pass. While his list was not very long, it did include the basics. My list, in contrast, was much longer.
I received a hope chest when I was fifteen or sixteen, and I was thrilled. I proceeded to fill it with a variety of items, including linens, kitchenware, and books on homemaking. I was very proud of my hope chest, and I could hardly wait to be a wife. I would open my hope chest and smell the cedar, and just know that my future would bring me much joy. I could hardly wait.
As I waited, I was careful to guard my heart. Since I did not actually know any boys my age, this was not difficult. Still, I knew I must not give any part of my heart away yet, just as I would not give away a single kiss before I stood at the alter. I also trusted my parents to help keep me pure, knowing that they would act if there was any threat to the purity of either my body or my heart. This was never necessary, of course, because, once again, I literally did not know any boys my age, but it made me feel special to know the hedge of protection built around me nonetheless. As I looked forward to my wedding day, I often daydreamed about it. The life I saw before me was like a fairy tale, my father the king, myself the princess, and my future prince a knight come riding to win me and take me off to be lady of his castle.
Looking back, I find it extremely interesting that I was taught to maintain my purity, but I was never actually told what sex was. Not only was I not told about sex, I was also startlingly uneducated in reproductive anatomy. In fact, I was a bit ashamed of my private parts, and saw them as somehow dirty. I certainly didn’t feel pure, but then I wasn’t sure what “pure” should feel like anyway. I was definitely curious to learn about sex, though, and so I combed biology textbooks and Christian sex manuals and books on how to teach your children about sex in an attempt to figure out just what sex actually was. I was very careful to only read books that came from a Christian perspective, because I figured I could not trust what secular books had to say about sex. When I later asked my mom why we never had “the talk,” she said she thought I must already know what sex was because I never asked her any questions about it. Now tell me, just how was I supposed to know what sex was?
Libby Anne lives with her husband and toddler somewhere in the U.S. She has left patriarchy for feminism and has found freedom. She is a graduate student with big plans for her life. You can read her blog at Love, Joy, Feminism.