part six

I was not conscious of any ‘issues’ with god at this point in my life. I truly believed I was doing what god wanted me to do. I believed I had the “truth” (what JW’s call their religion inside their group). I knew I was serving Jehovah in the only acceptable way and no matter what happened, as long as I continued in the path I was on, I would survive the end of this system of things.

When I was 15, a brother in the congregation (who had graduated with my mom) began showing an interest in me. He would always volunteer to go in service with my group. He would make comments full of innuendo during our time together. I felt both uncomfortable and giddy in a way I did not understand at all. One day, as I was getting out of the car we’d been in for service, this brother said something to me I really did not get. He was standing pretty close to me and he leaned over and said “If you were to drop your handkerchief right now, I’d pick it up for you.” I just thought “What?”, brushed him off and went home.

During a chat with my mom and dad later that day, I happened to say “Charlie said the weirdest thing to me today.” and repeated his comment. My dad was instantly livid. I didn’t understand. He told me that in his day that comment was indicative of a man’s romantic interest in a woman. I was thinking “No way. This guy graduated with my mother.” As a matter of fact, he had the locker right next to my mom all through high school! Oy. I look back now and recognize exactly what was happening but at the time, I quite literally had no idea.

I should probably say right here that I was clueless about dating, flirting, relationships and sex. I had no memory of my childhood with my grandfather and wouldn’t have until I was almost 31 years old. I didn’t understand my thoughts or conflicting feelings and I certainly didn’t know much about how a man and woman fit together. (my mother’s comment upon my marriage was ‘they told you about the blood didn’t they?’ That was my chat about the birds and bees with my mom. I still wonder who ‘they’ was supposed to be.) As a Witness youth, any exploration of my body or anything even remotely related to sex was frowned upon. That was discouraged from the platform(the stage-commandeered by the brothers; aka-elders and ministerial servants)  and if it was discovered that any young person was ummm… experimenting…a chat was had with the elders about it all in great detail. When I say ‘detail’ I mean Detail with a capital D.

Questions asked included, but were not limited to, things like “How many times was the experimentation done?” “What exactly did you do?” “Did you have a partner?” “Were you alone?” “Did you know it was wrong?” “If yes, why did you continue?” “What parts of yourself did you or your partner touch?” I’m not kidding. It really did go like that. I didn’t get questions like those asked of me at 15 (I would have been mortified) but before my marriage I certainly did. That’s a story to come later though.

So, during the time this brother was uh, interested in me, I would discover him sitting behind me at meetings. He wanted to go in service with me often and he always had something pleasant to say to me. There were times I did not feel any kind of vibes from him at all. There were times (now that I’m older) that I did feel them and they were overwhelming. I really did feel scared and excited and worried all at the same time. I also felt ashamed. I knew I was bad for feeling the way I felt and quite honestly, it never once occurred to me that maybe the guy was behaving questionably. He was in good standing in the congregation and since I knew nothing would happen until I was out of school, I tried not to worry about it too much.

We went to a party one night (a JW party…not to be confused with a ‘worldy’ party) and my brother and I got a ride home from Charlie. He had his sons with him and was taking them home to their mother afterwards. He told me to sit in the middle so I did. My brother was on the other side of me and the three boys were in the back. He had this totally cool convertible and the party place was up at the top of this huge hilly road. The view was amazing. Yes, we pulled over to admire the view. Yes, he did end up putting his arm around me. Nope, nobody thought that was odd. We took the long way home and I know if no one had been in the car, he would have made a move on me. Interesting how I know that now. I was 15. He was 36.

I have an almost 15 year old daughter now. The first thing I have to say about it is this: If my daughter is hanging out with friends and the only person to bring her home is a 36 year old man, she would be waiting where ever she was for ME to go get her! To my dad’s credit, the next time this brother called to invite my brother and me to do something with him and his sons, my dad put his foot down. I remember being absolutely furious that my brother got to go to the movie and I didn’t. Can you imagine? Fifteen year old me with 36 year old him in a dark movie theater? That was trouble waiting for an open door.

This brother must have gotten a clue then because things changed after that. I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad had a word or three with him but I’ll never know. He began being out of town alot. Three months later he told me he was getting married to a ‘sister’ he’d met from a congregation a few hours south of us. He said she had 3 children and they were moving in with him as soon as the wedding was over. Witnesses are not allowed to engage in premarital anything so most often figure that if they’re getting married, sooner is better than later because the temptation is an issue. This brother and his new wife were married within weeks of him telling me about her.

The sister did have 3 children. One of them a young woman a year older than me. We became best friends and I spent a huge amount of time at their house. Weird you say? You have no idea. During my weekends there, we would play games and watch tv, go out in service and to the meetings and generally just hang out. While we watched tv, this brother would have me sit next to him. His arm would be around me and he’d practically have me in his lap. I felt so much comfort from that however his wife, wisely in my opinion, finally told him to knock it off. It was a relief and a loss at the same time. Does that even make sense?

Not long after that, my friend’s brother (who was the same age as me) caught me while we were outside one day. He pulled me into this patch of really tall grass and kissed me. To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. I was so anxious for someone to want me that I allowed him to kiss me and probably would have allowed him to do more than that if we hadn’t been discovered. I remember how guilty I felt when I went home that weekend because I had done something that wasn’t pleasing to Jehovah.

I spent alot of time crying during my teenage years. I am aware that alot of it was hormonal now. I’m also aware that alot of it was depression that is hereditary in my family. I didn’t know that for years though. I just thought I was a big baby for crying so much.

to be continued

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Teenage years are so confusing! And much more so when the adults in your life are barred from open communication with you by their own fear. The silence — that’s what is confusing, because there’s no way to know, or find out, what it all means.

    Reply

  2. very moving.

    Reply

  3. I so admire you for writing this. I know it’s not easy, but I hope it is at least somewhat healing for you. Your story reminds me of Christy, by Catherine Marshall. Just the part about having been exploited by a religious type, and parents being clueless.

    I look forward to reading more.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Boston Pobble on Friday, May 18, 2007 at 8:53 am

    It is my deepest wish that you are finding healing in finally writing it all and getting it all out. Hang in there. As someone who knows the freedom that can come from expunging (sp?) all the crap, I also know how painful it can be to relive it.

    Reply

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