Child Marriage: I dodged the bullet

OMG THE CUTEI don’t know that I’ve written much about the process of the relationship Alex and I had before we got married. I started this blog after the fact and before I had even begun to process the hellmouth that was my childhood.

With three creepy-as-fuck-patriarchs coming out in favor of child marriage – something they’d always been in favor of, I suppose, but just now coming to light – I keep remembering how close I was to that being my story, our story.

This might be timey-wimey.

Ever since I can remember, my mom really really really wanted to be pregnant at the same time as me. I don’t know why, I just remember her telling me this, often, and it creeping  me out before I was 10 – and after I was 10, but I remember being REALLY damn young when she was telling me this. I feel like I was 8.

When we started homechurching, my mom become obsessed, I mean obsessed with jewish culture. Like everything about it was perfect and not at all weird, and by jewish culture, I guess I should clarify, I mean old testament jewishness, and whatever of that was referenced in the new testament. Yes, how women were property and bought/traded for dowries, and how they were surprised for when they were getting married, and their parents picked out their husbands (my mom is also obsessed with betrothal), and then how they wait for the couple to do it, and then they bring out a sheet that had better have a bloodstain on it to prove…virginity – because, obv’s everyone bleeds (<nope).

She had, before I was a teenager even, basically planned out my wedding to be like that. Complete with my future husband building an apartment attached to their house, and even as a kid who knew nothing, this was the thing I fought against, this was the battle I always chose, I was NOT going to allow my mom to pick out my husband, and dictate my wedding and create the most humiliating ceremony I could imagine – just so she could get her jewish fix and fulfill her dream of carrying children simultaneously.

For context: She had also decided that I would marry at 18 to ensure that pregnancy thing would be feasible. She was pregnant when I was 18 (I’m 18 years and one-week older than my youngest sibling) and I did end up getting married at 18, but the simultaneous pregnancy hasn’t happened (and never will, thanks to my own birth control and my grandparents stepping in after the last baby and paying for my mom’s sterilization).

Anyway, back to the story…

So, my childhood was already riddled with disturbing fantasies from my mom in relation to my future love-life, and I had been fighting this battle for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, my dad was on my side here, and also thought that my mom’s whole wanting to control all of that thing was ridiculous, which made it easier to just look at her and say no whenever she mentioned it (that was the only thing I was ever able to do that with) even though she ignored it.

I had read too much Elsie Dinsmore to be cool with the idea of betrothal. ;)

Anyway, after we moved to Atlanta I went to TeenPact State Class and then TeenPact National Convention where I met Alex and we became fast friends over the course of the year. Later that year my parents told me they were done teaching me/had taught me everything I needed to know when I was 15 and they said I’d graduated. It was 2006. I turned 16 in February of 2007, had my graduation ceremony at the state homeschool convention in May, and Alex came down for camp, and that fall we started courting (which is, in our case, another kind of hell). Because he lived in Maine, our relationship was Long Distance and we saw eachother less than a handful of times a year – which means most of our relationship involved lots and lots and lots of talking and getting to know each other over IM/Email/Phone calls.

Nonetheless, as soon as my dad said “okay” to us courting in September of 2007, my parents – especially my mom- heard wedding bells. Courting is basically like, “dating with the intent to marry” but with everyone sticking their hands and ideas into the situation but without actually caring about or getting to know the two people involved – they just want power and think they can because they’re parents, so they must be right, right? (no)

My mom, at this time, had just had my second brother, and so, my broom services weren’t as desperately needed. By december they were pushing Alex to propose, made him buy me a promise ring, and kept asking about when we were getting married, and don’t you love him? (yes) don’t you want to marry him? (sure) but why not NOW? (because I’m 16) We’ll sign the paperwork! eventually I just looked at them and told them, I feel like you’re pushing me out, and I don’t know why. They were like, we’re not pushing you out! and I forget what else they said, but in retrospect, that conversation, and me not coming home engaged after visiting and meeting his family for the first time after christmas changed things.

But one thing remained, they wanted me married. STAT. They wanted him to propose like, right away, and when he didn’t propose by my birthday, in February (because we both decided it wasn’t a good idea to get married at like, 17 and 19) they got pissed and over the course of the summer of 2008, decided to do everything they could to sabotage our relationship.

It was brutal and nasty and deserving of more than one post because it was fraught with verbal and emotional abuse, withholding, and bribery – complete turns of opinions and demeanor’s, saying one thing and then the next morning saying something else, the last pregnancy that ruined everything, and the reason I had to run away.

If I had complied, as I did in every other thing, my relationship with my parents would have been less strained for a short time, but neither Alex or I would be in a healthy place. 16 is too young. Much too young.

So when people talk about child-marriage proponents, I remember being 16 and pressured, unbelievably pressured by my parents, to make my boyfriend propose and marry me.

because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion 

I wonder if some of the logic of Swanson, Maranatha’s dad and husband, and Creepy Duck Guy wasn’t part of the logic my parents had too: female independence is bad, marry them off young so they can do what god commanded women to do – be fruitful and multiply.

14 Responses to “Child Marriage: I dodged the bullet”

  1. Holly says:

    Is there going to be a part 2?

  2. Rachel says:

    Oh jeez, I nearly started hyperventilating at that. Also, for the record, your mom was WRONG about how Jewish weddings work/worked — even during the time of ancient Israel, there was always an Oral Law that softened the harsh prescription of the Written Law. There is a tradition that Jewish couples get some alone time immediately after the ceremony, but there is no bloody sheet waving (ugh!) and even my Orthodox cousins admitted that they took the time to eat and relax, not bloody the sheets. (UGH.)

    (Also, the obvious way around the bloody sheet waving is to schedule the wedding on your period. Which would have been far more of a taboo in ancient Israel, but hey, in for a lamb, might as well be hanged for a sheep!)

    • Yeah, I think my mom has some really fucked up ideas about actual Jewish culture :P because none of that seemed right. I think some of it she may have gotten from Christian books/websites about it (nothing like being an expert in something you’re not actually an expert in) and a twisted interpretation of allegories in the KJV o.O

  3. Petticoat Philosopher says:

    Your mom is not the only one. So many evangelicals/fundamentalists are absolutely obsessed with some wacky *idea* of Jews, without actually knowing or caring anything about real Jews, past or present. The only thing I can really compare it to is some kind of weird fandom–we Jews might as well be Klingons or Elves to them, some exotic fantasy race (that they like to LARP a *lot*) that is really cool and has a role to play in their elaborately created fantasy world but never actual human beings with a living tradition and a dynamic culture that has actually changed and branched out over the course of a few thousand years. I mean, even the most ultra of ultra-orthodox Jews practice a Judaism that is worlds away from that of the ancient Jews of the Bible (which, has has already been pointed out, your mom got wrong anyway.)

    What’s really scary to me is that that there are a lot more people that believe these things about Jews than there are actual Jews and a lot of people seem to retain these ideas about Jews even after they leave fundamentalism/evangelicalism. To a large extent, fundamentalists have more control over the narrative and public perception of who we are than *we* do. It’s very disturbing and it makes me really angry that this messed up fantasy-Jew thing was used to control you and make your life miserable.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As someone with long experience in various fandoms (and with the drooling fanboys infesting them), all I can say is THAT IS A REALLY GREAT COMMENT, PP! Describes it so well! You may as well be Klingons or Elves or Dwarves or Furries or Little Ponies. The fanboy dynamic is the same.

      Also, your comment reminds me of a comment regarding Christianese Amish Romances, AKA “Bonnet-Rippers”:

      “When I want to read about the Amish, I want to read about the AMISH. Not what Evangelicals think the Amish are like.”

  4. Elsie Dinsmore reference FTW. :)

  5. Isaac says:

    You’ll probably think this is weird, but every time I read your posts, I pray for you. Idk how you feel about God after all the shit you went through, but he’s still crazy about you.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    She had, before I was a teenager even, basically planned out my wedding to be like that. Complete with my future husband building an apartment attached to their house…

    Kiery, the only way I can describe that is “Bridezilla by Proxy”.
    Or “control freak by control freak standards.”

  7. Nathalie says:

    Hi Kiery, that really was to much for a 16 year old! And I’m glad you put your foot down.

    I chose to get married to my best friend, 2.5 years ago, 2 months after my 18th birthday. I cannot imagine how different things would have been if my parents were trying to force me, instead of supporting me to get married. I hope you two are happy together, and I hope you can one day look back and have peace with all that happened ;)

  8. Your voice is very important. Thank you for writing this.

  9. […] happens, Alex is asking about a proposal (the earliness, yeah, okay, they were pushy) twice is what sent them over the edge – twice because they didn’t respond the first […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>