Thursday, April 23, 2009

That's Why I Love it When you Tell me What to Do

Men are God’s objects. I’m Eve, the reason we die. I shift under the weight of a million agonies resting upon my puny shoulders. I am 13 years old, in my room, doing my bible study. My hand is busy highlighting words that put me in my place. I have heard these words over and over and over already in countless hours of church, study, and life. But a girl can never learn this lesson enough.

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also said the law." - 1 Corinthians 14:34

I bite my tongue, hard. Silence. This is how I should sound. There is not a single thing in my head worth communicating. A man can’t learn anything from a woman. That is just the way it is with God.

"Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel" - 1 Peter 3:7

I look at my small hands, fingernails bitten down to raw nubs. These hands can’t hold the heaviness of life. I think of all the things I need to be protected from. It is just the way I am made, hollowed out like a ceramic doll. I am weak, delicate. So delicate, in fact, that everything inside of me is already broken.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. - 1 Corinthians 11:3

This hierarchy is embedded in my living tissues; it is soaked into the ventricles of my heart. I have swallowed it whole. I have seen it, while I held my own silence in my clasped hands, fragile as an egg. When the men pray, the women say "Amen". When the men say, "This is where you are to go", the women go there. And it feels safe to be there, in that place where your only job is to nod your head and answer, “Yes, of course, whatever you say.” Whatever you say. You’re the boss. You decide. I don’t know. What should I do? What do you think? Can I go?

“You don’t need to ask my permission.” Todd is incredulous, exasperated. But what he doesn't say is that he likes it too.

I lay my head in the crook of his arm and breathe the sweat of his scent. I sigh heavily and then I cast out my line, "Why do you even love me?

"That's a really good question." And he sort of laughs in the way that men do when they really don't want to be having this conversation.

"I'm serious. I really want to know." I wrap a tendril of his chest hair around my finger and tug it slightly. I really want to know.

"Well...One of the reasons I fell in love with you is because you've always given me my space."

And it's weird because I don't look at his space as something that is mine to give. He owns what he owns and there is a wall around those privates places. And sometimes he will come home at 2 am, with that beer and cigarette smell I love so much saturating his clothes and his skin and his mind, and I don't ask. I don't even think to ask. He gets to have those spaces, separate from me. He is entitled to have those spaces in a way I could never feel entitled to have spaces of my own.

"I just love you, OK? Always will." He kisses the top of my head and that's the end of that. He says the prayer and I say, "Amen".

I don't need to ask permission. But what he doesn’t get is that I do. It’s like something inside of me won’t let go of the hierarchy. The way it always is with God. I learned my lessons early and they don't just go away when you're not looking at them anymore.

In bed at night, he sings a different song. There is nothing I can do but surrender. It is the most natural thing in the whole wide world. He tells me "This is where you are to go" and I go there. And the next day, when I remember pinned arms, firm commands, helpless sounds falling from my mouth, the insistence and ardor of something stronger than me, I feel a peace. Amen. It is always that way with me.


  1. Those bible passages remind me of why I've got no time for Christianity. I mean I can get behind humility and to a certain extent, submission to a higher power. But all this sexual inequality shit - and don't get me started on some of the other stuff - just turns me off entirely.

    I know that's not the point of this post, but I'm pretty good at getting off topic.

  2. No, you're right. It's shit. The subtitle for this post should be "One Way Religion Fucked Me Up Real Good". I HATE that about fundie religions. But it just gets beat into your head that you're less somehow and that just never really goes away on a deeper level (at least in my experience, anyway). Logically, I know it is ridiculous.

  3. Well put. Thats all.

  4. I'm an agnostic myself. I studied the bible in my early 20's and find that I know it better than some Christians that i've met. This is weird for me, because i'm the same guy who bought two boxes of Boo Berry for myself earlier tonight.

    Personally I think religion is a bunch of hooey. I respect everyone's right to practice... I mean, whatever blows your hair back. But I don't want it to govern over my life.

    By the way, how can women... the gender that brings life into the world... be the lesser sex?


  5. Um . . . I think this is the second time this week you've left me speechless . . .

    Holy crap . . .

  6. Header looks good. Post--beautiful. The things we are around every day become the most comfortable whether they are healthy or not. It's like a record played so many times a groove wears down keeping the needle in it's place.

  7. Religous teachings confound me. It's never enough just to say "go forth and be a good person." There has to be an installation of guilt and crushing of self-confidence.

    It's why I can't bring myself to participate in organized religion. Preachings and teachings feel like a gang bang of the mind and spirit. We'll leave your body intact, but strip your of self-confidence and replace it guilt and hypocrisy. In the name of God.


  8. When I was reading this blog I was thinking wow she knows my feelings better than I do as if you wrote it for me. The only thing I don't relate to is if my husband was out til 2 I would probably have a few questions. But I am definitely more jealous, and I guess because of past experiences. I wasn't always like that. You aren't the only one who feels that way because of the religion we were raised in. It's so hard to lose the feeling that patriarchy is somehow right. And what's weird is that I think most people raised like we were sub-consciously operate on an unequal level with men, they just won't admit it.

  9. I too definitely struggled with the same "asking for permission" thing and also enjoy the whole dominance thing in the bedroom. I always thought it was attributed to my old abusive relationship but I know being an EX-JW has had a lot to do with it as well. I think what you describe here is relatable to anyone who has ever been part of any organized religion. Wonderful post. I am so proud of you.

  10. OK! Cold shower time!

    Is that weird? You wrote about all this philosophical religous psychological shit, and I'm completely tuned in to the other aspect of what you wrote.

    We've all got issues, apparently.

  11. I remember sitting in Catechism class when I was young and asking the nun if there are any women in the Bible that aren't the mother of Jesus of a prostitute. She got mad at me. I'm no longer a Catholic.

  12. I was never raised with church or family telling me my place was behind or beneath a man, but there is some part of me that is attracted to forcefulness. Sometimes there's a comfort in following someone else's lead.

    And I'm terrible at the space thing. Terrible.

    Beautifully written.

  13. Pomeroy - I think in some ways those who believe in the subjugation of women convince themselves that they are doing it for the benefit of the women. As in, because she is the "giver of life", she is so precious that she needs protecting. In other words, I'm not sure that it always comes from a place of malice, although it is definitely an unhealthy viewpoint and damaging to the psyches of woman. Women who grow up in that environment tend to have a "learned helplessness" about them. They feel uncomfortable with power, with leading others, and especially with leading men or not deferring to men. It's a very complex emotional problem. Thanks for your comment.

    Tys Daddy - I'm blushing over here...I'm glad you're enjoying the writing. I thought, hey, why don't I pick the things about me that I'm most uncomfortable with, that I absolutely don't want to write about, and write about them!

    Alisha - See I knew you would get it. And I know we've talked about this issue before and how it becomes such a part of who we are that it's next to impossible to shake it. In fact, in some ways, I just don't want to shake it because I'm comfortable in the discomfort of it. And yet I HATE that part of me so much.

    Jodi - Yes, yes, the "dominance thing in the bedroom". I don't know if it's in like what I've heard are called "sex maps" in the brain. Like how the things that hurt us, or disturb us early on become the very things that we depend on to become aroused. And I think that maybe for you the abusive relationship you were in, like the emotionally abusive relationship that I was in (which is very, very hard for me to admit) are just expressions of that early teaching we had in life. In other words, maybe our abusive relationships were acceptable to us for so long because of what we were taught about male/female relationships. P.S. I'm proud of you too - for so many things.

    Well Read Hostess - Hee! It's not weird at all. Dominance/Submission are extremely erotic for a lot of people I think. At least among the women I know. I love that you get it. You are awesome. (Maybe instead of a cold shower you should use this opportunity to give a little present to WGH : )

    Sandi - Right? There actually are a lot of amazing woman in the bible (Abigail, Michal, Ruth & Naomi) but most religions don't even talk about them. It's all about the Delilahs, the Jezebels, the Eves. You were once ballsy little girl. I love that you asked the nun that.

  14. Gypsy - I don't think it comes natural to some people to lead. And that could just be a personality trait rather than some fucked up religious upbringing. Forcefulness in men is a real turn on for me. I love the contrast of soft and hard, frail and strong. It's like a balance, a push pull, a beautiful dance. And I've just come to accept that it's the way I'll always be.

  15. That just makes me want to fire bomb every Kingdom Hall in the land. I wish everyone could've grown with the kind, tolerant religion I did.

  16. This post is why the review from AAYSR should roll right off your back. Because you kick ass.