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It’s in there, burrowed down deep inside like a parasite.
It’s my mother voice, nasal and deep fried and tainted yellow by cigarette smoke snarking
“You see your Hell here on Earth.”
Grief is only one size fits all in the way a straight jacket is.
Every store has circulars and signs explaining how best to use your money to prove your love for your mother. Instead of being inspiring, these endless suggestions make Mother’s Day seem like an obligation.
And like Victory Gin, holidays of obligation leave a bitter taste.
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After days of conversation and hours of introspection, my husband and I have decided that on our son’s thirteenth birthday we’re giving him a necklace. Unlike the “chains” that so many others boast about this necklace will be a locket. Inside that locket will be a picture of me.
More than just a lovely picture of his forever smiling mother, this locket will be a promise between my son and I. It will be a promise that from the day he receives it to the day he says “I do”, he will love no other woman as much as he loves me. This necklace will be a physical representation of the connection between us. And it will always remind him that no matter what, Mother knows what’s best for him. Every time he wants to make a decision on what to do, he’ll feel the necklace around his neck and will think of me and consider what I’d say in the matter.
What? Is that too Norman Bates for you?
If the concept of that Mommy Dearest necklace makes your skin crawl, then so should the idea of a daddy-daughter purity ring.
Purity rings, also known as promise or chastity rings, are typically given to a young girl in the Evangelical community as a commitment to chastity. A fashionable part of the abstinence-only sex education club, the purity ring is like a wedding ring but in a creepy incestual sort of way. Typically silver and simple, some of the rings have witty little mottos stamped into the metal while some feature a cross wrapped in a lazy sort of swoop way around the finger. Diamonds or their lower cost alternatives are also frequently used.
Instead of being between two consenting adults starting their lives as a wedded couple, the purity ring is typically between father and daughter. It signifies that the daughter will remain chaste until she marries. Since “purity” is all that is clean and beautiful in their world, the ring will help keep the girl on the straight and narrow. It’s a giant bubble of Godliness that protects her from the filth of premarital sex and the temptations of the secular world. Because of course, a young woman’s worth is totally dependant on how “pure” she is. Who needs brains, talent, or personality when you can say you’re morally unsullied?
Two of the high profile organizations responsible for the popularization of the purity ring in America are the True Love Waits* movement and Silver Ring Thing* movement. The mission’s statement on the Silver Ring Thing (abbreviated as SRT, cause abbreviated are cool) reads:
“To inspire sexual wholeness in this generation through the power of the Gospel.”
It goes on to explain a little bit more:
“Silver Ring Thing is a radical response to culture’s view of love and relationships. Our events inspire teens to defy the meet-up, hook-up, break-up culture of today and discover true life found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This goes way beyond just ‘purity’ to embrace our identity and pursue a lifestyle that brings honor and glory to God.”
Sounds like some party people right? Part of the allure of groups like this is that they make their message seem hip. Most utilize a concert like atmosphere that rivals most rock bands. Some use comedians and celebrity testimonials to influence their audience. More than that, they understand how the teenage brain works.
Peer acceptance is a key element to a young person’s development. If you’ve known a young person for any amount of time, you’re well aware of how important being accepted is to them. So for this movement to prey upon youths desire to fit in is as genius as it is disturbing.
While young people who make pacts to lose their virginity is a topic for countless exposes, tv shows, and movies, the reverse is not true. The market for hive minded purity was largely untapped. That was until these movements began their “Purity is cool! God is rad!” message. Based on the way young people work, the message went viral. Not because it was actually believed but because it was believed in mass.
The creepiness factor of a father, mother, or organization stomping on a child’s bodily integrity is huge. Forcing a child to take a vow on what they do with their body is troublingly archaic. It’s a practice of eliminating the sovereignty of a child before they can fully understand the meaning. While the common joke is to call followers of religions sheep, that’s exactly what this causes. The children grow up not understanding that their body is their own. This causes a dependence upon a hierarchy that puts the child on the bottom with parents and the church standing tall above them.
The practice of purity rings is troublesome. It’s a restrictive, oppressive act that teaches children they are not in control of the only thing they truly have, their bodies. It is no wonder that we struggle with body autonomy in this country if this practice is so commonplace. So much time was spent wondering how to control what children do with their bodies, no one thought if they should.
* Call it shitty writing, but I’m not linking to the organizations mentioned in the text above. You’re welcome to Google them on your own. I don’t want to support them by sending any traffic their way. After cruising their pages for information, I feel mighty dirty.
I don’t know how to start this. Perhaps my hesitation is from this not being easy or enjoyable to write. So here goes.
This is my goodbye.
This fragile relationship of ours is no longer good for me. You are no longer good for me. Your passive aggression taints every conversation we have, like second-hand smoke in a sweater. Somehow, no matter what our conversation is about, you warp and bend it until it reflects light onto that one time, more than a decade ago, when I fell short in your eyes. Our friendship does not make me feel good about myself. If anything, it makes me feel like a scapegoat. I’ve worked really hard to grow as a person and to cast off the shame, guilt, and self-hatred that I carried from my childhood. I can not allow you to undo what I’ve accomplished.
I’ve tried to be a good friend. I’ve tried to honor your feelings and allow you to hold them. But you used your feelings as a weapon. It’s obvious that you still hold on to the anger and pain that befell you in the past. It’s obvious that this hot coal burned its way inside your body and took residence in your heart. While I am not one to tell someone to let go and move on, I feel that for us to have worked, you needed to calm that burn. I supplied apologies as a salve, but they never seemed to soothe enough for you.
You throw shade (as the kids say these days) and make remarks that seem to have no other point than to paint me as a villain and you my victim. They seem to suggest that all your hardships are because of the perceived slight you think I performed. Just to put it to bed, my actions back then were never malicious. You know this. I acted on what my soul called me to do. It was what I personally wanted for once, instead of what was wanted for me. I explain this to you so you understand, I was just trying to live my life. No one should be kept from that OR be made feel bad because of that. Its exhausting explaining time and time again that my actions were not personal attacks. I just wanted sovereignty.
I understand your life has had ups and downs. So has mine. Everyone’s has. I will not say that anyone has had it easier or harder than anyone else. We’ve all made choices and we all deal with their consequences. That being said, you really seem set on winning some imaginary Misery Olympics. I do not support and will not take part in such games. We should be celebrating each other’s successes, not trying to impress others with who hurts the most. Pain is not something that is measurable like that. While I am sorry that your experiences haven’t all been positive ones, I don’t feel that they should be things you wave at me in an attempt to make me feel bad for or to discredit my own.
For my own mental health, I can not allow you lay your sins on me and send me out into the wild any longer. I do not hate you. I do not dislike you. I would very, very much like for us to be close again. I would like for us to have the relationship we assumed we would. But I simply can not with things in their current state. I’m sorry we can’t be the friends we imagined we would always be.
Please have a good life. I wish nothing but the best for you. But I can accept nothing but the best for me.
She was crying.
She was yelling.
She was stomping her feet.
Her hands were fists, shaking with rage.
She was a middle-aged woman. And her day was ruined.
But the thing is, it wasn’t just her day. It was a family day. And not just any random Sunday dinner type family day, but a day that was primarily planned for the children. Those children stood, silently defeated, behind the legs of their mother. Even an outsider could see that this event would be charred into not only their memory, but their future behavioral patterns. It was a lesson on how its perfectly okay to throw a fit when you are not happy. They will carry this event , and all the others like it from her, into every relationship they form as they age.
When having multiple events like the one above in your personal experience tank, it’s hard to distinguish between the ideas of selfishness and self-care. The word selfish ,according to Merriam Webster, is when one is “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself, seeking or concentration on one’s own advantage,pleasure,or well being without regard for others.”
For people who grow up around abusive individuals , self-care often has the same definition. There becomes this idea that time spent taking care of one’s own self is time that could be better allocated to the care of someone else. This idea is planted in the person’s mind until sacrificial acts blossom into their modus operandi. Enjoyment is permanently set aside in hope of pleasing others. And this spreads to every single relationship. Significant others, children, friends, strangers, EVERYONE gets a slice first, until there’s nothing left but crumbs.
We’ll never get full on crumbs. And we’ll run on those crumbs until there’s nothing left to sustain us. Then the whole ship goes down. This is why self care is important. If we are the foundation upon which we build others, we have to take care of that foundation. If we crumble, they all do. In order to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. To do this, we must change our understanding of what being selfish is.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish.
Working to feel better, physically and mentally, is not selfish.
Enjoying your favorite foods/movies/music is not selfish.
Napping is not selfish.
Doing your make-up,nails, hair, etc is not selfish.
Wanting alone time is not selfish.
Relaxing is not selfish.
Pampering yourself the same way you pamper others is not selfish.
A castle is only as good as its foundation. Remember to treat yourself with care.
Love others but also, love yourself.