Three years. That’s how long it took for the residual guilt to fade of not reading the bible, or doing a devotion, or any other form of spiritual practice as I relaxed in bed before falling asleep.
Last night, as I stayed up a little later than usual terraforming my Animal Crossing island, I realized that I felt good about doing something that genuinely made me happy instead of mildly guilty that I wasn’t doing something to improve myself. For anyone who hasn’t been indoctrinated into believing that every waking moment of your life should be in service to others and productive – it was a huge moment for me.
Not only was I not doing anything that could be considered productive or service to others, I wasn’t just okay with it, it felt good.
Fram, this is akin to orgasming for the first time. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s akin to orgasming and not feeling conflicted about it for the first time.
Goddess this must be confusing for anyone who was not raised to have crippling emotional handicaps to keep them obedient.
I felt peace going to sleep after doing something that brings me joy. I was the focus of my own attention and did not feel any backlash from it. I enjoyed my own life and my own hobbies and my own body and my own decisions. I reclaimed that shit. And it brought me to tears.
Honestly, the more aware I become of the work that needs to be done, the more in awe I am that I function *at all*. I have to work, with intention, over years, to rewire my brain to enjoy basic leisure activities. Is it any wonder I have anxiety? Or borderline eating disorders? Pleasure was literally shamed for as long as I can remember. Anything enjoyed had to be tightly controlled. My body, my mind, my soul was not my own. My agency was removed from literal birth. Because, according to American Christianity, that was when I was ‘tainted’ by original sin. From birth onward, my very nature was evil.
Pleasure without purpose literally put my very soul in danger of eternal torment. But to be very clear, and to never use the double speak with which I was raised, pleasure without “someone else’s purpose” put my soul in danger. Pleasure for my purpose was automatically sinful. Enjoying something for the sake of myself – unthinkable.
Women, specifically, were raised to be vessels. For children. For male pleasure and ease. For church labor. But it’s a delicate balance, of course, because if we had figured out that we were being used, it’s not as if we lack numbers or intelligence to mount a revolt. Which is, of course, where the mandates of Paul come into play, but also where we were taught to turn on ourselves and each other.
A thought occurred to me, after masturbating to Bridgerton, that in American Christian circles, life for women really hasn’t changed that much. One scandal and your name is ruined. And by ‘scandal’ I definitely mean spaghetti strap tank tops. I mean. Someone could see you.
You think, perhaps, that I am exaggerating. I think you never knew my friend “Samantha” who was raised in the same church as I was and lauded as the poster child for “courting”. She “dated” a boy by writing letters for two years because they met before her parents would allow her to date. When she turned 18 and was allowed to date, he proposed, on the day, and they shared their first kiss. It was so wholesome it made Little Women look a little dirty.
I, on the other hand, got severely reprimanded for wearing spaghetti tank top straps and was mostly an outcast because my mom was a divorcee and my older brother was a bit of a rebel. (Okay so he totally brought condoms to the Youth Group valentine’s day party but joke’s on them because a chick totally got pregnant later that year – holy hell was *that* a scandal that money had to buy innocence – I digress.) But he was 8 years older than me. 17 and 9 and I was the one getting chewed out about enticing the opposite gender?
Which brings us back to our point. At 9 (for the record, I hit puberty at 15 so don’t think I was a busty 9 year old, not that it should matter) I was getting told that my body had to be hidden so as not to “ensnare” men and make them sin. 9. Not weirdly, I also remember that as the time when I began to hate my body. When I noticed my eyebrows were too thick (jk I have a unibrow and bless tweezers) and when I noticed my legs had hair and that my nose was too big and my lips too thin. It’s when I began to think that all of my friends were prettier than me (also a definite thing because idk how it worked out that way but all my childhood friends became total hotties). It’s when my shame/hide/stuff cycle kicked into full gear and I took everything I liked about myself and stuffed it deep down inside. I started living a dual life at 9. A life filled with shame because I liked video games and wanted to speak out about things that I thought seemed messed up. Like my mom being treated differently (worse) because she was divorced. Like men doing things that women could do better but couldn’t because they had vaginas instead of penises. Like wanting more from my life than marrying and having babies. Like wanting to make potions and live in the woods and NOT live my life under the scrutiny of male eyes.
Not to live under the scrutiny of ANY eyes. Until this year I have almost never felt the ability to be myself while around anyone. (HLM you know you’re the exception to this rule you glorious goddess of a soul sister.) Do you know how hard it is to work on a failing relationship when you have a mental block about being yourself in fundamental ways while around anyone whose opinion you value? Especially your spouse?
And I want to pour gasoline onto this mental fire for anyone currently struggling with this. I used to not write in front of my spouse because I was afraid he would be upset because I wasn’t either a) paying attention directly to him or b) keeping the house in order.
He has been sitting next to me as I write this particular piece and has stopped what he is doing three separate times to tell me how fucking gorgeous, amazing, and wonderful I am. CLEARLY my fears were in vain, fram. I light up, like we do, when we do what we love. Whether that is create a new plaza in my regency/witch themed animal crossing island or write the new ex christian liberation manifesto. This is who I am. And I am ADORED for it.
Suck it, Pastor Dave.