When I was in High School and still under the watchful eyes of family and church leaders, I did what I had to do to get along. I figured if I wasn't "feeling" what I was supposed to be "feeling" (read believing) that one of two things had to happen.
1 - I either had to look inward to find out what I was doing wrong - why couldn't I be like everyone else and just accept the dogma and doctrine, OR,
2 - I had to play along until I could release myself from the clutches of my oppressors.
I wrote a previous blog that explains my current situation and how I came to be here so I won't bore you with the details again. If you're interested, you can find it here.
Where I went to church all through high school, the church leadership was very attentive to the youth group in an effort to keep us from wandering too far from the flock. The general belief was that if the kids were kept busy enough, and had plenty of attention and understanding from worthy leaders, If they were loved enough – they wouldn't seek those things from less worthy or worldly sources - they wouldn't suffer from the ills of worldly vices. They kept us busy with church activities, sometimes daily, but more often several times a week. We had youth sports, youth conferences, youth firesides, youth hay rides, youth camp, youth Sunday School, Youth scripture study, youth activities, and youth service “opportunities”.
They pounded into us the importance of church attendance, paying an “honest tithe” (that meant 10% before taxes, not after, unless of course, you only wanted to receive “net blessings as opposed to gross blessings”. Being chaste, dressing and behaving modestly, working hard, spending our time in the service of others, (extra blessings for those who did it without complaining) and sharing the gospel with our friends. They counseled us to choose our friends wisely, (don't hang out with baddies), avoid R rated movies, cigarettes and alcohol, and anything that would pollute the mind with worldly or less worthy thoughts or activities.
Believe it or not, there was one thing I actually loved about church. I loved the music. Sweet harmonies, tender rhymes describing love and divinity truly moved me. Story time set to music. How absolutely perfect.
We had weekly interviews with the church leaders to make sure we were staying on track. Most of the time, mine were run of the mill, how's things? You're a great kid – thanks for your help – don't forget to pay your tithe – type conversations. They'd ask questions, I'd give them the answers they wanted to hear – I'm doing great – I LOVED camp – I'd be happy to help Sister Saggybritches with her garden – I suck at basketball but I'll play if you insist – yes I memorized my scriptures for the week. My favorite is...”
One Wednesday night, I was called into “The office”. It was odd because it wasn't quite time for my weekly tribunal. Brother Badbreath was a very kind, sometimes funny, grandpa. He spoke quietly and gently and generally, I didn't mind visiting with him. I was wearing a blue t-shirt with a large rectangle that looked like marquee lights and within in the box it said, “Disregard this message”. I soon found out that the reason for this impromptu meeting was to inform me that my shirt was inappropriate. It drew undue and unnecessary attention. I was cute and smart enough without wearing a shirt that would draw, perhaps, the “wrong kind” of attention. I sat there pondering what he had just told me for a moment without saying anything. I had never worn a mini skirt, stiletto heels, or gone bra-less in public and I did not understand how an over sized t-shirt with a joke on it could possibly be considered enticing. I wanted to ask if he thought a hijab or nuns habit would be more appropriate but I was too afraid of being disrespectful to an adult to say that out loud.
He asked if I understood. I shrugged and muttered something indiscernible like, yeah, ok, whatever and asked if I could leave. He mentioned to my mother that I seemed a bit disturbed. Perhaps I was embarrassed. As I left his office, I started to cry and went straight to the car. My mother came to my defense with Brother Badbreath and then promptly took me home.
We never discussed it again but I knew from that moment on, I would be following my second option. I would play along until I could break free. It took longer than expected.