It’s been another brutal week. More accusations/revelations in Hollywood. And of course the mud slinging. No I didn’t, they are lying. This is just hearsay. It’s hard to keep track of what’s what and who is who. And although I never like reading about sexual harassment or rape or abuse, the Hollywood scandals haven’t affected me as much as the Moore scandal.
For those who don’t know, Roy Moore is running for Alabama Senate seat. He’s currently 70 years old. About 40 years ago he was a district attorney. And during that time he “dated” 14-18 year olds. Now, it’s hard to get the truth entirely because everyone is making this about Republicans and Democrats but at the heart of it…a 32 YEAR OLD MAN, “dated” at 14-YEAR OLD GIRL. And it’s not just one girl, there were several, under the age of 18 he “dated” but apparently he had permission of their mother. Because a 32-year-old district attorney dating high school girls with permission makes it less creepy.
The outrage against Moore spurned a really great article by Kathryn Brightbill describing the Fundamentalist culture that allows and often promotes marriages between adult men and often young teenage girls. It started a wave of conversations which I’ve been a part of the last 24 hours. The conversation has left me reeling with emotions that I am trying to sort through.
Lizz Winstead started the “#MeAt14 hashtag that REALLY puts the whole thing into perspective. This is me. At age 14. I weep. Because just 1 year older than this picture, my own momma, with her parents permission, married my 28 year old father. She was only 15.
I had a very hard conversation with my grandmother as to why she allowed a 28-year old man to marry her 15-year old daughter. I heard things that made me vomit. To say my momma was better off with my father than her own father is a very hard pill to swallow. I never knew my momma’s’ story until I was older. And it hurt. Because she would say, “I wanted to make sure this never happened to you.” So, I never told my momma it had. Because I loved her and I didn’t want to hurt her too. And to tell her that the man she loved had crossed the boundary? Impossible.
Growing up I was told a sanitized story of my parents relationship. They met at the family skating rink. Each there to meet someone else. Three months later they were married (I wasn’t born until 3 years after they married). So, I grew up with this image of my father as my mother’s rescuer. In light of my father’s arrest for pedophilia AND the subsequent stories of additional victims, my parents marriage is not sitting well with me. Pedophilia touched my life from the very beginning of my existence.
I moved away from my family just a month shy of 17. In some ways, I was older than my chronological age because life had forced me to grow up. In other ways, I was emotionally stuck at age 7. And although I absolutely detest the song, “I was not a girl, yet not a woman.” that’s what I was. I met the husband a few services after I arrived in August of 1991. Although he was more than 5 years old than me, (my own standard for IF I got married, if I lived past the end of the world in 1992), he didn’t seem older. He was funny and teased me a lot. Like a big brother would. I loved the attention. And if you could get me to admit it, I thought he was rather cute.
The first time I knew he was different was at the back of the church. He was swinging his arms and talking. If you know my husband, he speaks with his hands when he’s in his goofy moods. We were not standing that close as we had a 6-inch rule between male and female in our church. But I was within the range of his long arms. His swinging hands brushed my you-can’t-miss-it chest. When this happened he did the thing that impressed me the most: HE APOLOGIZED.
This may seem like no big deal. For almost 5 years since I started developing I endured grabbing, poking, feeling, petting and commentary about my chest. “Are they real?” “Can I feel them?” The things said to me and done to me just contributed further to my low self-worth from sexual abuse.
But this man? He apologized. So, I began to trust him. By the middle of my senior year of high school I described him as my best friend. And although I had developed a crush on him I didn’t think it would lead to anything. After all, I was only 17. There were many eligible sisters his age to choose from. When I realized he liked “ME”, I was very surprised.
During the conversation someone mentioned that they felt the 8 years difference between an adult, out of college, and a teen either in school or just leaving school as creepy. And that, made me just feel ill. So, the husband and I had a long talk about it.
I don’t think it’s easy to describe the environment of a legalistic/fundamentalist religion. We both realize outside of the context of where we were in the early 90s, we would have never gotten married. Had my childhood not been so messed up AND had I not grown up with my parents marriage for an example, I would have never thought of marrying someone that much older than myself. I would have pursued college because I LOVED school and learning. Had my husband not been stunted by a really bad relationship in his late teens that left him emotionally about my own chronological age in some ways and had he not had an overwhelming sense of failure, I don’t think he would have even considered me. And honestly, 6 months after we married he realized the mistake and wanted out.
The conversation led us to admit some really hard truth: the foundation of our marriage was not good. BUT, there was no ill-intention or perversion in our relationship. No matter how some may feel, I entered my marriage completely under my own free will. My husband prayed for months. And as I have mentioned numerous times in my blog before, my husband is the only one who has never taken advantage of me.
We can’t undo what we did. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to focus on the crazy screwed-up dynamics in the beginning of our relationship. Because, despite our age differences, we have a pretty deep relationship that a lot of people just don’t typically reach. We have grown up together. We have overcome things that typically tear relationships apart. We have become better people in spite of one another’s deepest flaws. Admitting the truth allows us to grow and heal some of the deep wounds we’ve caused one another.
Do I think that it is wise for a man to date a teenage girl? Nope. And I’m trying to come to terms with my hypocrisy. But really, maybe it is not hypocrisy. Maybe it’s a realization that sometimes the only way to make change is to recognize what was wrong and strive for something better.
My momma, she didn’t want me to marry at age 15. In fact she wouldn’t let me DATE at 15 and Lord help the boy who put his arm around me in front of her. She did better. I married at 19.
I don’t want my girls to marry at 19. Neither does their father.
I don’t want a 25 year old coming to us, asking if he can marry our 18 year old daughter. Neither does their father.
And although I love our love story, because it’s a story of redemption and resurrection and it ends with the one my soul loves, I want better for my girls.
So maybe this is why we are having this conversation. Maybe it’s time to say that girls are worth SO much more than their status as a wife, or a mother or a lover. Yes, those things are VERY good. But as Solomon says, I think we awaken love before its time. I think for way too long we’ve allowed girls to be forced into relationships and situations long before they are ready. And we are facing the consequences of those decisions.
Perhaps, if we learn to wait, we can eliminate some of the wrongs done to women every day. Perhaps there will be less abortions. There will be less women and children escaping abusive relationships. There will be less divorce. There will be less corruption in our pews, our schools, our business, our legal system and our White House. There will be a change in our culture, because we let girls grow into their full potential.
I would like to say that I don’t disparage those girls who want to get married young. I know people who have made that decision and have a really wonderful marriage 50+ years later. I don’t disparage those people who love those who are older and those who are younger (IF THEY ARE OVER 18). Believe me, there was no way in hell I was marrying a 19-year-old man. All I’m saying is that currently, a lot of these relationships are built on a very bad foundation and it’s not good for the long-term health of our society.
Sorry this is so long. I just had to get this stuff sorted out. What are your thoughts?