Friday, August 8, 2014

On Concepts of Purity

Who remembers that scene in "Drop Dead Gorgeous"?

I want to take a moment to pontificate on a subject that has been circling my Facebook in recent months, it is the idea of “Purity Balls” held in the Southern Unites States. See the Time Magazine Photo Essay here:,29307,1822906_1736958,00.html or HuffPo’s slightly more reactionary take here:

Very often when a dear friend or acquaintance tells me of a lengthy gut-wrenching story, when it comes time for me to talk I try to always start with “Are you asking for my advice?” And here they stop. If she’s crying, then she abruptly stops. If she is not, then her eyes dart around madly, and the conversation shifts… Thusly I am let off the hook and the relationship remains intact. This won’t be that kind of conversation, Dear Reader, because you did not ask my advice.

First and foremost, I don’t know if these actually exist because I have never attended one, but I have been privy to a “debut” or debutante ball for Kansas “society” and if I had to guess, a purity ball is its hardscrabble cousin. If a debutante ball is an event that is attended by a young female, ready to be presented to society as marriageable often accompanied by a military date, then a purity ball is an event that a young girl will attend for much the same reason, but she will attend with her father.

Evangelical Christians, differently from other types of Christians who are followers of the teaching of Jesus, believe in a very strict textual analysis of the entire Bible as an indicaton of GOD’s law for humans on earth. Let me unpack that a bit: Unlike Catholics, who believe that Jesus “made all things new” and that civil and moral law begins with his brief yet effective parables, Fundamentalists spend hundreds of hours and millions of dollars researching the language of the Bible from earliest Judiaism (ironically) to derive meaning from a book that has been translated, lost, found, lost and found again easily 40 times before it ever arrived in English. They do not give creedence to other books written by equally important authors at comparative times, nor do they believe any of the essential meaning of the English version has been lost in translation. Their fervency is ultimately what binds them together both in marriage in and in creating extremely effective religious lobbies in politics. One must understand this ambient background noise to fully comprehend where Purity Balls fit in.

The only problem with textual analysis of the Bible is that it is inherently biased and always fraught with error. Evangelicals are painted into a corner because as new evidence arises they have only narrow places to put it, causing, as we have seen, panic, hatred and fear whenever any issue is re-conditioned for a changing society. As a result of this textual analysis the religion is extremely inflexible and allows for only an ultra specific margin of society to be accepted. All of this prelude should not indicate that I think they are “wrong”, I’m just laying the framework for my opinion, which comes next…

It’s weird to kiss your parents on the mouth. It’s not illegal and it’s not wrong, it’s just weird to do it and weird to be photographed doing it. That was my first thought when I was peering through the portraits of young girls in what used to be known as cotillion dresses, or party frocks as my grandmother who was raised in La Belle Epoque would say.

At best a Purity Ball is a reaction to a world that is changing too fast for people who liked it the way it was. At worst a Purity Ball is a role-reversing sea change of confusion that places the Lord as a young girls “husband”, her father as her “boyfriend” and any other swinging dick as an interloper. The child, ranging in age from 4 to 18, signs a Purity Covenant that she will behave in a demure manner and that her father is the protector of her virginity.

Ah! There, I said it! Her virginity. The secret trading card of vagina controllers the world over.

Remember father-daughter dances? Remember how charming that sounded? At least for me, a girl without a father. The word chaste is actually a better word than purity, but chaste doesn’t make you think of a fresh mountain stream the way purity does. The world has undergone a lot of changes since the 1980s when Purity Balls first popped up. Same sex people can now legally get married and enjoy partner’s benefits, the internet bleeds actual porn into regular media at an increasingly faster rate and the gap between rich and poor is widening. All of these socio-economic factors allow social mores to become de-stabilized. As Man searches for meaning, he will sort for sameness, he will look for those who best resemble himself, and he will allow his world to become very small if it means he has a greater sense of control. One of the first things we see in societies where mens traditional positions are threatened is an attack on a woman’s agency. Everything from school attendance, to job security, to government benefits to sexual choice (from when it happens, to where it happens, to who is happens with, and what to do after it happens) will be curtailed. And it will always be shrouded in a big white fluffy gorgeous veil and called … God’s purpose, or religion, or duty.

As such, these men do not consciously understand that they are emotionally damaging otherwise capable beings and I can see how that would happen. We live in the golden age of the dick pic and if I was a parent of a daughter between 8 and 18 and I am not sure I would allow her to have the internet or even a cell phone with text messages. Thanks to the invasiveness of handheld devices, young girls and women are TOO available to any man with thumbs. It is a function of popularity – oh so crucial in small societies – to be this available. It is a function of the tribal nature of teenagers to keep secrets from parents, an actual growth stage in the healthy development of independent people. It is next to impossible to balance being completely clear with your parents about the state of your hymen while remaining necessarily opaque about the state of your friends. This process is bound to fail and with it the embedded identity of what a good girl is (she is a virgin), what a good woman is (until she meets her husband), what a good wife is (and then only has sex when he wants it), what a good sex partner is (and learns to enjoy his response speed and his tastes).

This how you burden a pack animal to carry an enormous amount of emotional baggage for the rest of its life. All of Mans tangled feelings and insecurities and things unsaid about sex, desire, lust, love, romance and ego wrapped tightly, tightly into bite-size amounts and fed week after week month after month and year after year in to the precious brains of their own children. It’s like a form of child abuse that comes from attachment but it is not love. These young girls are being trained from a very early age that they are their fathers property, that their sexual history is not and can never be considered private, but rather a resume of their moral fiber, that their flesh is their only real value. Once deflowered, it will be their beauty and quietness in self-sacrifice that keeps them valuable, once old they will either be divorced (look at the stats) or widowed which is the surest root to poverty that man has ever created, but here Dear Reader comes an important stage because here and for a brief moment before they die, they will be judged by others who chose to see on the state of their character. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Dark Passenger: Pt 1

My first attempt at suicide was age 11. I carefully poured a small amount of poisonous chemical into a glass jar and packed it in my lunch container, and packed that into my backpack. Mid-afternoon, my favorite time of day, I took it into the girl’s bathroom and went into a stall by the high window and locked the door. I remember it was very quiet and well-lit in the bathroom. I felt very comfortable there. I stared at the black liquid in the jar for a long time, willing myself to drink it, thinking of all the good reasons to do it, but in the end I did not. I returned it to my backpack and went on with the day. No one knew a thing.

My second attempt was a year later, when I went to an apartment building in order to jump off the roof. I had left after lunch and never came back to school, just curled in a ball at the door of the roof in the cold thinking absolutely no thoughts at all. This is called a disassociative state. What was really weird was that I was a good student with high marks and no one called home to figure out what happened to me. No one asked me the following day. This is when I first discovered the power of putting on a good face to the world. For a girl this mask includes a big smile, for a boy it’s quiet consternation.

Often when someone asks me what I like, I think they are asking me what I can tolerate, and I can tolerate anything. So to save time, I say yes to whatever it is they are talking about, making a mental note to never see them again so I will not be pressed into whatever dumb idea they have cooked up, like organized sports or something. I have at times carefully thought about what I might actually like, what the right answer might actually be, but it never comes and if it does I always second guess it anyway. But there is no chance in hell that I would ever make the mistake of actually saying it out loud.

A psychologist once asked me if anyone played with me when I was a child. The answer is a quick and decisive no. No one ever played a board game, or computer game or even a game of cards with me. When my father left and then died I was a severe burden on my mother and she let everyone know it. I remember the looks of adults who were her “friends”. For the most part, they were people she had known in her childhood who had grown up to be drunks. If I accidentally spoke in their presence and belied an intelligence far beyond my years, they would cock their heads and stare like dogs listening to a high-pitched noise. I used to call this look, the “I am not the child they expected her to have” look. When I stared dead-eyed back at them, they would feel threatened and mock me. These are grown adults I am talking about. My mother would tolerate even the most vile behaviour from these animals. Then they all went went to rehab and dropped her as friend because you are not supposed to hang around your old friends after becoming sober. I guess the joke was on her.

When I was a child, any emotion I may have had was met with intense shaming by my parents and teachers. Very quickly, say by age 8, I developed a quiet stoicism that people would comment on. “Oh, she is so well-behaved”, they would say. With this stoicism came an unwillingness to be touched, and more intensely an unwillingness to eat. My mother says that I stopped eating the moment my father left, shortly after my first birthday. Up until that point, they laughingly called me “Miss. Piggy” because I was a good eater. I have absolutely no independent recollection of my father’s presence, save one, and trust me when I say psychologists have really pressed me on this. They say that the fat little baby missed her father so intensely that she stopped eating. I have no idea. I just know that I hated eating food. I hated the smell of food, I hated the taste of food, I hated how much my stomach hurt when I ate. And my stomach always, always hurt. But I never uttered a word about it because as you may remember, I am not that dumb. As a result, not eating was effortless for me, and not eating comes with an interesting side effect; it makes a person very skinny.

Being skinny is the single most important thing for white women of a certain demographic. With a big smile and a skinny body you can pretty much do anything. As long as that anything requires not speaking, not eating and not having emotions. Luckily, I didn’t have all three. I was the first little girl in my group to have a “boyfriend” call me on the phone. And it short order I learned the fourth thing you need; the ability to deal with intense jealousy. Given that I always wanted to kill myself, I found it really cruel and mystifying that a girl would go to the trouble of hating me. I used to think, Trust Me, Sister, I have cornered the market on hating me, you have nothing to add here; but that never stopped them. Because of their high-fat low-income diet, they developed breasts and hips very early. This led to adult-style conversations about maxipads and birth control by seventh graders. What they should have been talking about was their zits, because their skin was horrifying. To this day, I spend large amounts of money having my face professionally washed.

I was badly bullied by a few girls in elementary school, with the rest turning their backs on me. The teachers pretended it wasn’t happening even when I had blood and bruises. It was so bad that one girl tearfully requested my forgivenenss later in high school after she had found religion. I remember looking at her and saying No, I do not forgive you in my head while smiling very broadly with a “Yes” out loud. I think we even hugged. My skin still crawls at the memory. Couple my mother’s lack of boundaries with my father’s abandonment and you have the toxic ambient background noise to my formative years.

I felt then and I feel now that suicide is my "thing". It's like a hobby I perfected as a child and that I keep as a safety blanket today. Like the highest order of Zen masters, I contemplate my own death every day. Yet, were I dumb enough to say this out loud it would merely re-inforce the feeling of being misunderstood. I may or may not ever complete the act, but I am well within my rights to discuss it with myself. This is called, I am told, "suicidal ideation". Suicide is common and very under-reported. There is a suicide every 41 seconds globally, that's over 2,000 a day. Take a moment to think about that. As a sometime-suicidal person I have deeply thought about the following and concluded: I don't believe that all lives are worth living, or that all suffering is noble. Nor do I believe that people who commit suicide are cowards. Suicide in a healthy person is usually a waste, then again there are some for whom suicide is too good a death. You see, it's a grey area. What I want more than anything is to be allowed to feel suicidal, which I admit, is very strange and even a little ridiculous. Then again, clinical depression takes itself very seriously and has almost no sense of humour, which is why we will have to talk about it - behind its back - another time. Be Continued.