Child Marriage: I Dodged the Bullet
HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap. It was originally published on January 12, 2014.
I don’t know that I’ve written much about the process of the relationship Alex and I had before we got married. I started my blog after the fact and before I had even begun to process the hellmouth that was my childhood.
With three creepy-as-fuck-patriarchs coming out in favor of child marriage – something they’d always been in favor of, I suppose, but just now coming to light – I keep remembering how close I was to that being my story, our story.
This might be timey-wimey.
Ever since I can remember, my mom really really really wanted to be pregnant at the same time as me.
I don’t know why, I just remember her telling me this, often, and it creeping me out before I was 10 — and after I was 10, but I remember being really damn young when she was telling me this. I feel like I was 8.
When we started homechurching, my mom become obsessed, I mean obsessed with jewish culture. Like everything about it was perfect and not at all weird, and by jewish culture, I guess I should clarify, I mean old testament jewishness, and whatever of that was referenced in the new testament. Yes, how women were property and bought/traded for dowries, and how they were surprised for when they were getting married, and their parents picked out their husbands (my mom is also obsessed with betrothal), and then how they wait for the couple to do it, and then they bring out a sheet that had better have a bloodstain on it to prove…virginity – because, obv’s everyone bleeds (<nope).
(HA note: Kiery’s mom was not just wrong in a moral sense, but wrong in a religious sense; for an accurate description of how Jewish weddings work, please see Rachel’s comment here and Petticoat Philosopher’s comment here.)
She had, before I was a teenager even, basically planned out my wedding to be like that. Complete with my future husband building an apartment attached to their house, and even as a kid who knew nothing, this was the thing I fought against, this was the battle I always chose, I was not going to allow my mom to pick out my husband, and dictate my wedding and create the most humiliating ceremony I could imagine – just so she could get her jewish fix and fulfill her dream of carrying children simultaneously.
For context: She had also decided that I would marry at 18 to ensure that pregnancy thing would be feasible.
She was pregnant when I was 18 (I’m 18 years and one-week older than my youngest sibling) and I did end up getting married at 18, but the simultaneous pregnancy hasn’t happened (and never will, thanks to my own birth control and my grandparents stepping in after the last baby and paying for my mom’s sterilization).
Anyway, back to the story…
So, my childhood was already riddled with disturbing fantasies from my mom in relation to my future love-life, and I had been fighting this battle for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, my dad was on my side here, and also thought that my mom’s whole wanting to control all of that thing was ridiculous, which made it easier to just look at her and say no whenever she mentioned it (that was the only thing I was ever able to do that with) even though she ignored it.
I had read too much Elsie Dinsmore to be cool with the idea of betrothal.
Anyway, after we moved to Atlanta I went to TeenPact State Class and then TeenPact National Convention where I met Alex and we became fast friends over the course of the year. Later that year my parents told me they were done teaching me/had taught me everything I needed to know when I was 15 and they said I’d graduated. It was 2006. I turned 16 in February of 2007, had my graduation ceremony at the state homeschool convention in May, and Alex came down for camp, and that fall we started courting (which is, in our case, another kind of hell). Because he lived in Maine, our relationship was Long Distance and we saw eachother less than a handful of times a year – which means most of our relationship involved lots and lots and lots of talking and getting to know each other over IM/Email/Phone calls.
Nonetheless, as soon as my dad said “okay” to us courting in September of 2007, my parents – especially my mom- heard wedding bells. Courting is basically like, “dating with the intent to marry” but with everyone sticking their hands and ideas into the situation but without actually caring about or getting to know the two people involved – they just want power and think they can because they’re parents, so they must be right, right? (no)
My mom, at this time, had just had my second brother, and so, my broom services weren’t as desperately needed.
By december they were pushing Alex to propose, made him buy me a promise ring, and kept asking about when we were getting married, anddon’t you love him? (yes) don’t you want to marry him? (sure) but why not NOW? (because I’m 16) We’ll sign the paperwork! eventually I just looked at them and told them, I feel like you’re pushing me out, and I don’t know why. They were like, we’re not pushing you out! and I forget what else they said, but in retrospect, that conversation, and me not coming home engaged after visiting and meeting his family for the first time after christmas changed things.
But one thing remained, they wanted me married. Stat. They wanted him to propose like, right away, and when he didn’t propose by my birthday, in February (because we both decided it wasn’t a good idea to get married at like, 17 and 19) they got pissed and over the course of the summer of 2008, decided to do everything they could to sabotage our relationship.
It was brutal and nasty and deserving of more than one post because it was fraught with verbal and emotional abuse, withholding, and bribery – complete turns of opinions and demeanor’s, saying one thing and then the next morning saying something else, the last pregnancy that ruined everything, and the reason I had to run away.
If I had complied, as I did in every other thing, my relationship with my parents would have been less strained for a short time, but neither Alex or I would be in a healthy place. 16 is too young. Much too young.
So when people talk about child-marriage proponents, I remember being 16 and pressured, unbelievably pressured by my parents, to make my boyfriend propose and marry me.
because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion
I wonder if some of the logic of Swanson, Maranatha’s dad and husband, and Creepy Duck Guy wasn’t part of the logic my parents had too: female independence is bad, marry them off young so they can do what god commanded women to do – be fruitful and multiply.
Two words: Jonathan Lindvall
I left a couple comments on Kiery’s posting, but the one with her mom planning out her wedding years in advance can only be described as “Bridezilla by Proxy”.
Kiery, your mom sounds like one messed-up control freak.
It sounds like you had a lot more sense than your parents did at 16
Getting into an obsession with Jewish culture, like your mother, is just so non-Christian. One of the main themes of Christianity is that we are free from the law. My pastor visited Israel for the first time last year (I did too, on the same tour, but my visit is beside the point). His first sermon after returning was on the freedom of Christ, contrasted with the bondage of the law. His take-away from Israel was: Thank God we are no longer under those laws!
I recently saw a YouTube video with a large family singing a modification of “12 Days of Christmas” with things that have been said to them about having a large family. The 12th day was their response to those things. One of the things was “just wait until they’re teenagers” and the response was “We’ll find them husbands” This just made my mouth drop open. REALLY??? And by implication since they said HUSBANDS, not SPOUSES, I guess that sons are not something to get rid of while they are teens? Just girls are something to be pushed out?
Or maybe they intend to have only homosexual sons…yeah, that’s it…
I was terrified of being forced to marry someone. Not as a child, since my parents were more in the “18 and up is ideal” camp, but once I got to that age, the pressure started big time from my dad.