Just to clear up a small (or maybe large) detail of the story...I never agreed to any kind of "courtship". I thought it was an overwhelmingly stupid way to go about a relationship between responsible (hopefully) adults. There were certain things I tolerated for HER sake, as I had ceased to care what did and didn't make her father's tail hurt (southern expression there). To me, our relationship was about me, her, and God. I wasn't keen on, or willing to allow, an unwanted and uninvited party to join in the festivities or try to muscle his or her way in. Any person beyond me, her, and God, was one person too many as far as I was concerned. I don't think I'm in the wrong in feeling that way - biblically, morally, socially, or by any other measure. I didn't then, and I certainly don't now.
To pick back up with the story following the infamous email from her father...
It took me a little while to cool off. I'd never even HEARD of something so bizarre and stunted. I literally wanted to grab the man by his ankles and bounce his knobby head off of every wall in the room. Here are a few excerpts (this email was about a month after his "no calling every day" talk)...
Uggh. The episode he's referring to is this - The person he's referencing is the liason of Compassion International to the genre of Christian music I was involved in. The man I used to work for had introduced him to my ex's family, thinking it (CI) would be something good for them to become involved in. She, along with her father and one of her sisters, went along on a 3 day trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion. About a week prior to this trip, the artist I performed with had done a concert event for Compassion, and knowing the liason well, I told him to be sure to tell my then girlfriend and now ex "hello" for me. As we talked a bit about the relationship, I told him that we both believed it could eventually lead to marriage and so on. I was pretty sure that I wanted to marry her at some point, and there was no need to hide that. On the actual trip, he wanted to tease her just a bit, so he added the "future wife" part to the requested "hello". Completely innocent and completely harmless.
Not to mention, as I said in the last post, it was HER doing the vast majority of talking about marriage and introducing it into conversation. Not me. And, I didn't see a problem with that. If she wanted to talk about it, she was a grown woman in her mid 20s, and I'd freely engage in the conversation with her.
For the record, I saw the Compassion guy again the week after I received this email, I asked him about the trip, and told him about this email. He told me, "Lewis, I wasn't gonna say anything, but now I feel like I should tell you, he's an *hushed toned* asshole. Weeeiiiirrrrd man." His wife was standing next to him and said to me, "You should know, when we said that to her, her face completely lit up. She adores you. Don't sweat her father. He's weird." Several times over the course of this night, this gentleman's wife would walk past me, lean in, and whisper in my ear "She adores you. Don't forget that."
More from the email...
Still want to judge me for my desire to put a few pop-knots on the man's noggin?
I believe you've moved a bit quickly over the past 30 days. You are old enought to be her father... ...You must acknowledge that the age difference between you is on the edge of social acceptibility. More often than not, the first reaction of any of our friends to **** friendship with you is negative. He's too old, and other unquotables. We know better because we know you but it doesn't change people's perceptions which is a measure of our culture and it's norms.
I was fuming. I feel no guilt for that, nor should I. What a fool the man is. An emotionally, spiritually, and socially stunted fool. The problem with this guy was/is that he genuinely believed that EVERYONE in the Christian faith shared these stunted, apostate patriarchal views ("which is a measure of our culture and it's norms"), when only a small, miniscule, legalistic, fringe, and borderline crazy fraction of a faction actually does.
I knew my ex, probably better than any other human will ever know her, and I knew that this email would make her nervous. It did. Very nervous. My email in response was written for her. Not for him. It was truthful, but for her sake, I left out the parts of the truth that would've made life rougher for her. Instead of the "I'd like to get your weasel head in a vice-grip" truth, I responded with the "I'm not trying to go about our relationship in ways that bring discomfort" truth.
It all chewed on me constantly for a few days before I completely opened up to her about it all. I was honest with her about what I thought of it. I was honest with her that if her father desired any kind of relationship with me, that kind of thing could never happen again. She was worried that it would push me away from her. I assured her that there was no chance of that as long as she wasn't supportive of these kind of behaviors from her father.
Over the next couple of weeks she began to open up to me about the home environment she had grown up in. Inaffectionate. Dark. Lots of depression. Extremely strict. Her father having threatened suicide on occasion. These were all her exact terms (and there were many more). While all of this was going on, another sister had become involved with a guy that daddy dearest didn't approve of, and daddy dearest had determined to make her life hell - not to mention one of the other sisters hacking in to this sister's private MySpace page to snoop on her correspondences with the guy. Just sickening. Like a dysfunctional alcoholic home. Religioholics. Total Imbiblers. Soon after, this other sister would be encouraged to go and hole up for several weeks with another group of like-minded Religioholics and patriarchal Imbiblers for a "prayer vigil" and to "hear from God". Miracle of miracles, she ALSO returned from her prayer vigil completely brainwashed and toeing the company line. Who'd have guessed? SA
Before long, an issue arose where the patriarchal authority of her father over her was being tested and strained. She, still very naive, and at this early point not ready to cling to me at the expense of all else, expected me to cede to his authority, to which I said, "No. It's weird, it's wrong, and I'm not doing it." I kept asking her why she was willing to give her parents control over the life of a grown woman, and she would respond, "But Lew, they've fed me and sheltered me and cared for me and clothed me!...I owe it to them to do things their way! I HAVE to do this their way!" Oh dear God how unhealthy and what a human tragedy that ANYONE would be in such emotional bondage. That almost makes me cry right now if I think about it too much. It probably would if I hadn't long ago expended all of my tears.
She begged me to talk these issues over with her father. For HER sake, and HER sake alone, I agreed to talk with her father. That phone call wasn't pretty. Lots of animated voices. Lots of yelling. You guys have heard me say that of the 10 dumbest things ever said to me, he has at least 8 of them? Well, probably a half-dozen came during the course of this phone call. It was topped off with this gem from his infinite, good-hearted wisdom...
"Lewis...Back in North Carolina, you may be Mr. Bigshot studio musician, everybody knows you and likes you! But out here? You're NOBODY! You're NOBODY! You're NOTHING!"
And it all came in a voice that most closely resembles Canteen Boy from Saturday Night Live in an excited state. And all because I dared to believe that two adults, both of the Christian faith, should be left alone to determine their future as lead by the Holy Spirit.
The man is an ass. A restaurant-quality ass. With space-age polymers and hepa-filter technology and all that good stuff. Such an ass that he'd need Vince, the Sham-Wow guy, to adequately describe the depths of his assiness.
I got off of the phone with this dude just shaking. So angry. So hurt. And it was all so freakin stupid and senseless. This was like an episode of the Twilight Zone, and all of the characters were batcrap CRAZY. I won't lie to you. At that moment, I would've hurt him.
Later, as I spoke to her, I was still trying to process the bizarro world (on steroids) I'd just been introduced to, and she was crying. That hurt me so much for her. So much. I was already in love with her, and I wasn't gonna just leave her in this kind of mess without a fight. All I could tell her was, "Please just hold on, and please trust me. I'm gonna figure this out. I'm gonna work this out. Somehow. Just please hold on."
I'm often asked, "If you could do it all again, would you do anything differently?" The only answer I know to give is - how could I? If I could go back to the start with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, there are times I would've been gentler with her, no doubt. Not having the benefit of the knowledge that I have now, I was flying totally blind. I wasn't versed in the debris of spiritual or emotional abuse. I didn't know how it could so deeply wound the psyche and morally paralyze. All I could see was a group of people who would struggle with the most simple of concepts of right and wrong, people who were using cruel emotional leveraging on each other to manipulate and get their own way in things. It infuriated me, and I'm a fighter not given to compromise. Not that it would've changed the moral right and wrong of the situation, but I didn't understand or know the depth of the messed-up "why" behind everything. All I knew is that these people made me constantly feel like I needed a drink - and I'm not a drinker. Not yet, anyway.
Well, this is obviously gonna take more than two parts. Part Three coming soon.