Many people have wondered why (if I loved the girl as much as I claim) I didn't just play along with the courtship madness, win over the patriarse, and marry the girl. It's a bit of a variation on the idea that I wasn't willing to do "whatever it takes".
"Why would you put that poor girl through all that?"
Through all what? Telling her the truth? Combatting every lie and standing against every poisonous teaching ever poured into her? If I genuinely loved her (and I did/do), how could I not present the truth against the lies and stand against all of the emotionally and spiritually destructive baloney she'd been taught? How could I continue in a serious relationship with someone who believed and lived this junk, and loving her as I did/do, how could I just leave her in that mess?
She had to come to think critically and examine this stuff before we began our lives together. To have played along, married her, and then spring the truth on her, deciding then to encourage her to critically examine all the crap she'd been taught, would've been as manipulative as her family and friends were to her (I'm not a fan of emotional leveraging). It would also have made me every bit the hypocrite her family and friends are. It would've been enormously risky and unhealthy for our marriage, blatantly unfair to us both. I didn't want to place a bandaid on a sucking chest wound and delay surgery until a more "convenient" time. She needed emotional and spiritual surgery, and while I wasn't authorized, equipped, or qualified to perform it - I absolutely could, and did, encourage it. I don't use bandaids when the source of the problem can be addressed.
Imagine if I had just played along, won over the patriarse, married the girl, and THEN, in addressing the poisons her mind had been polluted with, she'd rejected the truth? That would've left our marriage in one big mell of a hess.
Now then, back to the story...
In the weeks that followed my purchase of the ring, things took a turn for the peaceful, her father continued to basically stay out of the way (if nothing else, my Thanksgiving email produced some breathing room for us - perhaps, now knowing I wasn't a pushover, the patriarse was just regrouping), and our conversations turned much more serious in nature. Now I was the one instigating marriage and future talk. There were a few things I needed to be solid on before I could pop the question. My view of marriage is somewhat unique - I've always believed it genuinely begins, in God's eyes, with the promise - everything else is just ceremony and legality. I only intended to propose once in my life, and I needed to know that SHE knew, and respected, what a "yes" would mean to me. She assured me that she did, in fact, know and respect what a "yes" to my proposal would mean, and, whenever the time came that I might propose, she promised me that my proposal would be treated with understanding and respect of its gravity for us both.
We dug a little deeper into domestic arrangement. We didn't agree on everything (even though she now believed, at least on a surface level, that her patriarchal upbringing had been unhealthy and many of the teachings were askew), but there were no deal-breakers. She was adamant that she wanted to homeschool any future children. I told her I wasn't opposed to that at all, but I didn't think it was wise to make concrete plans about future, potentially liquid circumstances, especially since public schooling isn't the boogieman she'd always been taught. She was adamant that she wanted home childbirth. That was the ONE issue where I had to draw a line. It would all be dependent upon where we lived, as far as I was concerned. The home I was looking into for us is at least 30 minutes from the nearest hospital, and there's a history of REALLY large babies in my family. A maternal uncle was 13lbs, my paternal grandpa was 14lbs, my dad and brother were both 10lbs, and I was 8lbs, 15 ounces, and they took me several weeks early as a precaution. My brother had nearly killed my mom. An emergency C-section saved them both. Then, of course, there was her indoctrination into the idea that "God controls the womb". While that may or may not be so, I assured her that she and I would be controlling the sex, and I think it reckless to introduce new children into a home that may not be able to care for them appropriately and then blame God for it and expect Him to bail us out for our own recklessness. In fact, I think it's beyond reckless. It's an abuse all its own.
As far as the intrusions from her father, she told me "Lew, it will get SOOOOO much better after we're engaged." Mmmm hmmm. With that, I need to back up just a bit in the storyline before moving into the next phase...
A few months back when her father had thwarted my Christmas visit to their home, I began searching for alternatives. Her family was scheduled to perform on a cruise ship during Valentine's week, and this looked like the best option. The cruise itself wasn't a big musical event. It was a regular cruise, and a man with a part-time gospel quartet decided to get a few other relatively unknown singers and groups, get the cruise line to give them a small theater on the ship, and sign up a couple hundred or so cruisers. The other 2000 or so passengers had nothing to do with it. Just a group of a couple hundred or so hearing generally marginal to subpar singers (except for my ex's family) singing Christian music nightly in a private theater. Once I found out about it, I made arrangements with the artist I toured with to have a couple of weeks off, made arrangements for someone to sub for me, and reserved a cabin on the ship. When my ex found out that I'd purchased a ticket, she asked "Do you need to talk to dad about this?" I told her that if I could work it out to meet them a few days early as they were on their way to Miami and ride down with them, then by all means, I'd ask her dad if it was ok - but only pertaining to meeting up with and riding down with them. I didn't need his permission or approval to go on the cruise, and I'd no intentions of seeking it. Within a few days, the new beau in her sister's life (the bandaid from Part Four) wanted to know if I'd like a roommate on the cruise. Regardless of my thoughts about what was going on with her sister, he was a nice enough guy, was pretty sharp, and I guessed he could figure things out quickly enough, so I took him on as a shipmate for the week. Within another week or so, the patriarse called out of the blue wanting to know if I'd want to meet up a few days early and ride down with them. I couldn't help but raise my eyebrows, but we worked out the details, and we were on for February.
(For the record, had he been unwilling to work out the meet up plan, I'd have just driven down to Miami. I'm NOT a happy flier. My standing policy: The only way a plane is gonna kill me is by landing on top of me. I've flown, in both large and small planes, but me no likey. Central Florida is full of my relatives (that's where I'm from, originally), and I'd have left a bit early and spent some time visiting on the way.)
During this period, my ex once said to me somewhat in self-discontent, "Lew, please pray for me." I asked what specifically she wanted me to pray for. She said, "I don't feel like I've been reading my bible enough or praying enough, and I wanna do better with those." Oh wow. Taken aback, the only way I knew to answer her was, "You know, if you're only doing those things out of obligation and duty, what's the point?" And really, what exactly IS the point of dutiful, obligatory bible reading and prayer unless your Christianity is works-based? I mean, why not just read the instruction manuel for the microwave oven, and then stand in front of it and tell it how much you appreciate the magic it performs on Swanson Hungryman dinners when you don't want to cook? You'd accomplish just as much, because your heart would be in it just as much. So many young people from P/QF families feel obligated to do these things, and feel like a lesser Christian if they don't do them.
I could see that she was VERY immature spiritually. Not by her own choice. She was the product of the neo-conservative Christian homeschooling jar she'd been raised in. As I've said before, when you plant a seed in a jar, you sentence the plant that will result to a best case scenario of growing into the shape of the jar - but NEVER exceeding it. No matter how much the sprigs and shoots want to spread out and reach toward the sun that shines on them and gives them life, the jar forms a barrier that prevents it. More often than not, in the P/QF paradigm, the parents, particularly the father, play the role of the jar. Sadly, I think the reason that young women leaving the P/QF lifestyle encounter so much grief, resistance, and totally unnecessary and abusive drama is a simple one: For them to ever live in freedom, the jar has to be shattered. Few P/QF parents volunteer for as much. Exit is NEVER simple. NEVER easy. The jar has to shatter.
Our plan was to meet a few days prior to the cruise in Forsyth, GA, about a 6 hour drive for me. My folks rode down with me (anxious to meet the young lady who'd smitten their boy) so they could bring my vehicle back home for me. I'd booked a concert for her family in FL on the way to the ship, and another in Roanoke, VA for after the cruise, to help them out financially and leave them without wasted days. I'd travel with her family (they were in an RV at this time - a church in MN had given it to them a couple of months prior) while they performed a few concert dates (they'd pick up the bandaid at the airport in Miami the night before boarding), board the ship and cruise with them for a week, and then, they would head back here to NC where they'd do a couple more concert dates and spend a few days in my home, meeting and spending time with family and friends.
I surprised her by showing up in Forsyth a little earlier than planned, and she nearly squeezed me in two. We spent as much time together as humanly possible over the next several days, and loved every minute of it. We'd take long walks together whenever they stopped somewhere in effort to find our own slice of privacy. A funny sidenote - some of my bandmates had jokingly said stuff like "don't break out any of that Mouy Thai stuff on her dad, now" on our last tour run before meeting up with her family. Years ago, I'd been involved in martial arts (my uncle is an instructor and Tae Kwon Do master). While no one had ever confused me with Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, I still remember enough self-defense basics to give someone a pretty good tussle - even though, at my age, I might sprain parts of my body that heretofore I haven't known to exist. When she'd learned of this a few months before this meeting, she excitedly wanted me to show her a few self-defense moves at some point. Now maybe this was petty of me, but I decided that sometime during my first night on the RV I'd show her a couple of things - in full view of the patriarse. Her sisters also joined in. As much as I hate alpha dog games that people play, I found it a great way to subliminally send the message to the patriarse that I could very easily kick his aesthetic if it ever came to that. The imp in me still chuckles at what might have been going through his mind as he watched.
In the days prior to boarding the ship, I was able to take her family to visit some of my relatives in Florida, particularly an aunt that I was especially close to growing up, and was able to introduce her to some old, old friends. We had a very interesting, and special for us both, few days together.
Some of the weirdness would creep in, especially when her sisters would begin to opine about the "godly" ways to go about relationships, and their views on kissing, holding hands, et cetera prior to marriage. I also sat in on her family's daily devotionals/indoctrination sessions. Overwhelmingly boring. Her dad would read some passages from the bible as part of something like a "read the bible in a year" program, there'd be minimal talk about any of it (I think that was for my sake being that, at that time, I was serving as road pastor for the artist I toured with, serving as "company pastor" for a record company I worked with, and up until a few months prior, serving as something of a pastor to a very small group of people that met weekly in my home), then each person had to mention a prayer request, and then each person, in turn, said an audible prayer. I kept mine pretty vanilla. Sometimes prayer should be intimate. If I'd said what I really wanted prayer for, and prayed the prayer I really needed, my prayer request would've been "that this religious craziness doesn't rub off on me" and my prayer would've been "God...These people are nuts! Help me! Please! I just love the girl!"
The night before the cruise, we picked up "the bandaid", and the sister he was there for was all smiles. This troubled me soooo deeply. It had nothing to do with him. He was a really nice guy, an EMT with a good career ahead of him, and a bright mind. The whole stinking thing was just so unhealthy for her (as I got into in the last installment). I pitied them both. Her for what her parents were doing to her, and him for the potential emotional firestorm he was entering into blindly. Ironically, the guy this sister had "given her heart away to", and been so in love with just a couple of months prior, was now referred to (post
The next morning we boarded the ship. They all relied on me very heavily through the boarding process, as I'd done this so many times at this point that it was second nature. If ANY group of people seemed out of place in the port in Miami boarding a cruise to the Bahamas, it was the fundamentalist homeschooled crowd I was with. But, they were too ignorant to know it.
In the next piece...the proposal.