Growing Up Jeub

How a Logical Girl Talked Herself into Fundamentalism, Part 2

Trigger warnings: child abuse

“I could fight this, but I may die.
And all I want is [to] be the apple in your eye
Well I could stay here, strap on my face
Listen to the words that put me in my place.” –Pendulum

I was a curious child. I wanted to know how everything worked and why we did certain tasks, and if the explanation wasn’t satisfactory, I refused to participate.

One day when I was nine, I questioned the reasoning behind sweeping the floor. It was always dirty again within hours. Why not just leave it, or find something more efficient? In a fit of frustration, my mom pulled my ear and yelled in my face, then threw me into the pile I’d partially swept. My head rang from hitting the wood floor and my mom kept yelling about how I needed to finish my chores and stop asking questions, and do it as she said to do it. I finally obliged.

The next day, I felt weak. I struggled with low energy and being underweight, so this happened pretty often. I didn’t have the strength for my chores, and fell asleep again soon after breakfast. My mom brought me a snack and gently offered comfort and care, and she said that I could always trust her. When I felt safe, she asked about why I had such a strong aversion to chores. I remember this phrase from her: “Jesus wouldn’t be happy that you won’t listen.”

I didn’t recognize my own use of humor as a defense mechanism. “I don’t want to follow Jesus, mom.” I laughed at her alarm and joked, “I want to be a follower of Garfield. He’s okay with himself how he is, and he lays around, and he’s not skinny as a rail like me.”

The next day my mom told me, “Your dad and I have talked it over, and we decided you can’t read comics for a year.”

I wanted to cry. I already knew what it felt like to lose something I loved for a whole year, because they grounded me off of watching Star Wars when I was seven and eight. I loved reading, and I loved comics. I loved reading Garfield, Spider-man, Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot, and always got the newspaper and read the comics before reading some of the news. It was wit and humor and information and philosophical thought and character development.

My favorite movies, and now comics, took precedence over my parents’ religion and expectations, and that made them an idol. My crime for losing what I loved was that I loved it too much.

But like I’ve said before, I knew to suppress my feelings. I took pride in the fact that I did not cry.

For years afterward, I checked myself: never let your obsessions with fantasy and science fiction and stories get in the way of God. Better yet, convince yourself that you want to love God more than anything else.

I started to enjoy housework after my last spanking, at age eleven. I was fighting with my mom about chores again, and she called my dad’s office. He was a web designer for Focus on the Family. I was afraid of talking to him on the phone, so I hid. I was told I’d be spanked with a belt, and I was terrified.

Now, again, I didn’t make these connections at the time – but now I know that the threat of a belt was a trigger for me because my older sister was beaten with a belt years earlier. It was the first and only time the belt was used on me. I cried, and what I hated about spankings was that I always had trouble catching my breath after I started crying. That moment of fighting to breathe was agony, worse than the initial pain of the spanking itself.

Within a week, I decided I loved housework. I took pride in doing it well. I did my chores on time, then I was allowed to disappear and read. I couldn’t read comic books anymore, so I read more chapter books. As I grew into my teen years, I learned to bury my emotions and put on a smile. By the time I was an adult, I had mastered the art of self-deception.

I could either resent what I was expected to do and be, or I could embrace it. I chose to embrace it, and spent countless hours cooking, cleaning, babysitting children, and encouraging other girls like myself, so they could enjoy my lifestyle as much as I did.

As a teenager, I remember thanking my parents for spanking me. I thought it had been effective, and I thought I’d spank my own kids. Now that I’ve researched emotional and physical abuse, I see my memories in a new light: my parents broke me into embracing the identity they demanded of me.