For those of you church-y types, especially if you have any familiarity at all with the Southern Baptist tradition, you know exactly what the title of this post refers to --
Proverbs 22:6 "Raise up a child in a way that is right, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it."
Ivey's corollary is "Raise up a child any fucking way you want and when they are old they won't depart from it; the couldn't if they tried."
See, I was raised to be the following: obedient (above all), subservient, and accommodating.
I was taught to never "talk back," never question, never doubt or challenge authority; never, ever, put my needs and certainly not my desires, over anyone else's, not fucking ever. I learned and learned well that what I think is wrong, that I cannot function properly without correction and that punishment does not need to be understood but rather withstood. I know that love is conditional and that it can be, and will be, withheld when I displease those that I am required to love and to obey. I learned, and learned well, that I do not, I do not ever, embarrass people with my words, my actions, or my thoughts. Not. Fucking. Ever.
Yes, indeed folks. I was raised up right. And those lessons were driven home with belts, brushes, paddles, slaps, humiliation, and ridicule. And I got the fucking message before I turned five. By the time I was ten, I stopped trying to figure out what I'd done wrong but instead was learning to avoid anything that might earn a correction. Unfortunately, I also learned that I wasn't very bright, because I failed at that a lot.
A short list:
- An eye-roll would earn a slap along with "Roll your eyes at me, I'll roll your head back, young lady."
- Disrespect in any form, but especially in public, would earn having my underpants jerked down, turned over a knee, and spanked with a hand or paddle. "Don't you EVER sass me!"
- Disobedience, swearing, or lying was a belt-worthy offense; when little, over the knee worked, in the teen years, I would lay across the bed, as instructed, in undies only. "I don't want to do this but you WILL learn not to [fill in the blank here]."
Furthermore, this was a "village" kinda vibe. It wasn't just my own parents that didn't spare the rod to avoid the proverbial "child spoiling," relatives, neighbors, the church, hell, the school community, got to get their licks in too.
An interesting side note, at least to me, is that I had one teacher in middle school who was especially paddle-happy. One day I observed that I was always wearing a dress every time I did something that required me to go out in the hall, put my hands against the wall, spread my feet, and take my "whuppin." Weird. But I quit wearing dresses and that seemed to solve the problem, at least in Ag. Class.
In the church (and reinforced at home) I learned that not only was I responsible for my behavior but apparently for the behavior -- and even the thoughts! -- of every boy and grown man around. Once, we were coming back from a Youth Trip ("Jesus! '82" at Seaworld) late at night. I'd fallen asleep in the back of the church van. Suddenly, we pulled off the side of the road, waking everyone up, where I was informed that I had to go ride on the children's bus because I was "inspiring lust in the hearts of young men." This not per the young men, but according to the chaperone driving the van who should've been keeping his eyes of the fucking road and not on the sleeping 15 year old in the back row. By herself.
I made it to college and my 20s, virginity firmly in place, and discovered that I had, in fact, been raised up right. I never questioned the authority of my professors, even when they told me that I would never realize my dreams and utterly lacked talent. I never talked back or questioned the "brilliant" and "learned" minds that were there, but I anticipated what I needed to get the grade well enough and gave it to them, with little thought on my part and less understanding.
And when opportunities did come my way, a chance to study abroad or be cast in a very challenging role (that included.... shhhh.... nudity) I turned those disgusting opportunities down, and right fuckin' quick too, let me tell you. I didn't need to "think" about anything, weigh pros and cons, challenge myself. Hell no! I already KNEW the right path, because my parents and God and the pastors and the relatives made sure I did. And when the professional chance of a lifetime (for a serious young actress, at least) presented itself to me, I let that pass too. I mean, Mama and Daddy and Granny and Granddaddy and Ganny and Gramps and all my aunts and cousins and the preacher and well, shit, you get the idea. They would NEVER be okay with that. And you don't cross Mama and Daddy. Not if you know what's good for you.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away! But Mama and Daddy are the hands of God."
I have no children and I never will.
And because I had no experience or understanding with "boys," other than the fact that good girls didn't put out, when my body's desires finally overcame my morals I fucked up in more ways than one -- from a disastrous and very regrettable "first time" to the first in a long line of bad choices.
I rationalized that it's okay though, if, ya know, they love you. And they did love me, right? I mean, I loved them. All of them. From the compulsive liar to the drug-abusing racist asshole. From the ones I don't remember to the ones I've tried and failed to forget. I loved them. I had to. And they just HAD to love me. A lot of them didn't though. And seriously, why would they? I was a dirty, sex-having whore.
Because sex equals love, right? Because if it doesn't, then I was fucking lied to. See, I was told that sex is only okay if both the man and woman love each other and if they aren't married then they are going to be soon. Right? Oh, and it's dirty. And it's from the devil. And it's all Eve's fault anyway. And that's why it hurts to have babies. Because God made it so when he drove Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. Because God was fucking pissed at stupid Eve. And that's why she's not as good as a man. Because she's stupid, and gullible, and weak, and well, dirty. Unless a man loves her, and that makes her okay. But not any smarter.
And as I entered my thirties and now my forties I am realizing, deeply and completely, just how "right" I was raised and how I want to, but don't seem to be able to, depart from it.
I have obligations to my family, and I owe them, because they made me who I am -- right? -- and eventually I will bankrupt myself and my husband to take care of them. Under their constant criticism, correction, and derision. I know that.
And when the day comes, and it will because it has before, when my brother needs me because he is even more fucked up than I, I will take care of him, too.
What other people want or need will always, always, always be placed above what I want or need. Always.
And now that I no longer believe in God -- or my parents for that matter -- I have to tell you I'm a little disappointed that my sacrifice won't even earn me a place in heaven. I'm kinda pissed off that failing to please others and not doing whatever it is that they didn't want me to do isn't going to give me at least some cosmic fucking payoff. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised. My vigilant dedication to not upsetting people has failed to make them happy, and it's sure as shit failed to make me happy.
I mean, I've not done it all. I "didn't do" the long list of don'ts.
I'm forty-fucking-three. If family history can be trusted and nothing else goes awry, then I'll probably live to be ninety and that's not a given, is it? I would really like, no REALLY LIKE, to do some of the don'ts and even some of the do's.
But I don't think I can.
That's not how I was raised.