Confessions of an Ozark Bible Belt Girl

By Mriana

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Some generalizations were made concerning “Christian Girls in the Bible Belt” in a forum thread. I would like to address that from my own experience, which may or may not be typical or apply to all Bible Belt Fundie Girls. No, I will not be rude and crude like that “Su-tha-na fella” who was quoted.

Truth is, I think some young women from the Bible Belt are trying to find something they never received, yet greatly needed, as a child and probably do not have a clue what it was either. I question whether one can ever retrieve it even. In addition, since those in the psychology field, at least according to my relatives, steal souls, they rarely get counseling much less even consider it.

I left home at nineteen, still a virgin, and my mother’s last words to me, during a dispute, before I left were, “Young lady, I am your mother and don’t you forget it! You will do as I say even if you have left home.” “Honour thy father and mother” is taken way beyond what should be.

Just before I left, my mother told me what school I was going to attend and what I was going to study. Women in my family, even in the 80s were expected to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries, if that, and then get married… Period. Some young girls in the Ozarks do not finish high school even, before they have a child and get married- sometimes in that order.

I did finish high school, but dropped out of Business school against my mother’s wishes; to go to a secular State ran university and study dance and theatre. Again, that was even against her wishes, but after I moved out, I dropped that too and went to work at Hardees. I also looked into churches that were more appealing to me, so I could be a good girl and followed my relatives’ wishes about church going. I chose the Episcopal Church, which they did not like- too Catholic.

I turned twenty and sometime before I met my first ex-husband at twenty-one, I ran into a man who happened to be an alcoholic, just as my father was. I thought I could help him. What I got was a bruised face that not even make-up covered. My future husband saw it and asked what happened. I was honest and in his Floridian accent, he said, “You don’t need that.” That drawl was so attractive, not to mention how he also called me Daw-lin’. I would melt every time with that single word- “Daw-lin”. What I failed to noticed was some of his other activities and I was very naïve too. So naïve that just about any “city slicker” outside the third largest city in Missoura, as we natives call it down here south of the Mason Dixon Line, could probably have put one over on me. I have since learned to think with my head concerning the word “Daw-lin” and alike, but that does not mean it does not still have an affect on me.

I dumped the one guy for this smooth talkin’ man from the deep South, who is ten years my senior. At the time, the lovin’ was good and he even taught me a few things, which I will not go into, but I did eventually tell him about my childhood relationship with my father.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Bad girls don’t get pregnant”? My mother used it a lot as a means to criticize Women’s reproductive health outside of marriage, as well as added that pre-marital sex was a sin, and did not mean it as it sounded. She meant the opposite actually. Thus, I did feel a lot of guilt each time, but even more so after he took me out for my twenty-second birthday. That was the first and last time I ever got drunk. It was also the one time I have no clue if it was good or not, but obviously, something happened, because seven weeks later, I found I was a pregnant.

I felt even worse, but what made it worse, were my relatives pushing us to get married because of the pregnancy. Now how do two wrongs make a right? I have no clue, but he did not wish to get married at that time, so we “kept house” together, “in sin” and ironically, some older Episcopalians talk almost the same way about living together. It was a downhill vicious cycle of guilt, imposed by other human beings, not by some god.

I carried my son to term, but not without a lot of difficulties, in part to my small frame, but I was not able to carry children like other women either for other reasons. The other thing was I was losing weight and the doctor was not happy. By the ninth month, I managed to put on twenty pounds and lost it rather quickly after my first son was born. He made a nine on the apgar scoring, but was iron deficient. However, the first time I held him in my arms, as he studied my face, was a very numinous moment that I would not trade for the world- marriage or no marriage.

The relationship got worse and more often than not, he took it, even said, “I take what I want” and ignored my crying after it was over as he told me to “Get over it”, referring to my childhood relationship with my father. Therefore, I felt I had two choices- “submit” by going through the motions or deal with a six-foot abusive drunk and high man, all the while my relatives were pushing us to get married and it did not matter what I had to say about his behaviours. Submission, while separating my mental state from the situation, at that time appeared to be the best choice for survival.

Eventually I lost a lot of weight, just as I did in my pre-teen and teen years after my son was born. Not long after that, I lost my grandfather, to suicide, which my relatives to this day forbid me to call it that. Not only that, my grandmother said, “I don’t want any Black Boy and Black baby at my husband’s funeral!” “The Mark of Cain” came up again, among other things. I heard about this in my teens and maybe even before, but I never dreamed my grandmother would use it against me, because I never heard such racist sentiments from her before. With her words, she added insult to injury as she banished me from my grandfather’s funeral, so I never said my good-byes to him for thirteen years, and after I married a White man. I also was not to go down and visit her at her home either, especially with my family. She saw her great grandsons twice in their lives when they were little, but neither went down there, which was further south, until she died. The two of us did make amends a few days before she died. She said, “You were a good granddaughter, Mriana.” I scolded her for using the past tense, because she made it sound like she was dying tomorrow. She died less than a week later, two years ago just a few days after her 94th birthday and sadly around our favourite time of year- Easter/Spring Equinox.

I became pregnant again a few months after the birth of my first son, but miscarried the baby about three months into the pregnancy. “Well, God didn’t want that baby to be born for some reason and you just have to trust Him on that. He had His reasons.” I had to question such statements that came even from Episcopalians too, because I learned that a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion. Why would God kill an innocent baby and via abortion, when we are not to have abortions? It is OK for Him, but not for us? Why would He allow it to be conceived in the first place if He was going to kill it? It just made no sense to me. The Episcopalians said God is a loving god and the Evangelicals would make statements that God punishes us- even via “spontaneous abortions”, which they call miscarriages. Miscarriages, also called spontaneous abortions versus abortions. It was too illogical and mind boggling to ponder. Even worse, neither group agreed concerning the idea of punishment from God. One called it a punishment and the other did not. One called God love and the other did not. Which was it? Moreover, IF God is love, why such a heinous “punishment”? It just did not jive and such ideas seemed horribly abusive. Shades of Pat Benatar’s song, “Hell is for Children”, “where love and pain become one and the same in the eyes of a wounded child” and a continuation of my life up to that point. I lost any concept I might have had left about hell at that point. I did not know where I was going, but there was no hell except that which is created by humans here on earth. It put new meaning on abortions for me too.

The doctor’s scientific assessment was my body was not ready to carry another child so soon after the first one and nature does what it needs to do. That answer was far more comprehensible than any religious statements I had heard. After all, the ligaments in my left hip had torn, causing me to fall, in my eighth month of my first pregnancy, thus I ended up on bed rest… again. I was on bed rest at the beginning of my pregnancy, towards the middle, and at the very end, for various health reasons concerning the pregnancy. I could not see any god causing that either in return for what I had done nor could I see any god aborting a zygote near the end of the third month of pregnancy for what I did. Nature seemed to be on my side with that spontaneous abortion, especially so soon after my first child. My body truly was not ready to carry another child.

The doctor described my first child en utero as a leech, because it feeds off the mother and cannot survive any other way. Basically, I was getting an education about my own body with my first two pregnancies and none of my pregnancy problems had anything to do with a deity.

Well we did marry when our older son was around a year old and a few months later I was pregnant again, but this time was worse. By this time, I knew without a doubt my husband was doing and selling drugs, but I was trapped in a bad marriage. My relatives were against divorce because it was a sin and even IF it was justifiable, it was still a sin. I finally did not care what they thought and told my husband a few months before I gave birth, “If you do not stop doing and selling drugs, I will take the children and leave.” While high on crack cocaine, he viciously told me, “You take my kids from me, I’ll kill you.” The whole pregnancy was filled with such stress, but no matter how much I pleaded with my mother via phone while he was gone, I could not get her approval to divorce him. He was so much like my father and worse, because he did drugs too.

I had to deliver my second son at eight months due to a form of toxemia, called H.E.L.P. Syndrome. The doctor gave my husband and me a choice, “If push comes to shove, who do you want us to save?” My husband said me, because if anything happened to him, there would be someone to care for his first son. In contrast, I chose myself, because at the time, I believed all babies go to heaven and I knew I had done too many bad things for God to allow me into heaven. I did not have a clue where else there was, but I screwed up with this man and I knew it. The guilt, imposed by others, was beginning to build, but I did not have the time to think about it. I was too busy trying to survive.

After I gave birth, I suffered severe depression, which I passed off as post-partum depression, even when my younger son was six months old. My 4’ 11” body eventually weighed eighty pounds, but one day the ATF ran to the apartment upstairs and my soon to be ex-husband ran to where he hid his pipe and stuffed it under some garbage in the trash can. I knew at that moment, it was not post-partum depression.

The next day or so, while my husband was gone one of the members from my church stopped by to check on my sons and me. I invited her in, offered her a seat and refreshments, but she declined, wanting to sit and talk. Oddly enough, she had a gut feeling something was wrong and said it was showing all over me, because I was so thin and obviously not eating. Cherry Boone had nothing on me when it came to anorexia. We were nip and tuck; I’m sure, especially with fasting during various times during the liturgical calendar. Anyway, I started crying and told her everything that had happened recently. When I was done, she told me where a women’s shelter was and would arrange for me to get there, if necessary. At least some religious people had some sense about them, even here in the Queen City of the Ozarks. Keep in mind though, this eventually became approval from the bishop too, who annulled marriages. This does not mean the marriage never happened though. The Episcopal Church technically does not grant divorces, but annulments they do, which in turn gives one permission to remarry, if they so choose. It was the same thing, just not my relatives.

Three days later he left for wherever he went for the day, I grabbed some of my children’s and my things, and then I picked up my six month old and grabbed my two and half year old by the hand and we were gone. Apparently, he thought I would just cower and back down, never surmising that I had other means of fighting back, such as taking the children, running, and eventually going to court. I never looked back, eventually got some therapy, and even a degree in Psychology, against my relatives’ wishes, but the therapy was not sufficient, because my second husband was abusive to my sons. We left him too, unlike my mother who stayed far too long in her one and only marriage.

Two marriages and two divorces, I was now without a doubt an adulteress in the eyes of Evangelicals, as well as had a baby out of wedlock, which is not only shameful, but also extremely sinful. Not mention, to the Neanderthal Christian hate groups down in these parts, I am a “traitor to my race”. Thus, I do not accept the “Scarlett A” as readily as some atheists do, though you may find it buried on my Facebook page. Thus why I declined showing it so boldly on the day others did. Even though I denounce religion, I cannot bring myself to use the “Scarlet Letter” so boldly, because in the story, it was the letter “A” for adulteress she wore on her dress. Such literary work and religious ideology within that story is just too much to use such a letter so boldly. It carries a terrible stigmatism with it, due to that story, and I rather not use it, as a Humanist. It is degrading for me as a non-theist from such a background and although humanism is a non-theistic philosophy, the stigmatism the Scarlet Letter carries with it is degrading for me. In my opinion, that is not very humanistic, at least to myself. Of course, I will admit I never finished reading the book either, even though it was assigned reading for a literature class. I am hardly perfect. What human is? I just hope said professor does not stumble upon this and take back the good “A” I received for the class.

However, looking back, I think I was trying to find something, which I needed and did not receive as a child, but what I thought would get me what I believed I needed only perpetuated the stereotypical cycle of abuse that started with my relatives, especially my father. I can only guess that other young women from the Bible Belt are probably trying to find a need that is unfulfilled too. The thing is they are not going to find it with sex. Sex is not necessarily an expression of love between two consenting adults. It could very well be an attempt to find what one needs, but in the end, that is not what she needs.

She is also not lacking the need for a god concept either. If anything, the human concept of a deity is sadly lacking on many levels. I do not care what god concept one has, it does not fulfill any human need. If anything, a god concept reinforces the guilt imposed on the individual by other humans.

I do know what is probably missing is unconditional love, but I cannot state what that unconditional love is supposedly like or state for certainty that what other girls missed was unconditional love from their elders. I can dream of what I think I need, but I am not so sure that is it either and while both men want me back, they can never have me back, because they cannot give me what I need. Besides, the first one has now supposedly “found God”. Like that is going to work, especially when he is asking, “You don’t believe in God anymore?” Now why would I want to answer that one, probably triggering a discussion about religion with him, when I do not want anything to do with him, except for what concerns our sons?

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