Following a time of prayer, the preachers, seated in a semi-circle around me, presented the ‘sins’ and charges against me. They were kind enough—I can’t fault them for coming off as if their intent was to destroy me. Elmer, the bishop who had supported our family through numerous occasions of Dad’s violence, took the lead. The others sat, mostly in silent support.
In spite of all things, I knew Elmer genuinely cared for me, for our family. I have never questioned that, and always remember him and his wife Ella, with fondness and appreciation. Whether that added to the confusion, or kept me from completely self-destructing at the time, I am not sure. Elmer spoke with a kind, fatherly tone…
Was it true that I listened to Gospel Echoes cassettes (yes, I’m dating myself) and did I have other instrumental music? Was it true that I watched TV? Why did I refuse to come home for weekends? And the kicker: they had observed my hair looked darker and wondered if I had dyed it a darker colour.
I was guilty as charged on the first two and answered honestly. And I didn’t want to go home because of abuse and violence, but I didn’t say that. And the last question was way off. I had not dyed my hair.
The irony in this was that I, too, had observed the change in my hair and it was a big deal. Coming from a family of sixteen kids—8 boys and 8 girls—I was the only one with blue eyes and blonde hair. And I was the most blonde of all those with light hair, and had the bluest eyes. The runner-up was one older brother who had grey-blue eyes. The rest had brown, hazel or green. To have the distinction of being the only ‘true blonde’ with sky-blue eyes, in a family so large, was not something I wanted to lose. As my hair gradually turned a dark, mousy blonde with reddish hints, I felt as though I was losing my distinctive identity.
I knew that dying my hair was ‘sin’ and going to a hairdresser would cost me church membership, so that was not an option. Instead, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Only weeks prior to that meeting, while Grandma Katie was away, I decided to attempt fixing the colour.
I remembered how my mother would pour Bleach on clothes and turn them white again. I wondered if maybe… just maybe… it would have the same effect on hair. I scoped out the laundry room and, sure enough, Katie had some. Grabbing towels and a bottle of Bleach, I set up my work station and made sure warm water was running, ready to rinse my hair. Tipping my head far enough over the tub to not spill bleach on my face or clothes, I began to pour. Instantly my hair clumped together. I can’t describe it, exactly, but I thought my hair was melting. I had watched when my mother made lye soap and lye splashed on cloth, eating a hole into it. I was certain this was happening to my hair.
I set to work rinsing, shampooing, rinsing, shampooing and rinsing again, until I was confident that all residue was washed out. To my disappointment, my hair colour remained a mousy blonde with reddish hints. Reluctantly, I resigned myself to my lot in life and this loss of identity.
When I told the preachers that I had noticed my hair growing darker, and that I wished it was more blonde, they doubted me. Somewhat patronizingly, one of them asked, “Now, Trudy, are you sure you did not dye your hair?”
Why they doubted me, I do not know. I had never been anything less than forthright and honest with them. I had lied once in school and, on my own initiative returned to the teacher to confess. Why would I lie now?
How I wanted to let them in on my little secret, but that would have cost me for sure, so I simply said again that I did not dye my hair. They asked another time or two before finally saying that they struggled to believe me but they would leave it between me and God. I was good with that.
God already knew the truth…. I wondered what He thought… of my little experiment… of the preachers and their accusations… of me…
Did any of it make any difference to Him at all?
….To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/