Rumours circulated through the Mennonite church, that ‘Trudy is now living with a man…. I heard he is divorced…. (Insert gasp, followed by a mournful, ‘oh my!… We will pray for her!” I’m sure I inspired more than one, “Ach my! Really? She’s doing that now?” followed by the shaking of the head and clucking of the tongue. Some things in life are too predictable.)
The ‘concern’ would continue. “…His wife left him… now Trudy is there…” This would be greeted with, “Do you know if she’s sleeping with him?” And the response, “Well, I don’t know for sure, but they certainly aren’t ‘abstaining from all appearance of evil’ so it sure looks like it….”
…and so on…
Granted, some of that is my imagination creating a scene, based on past experience, and using the rumours that I heard were making rounds.
I was crushed. Why would they do that? Murray was gone a lot. Yes, his wife had left him. Yes I was there. But the things they insinuated, that they did not say directly, left everything up to the imagination. They were wrong, but it still hurt.
Since all sexual misconduct seemed to be the responsibility of women and we were to protect men—dress ‘just so’, walk just right, don’t hold your head to high, and be careful with the eyes—I’m sure they had me pegged as a ‘free for all’. I didn’t do ‘just so’ with almost anything. I was far too carefree to think like that.
Since the preacher’s son had made numerous attempts on me sexually, that could only mean one thing—that I was inviting it. In not so subtle ways, church leaders’ wives had tried fishing for information on me for years already, letting me know that I was the problem.
At one point one or two had approached my mother and recruited her to ask me if I had a crush on anyone and let me know I should not have crushes until 18. That was the church standard. (Feelings and crushes don’t follow church rules. They simply happen. Didn’t they know that? I tell my kids, “It’s normal. It’s all part of learning to know what kind of life partner you want, and connect well with.” Forget trying to make a religion out of it.) And I must not forget… I was to tone down my sparkly eyes. They seemed much too inviting, too interested in boys.
With that history, I knew what they were thinking. For all the ‘modesty’ in the world, it seemed all of life revolved around sex. The way we walked—neglecting to note that God made our hips to rotate differently than male hips—the way we talked, laughed, dressed and pretty much everything else; it was all women taking responsibility for men’s thoughts and actions. In doing so, we became over-sexualized in the minds of men, and probably in our own minds as well. In the most tragic and subtle of ways, life revolved around sex, and not a healthy concept of it.
The rumours made me feel vulnerable, not to Murray because I knew he would never touch me, but in a general way. That was a set up for failure.
Other rumours said I had cut my hair… now I was wearing jeans and ‘worldly clothes’… Poor Trudy was fast-tracking to hell and word spread quickly. When the news reached me, I was still wearing a white bonnet and cape dress, but shortly thereafter I did a total makeover. Might as well live up to expectations. Besides, I saw no need to accommodate the culture any longer.
I left Murray’s home not long after. The time blends together in my memory, but sometime in the summer of 1986, I moved out. I couldn’t take the rumours.
I moved to New Hamburg to care for an elderly couple, and began an 18 month rebellion that could fill a book–and I am working on it–so I won’t ‘tell all’ here. A superficial glimpse will have to do.
I was angry—though I never showed the anger. I hated religion. I hated God—whoever He was, if He existed at all. If He was what they made Him out to be, then I already understood hell and mental torment. Why would I want to spend eternity with Him? If Jesus had really died and only ‘sort of’ paid the price, and if religion had God’s blessing with their abuse, and their ‘sanctified gossip’, also known as the prayer chain, then how was God to be trusted?
A volatile, inconsistent, angry God, did not interest me much. My Dad had played that role all my life, and one dad like that was more than enough. Two was definitely too many.
I would make it on my own, do it my way, without Dad, without God.
…To be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/