People criticize me for being too good, and for being too bad, and for everything in between.
They don’t understand that my definition of good includes a pinch of what they call bad.
I’m a preacher’s kid twice over. Daddy’s grandfather and two uncles and cousin and many more are or were preachers, and so is he. Mom’s parents were hippies who converted soon after she was conceived when they were nineteen. Her mom became a kind of traveling preacher. Mom followed a more traditional route, but she’s as radical as you get. She fills the church halls with scandal mongers every Sunday.
I’m not sure what birth control my parents use. It’s too awkward to ask. Basically, “Mommy, was I a mistake?” If it’s like everything else they do, it’s natural. And it must not work too well, either, because there are six of us kids.
I’m seventeen. I stayed back a year school. I’m a second daughter and a rebel, and kind of a Christian too. Not that any of those old ladies in our church would want to be associated with me, but that’s their problem.
Around my parents it’s hard to be anything but a Christian. Not that they force you or anything. They just water you and let you grow up wild like a plant. My older brother Jonah left the faith to go be a boring student at a more boring school. Our family is so rebellious the only way to rebel against it is to go be normal.
Today Mom and Dad wake us up by arguing. I love it when they argue. It’s really just philosophical debate, but as they tell me all the time it’s also life and death and more important than our daily crap.
We’re also coerced into being intellectual. I probably could call the police on our parents and it would make national news. “Six children discovered running wild in Northern Wisconsin.” “Horrifically Independent
children left to suffer alone and roam about half naked.” “Children force-fed religious propaganda and sheltered from real world.” “Extremist religious cult unmasked for brainwashing minors.”
And it’s not like that at all. We have freedom because we have been taught and trained for it. We go to public school at certain ages. I love my parents, but I don’t blindly follow in their footsteps without searching the world out myself. Neither do I react to their pressure by going in the opposite direction. If we all did that our children would swing right back to our parents’ mode and nothing would ever change. Just because the past isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.
I have an awful confession to make. I swear. (I hear your sniggers.) Ok, but imagine you’re a preachers’ kid passing the heavy communion tray and you drop it on your hippie-sandaled foot. You let out a word, right? It honestly wasn’t that bad a word and I could make all kinds of excuses. The point is, it was bad. All those traditionalists are nice and sweet and reverent, but they don’t understand nuance. They don’t understand public school because their hypocrite grandchildren don’t tell them.
Hey. At least I’m not a hypocrite. And at least I’m not stuck up about myself. And at least I’m not stuck up about being humble. Ha.
I have a boyfriend who loves me with all his heart. Right now I hate him. He didn’t do anything wrong, which is kind of the point.
I call him. He is a real person, by the way. Not just one of those Ken dolls whose only purpose is to woo Barbie. Believe me, I’m no Barbie.
He answers first ring, already panting like a puppy dog. “Hi Shell?”
That’s me. I smile just to hear his cute, deep voice. “Hey Donovan. How are you doing?”
“I slept okay. How bout you? How was your night?” He has this laughable thing where his voice gets low and he tries to be sexy. He’s not a Christian, but he’s not the kind of guy you could disapprove of either. His rebellion is too pathetic.
“It was fine. Look, you wanna do something today?”
“Like what?” His voice is so eager I roll my eyes.
“Like eat,” I reply. Like, duh. He’s known me long enough to know I don’t want sex with him bad enough to diss myself and everyone I love. And still he keeps being so stupid suggestive! In my mind I add, “Oh, and by the way. Let’s break up. Why? Well, because I hate you.” But I don’t because I pity him. He’s a little puppy dog I don’t want near me, but can’t stand to put out in the rain.
Besides, he’s taught me a lot. Some of it I didn’t want to learn. But I can’t help being grateful.
He chatters on a bit. We decide to go out for frozen yogurt in town. Thankfully he doesn’t say “I love you” so I don’t have to say it back. I hang up.
This is my relationship right now. I hold onto it for the sake of having a relationship. And it’s not like I have any better options.
This is my life, and unlike a story, I don't know how it ends. I haven't lived it yet.