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But when I was 17, my father contracted that religious affliction that is so common in the South… a theological disagreement turned into a “heaven or hell” type of issue, and so, following my father’s lead (and what else, exactly, would we follow? After all, he was the Head of the Household) our family, along with several other families, left the church is a flurry of righteous indignation.

It seemed like a good decision initially – at that time, anything that Mama and Daddy said would have seemed like a good decision – but as time wore on, we began to see the consequences of our now churchless-lives. Because my father had such strict standards and thoughts and beliefs and theories, there were pretty much no other church options in our area. And so our church-going became odder and odder… We began going to hotel meeting rooms, the houses of other religious rebels, other states – there was no limit to how far we would go for a gathering with “those of like faith.”

Meanwhile, however, I turned 18 and started pushing the proverbial envelope. I started dating a Bap.tist boy (oh, jump back) which was completely not ok, as it was the precursor to being “unequally yoked.” Daddy threatened to kick me out of the house, Mama dared him to make good on his threat, and I continued living with my parents in what was becoming an increasingly embattled household. I then began systematically pushing the envelope… trimming my hair, shortening my skirts, attending “worldly” events that I had always been discouraged from, such as high school football and basketball games. One of my clearest memories of that time was going to Virginia to visit my grandparents, and overhearing a conversation between my father and grandfather (one of very few – I could count on my fingers the total number of conversations that Grandpa and Daddy have had in 31 years).

Grandpa to Daddy, in a low, stricken tone: “Why did she do it? Why?!?”
Daddy replied: “I don’t know. I just don’t know. I tried to raise her right.”
Grandpa, with his head in his hands: “I’ve never been so disappointed.”

Punch in the gut. Yep. By the time I graduated high school (as the valedictorian – yes, I know, a true disappointment) and went off to college, my father and I were barely speaking, and I couldn’t wait to escape.

At Lander, I continued proving to myself and Daddy that I was ok, that I wasn’t hell-bound. I joined a sorority with Christian overtones, and immediately was elected to office. I became a Presidential Ambassador, one of the chosen representatives of the college. I carried a 4.0 while joining and joining and joining, filling my schedule until there was no time left. I became too busy to come home, too busy for family picnics, too busy for my loyal Bap.tist boyfriend. So my senior year, I became single, President of my sorority, Homecoming Queen, and the favorite booty-call of a beautiful, irresistible, Brazilian soccer player.

My college senior year was a turning point. With the advent of the Brazilian, I completely severed any semblance of a congenial relationship with my parents, and began a two-year traipse through the land of debauchery with my new best friend, LeAnne of the magnetic personality and a background of religious oddity to match my own. Together, we took the clubs by storm, using random boys to stroke our egos and tell us we were pretty, to drown out the voices of our consciences.

It took several months after starting grad school and breaking it off with the Brazilian to repair the damage to my relationship with my mother. She finally forgave me for my forage into sinning territory when I started bringing Bobby around… She loved her Bobby-Wobby without question.

I’ve completely gone off on a tangent, I believe. Huh.

I do need to state at this juncture, however, that although I felt religiously abused at certain times of my upbringing, and I didn’t understand or particularly like some of the decisions that my parents made, I wouldn’t change anything. At the risk of falling into a cliche, my upbringing made me who I am… quirky, stubborn as hell, and maybe too capable of thinking for myself.