First Love

Many years ago, when I was 18 I married the man who saved my life. I loved him desperately at the time, thought I couldn’t draw breath without his smile. Because we were good together but we were also really bad together. He was ready to settle down and be a husband, be a man, but not really. I was still spinning, from all the pain that had been inflicted on me and that I had inflicted on myself. I didn’t know how to love with my whole heart and didn’t know how to trust anyone to love me. Then again, perhaps I knew enough not to trust.

Although we were married for five years, we did not spend the entire time living together, in fact spent less than two years under the same roof. When I was 23 we came together for a brief time because I wanted to see him, to know what I was walking away from, what I was giving away. My heart hurt then, I knew I still loved him but we couldn’t be together because I was ready to heal and grow up and he couldn’t be part of it. The baggage we had didn’t belong together and the life I wanted didn’t have a place for our history.

I had shared all my secrets with him; he knew the darkest parts of me. He let me cry them out in fury and fear. He never told me it would be ‘okay’, only that he wouldn’t let anyone else hurt me, ever. I believed him. Sometimes he told me I was strong, but he also told me I could be stronger that I could be more. He hated my weakness and my fear of the world, when I was 18 I was afraid sometimes even of him, mostly I was afraid he would fail me, or worse still that I would fail him.

We failed each other.

I have married since then of course, badly and well. I have loved since then, also badly and well. Each time I near a milestone, a birthday or an anniversary I wonder though what would have been had we been different, or in different places in our life. Was his love for me conditional on his need to save me? I often think this might have been a part of it, I was broken and he set about to fix me. Within our marriage, during our time together I didn’t grow stronger but dependent on his approval. My heart beat for him, his anger would send me in a tailspin. We had a normal marriage with normal arguments that couples have, but looking back I wonder now if this is true given how truly dysfunctional I was.

I was blind to his faults, seeing only his care for his extended family and me as the measure of the man he was. His care was strange though, did not make sense to anyone but him. I am grateful today but then I only wondered why he put his future, his wife and his life in danger. He sent me away, telling me nothing but that I must go that I was a risk he couldn’t afford. I left broken hearted with an uncertain future, rejected by the man who promised to love me and to save me.

My husband was an armed robber.

I had returned finally to my father’s house. I was across country when a phone call came from my sister-in-law, she told me my husband had been convicted of armed robbery along with two of his cousins. This was how he had been paying the bills, no one knew. Not for months, but he knew that soon they would be caught and this is why he sent his daughter and me away. He was sent to prison, I wrote him while he was there but he said he wanted me to file for divorce, to end our marriage that it would be best for me.

I didn’t do it. I would not do it until he was released.

Three years later, he was released from prison on parole. I had saved my money to return to Texas to see my now convict husband. I didn’t know what I thought of the situation. I still loved him in my heart but I had gotten stronger, I had started to dream of a new life. In our letters, we had shared our dreams and they weren’t the same.

I took the bus from Seattle to Austin; it gave me time to think. He met me at the bus station in Austin. He looked the same, his smile was still the same but his eyes were clouded with pain. It was a sad reconciliation; we stood in the middle of the station and held each other. We had both changed; we were different people with hopes and dreams that flowed in different directions. I didn’t have money back then for hotels, I stayed at his sister’s house and he was staying with his mother.

We sat up late that first night we talked until morning. I asked the question I never asked in my letters.


He couldn’t answer; maybe he just wouldn’t answer. We talked about hopes, dreams and the future. We talked about love. In the end, we talked about ending our marriage. We both cried. For three days, we talked and we cried. We hugged and we cried some more.

At the end of those three days, he took me back to the bus station and put me back on the bus to Seattle. He stood and watched me leave, he waved as the bus left the station; he didn’t smile just a small wave of his hand. We knew it was the end and I think we were both sad.

He knew me better than any person in my life ever had. I think he disappointed me worse than any person ever had. Now and then, I search for him, just to know that he is still on the earth. I think I would be sad to find out he was no longer alive. He was my first real love.

Secrets Define Us

Yesterday the dam broke. Something roared to the surface as well, something I have hinted at in past posts.
In my industry we have a saying, “close hold”. It means things that are not revealed, instead they are held closely to the chest. I have always treated my history as ‘close hold’; it is mine and mine alone. I will often hint at it, throw pebbles into passive lake waters to watch the ripple affect but my entire adult life I have treated most of my history as a dark secret. This ‘close hold’ in part has been a tribute to those who never deserved the gift of my silence. The other part has been the lesson learned so many years ago I have simply been unable to let it go the lesson of shame and fear.

I was told by one who should have loved me should have protected me, should have taught me to speak truth, chose instead to do no such thing. Instead they flung me into a vortex; an emotional black hole demanding my silence because the alternative was my own destruction and their shame, worse even than this would be the loss of esteem from the person I loved most in the world, I was convinced if I spoke up I would be spurned, found forever wanting. They convinced me, I was not believable, that even if I were to scream my pain and hurt, tell what was done to me no one would believe me. I was less than,I was …….




These were words thrown in anger at an eleven-year-old child. Words of power. Words of anger. Words burned into a soul still unformed and open. Words that fell like the Blacksmiths Pein on the soft Anvil that was my young and untrained heart.  Words that would set my feet on a path for years to come. Convinced of my lack I would unwind what little of my ego remained and offer my heart and my body to anyone who would validate my conviction of valueless. Unable to fight back, I would accept the brutality even at times welcome it as it corroborated what I knew about myself, what I had been told; that I was less than and undeserving of love or care.

All this, all the brutality. All the loss because my mother wanted to preserve her standing. She failed an eleven year old child who had been gang raped. She failed to report. She failed even to tell that child’s father. She demanded that child’s silence and even blamed that child for the brutality of that rape.

That child was me. I knew who raped me and I would have to attend school with my rapists for two years. Because no action was taken against them I continued to be emotionally and physically brutalized by my classmates. Slut was something whispered in the halls as I walked by, not for something I did but for something my mother failed to do.

My heart was damaged, my core was broken and I retreated to an internal life, one I don’t believe I have ever quite stopped living in. My pragmatism is my strength and my defense. My views on forgiveness were formed in 1968, though I couldn’t have defined them as clearly as I can today they haven’t changed very much.

Life journeys are odd things. A family member told me 15 years ago that no one else in the family could have survived the shooting as I did; no one else was strong enough. I thought at the time, damn I don’t think I would wish that strength on anyone. I wish I wasn’t that strong, I wish I didn’t have, had never had those life experiences that made me strong enough to survive that.

The Vortex of my History, National Geographic

Not all my parents have passed yet. Some have though, my biological and adopted fathers are both gone. The mother of my heart, my stepmother is gone. My biological mother and my adoptive mother are both still in this world.

My brother has said to me my mother did what she thought was best at the time, I will never accept this answer no person with a heart does what she did to a child thinking it was best for that child. We were both adopted but our experiences were very different. I have always wondered why, I don’t think we will ever know.

Cover your Head Woman

1 Corinthians 11:4-6

4Every man praying or prophesying and with anything down over his head dishonors his head, 5But every woman praying or prophesying with head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

Michael Marlow, Research and Interpretation with both Greek and Latin

I love the depictions of veiled women, also the Quaker and Amish women in their traditional caps; I have always loved watching the Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Church Ladies in their fanciful hats, each brilliant by design. We have forgotten why we covered our heads for church; it wasn’t just to make a statement, to enhance our outfits, to be stylish in our brilliant plumage. Indeed no, we women were commanded to cover our heads when we pray. In fact, for centuries Christian woman, like their Muslim and Jewish sisters veiled, that is covered their heads upon marriage to signify their subservience to their husband and through him to God.

Thanks to
Stellar example of a Wimple

The standard covering was a Wimple up to the fifteen century, which similar to the modern Hijab worn by Muslim women covered the head and neck. The Wimple was worn by married women of all social classes; it was replaced by materials that were more lightweight and less constrictive designs. If you look at art through the ages, the depictions of women both high and low born rarely will you see a woman that is not without a head covering, some utilitarian some fanciful but always present. Scarfs, veils and later wimples were worn by Jewish, Muslim and Christian women through the sixteenth century, because this was the religious standard, the commandment of God, the social custom. Later Christian women would adopt snoods, still later of course for many the customs would become more lax and only the most conservative would retain the custom of veiling.

Why is this important?

Since September 11, 2001, we in the West taken on another enemy, Islam. We have identified the enemy in the shrouds of their devotion to Allah, the outward indicators of their religious belief. We have demanded they unveil in our presence, in our nation and their own; the unveiling we claim is a sign of their freedom, though what it truly does, it alleviates our fear of ‘other’.


If only we could free the women of the veil, they would be more like us. Free them from their religious and cultural bondage; they would no longer be ‘other’. But wait, are they really? Really, ‘other’ that is, Mennonites, Amish and many other more traditional Anabaptist denominations still require women to cover their heads during worship services and their everyday lives. Other less strict Protestant denominations have no official stance; nevertheless, many women still choose to wear hats when attending church.

This takes us to the Catholic Church, where it all started for the Christians; Paul was quite clear in his letter to the Corinthians, either cover your head or shave your head to be shamed. How much more clearly can the rules be stated? He wasn’t making this up as he went along either, he was simply repeating what was handed down from previous laws, taken directly from the his understanding of the Torah (two examples: Genesis 20:16 and Genesis 24:65). Cannon Law, Vatican I of 1917, Cannon 1262 stated clearly that women must cover their head any time they are in the presence of the Holy Sacrament; this means in church, when making sick calls and most especially when approaching the alter. Vatican II did not overturn or in any way abrogate this rule, in fact Cannons 20 and 21, of 1983 specifically state no Cannon that is not specifically mentioned should be presumed to be changed.

What does this mean?

Courtesy Catholic News
Chaldean Catholic Women heading to mass

It means, Catholic women are still required by Cannon Law (that is the rules of the Church) to cover their heads! Why is this important? It means we are not so different. The fact is we are started from the same place, we execute differently. Our cultures have taken different paths, thus our societies have as well. We spend a great deal of time staring at our Muslim sisters, worried they are downtrodden and abused simply by the fact they wrap their hair in the Hajib each morning as a sign of faith in Allah (God) and to signify their respect for themselves and their families. Has anyone bothered to ask them if they want to be free?

Don’t misunderstand me; I have great compassion for the women currently in nations guilty of true abuses. I am not discussing those nations or those abuses. I am simply addressing women and men in the west who look askance at those who are ‘other’, because they are Muslim, because they are easily identified as such by their choice to veil. Perhaps we could see how they are not so different from us, how our history parallels in many ways, we could eliminate some of the fear, some of the ‘otherness’. Maybe, just maybe we can start to extend our hand in friendship instead, begin to heal the wounds created by ‘other’.

Chastity, Virtue or Burden


Chastity also known as the state of being Chaste.

For those who struggle with this somewhat archaic definition what we are really talking about here is abstaining from all forms of sexual intercourse. To put it simply NO SEX.

Let’s get this out of the way first both genders can be chaste. All the Abrahamic religions reserve sex for marriage only. Many of the Eastern religions include cloistered monasteries, vows of chastity and view marriage as sacred. There are varying degrees to which all of the different religions define, preach and act on Chastity within society.

It is a rare man today, who wants to date a chaste woman. It is a rare woman today who

makes it out of her teens a virgin. Do we have two-caste system, a double standard? Women who are datable and women who are marriageable? Haven’t we advanced beyond the Victorian Age where “good” women were presumed to have no sexual desires? It does make you wonder why we laud the man famous for his promiscuity while still demanding women retain their purity.

Slut, horrifying word when applied to young girls beginning to express themselves and define whom they will be in the future. Chastity stripped by acts of violence, does this count against you? I have often

Google Image

wondered whether rape and loss of that all-important proof of virginity is the only consideration for being unchaste. From the age of 11 to 15, my classmates hung Slut around my neck as a Scarlet Letter, not because I had earned it by my acts but because others stripped me of my Virginity in a brutal and senseless act and there was no adult to defend me.

Did this make me unchaste?

My peers defined me in my formative years my first marriage at 15, thereafter. Though my much older husband knew the circumstances of my lost hymen, he blamed me anyway. His anger resulted in closed fists and harsh words leaving scars I carry even today. That I entered our marriage lacking said proof of chastity, made me less in his eyes, made me untrustworthy. Despite the circumstances of my loss, I was branded with Slut across my forehead in neon red, on this he and my mother agreed though they had never met.

Am I a Slut because I am normal and have pursued normal sexual relationships whether within marriage or not? Does any society have the right to judge me, especially if I do not agree to the labeling based on a set of religious / societal rules I do not subscribe to? I am nearly in my mid-fifties; I have had more than one husband and certainly a couple of other partners worthy to share my bed over the course of my lifetime. My Chastity is comfortably compromised, or is it?

How should I really judge myself against what I consider an archaic definition of the Virtue of Chastity? I know that I am a woman integrity, I have remained true to the vows and promises I have made to each partner I have had over my lifetime. That I have taken a different route and chosen different paths no dispute. The struggle to define Chastity as a Virtue in terms that make sense to me, as a woman though, that remains an open question.

Having not concluded my search for answers, I will continue the pursuit of the Virtue of Chastity for the twenty-first century woman tomorrow.

Virtuous Women Hand to Hand

Merriam-Webster defines Virtue as follows:

1 a: conformity to a standard of right: morality b: a particular moral excellence; 2: plural: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy; 3: a beneficial quality or power of a thing 4: manly strength or courage, valor; 5: a commendable quality or trait: merit; 6: a capacity to act: potency; 7: chastity especially in a woman

  I especially like number 1 because it is so ambiguous. A woman of virtue conforms to an established standard of right.

My question as I contemplated the definitions is who defines right for the rest of us? Am I only virtuous if I conform to the vague standard that others establish? What should I do if I believe these standards are counter to my best interest as a woman? Do I simply ignore them and live my life in my own best interest, outside of social boundaries? Should I silently allow others to cast aspersions on me because I do not agree to their definitions?

Is there a super-secret list somewhere?

I wondered about this and so went looking, my curiosity was aroused, what I found was enlightening.  Originally, there were four Virtues Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance these came down to us from Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of Christianity, they were expanded to including four Cardinal and three theological virtues to offset the seven deadly sins.

  1. Chastity <=> Lust
  2. Temperance <=> Gluttony
  3. Charity <=> Greed
  4. Diligence <=> Sloth
  5. Patience <=> Wrath
  6. Kindness <=> Envy
  7. Humility <=> Pride

After looking at the list, I searched for how these might directly apply to women today. The search was long and aggravating, all to often running into the historical references and more general terms, I even found reference to more modern video games. Eventually, what I found was women and the application of any virtue usually came back to Chastity, Obedience (huh?) and other strange manipulations to fit expectations of how women should behave within the context of religious characterizations. Historically, virtue was intended to carry women unerringly from their father’s house to their husband’s house to widowhood.


My Fathers House

Medieval Practice of Giving away the Bride

All Images Google

Widows Weeds

This took my mind down the path of what about?

What about the duality of expectations between the genders, something that despite all the other social / economic and cultural changes remains consistently set in our minds. Why must women be chaste yet men need not be. Okay, let me rephrase the question, why is it that if women are unchaste there are distinct classifications (slut, bitch, whore, ho) which are lightly to extremely uncomplimentary, while if men pursue an unchaste lifestyle they do not qualify as anything other than STUD, with a wink and a nod.

Why is obey still an option in wedding vows? Sometimes not an option at all but a mandatory part of the vows a woman must recite. Would most men consider including this particular piece in their vows to their future wives? Somehow I suspect the answer is no. I am aware many women choose not to include it in theirs, but the fact remains it is still there. There are even national figures, women who stand in the spotlight of our political debate today who say  with pride they ‘obey’ their husbands and follow they ‘commandments’ in things as crucial as career choice and body privacy.

I am a woman of compassion. I have merit in my own right for my accomplishments. I have the capacity to act for good or ill and try always to act for good. While I do not have manly strength, I have strength, courage and valor. I am a survivor; truly, I am a victor over circumstances that might have left others bereft of joy in life. I know many other women like me; other women who have managed to thrive in a society that does not often look upon us with gladness or welcome us warmly to the hearth fire.

Women and virtue, are these still relevant today? I think they are but perhaps not in their original meanings. How do we then define the virtues so they are easily understood and capture the essence of who and what we are.

I struggled with the direction of this blog for the past week. This is the direction I am taking for now. I hope you follow and offer your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: