“Not a nice girl”: Episode 10


According to my mother, anyone who looked modern “did not look like a nice girl.” That was a grave insult.

Here I am, not being a nice girl in Wonderful Maxi Skirt #2. (I also get not-nice-girl cred because of the tank top.) These two skirts have immediately become some of my favorite things to wear, all time, ever.


That seems like a good lead-in to the next portion of the story.

During these years of Fellowship of the Ring church, anything I tried to do to be pretty was immediately shot down. When I tried to wear high-heeled boots, they “made me look too tall.” I drew mascara, lipstick and blush on a photo of myself once, to see how it would look, and mom found it and said it made me look like “not a nice girl.” I was not allowed to wear underwire bras because “they cause breast cancer.” Deodorant was also discouraged “because it causes breast cancer.” Perfume “has chemicals in it.” I wore big baggy hand-me-downs from mom (underwear too) and did not shave my legs. All my skirts were very long though so it was all right.

I often told myself that I was much better than all the other worldly girls who tried to be pretty. Mom did get me a tube of cover-up for my acne when I was 15. Unfortunately no one showed me how to use it properly and in most pictures you can see my face covered with random white blotches. My nose was often completely white which looked bizarre.

I picked a lot at my acne, which made it worse. It was somehow relaxing, though.

ETA: Mom also got me some organic acne products called Arbonne when I was about 15 – we saw them at a booth at a homeschool convention. They were very expensive, and they smelled like peppermint, which was nice. I washed my face with them religiously but they never really did anything, so I eventually just stopped.

I went to youth orchestra and Dad organized a weekly speech club for homeschoolers which met at the house, but I couldn’t make any friends. I was too shy. The other homeschool moms always complimented Mom on what a sweet, good, perfect girl I was. She knew better, though – she told me all the time how my moods made her life miserable. But we kept that in the family because it was important that everybody else thought I was perfect.

School was kind of dicey. I supposedly taught myself algebra which means to this day, I don’t understand any algebra. Mom was really great with homeschool up through junior high, but then it kind of fell apart. I took French online with a really good teacher, though, and I read all the classics and wrote lots and lots of essays. The words came in handy later. I was always writing something or drawing something. My brothers and I were extremely creative kids.

The summer I was 14 or 15, Mom took me to a naturopathic quack lady called Linda Sinkule who did this technique called “Rolfing” that was supposed to fix my crooked back. (I’m not even going to change her name because I hope somebody else finds this and doesn’t go to her.) It was incredibly painful. We would drive an hour to Ann Arbor every week and go into her house, which smelled weird like incense, I would strip to my underwear and lie on her table, and for what seemed like hours she would give me this incredibly painful combination of back cracking and deep tissue massage. I used to cry at the beginning and she’d say “that’s good. We’re accessing a very deep area.” Then I would sort of space out while she and mom talked. (Mom asked Linda not to turn on her music during the session because it was “New Age” music.) Afterwards I would stand in my white granny underwear against the door and Linda Sinkule took a Polaroid at the end of every session to see if we had made any progress. So somewhere, there are some Polaroids of me in granny underwear. (I am pretty sure my back is still crooked, also.)

We worked at The Cracks of Doom Gardens a couple of days a week for several summers. This was a collective organic vegetable farm where we helped them move rocks and pick potato bugs, and in return, we got to take home a lot of REALLY strange vegetables at the end of the day. We got bok choi and arugula and tomatillos and chard, and some kind of bitter purple lettuce that tasted like paint. I used to wear my long, loose plaid pajama capris to work there, because they were the closest thing I had to normal summer clothes. We kept on getting illegal raw milk from Lotho Sackville-Baggins the raw milk guy also. Eventually the police got him and his farm was shut down.

Two of my least favorite things that we had to eat during this time were kefir and kombucha. Kefir was like very, very sour fermented yogurt – it was one of the magic foods that prevented natives from developing osteoporosis. We ate kefir blended into extremely sour, foul-smelling shakes with bananas and frozen strawberries. Kombucha was a big round fungus thing that lived in a bowl, like an alien pancake. (It kept getting bigger and bigger and having to live in a different bowl.) It periodically produced a fermented-smelling tea, which we would drink in big glasses with ice. I was never sure whether kombucha was alive or not, or what it was exactly, and I did not like the tea.

I was in a homeschool speech competition (NCFCA) and got as far as the semifinals. My speech was about why the Standard American Diet was S.A.D., and why we should eat organic organ meats and fermented butter instead. Mom would not allow me to do my own Internet research for this speech, so she researched and printed off hundreds of website pages which she handed to me as they rolled out of the printer. I sat on the floor waiting for more pages to come out of the printer. If I tried to get up and look at the computer screen she would cover it with her hand.

Baby Q, our seventh and last child, was born at home, with a midwife and a doula. Mom wanted a natural childbirth with no medicines or chemicals and I was scared to death that she’d die, or the baby would die or something. If Q had been a boy we would have had to get a rabbi to circumcise her because those are the only people who do it outside doctors’ offices. None of the girls have had any immunizations, which I don’t know if it’s good or it’s bad, but it’s worth noting.

Dad was “ordained.” I put it in quotes because he had never graduated from seminary. He scrounged around and found a lot of old seminary professors and pastors who had known him in college, and then we all went for this creepy laying on of hands ceremony in one of the guys’ dim church on a weekday afternoon.

The living room church spilled over into various other facilities. The 4H building rec room. An outside picnic shelter. The creepy basement of the Masonic Lodge. A kindergarten classroom with little teeny tiny chairs. Finally we rented the Seventh-Day Adventist church building in Fenton, Michigan – they had it on Saturday, we had it on Sunday. That worked pretty much OK. They had many Seventh Day Adventist tracts in their tract rack and I enjoyed reading the tracts and feeling superior to the Seventh Day Adventists because WE knew better than to believe in soul sleep.

To be continued!


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