Sunday, February 06, 2011
Good Girls Did
I had several pairs of white gloves. I think they were reminders to us of our need to never sully our hands or ourselves with the dirt of the human animal's nature or we would be tainted, forever.
I have also been reading "The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women" by Jessica Valenti. Same Stuff, Different Day. Now they have "Purity Rings" and father-daughter "Purity Balls" and abstinence-only pledges. While young men are invited to make a pledge, it still seems the emphasis is on the girls.
That little bit of tissue carries a lot of importance in this Puritanical society of ours. I know for a fact that many "Good Girls" did have sex before marriage and, unfortunately, some of us got caught with an unplanned pregnancy. During the course of those pregnancies, most of us fell in love with our little passengers and the real pain was just around the corner.
I remember asking a guy why he hadn't called me back after I refused his advances on a date. He told me then (1964), that there were "two kinds of girls, the kind you married and the kind you f*****." It was his opinion, since I was no longer "pure," that I was of the latter variety. Needless to say, I did get married, I had children I was allowed to keep and raise, but it took me decades to believe in my own basic decency and worth again. I had received that hypocritical message once too often and the shame stuck with me for a long time.
To give the younger generations an even more graphic picture of the kind of horror that greeted our painful confessions of fertility, a dear friend's mother put her in a tub and made her douche with Lysol. I wonder if she thought she could wash any previous activity away with a disinfectant?
Patti Hawn was sent away to a relative. Many of us were warehoused in maternity homes. The goal, for our families, anyway, was a daughter returned to them "re-virginized" and purified. I so wanted to be loved by my family. I wanted them to see the good in me. I wanted a lot of things, including the love and loyalty of my older daughter's father. I got nothing and had my babies removed from me, to boot.
I'll be interested to read Hawn's story. I hope she found peace and self-worth in her journey. It's a tough road to travel and none of us intended to make the trip. But few of us managed to be the person our purification was supposed to produce. Tragedy, loss and ostracism at a young age can change the course of a person's life in a big way. Many of us are now in our 7th decade of life and have come to terms with something that no one from the recent generations can even begin to understand.
It's funny. I see young girls at the Mall and out and about elsewhere wearing clothes that we were only allowed to wear at home. We would have been expelled had we ventured to school in a pair of jeans. Of course, we would be either withdrawn from school or expelled once our pregnancy became known. Girls were the property of their fathers and then became the property of their husbands. It took a bit of bitching to gain what autonomy we now enjoy. Anyone who thinks we have it made just has to read Valenti's book to see that we still have a struggle to overcome the prevalence of unrealistic, patriarchal expectations. It would be a total tragedy to see any more progress made in the effort to undermine and obliterate Roe v. Wade.
It's scary that there are those that want to take us back there. I wonder if white gloves and dresses would come back into fashion? Have you ever tried to keep white gloves clean?
Clorox would make a fortune.