030 ☼ Pawning my purity ring
What do I do with this haunted object?
At age thirteen, in my parents' backyard, I read a pledge of purity—before my friends and parents' friends, I promised to abstain from sex, drugs, and alcohol, in addition to committing my life to being a good Christian girl.
The ceremony, which had a name I can't recall, was extremely casual. It was the contemporary Christian version of a bat mitzvah, a rite of passage on a path to G-o-d. Cringing inside, I read aloud the letter whose template my parents' borrowed from another family who had thrown similar parties for their kids. I didn't want to do it but I didn't have a choice. I was gifted an expensive ring to mark myself as a pre-pubescent girl for the Lord. I still didn't even know how sex worked but at least now I was allowed to shave my legs.
My narrative had always been that I was a late bloomer, but the older I get the more I realize I was kept a late bloomer by the restrictions I lived under, impeding my natural development. In 6th grade, I submitted a question about the function of the clitoris during our supposedly anonymous and absolutely inefficient Sex Ed Hour, taught by my elderly 6th grade teacher. There was no Google or even Altavista at that time; no book in my vicinity with the answers. By controlling the flow of information available to me, it took me much longer to understand the function of sex and sexual health. I was later admonished during my parent-teacher conference—not about the clitoris—but because I had worn glitter on my eyelids. Too suggestive, she had said, too much like makeup. Too adult.
But being less traditional did not spare my spirit from the self-loathing and fear that emerges from purity culture, from being over-sexualized by adults around you. Self-restriction unleashed new ways for me to shame myself and though I'm still untangling the ideas, and in combination with genetics, I believe those ideas and practices set me up for addiction later in life.
Some therapists consider Religious Trauma Syndrome a form of C/PTSD; moving against your own indoctrinated mind feels uncomfortable at best, and results in acute trauma at its most potent. Breaking up with God is excruciating.
For now my promise ring sits in a ceramic catch-all with other precious objects, some flattened pennies and a wayward jewel, a stone. Its value is indecipherable to me, the ring itself is beat up, having worn it for most of my teen years and beyond. One of the stones is chipped, the prongs bent. We bought it at the mall and I never had it fixed. I don't remember when I took off the ring—there was no ceremony for that. It, like most changes, happened quietly, behind my own back.
If reading about purity culture hasn’t already made you sick, here’s a deeper, dirtier dive into the aftereffects of kissing dating goodbye and giving your virginity to God…my brain is still struggling with this string of words. Don’t forget, True Love Waits. ☼