Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weird Parents

carrie mother

Are your parents normal? Close to normal? Did they raise you in a "normal" way?

My parents have always been super religious and conservative (Dad was a preacher), and a bit old school in some of their methods. I knew they were total oddballs when I was a kid, and I used to wish/insist/hope that I had been adopted.

When we misbehaved, we were spanked. I think (?) a lot of parents spanked their kids in the 70's and 80's, even though it seems to be frowned upon nowadays. We were spanked by hand, and with wooden spoons, and we also got the belt from time to time. When we were REALLY bad and/or getting too old to be spanked, we got whacked with a razor strap. A razor strap is a huge, thick, tough piece of leather that you sharpen knives on. Getting hit with a razor strap hurts like holy hell. The end result of all of this discipline was that I eventually learned NOT TO GET CAUGHT. It made me sneaky. Very sneaky.

I was a picky eater, and so were my siblings. This drove my parents nuts. They could not STAND that we would sit at the dinner table and take too long to eat food that we didn't like. My parents quickly determined a way around this. They would set the timer on us and say something like YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES TO EAT ALL OF YOUR GREEN BEANS, OR ELSE. Then we would sit and push the food around the plate, most often with tears in our eyes as we watched the clock and tried to think of a way to eat the revolting food without barfing. And if all that food was not gobbled up by the time the buzzer went off, it was OVER. There was no defying my parents. Ever. You HAD to do what they said. HAD TO.

My parents encouraged us to read books, but they wanted us to read clean, wholesome stuff. That was fine for a while, but eventually the juicier written material sure seemed a lot more interesting. When I was about 13, I got a copy of Flowers in the Attic, and a copy of a Truly Tasteless Jokes. I was in heaven reading those books, but I knew my parents would kill me if they knew I had them. So I was a really smart and stealthy kid (insert sarcasm here), and I hid the books in between my mattresses. One day I came home from school and went to my room to start reading. I felt between the mattresses and the books were GONE. Unbeknownst to me, my Mom was standing behind me as I frantically looked for my books. When I finally turned around and saw her, she asked me if I was missing something. I was silent. She told me that she had found my books, and that she could not believe that I would read such filth. She looked a bit like the mother in the movie Carrie when she told me that she had BURNED MY BOOKS. BURNED THEM.

When it came to watching TV or movies, my parents censored everything. We were only allowed to watch one hour of television per day. We could watch pretty much anything with violence. Yay! So, we ended up watching a lot of cop shows and westerns (CHiPs, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Adam-12, Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies). We also watched Little House on the Prairie and the The Waltons. But we could not watch ANY TV or movie that had ANY kind of sexual activity. If actors kissed, the TV was turned off. If it LOOKED like there was even a hint of sexual tension, or any kind of likelihood that a couple might be inching their way towards the bedroom, the TV was turned off. If we were in a theater and such things happened, we had to walk out. We were not allowed to watch: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, Busom Buddies, Charlie's Angels, etc. Same thing with cursing. If there was any cursing whatsoever in a television show, or in a movie, the TV was turned off, or we left the theater. Needless to say, we didn't get to see much. (Side note: One of the most horrifying moments along these lines was going to see E.T. with my Mom. At one point in the movie, one character said the words "penis breath" and my Mom gasped aloud like she had just been punched in the stomach). ARGH.

When it came time for sex education in junior high, my parents would not let me attend the class. My mother wrote a letter to the school stating that this type of class was completely inappropriate for teenagers, and that she refused to allow me to attend this part of health class. GAH. So I had to sit in the library each day while my classmates learned about sex education. MORTIFYING.

I could go on and on, but I think you are most likely forming a picture of my childhood at this point. And you might just be imagining how horrified my parents would be of this blog. HOORAY FOR ANONYMITY! :)

I don't have kids, so I am not sure exactly how I would raise them. I'm pretty sure I would raise my kids a whole lot differently than I was raised, and I am also pretty sure that my kids would think I was a freak, too. :)

P.S. Yes, I love my parents, even though we have opposing views on so many things in life.


Melissa Blake said...

Awesome post!! xoxo

bananas. said...

This explains so much! Ha!

I only had one parent and she was pretty strict but not nearly as strict as yours. She was not uber religous or against us knowing about sexual stuff. As a matter of fact, my mom was very open minded but i did have my rebellious going to see a rated R movie against her will.

After she passed away, i had to deal with my super nosey aunt who snooped all the time which led me to being caught for everything i did wrong. She swears i was the worst kid but in reality i was no different than other kids except that i had lost my parent.

Iva said...

You are such an amazing writer. I know that seems silly to say, but a story like this is not all that easy to write and it flowed so well, and at times I laughed and at times I feel mortified for you. I felt that I was part of your history..thank you for sharing.

This must have been super hard on you..and your siblings. I can not believe she burned your books! Its amazing to me how many millions of different "parenting styles" there are. I think parents THINK they are doing the best for their children...but maybe they really are not. You never know, each kid takes to things differently. I am supper against spanking/hitting. I can't nor would I even judge others for it, because for some people its cultural or a true belief that they are doing the right thing...but its not something I believe in or agree with for how I am raising my children.

I know you love your parents regardless of everything...I am still sorry though for all of this. I think you turned out amazing no matter what...and I hope you know that.

Sher said...

Hon, I was raised with capital punishment too. The belt etc. My Mother was the religious fanatic. As I've said before, there is a hell; I was raised on it. I was allowed to watch the Wonderful World of Disney on the weekend. No TV during the week. But they never caught my books. So you clearly had it quite a bit rougher. But who is to say what is "normal"? We survive and hope to continue the race by doing things differently.

You just jogged some memories with this post. Awesome post!

Kellie said...

Wow. And I thought I had conservative parents! I got to watch the Love Boat. I remember when I couldn't sleep I'd go downstairs and my parents would be watching it and I'd get to watch it w/ them.

Laura Trevey said...

I cannot even focus on this post, b/c I still am drooling over Josh below!!

Happy Thursday to you :)
xoxo Laura

Farah said...

Ahahaha I know how that feels like. well most of it anyways except for the getting spanked part. And I am absolutely sure that my kids are gona think that I am a major freak too! LOL

~KS said...

Such a good post... love learning a bit more about you.
My parents were fairly normal... but of course, we had, and still have, our differences. My dad is pretty much my hero, but my mom... well, she can have her moments, shall we say.
Stop by my blog when you can... I left you a blog award!!


J, I've just posted 'parents' too!
I'm seeing mine soon~help!!
For sure I would raise my kids a whole lot differently than I was raised~ all i know being a parent could be the hardest job no?!


Burning books is better than bestiality in the back yard barn.

We Americans are highly competitive when it comes to complaining about our parents. It's an odd cultural trait. Maybe it your write it all down and have it published, your Mom could host another bonfire!


P.S. My mother is an Alien.
..and my father is a TV evangelist.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

That was incredible, droll! Don't you think being raised by crazy people gives you a keener eye out in the real world? Like you can spot BS right away? Worked for me!

WendyB said...

With decades of hindsight, I sometimes ask myself, "Why the hell did we all love that Flowers in the Attic book?"

Kaz said...

Blimey. Our upbringings couldn't have been more opposite.

My brother and I ruled the roost in our house.

I remember that when I didn't feel like going to school, I'd write 'I'm staying home today' on a post-it and stick it to my bedroom door. Mum and Dad would see it and one of them would ring the school to say I wasn't coming in.

We watched anything and everything. Charlies Angels was one of my particular faves.

When it came to 'the talk', Mum sat me down with a book and I told her I already knew it all. So she said ok then, and we left it at that. I didn't know it all. What I thought I knew was probably pretty wrong too.

I'm amazed that my brother and I turned out like we did. Both of us are considerate of others. We're neither selfish, nor spoiled. We work hard for the things we have. So that liberal upbringing seems to have worked.

Amazing really

Alisa said...

Wow, that is strict! Burning books and forbidding Sex Ed! I love the image of her gasping in E.T., I can only imagine her shock!

My parents were totally opposite... liberal in Berkeley. Free Love!

"If you are going to have sex, MAKE SURE you have protection!!" - Mom

"Cocaine isn't worth the money or trouble, don't bother." - Dad

For some reason, though they were very liberal, I didn't go wild. I was a very mild teenager. I mean, if your parents had done drugs, how cool could it be?

Caroline said...

Whoa... OK, but this makes total sense and it's why you push the boundaries...and that is awesome. My parent's were not strict at all...they let me smoke (but it had to be outside) My Mom bought me birth control and gave me the book "Our bodies Ourselves" when I was 10 years old. Crazy. So I guess my parents were pretty much the opposite of yours! But I had no one to go to when I needed support...they were just not there. My best friend's Mom was hard core Irish Catholic and strict as hell...and I so wish my parents were like that. Funny, huh?

Brooke said...

My parents are pretty normal. We're all really close. However, I did get spanked. I don't think it scarred me too much ;)

I can't believe your mom burned your books. I think my mom would have just been happy I was reading!

Char said...

I can totally relate to a lot of this - though mom never burned my books, she was horrified when she found me reading a bodice ripping novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss when I was 13 (hell, I didn't know what a throbbing shaft was really). She also routinely searched my purse and my room. One time she found a letter my then boyfriend wrote about how hard my life was. And it was hard...a terminally ill brother in the home, a baby brother that I practically was raising when I was 13. But, I later found how strong it made me (plus I'm insane about anyone going in my things without permission). What also put it in context was that my mom was so anti-sex because she had gotten pregnant with me so young and was snatched from the safe boarding school in Philly to live with her new husband (of course they got married) in a rural southern culture that she had no clue how to deal with. But it took many years to get that context...many years.

Christina In Wonderland said...

She burned your books! Holy shit I would have thrown a temper tantrum and killed somebody over that. That's some Ray Bradbury shit right there...

diane said...

I felt like crying for you when I was reading this. Memories flooded back of being forbidden to watch Dark Shadows, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched, because they were "demonic". I was not allowed to go to a school play that I was IN because I could not finish my dinner. I went anyway, and when I came home my mother beat the sh*t out of me.
I have a feeling that your situation was more extreme than mine, but I can sure relate a lot to what you went through.
I never forbid my kids to do anything. Instead, I tried my best to teach them self discipline and balance. They all survived.
I loved my parents very much, both of whom have passed on. I miss them every day.

Tracie said...

In the south during the 70's and 80's beating your children was encouraged. When I got too old to spank my mom would just slap me across the face whilst berating me. Good times.

I love that you wrote this. It lets people into the mystique that is drollgirl.

PS I'm not being snarky. You did a great job with it!

Bathwater said...

I was beat with a plastic baseball bat. We would hide those things all the time. I have not used one on my kids so I think I have managed a slight improvement.

But only a slight one.

Laura @ EdenRose said...

I think however your parents bring you up you always try and do a much better job when it comes to your kids. When deciding what to do with my daughter i think 'how would my mother have handled this?' and then i do the opposite. My mother was a freak with food too (still is actually) I think every day i would sit at the table crying becuase i didnt want to eat. I now have a daughter who is equally as fussy and the difference is she eats what she wants to eat within reason, as much as she wants and if she wants to eat just grapes all day i let her because she has free will and i would never want her to feel scared of meal times. My mum has a really scary face too so i always make sure when i look at my daughter i have a smile or if i'm cross about something i make a funny face so she doesnt ever feel scared of me. However, she will still probably grow up to think i'm crazy and want to do everything much better then i did :)

Liz said...

This makes me sad. It's one thing to protect your kids but a completely different thing altogether to shelter them to the point of embarassament. Like what,did they really think you'd go your whole life not knowing was ex was? Or cursing? Hahaha. Glad you turned out alright ;)

Miss Absinthe said...

Wow, we have a lot in common, no kidding... but my childhood still may be stranger than yours... ;)

My mom found my Totally Tasteless Jokes too!!! Made me copy bible verses for an afternoon, yeah.

And I'm still a picky eater! And yes, I know how to be sneaky...

And I'm not having kids, I'm still trying to raise myself right. :) But, I don't have any more contact with either parent, too too too toxic for words.

and two words... He Haw. yeah, the tv show.

Felicia said...

I loved this post!!! My parents are crazy too, but in a very different way. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up in a preacher's home!!!

Nice Girl said...

My dad made me return a Color Me Badd CD because of the song "I wanna sex you up," not because I would be ashamed of ever owning a Color Me Badd album 4 years and the rest of my life later, but because of the sexual references. Sheesh!

He never found my George Michael "Faith" album. Thank god! I would have been really pissed.

Parents are weird. Uber-religous parents are the weirdest.

Missy said...

My family was so functional is was dysfunctional!

Asylum Dolly said...

Jeez. You poor girl! I thought MY parents were strict! This must have been difficult to write. Kudos to you, because you certainly did a good job of it, AND you obviously have a LOT of strength of character to have turned out as YOU and not just a mini version of your folks.
It goes to show that forcing kids to try and think like us will NOT work. I've realised that because of the way I've turned out despite my fathers old fashioned "no sex before marriage/ a womans place is in the kitchen/the Man is Boss bullshit.Much to his chagrin I am now a highly undomestic unmarried mother with feminist tendancies :D
When it comes to my own daughter, I'm trying not impose any unreasonable expectations upon her. I just want her to be HAPPY.Obviously I'm hoping she wont get into drugs etc. etc. but as she's only 2 yrs old I don't wanna think about that yet!
Phew! This post brings up a lot of memories!
I wish i lived closer to you and could hang out with you in Real Life my drollski. I love how REAL you are, and how strong you are. *big hugs* Just because. <3

Kristin said...

My Mom was fairly strict but not to extremes. I would hope that if your parents ran across your blog they would appreciate how F*CKING fabulous you are! I wonder if they would like me and my potty mouth? ah ha ha

Clorivak said...

I can totally relate..I grew up in a very religious household as well..maybe not quite as bad considering your dad was a preacher but close. I had to hide Mad and Cracked magazine and tons of books like horror style novels, etc. I once borrowed a bunch of mad magazines from a friend and my mom threw them all out...they weren't even MINE...grrrrr...
I also was not allowed watching the simpsons..and would always sit up really close to the tv so i could watch it on low and be able to turn it real quick, cause we didn't have a remote. i would sneak and watch shows like melrose place and kids in the hall.
i loove my parents so much though and they have calmed down a lot since. they are a lot more open minded now...they were just really kinda too hardcore conservative there for awhile, probably just to protect our minds from worldy corruption. i can see why in some senses but would never be strict like that upon my kids.
anyhoo i could honestly go on and on but i'll shut up now. :)

abigail said...

my mom reads my blog, and that makes me really happy.

My in laws on the other hand... Oh even the thought makes me want to throw up.

Brown Girl said...

Wow, no wonder you are so cynical and weird. Ha, you know I mean that with love.

WE could not have been raised more differently. I grew up with a mom who thought she was my sister and a dad but only for a couple of years. I pretty much raised myself. And I think I turned out quite nice...if I don't say so myself.

blueviolet said...

I think it would be difficult to live under either very strict guidelines or the opposite with non-existent rules and guidelines. Either extreme would be hard on a child.

Girl Japan: April Marie said...

Hey there = ) I knew they were really conservative but being able to write about this must make you feel a sense of freedom, I can't relate to the religious aspect, well I can.. my dad was a Deacon at some point..but we still watched movies and they still had parties..

I grew up around faith.. never lost it.. I think I got hit three times... I'm a kid of the 80's too..

I remember MAD magazine.. haha

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Love your blog. :)

I put up with a crazy dad but he was nothing like your parents. Omg. I can't belive your mom burned your books. One hour of tv? What torture. You poor thing. That's insane.

My dad was just extremely over-protective until I eventually moved out last year (at 25). I was a college graduate and still had a 10:30 p.m. curfew. Blurg.

Elizabeth Marie said...

My childhood is too much of a mess to even get into...props to you for going there. Not that yours is a mess. You know what I mean.

I'm glad that no matter what, you and your parents share love. CHEESBALL. I didn't know how else to say it.

AND AND AND WTF was up with the Flowers in the Attic books?! WHY did we all love them? Incest much? OMG I shudder when I see them now and thank god I didn't have a brother that just would have been awkward.
heeheheehe time for bed I'm going crazy.

Alicia said...

holy crap lady, do we have the same dad??? but for real...i'm pretty sure it was upbringing like ours that cultivated a deep love for all things raunchy and hilarious...B.O.B....ha! and penis breath! HAHAHAHAA!! totally going to be my new saying....awesome! thanks for sharing all this...its so fun to get a glimpse into your life :) oh yeah...whenever you want to come over and play legos just say the word.

Sam said...

Hehehe! Takes me back that did: Flowers in the Attic!!! High five lady!! It was, in defence of your Ma, a totally twisted tale though! I might have possibly had the same response had I found my young one reading it! Totally wicked read dear Drollgirl!

Jill said...

No bullshit...I think your kids would think that you were in incredibly cool...I know my imaginary kids would feel the same way about me!

When I was in the 6th grade, my best friend and I would pretend that one of us had forgotten our science textbook at home so we could move our desks together and share a book. The reality was that we were reading a Judy Blume book hidden inside the science text. At one point, the characters in the book were fooling around and apparently the boy "ejaculated" (I'm getting really clinical, arent' I?!) My friend who was far more sheltered than I... yelled out during the a horrified voice...
"He PEED on her!"
The teacher looked on in horror and then we were promptly given detention. The joys of Catholic school!

Haute World said...

Whoa! I'm glad you didn't turn out to be a nut job! Isn't this the kind of profile that leads people to be serial killers? i.e. you end up killing every conservative couple out there, because they represent your parents? ;-) I'm sure they had their reasons though... sometimes it's just a matter of how they were raised and their view is more learned behavior than anything. I've always found my mom to be way more protective and controlling than my dad. Even though he's older than her, he's a lot more mellow and liberal.

Ela said...

I'm guessing you grew up with a fireplace...or was there a special pit for burning books? :)
Gosh, are any parents normal?
I had to eat all my food too. It sucked. Especially since I was not allowed to dish out my own food, which meant I always had more on my plate that I could even stomach. I couldn't leave the table till my plate was spotless, or crumbless(?) so many a time I would literally be at the table from lunch to dinner...yup still there from lunch while the table was being set for dinner. Then I'd have to eat again. BARF.
On the other hand, my parents thought the Simpsons were a hoot.
Sigh, longest comment ever. Sorry, drolly!

Trixie said...

Fantastic post as always!

I'm pretty lenient with TV because my son is brilliant and can separate fiction from reality. Plus he can do the voices of some of the best characters on inappropriate cartoons ever which is awesome!

On a side note, a family I knew raised their children to only watch G movies until they were 16 then they let them watch PG movies until they were 18.

All but one of them got pregnant right around 18 not one of them married.

K.Line said...

Religion is rough, man. I was also raised in a religious household - but not a conservative one such as yours. It was bad enough, trust me. BTW, Flowers in the Attic was the filthiest, best book ever. I did love it.

Heather Taylor said...

She burned your books?! No! The injustice!
My Mom did the same fucking thing with my sex education class! She thought 11 year olds were too young to learn about it and I had to sit outside of the classroom, in the hall, alone and try to pretend I was not silently dying of embarrassment. I also got spanked as a kid too which definitely led to some interesting adult side effects. BDSM is totally up my alley. They should have thought my punishments out better is all I have to say.

frenchie said...

my parents were quite strict but i was such a good/dorky kid that they never had to forbit me anything. or maybe i was just a bit pick!
anyway...we can't blame our upbringing for ever and we have to decide who we want to be and do it for oueselves.
you're smart, witty, funny, caring and a bit weird...just what i like!
good job!

anotherfishinthesea said...

haha my parents were like the slightly less extreme version of this... and i thought mine were bad!! we had to plug our ears, cover our eyes and hum during the sex scenes. now we joke about it though. and i definitely remember getting caught with some bad books. scnadal!!

sealaura said...

loved reading this. especially when you say how you turned to being a good sneak :) My parents thought I was a perfect angels and since I went to an all girls school they thought I was definitely a good girl. But i too was "sneaky" and his all my badness MUAAAAAAAWWW . Ok i wasn;t a complete nightmare but I am sure they would have had a breakdown of they caught me in the middle of some of my antics. great post, comme toujours.

Cheryl said...

That's so funny that you would include that picture out of all the pictures in the world in a post about your parents.

Your parents sound at once horrific and yet utterly hilarious. Or maybe it's the way you write about them, like a Davis Sedaris essay. And I loved how instead of conforming you just found better ways of being yourself. Bravo!

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i'm pretty lucky that my parents weren't too strict about what we read, watched on TV. they really trusted our judgment and we respected was a nice balance.
we *did* have our share of reading Truly Tasteless Jokes!! we also liked to sneak a peek of Benny Hill, but my parents drew the line there.
LOL - good times!
xoxo alison

Tom Tuttle from Tacoma said...


you know, i wish my parents were more strict with me then, i honestly do. but looking back, i think it's by God's grace that my parents' lenient methods hadn't pushed me to worst rebellion. i discovered only recently that the worst thing about being human is to be without freedom. i used to be curious and try to rationalise why things happened the way they did. i kinda have a theory about it but i'm not going into it. just look at the godly people in the bible. multitudes of lessons to be learnt yet people continue to use wrong methods. i don't mean to criticise your parents' methods but it's really possible for godly people to not get it right. Jesus had much to say about religious people.

Diana said...

Oh wow, I had no idea your parents were so extreme!
I know my parents didn't let me watch Married With Children and The Simpsons, not for religious reasons but they just thought it was inappropriate and not ready for me to ask questions about Al Bundy and his pervertedness or why he was still working at the mall at such an old age, haha.

That scary mom from Carrie is creeping me out, too! "DIRTY PILLOWS" Creepy!!

Phoenix said...

Damn, your parents were hardcore. I feel lucky in retrospect. I was raised in a very confusing and conflicting household: luckily I was raised in a somewhat liberal religion that emphasized unconditional love from a higher being (aka God) so I didn't have religion shoved down my throat - BUT, in complete and direct opposite of this, I was raised by an incredibly abusive father who hit us with his fists (he was a champion boxer), his belt, or the flat side of his hairbrush (that hurt like hell.) I was raised to be in total fear of what he would do any at time, and he could turn on a dime - one minute everything would be fine, the next minute my dad was gone and an incredibly violent stranger had taken his place.

As I grew up I realized it was the other way around - my dad's natural state was violence, and everything in between was him just holding it in.

But books were my salvation (as was my run-away-from-home savings) - thank god they never burned my books!

Hanako66 said...

my childhood was so different. my parents are, for the most part, very conservative politically, yet completely liberal with the movies, tv, music, and books that i could read growing up. i was never censored. i'm not sure if that's good or bad...there has to be a happy medium. they were strict as hell about me going out, so i too was way crafty and when i was little, i was spanked a time or two.

creative kerfuffle said...

wow. we also got spanked (sometimes even bare assed). i spanked my kids (as in used my hand on their diapered bottoms) when they were little, but i can't remember the last time i physically punished my kids. your parents would probably think i was the worst parent ever. my 10 and 13 year old watched rocky horror picture show last night, complete w/ the hubs singing and dancing.

couture designers said...

After reading this post and the comments I'm even more grateful to have been raised by a sassy liberal mom. Thanks mom for your trust and support.

Jennifer DeDonato said...

Where you ever made to do a Jericho March around a church? What about attending Healing and Baptism In The Holy Spirit services? I could tell you stories!