I was a book worm from the time I was a little girl. When I was 5, my favorite movie was Sireno De Bergerac...my favorite record was Swan Lake...I never wanted to be beautiful I always wanted to be smart.
When I was in 5th grade, my parents took me out of public school and enrolled me in Massapequa Christian Academy. It was literally a one room school house.
They'd taken long pieces of rough wood attached it to the wall with some chain link attached to each end so you could open it in one motion, slide some dividers between each student and instant presto chango you had a classroom. For 8 hours each day, you literally stared at a wall.
They used the Pace system - you have to complete 20 small booklets for each course in a year. There was no teacher. You'd read through the material (from alegebra to literature there was a Bible message included) and score your own tests at the public scoring station in the middle of the room. Scoring your work next to other students was the only real social interation we ever experienced.
Plenty of us got caught cheating. It wasn't so much about cheating as not wanting to waste time marking off your corrections, going back to your divider/wall desk, changing your answers and regrading your test. And you could never ask any questions. There were several "teachers" on hand (usually the deacon/elder/pastor wives) if you had trouble but there were no formal lectures. And they didn't know that much - by the time I was 12 I was tutoring the younger students.
It was the first time in my life that I experienced true misogyny. Girls were to be seen and not heard. The boys had recess where they played sports. We weren't alowed to play too. Girls and boys were always separated. My brother took German even though he had a learning disablity...they gave me shorthand. You get the picture.
Every morning we had to stand during the opening sermon. It ran about 30-40 minutes. And you couldn't shift your weight from one foot to another - you hand to stand up straight...feet together. Students fainted and dropped like flies. Once I was getting over a stomach virus and they sent me back to school a day too early. It probably would have been fine if I could sit but standing for 40 mintues - I threw up all over myself and was mortified. Mortification over normal body processes was a continuing theme in my life.
Once day during "chapel" - our all day church service on Thursdays - Pastor Max prophesied. He had a vision of my brother as a captain of industry and me as a mother with several little ones crowded around me. I gasped. They were letting me know that boys make money girls changed diapers.
There was some sort of doctrinal dispute between my parents and the church. At 14, my parents took us out of Massapequa Christian Academy. My brother and sister were sent to public school and I was taught at home.
Again, I was learning under the Pace system. My mom spent most days on the phone. I freaked out twice. With tears in my eyes, I told my mom that I didn't know basic information - I didn't know what a cell was or where Corsica was on the map. She couldn't understand why I cared.
When you're in a religious cult, they always tell you that one day "they'll come for you". I remember watching Waco on the news and feeling a chill run down my spine. That could have been me. I hoped and prayed that they'd come for me and one day they did.
My father taught at the local high school. I was the first home taught student in the district. One day an undercover police car and two social workers showed up at my house during the school day. I remember looking at the window thinking, "yes, it's finally happening".
They took me to the local high school where my dad taught and had me sit through a battery of tests. The hardest test was English Literature. I wasn't allowed to read non-Christan books so I had no idea who Tom Sawyer was but I'm a good test taker. I could surmise from the question what the answer was - in my mind they were leading questions.
I went home and waited for the results. Several days later I was called back to the local high school and assigned a guidance counselor. She opened our meeting with "you scored post-college on all your exams. You're a genius". I took a deep breath. I felt like Socrates - you don't know you're intelligent until you go down to the village square and interact with your peers. I had no peers. I didn't know if I was smart or stupid. Now I did.
She gave me the option of moving into foster care. I declined - I was too young and too attractive. My parents were a bit off kilter but they were kind and they loved me. God knows what I'd experience anywhere else.
I needed a way to prove that I wasn't socially retarded - that I could get good grades (none of my grades at home meant anything on a high school transcript) so I could get into college. She told me that the local university had a young scholars program. If I passed the exam, I could start taking college courses next term.
My parents forbid me to go to high school but they let me go straight to college. My mom would drop me off at Stony Brook University in the morning and pick me up in the late afternoon. I was free. I couldn't believe it. I remember hearing someone talk about "Jimi Hendrix"...I went straight to the library and asked the librarian where I could find a book by Jimi Hendrix. She laughed and pointed me in the direction of the audio/visual section.
I sat there on the floor with headphones over my ears listening to Purple Haze for the first time. It blew my fucking mind. I'd always known that there was something more out there for me and I'd found it.
Getting an education was an uphill battle. I felt isolated at times because I didn't understand what anyone was talking about. We didn't have a tv or a radio. I never went to school. Who the fuck was Faulkner? What was the Brady Bunch? In many ways, I think it's what propelled me into law school: I wanted to know how the system worked. I wanted to know how to protect myself.
When you're parents are in a religious cult, you have to let go of alot. I was a virtuoso on the clarinet - when I went to Massapequa Christian Academy they stopped my music lessons because girls didn't need to learn such things. Puberty was tough. Once you became sexually mature, it was like you did something wrong and should be punished. It was all your fault. These were my feminist beginnings.
I've always resented my parents for isolating me and keeping me locked away in an ivory tower. For some reason, I was singled out. I was the black sheep. There was a part of me that could never forgive them.
Then a few months ago I was walking Lola at the park. I saw a beautiful little girl with her family. Everyone in the park was looking at her...she was magnetic and she was 5-6 years old at best. Suddenly, this peace passed over me. My parents weren't trying to bury me alive they were trying to protect me. They had no idea how to handle an attractive precocious little girl. So they did the best they could - it was time for me to let go of the pain.
If it wasn't for my childhood, I wouldn't be here at D&R. I would be happily married to my doctor husband with 2.3 children, a summer house, and great credit. Like it or not my parents set me on this path and for that I am eternally grateful.