The Fascinating History of the Krewes of Mardi Gras

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from a Harry Parsons, who I am excited to have posting this weekend/upcoming week to talk about Mardi Gras history and tradition, right at the height of the season. Harry is the content manager at Arcadia Publishing. While he spends most of his time being a bookworm, he enjoys anything outdoors especially if it involves the water.

The Fascinating History of the Krewes of Mardi Gras

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Can Mardi Gras really be considered complete without a parade that pulls out all the stops? After all, the colorful floats, glittering beads, and costumed revelers we’re all familiar with are a huge part of what set the tone of a truly unforgettable Mardi Gras celebration. Have you ever wondered who those revelers are or how they came to play that particular role in the festivities?

They aren’t just average, everyday folks or people who simply got lucky. They’re members of a Mardi Gras krewe, part of a time-honored tradition that has been around as long as Mardi Gras itself. Here we’ll take a closer look at the history and tradition of the krewes of Mardi Gras, as well as shine on a spotlight on some of the best known and most popular examples.

What Exactly Is a Krewe?

The term “krewe” refers to any organization or group of revelers that have come together to sponsor or otherwise host a Mardi Gras ball, parade, or another event. New Orleans sees about 60 of these events every year, each one of which exists because of a krewe. As far as how many krewes there are, New Orleans literally boasts multiple dozens of them with more springing up all the time. Each one represents a different sector of New Orleans society.

As is the case with most groups or organizations, each krewe also has its own set of rules, traditions, and values that bind them together. However, there are some similarities they all share. For instance, each krewe must host a parade that includes bands, floats, or both. Its members must also host a ball. Most importantly of all, Mardi Gras must be the primary theme and purpose for both. Each one of the Mardi Gras krewes is part of a larger organization called the Krewe of Krewes that was first formed in 1979.

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The Origins of the Mardi Gras Krewes

As touched on above, the Mardi Gras krewes are as old as Mardi Gras itself, and you quite simply don’t have one without the other. The origins of Mardi Gras itself go all the way back to medieval Europe.

As a tradition, it would spread through Rome and Venice before eventually reaching the French House of the Bourbons. It was here that the tradition of the “Boeuf Gras” (or “fatted calf”) would take root. That tradition would follow French settlers to America, setting the stage for the Mardi Gras we know and love today.

March 2, 1699 would see the explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrive at a particular 60-mile patch of land located just south of New Orleans. That year, March 2nd was also the eve of Mardi Gras, so the land was dubbed “Pointe du Mardi Gras” in acknowledgment of that fact. Bienville would also found the settlement then known as “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (now Mobile) in 1702. The following year, that settlement would also host the very first official Mardi Gras celebration here in America.

A secret society known as the Masque de la Mobile, an early forerunner of the modern day krewes, was established in 1704. Although the Masque would disband in 1709, other similar groups would spring up to take its place. In 1718, New Orleans would officially be founded, a place where Mardi Gras was openly celebrated. In the 1740s the first Mardi Gras society balls would be established. By the 1830s, Mardi Gras would also be celebrated with the colorful parades and street processions we know and love today.

In 1856, six young natives hailing from Mobile would form the Mistick Krewe of Comus, named for John Milton’s hero of the same name. Comus would go down in history as the first official Mardi Gras krewe, a group that lent mystery and magic to the festivities with masked balls, glittering floats, and other celebratory events.

In 1870, the second krewe – known as the Twelfth Night Revelers – would appear with many others to follow over the years to come. Today, there are more than 60 active krewes and counting.

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A Look at a Few Famous Krewes

Many krewes are active throughout the year, and all have their own unique approaches to Mardi Gras. The following are just a few well-known examples:

Krewe of Cosmos-Calcasieu Parish’s First Merrymakers

Formed in 1951, this krewe was originally sponsored by the Fifty’s Club. Its first members were also all Fourth Degree Members of the Knights of Columbus. Today, the Krewe of Cosmos boasts 220 members, as well as a waiting list filled with hopeful potential members.

The group remains active throughout the calendar year and is well known for visiting nursing homes, as well as hosting a variety of membership events. They include but are not limited to a crawfish ball, a barbecue, and a Twelfth Night ball open to the public.

Krewe of Contraband

This krewe got its start in 1963 at a housewarming celebration. When local businessman Sammy Navarra mentioned wanting to found a krewe, Ernest C. Schindler promptly handed him a check, stating that he was its first member. Afterward, Navarra would invite over 150 business owners to join the krewe as well.

The Krewe of Contraband considers the honoring of women, especially the daughters and granddaughters of its members, to be its primary purpose. Any eligible descendant that has reached her 18th birthday may be chosen to serve on the Royal Court.

Krewe of Omega

This krewe was formed in 1970 by Joseph Moffett Jr. for the purpose of providing both youth and elderly citizens with meaningful social activities. It is also well known for giving out service awards to community members that go above and beyond to improve life for local people. Currently, the Krewe of Omega has 46 members, each of which is either a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity of Lake Charles or the spouse of a member.

Of course, the above are only a few of the many Mardi Gras krewes currently active today. Like the above examples, each features its own focus and represents a different slice of society. Each lends its own special touch to Mardi Gras as we know it today.

The Enduring Legacy of Black History

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from a Harry Parsons, who I am excited to have posting here for the first time. Harry is the content manager at Arcadia Publishing. While he spends most of his time being a bookworm, he enjoys anything outdoors especially if it involves the water.

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It’s time once again to celebrate Black History Month. Also known as National African American History Month, Black History Month is a month-long period during which we celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of African Americans everywhere.

America would quite simply not be the nation we know and love without the contributions of its black citizens, making a time to acknowledge that fact vitally important.

However, there’s a lot the average person might not know about Black History Month. When did it start and how did it come to be? What are the most important benefits of celebrating it and what are some of the best ways to participate if you’re so inclined? Here we’ll explore the enduring legacy of one of the most important periods of the year.

The Origins of Black History Month

Black History Month as we know it today has its origins in a previous event called Negro History Week. Negro History Week was established in 1926 and took place during the second week of February since that week coincided with the birthdates of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It was established by noted historian Carter G. Woodson.

The expansion of the event into a month-long celebration wouldn’t occur until 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford made the change. According to Ford, it was time for the country as a whole to really embrace the opportunity to honor its black citizens and their accomplishments, as both are all too often overlooked.

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The Benefits of Celebrating Black History Month

Of course, Black History Month has had its share of critics (both black and non-black) over the years, especially around the time of its establishment. Some people considered it unfair to set aside an entire month to the celebration of a single social group. Others argued that the celebration of black history should be an “all the time” affair and that limiting the event to only one month gave people permission to neglect the concept the rest of the year.

However, regardless of the objections or possible drawbacks associated with the concept of Black History Month, it’s clear that it does more good than harm. Black history is, in effect, American history, and no study of our great nation can be considered complete without it. The following are just a few of the many benefits of commemorating it:

  1. Celebrating properly honors historic members of the black community.

Celebrating Black History Month encourages us to commemorate, discuss, and contemplate numerous iconic members of the black community. Examples include civil rights leaders like Medgar Evers, gifted speakers like Frederick Douglass, and activists like Sojourner Truth. We already set aside special days or periods to honor American presidents, visionaries, and thinkers. Why not brave, inspiring members of the black community as well?

  1. Celebrating helps every new generation appreciate the privileges they enjoy.

Although it goes without saying that there’s still a lot still to be done when it comes to bettering race relations in America, it’s also worth noting just how much progress has already been made. Setting aside time to talk about the past and honor the people that have made change possible ensures that their sacrifices will never be taken for granted.

  1. Celebrating helps us shine a spotlight on the best parts of black culture.

Black History Month is an opportunity to highlight the very best of black culture, like inspirational leaders, artists, visionaries, teachers, and community pillars of all types. The accomplishments of African American carry global and national significance.

  1. Celebrating helps raise awareness in regards to important issues.

The topic of American history is a vast one, to be sure. That said, it’s not uncommon for important aspects of black history (like the civil rights movement) to be reduced to mere footnotes in the grand scheme of things. Black History Month gives everyone a chance to learn more about people, events, and places of which they may not have much awareness previously.

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Celebrating Black History Month in Style

Of course, deciding that it’s important to celebrate Black History Month is one thing. Deciding how to celebrate is another. The following ideas should give you some good food for thought.

  1. Start a discussion.

Consider celebrating Black History Month together as a family this year. Have each child and adult choose an iconic African-American person, organization, or group (i.e., the Negroes Baseball League or the Tuskegee Air Men) to study, honor, and research at the beginning of the month. Then get together at the end of the month to share everything you’ve all learned with one another.

  1. Plan a soul food feast.

Food is probably everyone’s favorite way to celebrate a special occasion. Why not make it a part of your Black History Month celebration as well? “Soul food” is a term that was coined in the 1960s to describe a cuisine based on the traditional West African diet. Common ingredients in soul food include sorghum, rice, okra, and more.

Consider learning more about the origins of soul food as a family and then preparing a feast to enjoy together. Dishes to focus on include but are not limited to collard greens, sweet potatoes, grits, cornbread, fried chicken, southern barbecue, and chicken and waffles.

  1. Feed your head.

Nothing beats reading when it comes to building a true appreciation for a given topic, and black history is no exception. Make it a point to read up on African American history this February with biographies about famous black figures, classic novels by and about black people, and so forth.

Alternatively, choose one or more regional history or local interest books that focus on black communities, neighborhoods, and local heroes in your own home town or area of origin. What better way to place what you’ve been learning in a context you can relate to?

At the end of the day, there are lots of ways you can honor and celebrate the contributions of African Americans this February. Just make sure you do celebrate. You’ll be glad you did.

Chewbaccus 2017

For those of you outside New Orleans: Chewbaccus is a Mardi Gras krewe (an organization that puts together a parade and/or ball during Carnival) that is sci-fi and fantasy themed—so lots of fun stuff with very nerdy twists.

What I love about Chewbaccus is that it’s not just incredibly nerdy (because that’s a given)–but I also really love that the floats and costumes are handmade. This year, Little Jedi wanted to know “where they get all this stuff.” Well darling–it’s all made from craft supplies, imagination, and lots of dedication. Never underestimate nerds with a plan and an abundance of craft stores nearby.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from this year’s parade:

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When Getting to School Is A Fight For Your Life

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from Rose B. Fischer. I am incredibly honored to have her posting here in such an open, honest essay about her experiences. Please be aware that this post contains frank discussion of physical abuse.

(Content Warning: Descriptions of physical abuse.)

The little yellow bus—commonly called “the retard bus” by my peers–was my only way to get to school. My mother took the car to work with her at 5:45, and the “regular” bus didn’t have a wheelchair lift.

The little yellow bus pulled up at precisely 7:30 every weekday morning. It would honk once, idle for five minutes, and if I wasn’t outside by then, the driver would leave.

This was the mid-80s, well before the ADA, so I was lucky to have the little yellow bus at all.

[Read more…]

#WeekendCoffeeShare: It’s Moving!

weekend coffee share logo hosted at parttimemonsterblog.com

If we were having coffee, I’d advise you to sit a little bit away so as not to catch any of my flu germs–because yes, unfortunately, the flu has finally made its way to our house. I’m a bit of a sneezy, coughy, runny-nosed mess right now, so perhaps it’s best that we’re sharing our coffee virtually.

I would also tell you, over our virtual coffee, that you’re about to see some major changes where the weekend coffee share is concerned, because it’s getting a new home. Starting next week, the weekend coffee share will be hosted at Nerd in the Brain, and Emily will be taking over the week-to-week operations of the link-up.

It’s taken me a long time to make this decision and to commit to it. I’ve hung onto the link-up for a while now, though writing each week has taken a great deal of energy. The community is a vibrant and close-knit one, with far more readers and commenters than I imagined would be a part of this when I started the link-up in 2014. So part of me really wanted to hang on to this part of my little corner of the internet, this thing that I’ve built. But another part of me knows that it’s time to make a shift. My posts have become less compelling conversation than chatter about my week, and over the past few months I’ve become more and more lax about doing the things that keep the coffee share community close–answering comments and reading, commenting on, and sharing everyone else’s posts. In large part, this is because when I didn’t calculate how the coffee share would fit in with the content I wanted to run when I switched my blog over, and in large part, this is also because I’ve done this each week for a little more than 2 years now, and the routine has become overwhelming.

Of course, moving the weekend coffee share link up doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be writing coffee share posts anymore…It just means that I’m taking a bit of a backseat and becoming a participant rather than the sole person in charge of making and running the link-up. Emily has agreed to do that, and I think that she will do a fantastic job. Emily currently runs Three Things Thursday, another weekly link-up, and she also runs hosts challenges and give-aways at Nerd in the Brain so the link-up is in safe hands.  And I’ll be popping in and out, adding my own posts to the list on the weeks that I write one and blissfully free to read and share posts that you guys write.

The content here, at Part-Time Monster, is going to get louder and more political. In the face of DT’s presidency and the massive sociocultural and sociopolitical problems that we are facing, I can’t stay silent. Feminist Fridays will resume this week. You’ll also see me talking more about mental health, focusing on my ongoing problems with anxiety and depression. And you’ll also see me talking about books, films, and comics–because not only does art tell us things about our society, but art is good for us in times like these. Art is not just frivolity, though it certainly can be frivolous.

And so…This is goodbye but not goodbye. I’ll be here, talking about all sorts of stuff, and I’ll sometimes jump into the coffee share as a participant, but this is my last week hosting the coffee share. Starting 2/18, look for the weekend coffee share on Nerd in the Brain!  🙂

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Feminist Friday Open Thread

Darlings,
There will not be one of our regular feminist Friday posts today, but I will be back next week with a traditional post. I’ve spent the week watching the news, reading, having difficult conversations, and making some plans for future action. Oh yeah, and I’ve been working, both in and outside of my home. Consequently, I didn’t manage to get a post written, and I am exhausted.
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And I think it’s important to talk about how we get exhausted, because we do get exhausted, all of us. And there’s a long way to go yet. So today,  I need to step away from my computer for a while today and practice some self-care. I need to spend the day reading a good book (right now I’ve got the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books on tap, as I’ve just finished the super-fantastic Netflix adaptation) and snuggling with the pup. We’ll have coffee tomorrow, and I’ll finally get ’round to all those comments that are in the queue (god, I’m sorry guys—I’m just overwhelmed, but I see you all, and I

So while I am off here, I’d like to suggest something else…Go find a feminist writer that you haven’t read before and read a post from her instead. And feel free to suggest pieces in the comments section–especially pieces that address intersectional issues like race, class, disability, and LGBTQIA rights. Because the way to do this is not for us just to talk in a vacuum, but to bring more people into the conversation, not for us to yell so loud that we are unable to hear the voices around us, that we drown them out.

#Sorrynotsorry

Among my social media, I’m beginning to see some whinging about the amount of political posts and some pleas that we “all get along” or “let it go and move on.”

You can do that. You can hide, at least for a while longer. (And make no mistake, it is hiding. It is turning your head from sorrow and suffering and anger.) So you can do that, but I will not.

Some people are *actively in danger.* The man who is our president has advocated sexual assault (grab her by the pussy) and mocked every group from veterans to people with disabilities to women. This opens up a window for all kinds of other violence and crude behavior. If the man who holds the highest elected office in our nation can get there after the public is aware that he’s been doing these things, then Joe Schmoe down in Mississippi doesn’t think he’s going to get in much trouble for grabbing the ass of the woman he works with. (Spoiler alert–he doesn’t.)

So not only do we have a president who creates an atmosphere in which violence–in particular sexual violence, but other kinds as well–is likely to thrive, we also have a president who is already actively working toward anti-intellectualism, ignoring systemic racism, erasing LGBTQ peoples, and removing healthcare protections from those who most need it.

This is not alarmist. We are already hearing the administration deal in “alternative facts.” Bills are already in the works to turn healthcare back over to the states, and we all know how poorly that goes for the poorest among us (hint: really fucking badly). The first pages that were removed and archived from the presidential website were LGBTQ and climate change. There were no replacement policies on the LGBTQ page–none–though the writers were sure to add in a plug for FLOTUS’s jewelry line on her bio page. As someone who is trained to read and teach rhetoric, I will say that we can learn a lot about what the administration values here. IT IS NOT US.

It’s only the beginning of day 3 of this administration. Re-read that.

There are real stakes for me here. I a woman. I need birth control every month to stay healthy, and the insurance that we pay exorbitant amounts to keep should have to cover it. I’ve lived on state assistance and used Medicaid in the past. I live with multiple mental illnesses. I have a child who was premature, who attends a public charter school now. I live in the deepest of the deep south, in a place where coastlines are rapidly disappearing, and my city is quite literally sinking, disappearing underneath me.

There are real stakes for my loved ones here. Many of them identify as LGBTQ and have only recently gained the right to legal marriages. Some of them have used state assistance in the past, and many of them are women. They work hard, these women. And they are tough, so tough, living in places that often try to tear them to pieces.

But even aside from all that–even aside from my own experiences and those close to me–I am a fucking human being, and I am empathetic. I know when something is wrong, and something is very wrong just now, my friends.

Yes, we marched this weekend. We protested. And I saw a fair amount of whinging about that, as well–complaints that what was happening was somehow unpatriotic or that we should just try and “move on.” I keep hearing that echoed–move on.

Listen up: the women’s march was amazing. Unprecedented. Seven continents and millions of women. I’m not sure that it would’ve been possible in an age without social media, truly. (Let me be clear–I also recognize that the march was not infallible, and we should not refrain from criticizing it and working to make our feminism better. We need to listen to those voices that traditional feminism has subdued. Women of color and trans women, for instance, are specifically saying they were marginalized further by some of what transpired. I both recognize the enormity of what happened this weekend and think we can do better. Feminism cannot continue ignoring bright, honest, and powerful voices.)

Now, we have to translate this protest energy into more action, more conversation, more doing. We cannot stop on day 3. So– #sorrynotsorry for clogging your newsfeeds. But don’t expect me to stop anytime soon.

The Truth About Children and Domestic Violence

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from Rose B. Fischer. I am incredibly honored to have her posting here. Please be aware that this post contains frank discussion of abuse.

Whenever I hear a car door slam, I break into sweat. My breath catches in my throat, I clench my fists, my stomach tightens, and I have to talk myself down from the edge of a panic attack. As a child, the slamming of the car door meant my dad was home from the bar. He would stomp inside, shove the table, scream and yell, usually break something, and then my mother would storm out of the bedroom. She would scream back at him, and the arguments would last for hours. My siblings and I would lay awake in our rooms, too scared to move, even if we had to go to the bathroom.

One night, my dad smashed our aquarium. He wanted to get back at my mother, and she always liked to watch the fish. We lost the whole cabinet and the chair to water damage, but the deeper loss was my sense of security.  For all that my dad was a loud, belligerent drunk, that was the first time I saw him willfully destroy something for spite.  It wouldn’t be the last.

I moved out of my parents someone I was 19. That same year, I got married, and my husband started abusing me. It wasn’t like my father at first. His abuse tactics were mostly covert, emotional manipulation, crying, lying and gas lighting me. Over time, he escalated into physical abuse.  First it was just unwanted contact. He would slide his hand up my shirt in public when I had asked him not to. He would pinch or slap me on the ass, or pinch my nipples.  When I asked him not to, he would laugh and tell me that I was too sensitive.  I knew that he was doing it intentionally to upset me but that didn’t make it easier to cope with.  Eventually it became unwanted sexual advances.  I couldn’t say no to him without a three-hour fight that would end with him pouting in the corner and threatening to kill himself.  Finally he stopped listening when I said no at all.

Then, the physical violence moved out of the bedroom.  He dragged me out of my wheelchair and tried to choke me.  I only saved myself that night by getting my hands around his throat and choking him instead.  Another time, he was angry with me for something minor and threw a coffee maker at my head.

That was the last straw. I left him that night, and I’ve never looked back, but my struggles were far from over.

I don’t know when car doors came to be such a problem. I have some trouble with loud noises of any kind, but most of the time I can control my reactions. I know enough about PTSD symptoms and how to manage them that I can pretend to be fine even when I’m not. I can de-escalate myself and calm down without much trouble. Car doors are another story. That sound can send me over the edge without warning.

I think I first noticed it in my mid-20s. I had been living on my own since I was 19, and gradually I realized that even though my father was nowhere around me, I was still always afraid if I heard a car door slam. I didn’t know much about PTSD at the time, and I didn’t realize that children who witness domestic violence have a much higher rate of PTSD symptoms than soldiers or war veterans.  Everything I knew about PTSD at the time related to vets.

I also didn’t understand that PTSD can sometimes develop or worsen when a child grows up and leaves the domestic violence situation. The reason for this is that when you’re in the situation, your mind compartmentalizes so that you can continue to function.  When the immediate danger is removed, you can start to experience more symptoms.

I wish I had understood this sooner.  By the time I learned that I had PTSD, my symptoms had gone on unchecked for years and were so out of control that I never let anyone into my home.  I still have anxiety about that, and I find it difficult to go out for more than a few hours.  If there’s a possibility that I might have to stay longer, I need to have a “plan” to get myself out of the situation safely, even if I know there’s no danger.

None of those things have much to do with my father or my ex-husband, but I think as I got older, my home became my safe space. Leaving it or allowing people in meant that I had to prepare myself for possible dangers. I didn’t realize that was happening until it was so bad that it was impossible to ignore.

I’m sharing my story because, most often, when we speak of domestic violence, we speak of partner-violence, or more specifically, violence perpetrated on a woman by a man. Domestic violence encompasses much more than that. While women are statistically more likely to be targeted by male abusers, many men have also been abused by a partner or member of the family. Children are the silent victims of domestic violence. We know that they’re present, and that domestic violence is often a cycle perpetuated through generations, but we don’t invite people who witness domestic violence as children to share their stories and we offer little, if anything, in the way of treatment for them.

We’re the people who understand domestic violence most intimately. It was our cradle, our coming of age, and too often, it becomes our prison.  I want that to stop.  I don’t want another child to grow up terrified, and I don’t want a single survivor to panic over something as innocuous as a car door.


Rose B. Fischer is an avid fan of foxes, Stargate: SG-1, and Star Trek.  She would rather be on the Enterprise right now.

Since she can’t be a Starfleet Officer, she became a speculative fiction author whose stories feature women who defy cultural stereotypes.

To support her artistic habits, Rose has a paying gig as a Digital Creativity Consultant. She works with female and nonbinary creatives to help build powerful online presences that remain in line with her clients’ artistic visions.

You can find her on The Evil Genius blog.

How Purity Culture Almost Destroyed My Life…Twice

Purity culture nearly ruined my life.

I grew up in church. We lived in a small, Mississippi town in the 1980s/90s, the place my father grew up. The entire family went to that church–my grandmother, my aunt, my nuclear family, and even some 2nd and 3rd cousins. We were there every time the doors were open…Literally. On Sunday mornings, we would attend Sunday school at 10, then sit through the church service from 11-12. We’d go home for lunch, and sometimes a friend would come over to play for a few hours. Then it was back to church at 4:30 for children’s classes and another church service from 6-7. After services many of those nights, I would go home with my grandmother and aunt, who often ordered pizza and had dinner with our pastor and his wife. On Wednesdays, we went to prayer meetings from 7-8. During the summer, there was always a week of Vacation Bible School and then another week of summer sleep-away camp.

The church we attended held many of the standard fundamentalist Christian views–especially those of the time. I can remember hearing about the evils of rock music. (When I was very young, much of the ire was directed at Ozzy, who bit the head off  of bats. Later, that disdain and concern would turn to Marilyn Manson, who destroyed Bibles onstage and was always to be found in dark clothing and layers of makeup.) When a new youth pastor introduced Christian rock, some of the church goers were upset. I remember not celebrating Halloween, because it was The Devil’s Holiday. We had an evening hay ride and bonfire in the woods to compensate for the loss of trick or treating–supervised by our parents and church elders, of course.

Sex was something that there was almost a blanket of silence about, though. I barely remember discussing sex with my parents, but I think the conversation was mostly too little, too late. Not that I was having sex (indeed, no–not until I was 19), but I’d already figured out how sex worked long before we discussed it. This was because sex wasn’t often discussed in our house or in our church…even in our community. And when it was, there were very certain parameters for the discussion:

We’d talk about abstinence. In church, we learned about the value of purity: purity of heart and purity of body, which seemed to equal a kind of purity of spirit, of soul. At our local high school, the True Love Waits group gave a presentation to the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was a member, except that it was an organization for Christians that many of my friends belonged to…I was certainly not an athlete. We were all encouraged to take vows that we would wait until marriage to have sex.

We’d talk about repentance. In church, we were told that we’d all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We were told that if we’d sinned in this way, we could become new again in God’s eyes if we only repented and then continued to abstain.

And we’d talk about consequences. So, so much talk about consequences. Disease a possibility. I remember mapping out how quickly disease could spread. Oh, but there was also the possibility of creating another human…And not being married to that baby’s other biological parent was considered a serious moral failing in our community, not to mention a hardship that extended from mother to child, an assumption that the child’s life would also be difficult. This was compounded by the occasional pregnant girl at school, a cautionary tale walking around with a burgeoning belly, the way the hushed whispers followed those girls.

Complicating this was some family history, maternal guilt and pressures. Secrets I am not at liberty to tell because they are not mine, but secrets that nonetheless affected my life. And then there were rules…So many rules. Rules about what to wear, who to be (or not to be) alone with, what time to come home, what to do while I was out…So many rules.

Only in retrospect does any of this sound extreme. It’s easy to miss the signs when you’re immersed in something.

By the time I was in college, I’d moved away from my hometown, stopped going to church. I’d met people who were different than me, many of them radically so. I’d studied literature and history at a college level. I’d had my first tastes of alcohol, of love, of freedom, of real joy and of real tragedy. But it wasn’t easy, this moving away from my upbringing. It came in fits and starts, with a lot of internalized guilt and shame. I drank a lot, often getting overly-emotional. At one point, I could drink a fifth of alcohol and keep drinking. For all intents and purposes, I was an alcoholic.

I almost destroyed myself. But somehow, I finished my undergraduate degree and moved on to graduate-level courses.

When I moved to attend graduate school, I was in an off-phase of an on-and-off relationship that had pretty much defined my undergraduate career, spanning from the end of my sophomore year of college until I graduated. Eventually, we’d find ourselves in another on-again phase.

And at 24, I’d find myself unmarried and pregnant.

I was terrified. No, I was not a child–not in the typical sense of the word. But my parents were still very much in charge of my life, helping me pay my way through graduate school so that I could focus on the very real task of getting a degree. I had finished course work for my master’s degree, but I still needed to write a thesis and defend it before I could graduate. And my parents were angry. My mother said we’d have to get married, and my dad said that mom was only wanting the best for us, did not want my child to be a bastard. I was unsure of what to do, but my boyfriend said we’d get through it. We were planning to get married one day anyway, we’d just wanted to wait longer.

And so, I married my son’s father. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to each other, but we were also unsuited to be married to one another. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we were wholly unsuited to one another once we lived together, either. We were married for less than a year, tired of the arguments that had defined our on-and-off relationship. We knew it was unhealthy to raise a child in the turmoil of our arguments, and so we decided not to. We’d raise him together, but separate.

But that was a difficult goodbye. It felt like a death, and in a way it was. It was the death of a relationship, the closing off of a life I thought I was going to live. I didn’t want to be a divorced woman or a single parent. I didn’t want my child to grow up in a “broken home.”

It almost destroyed me, that loss of the dream of a nuclear family with biological mother, biological father, and biological child. That loss also freed me.

But here I am, 7 years post-divorce. I am remarried to someone who I could not imagine life without, someone who is not only a partner to me but an amazing 3rd parent for my son. We have a good relationship with my parents, who have helped me immensely, especially during the time when I was a single mother going to graduate school. And there’s my son…My beautiful boy with a big heart. He has two fathers.

And all is as it should be, finally.

What Having a Disability Taught Me About Bodily Autonomy

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from Rose B. Fischer that kicks off our Feminist Friday postings here at Part-Time Monster. The weekly posts will aim to generate conversation about feminist issues, paying particular attention to intersectional issues. I am incredibly honored to have her posting here about such a deep and personal topic.

I was born with cerebral palsy.  I have limited use of my legs and my lower leg muscles are basically nonexistent.  When I was three, neuromotor specialists began recommending a daily routine of physical therapy to help maintain my level of mobility.

The exercises I’m supposed to do feel like someone is trying to rip my legs apart on a medieval torture device.  As a toddler and young child, I was never given an option to refuse this treatment.  I have no memory of anyone explaining the benefits of this therapy.

I was told I had to do my exercises.

That’s it.

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