So My mom and sister and I go to this Christmas light parade in my town. It’s every church, and local business, and small news station, and radio station packed onto truck beds and trailers transformed by white lights. It’s raining and the year-old faux suede boots I bought for £5 at Primark are taking on water with every step. But the three of us–my mom, my sister, and I–huddle under our large English umbrella and pick our way around puddles and candy wrappers to take in the parade floats.
We cheer when organizations we recognize drive buy, humming along to canned Christmas music. I accept peppermints from several float-groups, even though I fully intend to drop the melting candies into the nearest bin. It’s the kind of experience my mom sees as an ‘opportunity to create memories.’ As though memories are these magical potions you can only make by engaging in habitual, traditional, or otherwise tacky festive rituals during specific times of year. I am pleasantly surprised, however, to find I am actually enjoying myself, and I later thank my mom for taking me along.
But I can’t let evening the end in tranquility. See, I’ve been angry, very angry, for several months. One of the side effects of anger is that you can’t let anyone’s enjoyment, even your own, encroach upon your bitterness. So an idle conversation about how the pubs on the parade route are all filled tigger what I call a ‘tripline.’ You catch your toe on a particular phrase or idea and you’re in for one of my five alarm lectures about cultural distortion. This time I covered the unrealistic attitudes towards alcohol that are promoted by Adventist culture.
When I traveled abroad I met and interacted with people who used alcohol irresponsibly and destructively, but I also met people who used it responsibility and casually. Another supposedly black-and-white issue was revealed to be complex. Even though I don’t have particularly strong feelings about my own right to imbibe, I find myself royally pissed that ten years of red-ribbon weeks lied to me about who drinks alcohol and why. They hid the truth behind statistics and made me temporarily afraid of the devil in the glass that would take over my brain. I don’t think they knew it at the time, but dozens of my classmates would take those temperance lessons to heart, using alcohol as a cop-out for their behavior and an excuse for their mistakes.
I’ve caught myself blowing up at my boyfriend and picking fights with my family about inessential things that happen to be wired into my disappointment with the cultural undertones of the doctrines I was taught growing up. “Men are more sexual than women.” Lie. “Sexuality is something that sullies and damages.” False. “Secular people have less of a moral compass than Christians, and it is reflected in their lifestyle.” Lie. Lie. Lie.
And then I’m boiling. I’m boiling because I spent years believing I needed to reconcile myself to these beliefs. I hate that I had to spend years undoing the damage they did to my sense of femininity, morality, and identity. And I am even more angry because there is no one to blame.