Tag Archives: sectarianism

Kody’s Wives.

The Plymouth Brethren were, amongst all Christian fundamentalists, the most exclusive; amongst all Bible-believers, the most scholarly; amongst all patriarchal sub-groups, the most suppressive. They raised me. Clearly, I was conceived in the wrong ooze.

When not at this screen penning my life thoughts for all the world to [endure], and avoiding performance deadlines, I binge the occasional Tv series.  And, Kody’s “Sister Wives” has had me since day one.

For benefit of the uninitiated, Kody is a polygamist. Hailing from some derivation of the Mormon throng, he has, to date, four wives. They share some seventeen children, each wife with her own, newly-built home in a cul de sac in a remote corner of Las Vegas.

Meri is Kody’s first wife. Meri and Kody have one daughter, Mariah. Meri is particular, in noticeable need of some degree of control over her domain; even when a whole house is built for her, with no publicly disclosed financial contribution toward it on her part, she still insists that its every angle and accoutrement be exactly as specified. Meri says to the Tv interviewer that she is completely happy in her relationship with Kody. But, although Meri does not say so, I wonder how content or happy Meri is with her life, taken as a whole. Meri may never fully disclose herself. She reminds me of a man I once knew.

Janelle is Kody’s second. I am not privy to the circumstances which have led to Janelle’s appearance on Kody’s scene, having missed the first few episodes and played catch up thereafter. I do however know, and notice, the stark contrast between Janelle and Meri; Janelle is laid back, accepting of the big picture, never sweating the small stuff. While Meri has somewhat of a designer’s aesthetic, Janelle appears to have no regard for any. But, Janelle has produced several children, close in age, and perhaps her hormone panel is what distinguishes her most from Meri. She reminds me of a girl I once knew. Interestingly, Kody has enjoyed a kind of second honeymoon with Janelle, of late, reasons about which we viewers can only wonder. Perhaps Janelle’s active attempts to get her overweight body in shape have inspired her husband. And, Kody has never tired of her kisses – something he’s told the world.

Again, I can’t comment as to the time lapse between Kody’s marriages, only that I must point out that Meri is Kody’s only legal spouse. The other three wives are spiritually committed to him and the family, recognized as his wives only from within the parameters of the belief system they all share. A belief system, namely one they call a faith in God, their heavenly father, and Christ, God’s son. Go. Figure.

As such, I don’t know when or why Christine joined the family. But, Christine also has several children with Kody and, while she seems to struggle with either personality or emotional mood issues, seems equally happy being mother not only to her own but the entire collective of children. At family gatherings, she is clearly the leader, reveling in entertaining them all with carefully planned games and activities. She reminds me of all the good elementary school teachers I have known. I notice that, when Christine goes into her act, Janelle sits back comfortably in her seat on the sofa, and Meri looks on from what seems to be an emotional distance, perhaps with gracious tolerance of what she would otherwise be uninterested to endure. Meri is not a team player or a social animal, and Janelle is just happy to remain quietly entertained. Christine, however, together with Kody, gets highly involved in all the childrens’ reactions and responses whenever the whole family is in the room.

Robyn is wife number four. We can all tell, those of us who have ever been in love or married or both, that Robyn is still enjoying her role as Kody’s newly-wed. She may also be of the belief that her position is powerful. When Kody presents all the wives their custom made jewelry pieces, she makes each wife’s receipt of his gift a matter of her own interest, exuberantly commenting with praise even as the wife in question quietly opens her own gift. Robyn is probably unaware of her own transparency, and we gently forgive her because, well, to expose her might be hurtful or damaging. She reminds me of myself, at about age thirty four.

That was right before I met my ex-husband, and everything changed for me. Before that, I’d felt socially empowered, my career on the rise, important figures in my sphere taking notice, my personal life showing promise. But, we aren’t talking about me, right now.

Or, maybe we are. I have recently, and with significant surprise, fallen in love again. The man who enjoys being the object of my affections claims the same about me. And, he possesses nearly every trait I’ve ever admired or sought in a man, with the possible exception of a degree of inner peace. About that last part, I should probably withhold judgment as, after all, who ever accused me of possessing inner peace?! Nevertheless, he is very nearly the perfect man for me, and I adore him.

I, on the other hand, having been raised by those aforementioned patriarchs, was taught to assume that men in their trek toward becoming Christ-like could achieve a form of sinless perfection; women, of which I had been born to become, would have a far deeper and more individual struggle for value. As such, I hesitate to reveal to my beloved the full scope of my shortcomings. He cannot know the degree to which I see myself as undeserving. He must never know how disparate the woman I was expected to become is from who I really am.

Meantime, it’s compelling to ruminate about the numerous variations on cohabitation which American society tolerates. What about polygamy? What might it be like to have three or four husbands, on my own cul de sac, in a corner of neverland? I am, after all, completely aware that I am probably as particular and socially wary as Meri; as teacherly and child oriented as Christine; as interested in devotion to my man as Robyn, and a real kisser with encroaching weight issues, like Janelle. But, to spend a lifetime with only me, if history is any indicator, would wear a man down to a shell of what he ever thought he could be. I’d easily share him with somebody else, if only to get him out of the house when we both become intolerable. That, I would do.

But, right now, I’ll enjoy my bliss. It’s been a long time coming, indeed. Maybe society will move its unwieldy ass, in the meantime, toward some broader magnanimity. But, I can wait for that.

“Apres Un Reve” beckons from the music stand and my cello sits, quietly floating in resonant frequency with the room, until I am ready to let it sing. The Plymouth Brethren still meet, fewer, yet much more globally integrated than ever before, a haven for the disenfranchised of every culture, still earnestly dictating reality at every breath. And, outside, mainstream society lumbers along, thinking itself the real mover yet, always, about ten years behind the Bohemians, who really know.

Yes; we can wait. About that, we really have no choice. Or, do we?

In Costume.

Last week, many of us watched as impending superhero arch-villain Ultron made his appearance at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie in which he would be so grandly introduced. Of course, the actor himself, the inimitable James Spader, was wearing yellow-tinted hornrims, an oversized charcoal grey suit jacket, and a white knotted tie with some red icons sprinkled across it. But, he described in characteristic detail his Ultron costume for the film: bands of velcroed techno-attachments, and a large, overhead pole bearing two antennae, at the ends of which were tiny cameras. The rest? For the viewers, computer-generated cloakery.

This is a particularly personal observation. I don’t expect anybody else to relate. Perhaps you’ll call it a purge. Just let me say it, and be done.

Not sure where human society got its penchant for entrenchment patterns. Don’t know why people with similar traits self-segregate. I just know it’s true because, from early childhood, I was watching. The Plymouth Brethren taught me how.

Borne in Dublin, Ireland, and then branching out to include the following led by John Nelson Darby, this self-generating Christian Fundamentalist sect was all about exclusive separatism. The objective being to establish the purety of “the Lord’s table” (meaning: the communion fellowship), the distorted belief held that, by raising the standard for selectivity, only those living lives of alleged sinless perfection would qualify.

Therefore, of its nature, and following the parallel of social patterns, those deemed most readily acceptable were first the ones whose carriage matched that of the determining few. Anglo-Saxon bearing, its physicality and mentality, were pre-eminent. Anthropologically speaking, ya hadda look the part and then ya hadda act it. And, best if you could imitate the Royals, albeit subconsciously.

Henry Sweet definitely fit. Short, broad shouldered, strong of profile and mind, he was invited by the panel of experts to join the local fellowship after migrating from the eastern end of the Commonwealth and appearing, in full form, as a street preacher. So also his wife, Mae, of saintly bearing and trusting countenance.

Mum was one of four sisters and, at least in all the photographs, the one with the purest face. Ironically, while she fit the picture, she dreamed of a life that burst the bubble and expanded the frame. Therefore, when Dad appeared, all handsome and dark and feisty and bold, she tore up the pattern into little bits and threw herself in his direction.

When their firstborn son came into the world, he was as princely as he could be. Miraculously, his gene expression had chosen to defer its more swarthy dominance; he had all the right colors – hazel eyes, sandy hair, small regular features, and intellectual precocity. And, he would grow to achieve a prominent place in the sectarian’s hierarchy.

Here’s where I come in.

From birth, I bore every insistent trait of my father: dark brown eyes and hair, olive skin, and the kind of active, expressive intelligence that knows no restraint. There simply wasn’t any other child in any of the rooms who looked anything like me. I was the gypsy, the starling, the odd one out.

You think me a tad preoccupied? You may. I will give you that.

But, on with the show.

Self-acceptance, they’ve been saying for a few decades now, is key to a successful social life and, probably, life in the workplace. One must celebrate one’s strengths, acknowledge and then improve on any weakness, and strive to accomplish, seeking solid relationships and worthy endeavor.

But, we are taught from birth to do exactly the opposite.

We have for our models those who teach us to select what is acceptable. We learn whether or not we fit from the time our ears are developed enough to hear “What a beautiful baby!” As soon as our eyes can see, we observe the directions people take, either toward or away from us. Our tactile sense picks up the accelerated heartbeat of fear and uncertainty, our chemistry the signals of alignment or incompatibility. And, we begin to mirror all these. We behave towards others as those closest to us behave toward us.

I’ve been wearing costumes as far back as I can remember. The one that attempted to match the family of Anglo Saxons, and their precise, daily ways. Later on, the one that more closely resembled what I saw in the mirror. Neither one was really the girl who wore the clothes.

Nakedness becomes some. There are bodies that bear such a natural aesthetic you’d almost weep at the sight of them. Mine is not one of those. Perhaps yours is. One thing is certain: I know how to recognize truth and beauty.

Somewhere, somehow, I got that part right. In fact, my comfort is found within, whenever I look out at the world around me. What I see in you brings both awe and inspiration, pleasure and wonder, to my eyes. So, if you feel me watching, just go about your business. Wear whatever costume you need. But, know that I am truly glad you’re in the room, because I see who you really are.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

4/21/15   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.

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