Early Marriage | Part 3

by Elouise

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Park Street Church Sanctuary, Summer 2003

It’s Fall 1965. I’m 22 years old, just barely married. Whatever ‘women’s rights’ means, it hasn’t reached me yet. The word ‘feminism’ is unknown in my small circles. As far as I know, the term ‘sexism’ has yet to be invented.

The biggest civil rights issue I’m aware of is racism. Stories about race relations are in the daily news. If women are claiming their civil rights, I haven’t heard about it yet.

Right now, I’m back in the young adult group at Park Street Church, where I seem to be Mrs. D, a woman without a name or clear identity.

At home, in church and at the Bible college, I was taught to be a ‘lady in waiting.’ I was promised virtual heaven on earth if I waited for marriage and then waited on my husband in marriage. And what does heaven on earth look like? I don’t know. My mother didn’t live in heaven on earth. Nor did I as a child and young person.

I do my best to follow the rules, spoken and unspoken. This means maintaining a submissive, docile, cheerful, acquiescent, quiet and almost invisible presence. Especially at church, it seems.

When I’m visible, it’s to support my husband. It’s not about being self-seeking, brassy, strident, pushy or demanding. I do my best. On the inside, I sometimes feel like Nobody.

I don’t want to be a star. I just want to be a contributor. Part of the conversation. The way I am at home when D and I are talking together.

It occurs to me that I may need to be more assertive. I’m tired of waiting. I see that D’s attempts to include me in lively conversations at church aren’t working.

My solution? I work hard to think of a contribution I might make to this conversation and then wait for the right moment to risk calling awkward attention to myself by asking a question or making a comment that others may not understand because even I don’t always understand where I’m coming from or why what I’m saying or asking is so important to me.

My attempts feel weak. People seem interested for a bit, but they don’t know what to do with what I just said or asked. I become aware that I’m ‘different.’ I don’t think the way they seem to. Logically, using data, big words and very few (if any) personal examples.

Back home I talk about this with D, my one true ally. To his great credit, he understands with his mind (if not his experience) what I’m trying to articulate.

For a few months I watch some of my tentative questions or comments during Bible study being picked up, repeated by others, and affirmed as important contributions to the discussion. My resentment grows, especially when D does this, and my question or comment gets branded as D’s contribution.

In late Spring 1966, the pastor for young adults announces a summer Bible study. He’s in the planning process, and invites others to join him. D immediately says he’d like to be part of the group.

I mull this over and finally make a move on my own behalf. I want to be part of the planning group, too. I tell D what I’m thinking. I ask him if he thinks this would be OK.

D’s response is true to form. Simple, straightforward, no fuss: Why don’t you ask? So I did.

Not only was I on the planning committee of three (pastor, D and me), the pastor suggested we team-teach the Bible study for university students. So we did. All three of us. Now it’s a wonderful memory.

I never dreamed it would take this much energy to be a married woman. This wasn’t what I expected.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, Summer 2003