After the unremitting awful that was the last chapter, it’s nice to hit a light-ish one again. This is Escape, so there’s still plenty of bullshit that will make your teeth grind, but I’ve gotta admit, it’s kind of fun to get a taste of high school drama FLDS style
There’s a new high school in town, so those folks on the Prophet Uncle Roy side of the great religious divide can finally get an education.
The split in our community was now in it’s seventh year. One of the consequences was that many families pulled their children out of the private high school so they would not be contaminated by the children of the families on the other side of the divide who supported Uncle Roy. As a result, many boys wound up working on construction jobs instead of going to high school. The girls who were forbidden to go to the private high school were confined to their homes. Most of the girls who were kept out of school were disappointed because they had wanted an education and a diploma before they were assigned to a marriage. They knew that their futures were being shortchanged.
Yep. When you’ve got your eyes on eternal salvation, you don’t give a shit about your kids’ education. You don’t care if their ignorance cripples them here on Earth, condemning them to a lifetime of misery and poverty, just so long as their souls are saved. Besides, too much book-learnin’ could lead to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
But with the new high school, the kids who aren’t already trapped in marriage can get what passes for an education in FLDS-land. Carolyn’s excited. She’s done well enough in her correspondence classes that she’s bumped up a year to senior, which means she has a shot at starting college before she’s married off. Girls who turn eighteen their senior year may never get their high school diploma, much less have any chance at college – they’re likely to be married off and stuck at home before they can graduate. The FLDS considers girls to be old maids if they’re not married by twenty. Of course, this was the Uncle Roy era, before Warren Jeffs took over and decided girls should be bound in celestial matrimony to old farts the instant they hit puberty, if not before.
But I promised you something light, and this is getting all heavy. Here: let me introduce you to the cool girls’ clique. They’re called the nusses, short for righteousnesses. They dress in more lace, flounces, and frills than a Victorian baby doll, with “blue boy’s sports shoes” to complete the look. They’re all Merril Jessop’s daughters, and they are masters of the FLDS universe. Well, the new high school. Well, the hallways of the new high school, at the very least.
And while many boys raised in a strict patriarchy practice toxic masculinity, these girls are devout adherents of what we might call toxic femininity.
They didn’t walk, they pranced on tiptoe. When they spoke, it was in soft and girly voices. When they laughed, it was subdued and modest. “Oh, for heaven’s sake” was their all-purpose refrain when anything went wrong, like a book dropping to the floor. Their piety was precious to them but fundamentally fake.
They’re faithful adherents of a book called Fascinating Womanhood, Carolyn learns. This is a book that teaches women “how to pout perfectly when your husband tells you no… how to stand, how to pucker in anger, and how to stomp your foot in an adorable and feminine way.” In other words, how to be a big baby so you don’t threaten your hubby with anything approaching an adult intellect. It teaches women how to make their hubbies feel like great big manly men by being very small and helpless. Women are to puff up their men by doing things like hanging the new Dixie cup dispenser upside-down, so that he has to come to their rescue and fix it. Carolyn loses her shit badly enough upon reading about this that she screams, “For hell’s sake!” This is a pretty extreme outburst for a good FLDS girl.
If you want an in-depth look at “the nusses’ Bible,” Samantha at Defeating the Dragons has done a full review of the wretched thing. Prepare for teeth-grinding inanity.
The nusses disgust Carolyn so much that, by the end of the first week of school,
I realized that for the first time I was embarrassed to be a woman. The nusses sickened me. I knew that I lived in a culture where a baby girl was of less value to her parents than a baby boy, but I’d never thought of myself as “less-than.” But when I saw the nusses prancing and cavorting through school I felt ashamed and humiliated. Couldn’t they see they were acting like perfect idiots?
For some of them, no. They probably sincerely believed this is how women should be. Others probably did know it was all ridiculous – but they were willing to do anything they had to in order to retain some power and control, and these techniques do work on a certain type of patriarchial jackass, the type they may very well end up married to. As Carolyn’s friend Jayne told her, the nusses thought Fascinating Womanhood was “going to be their salvation. This is how they will be treated like queens and escape their mothers’ fate.” Carolyn finds that hilarious, but I find it tragic. These women can’t just find good husbands (or wives) and base their relationship on mutual respect and communication. They can only survive by playing mind games.
Of course, when they practiced on their manly-men teachers, the effects were somewhat comical. Like the day Merrilyn Jessop made girly-girl doe eyes at the teacher, put her pencil in the sharpener, and asked him to please turn the crank, then carefully blew the dust off the tip and thanked him “in her best little nuss voice.” My, was he embarrassed when he realized he’d basically just been manipulated into playing a starring role in an FLDS schoolgirl porn scene.
There’s some minor drama around one of the nusses throwing a party – regular high schoolers do it for fun, FLDS girls of a certain age do it in a desperate attempt to attract a husband. Too bad that Carolyn’s friends didn’t get to crash it by performing the arranged marriage song from Fiddler on the Roof like they’d planned. Afterward, one of the nusses carefully rubs it in that Uncle Fred, second only to the Prophet, had told every girl at the party that her salvation is assured. There’s a definite subtext of “Sorry ya’ll I didn’t invite are going to hell” here.
FLDS high school drama, yo.
Carolyn has more to contend with than haughty nusses. She’s got an admirer who insists on following her home. She gets out of her last class early and literally runs home to avoid him whenever possible. In a more sensible culture, she could tell a parent or a teacher and have the harassment stopped. Even in a sexist culture, the most she should have to put up with is people joking about how cute his stalking is and how she should be flattered by it. But in her culture, his actually chasing her to her door is reported to her father as Brigham “walking” Carolyn home, and she’s the one in deep trouble, to the extent that she could be yanked out of school for being “disobedient in the ways of God.”
“I should be saving my affections for the man I’d be assigned to in marriage,” Carolyn relates her dad saying. I can’t even with this.
Fortunately for Carolyn, her sister Annette is able to verify her side of the story, and she’s allowed to finish high school. She knows her parents won’t allow her to go on to college and pursue her dream of becoming a pediatrician, but she plans “to start at the community college and then move on.” She’s survived Brigham the Stalker Boy, the nusses, and FLDS high school, and now there’s nothing that can stand in her way.
Little did I know that in a year I would be forced to marry [the nusses’] father.
I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along.
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