By the time I was a teenager I was taken into slavery. It seems harsh to say, but looking back on my life 40 years later; it IS a slavery of the heart. It took me years to recognize that I was sexually aroused one morning in my sunlit bedroom, a tingling between my legs that I have a clear memory of at age 16, yet I had no idea what was happening to me. I did not know what masturbation was until I was in nursing school. And, my mother was a nurse, but also a strict “born again” christian.
While growing up, I had a strong desire to dance, trying it out in seventh grade, but my feeling guilty of going against my mother’s christian rules not to dance, “or be of this world” put chains on my wish-to-be dancing ankles. Although I fought with my mother often, my rebellious spirit was conquered by wanting and needing my parents’ loving approval more than the teenage need to be her self. To this day, I wish I could have danced with my father at my wedding.
Sixteen was also the monumental year for learning the shocking truth of my origins by my mother yelling at me, “He’s not your father!” Later, that same year I also remember myself walking up our cellar stairs experiencing an epiphany: ‘I am an individual in my own right’ a feeling of amazement that I could BE; I was conscious of my consciousness: immediately sharing thIS with my father. I wish I could remember his response, yet I feel he approved and supported me like how he wrote to me in college when I was 18, “That you make comments and ask questions in Bible class and are not afraid to think and ask and how happy I am about that.” It was dad’s openness that fundamentally led me to leave the religious ropes I wore until age 38 in 1984!
In my twenties, I delivered 2 beautiful daughters, and began living a double life, of dancing while still attending church every Sunday. It was when my eldest daughter was 12 that I told her I was leaving my christian faith while she cried in her top bunk, saying “But mom you will go to hell.” Even though my daughters enjoyed dance lessons, they were still indoctrinated like I had been, but with less rigid rules. It shakes me to my toes how easily children are molded by their parents as I watch a documentary on TV where a 16 year old tells the interviewer that he has his own choice to follow the mennonite religion he has been brought up in…teenagers may think they have the independence to choose, but they are still dependant on their parents, and I strongly wanted to call that teen up at that moment; to free him. And, I wanted to call the TV station and ask them to hear my heart!
My daughters no longer believe what they were brought up to believe, thank god, and it gives me pleasure to remember when my oldest, Erin, snuck out one night when she was nearly 16, after I had gone out myself to dance somewhere in Ithaca’s college town scene…and whom did I see crossing College Avenue? Erin in her short skirt dolled up to roam where the boys are. Promptly, I walked her toward home.
Now my 17 year old granddaughter Denali is spending her junior year as an exchange student in Paraguay, becoming fluent in Spanish and recently took an extended tour of Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She emails me: (she knows I argentine tango usually two nights a week, and dance four nights a week) “Buenos Aires is amazing! I thought of you lots! I saw a tango show in the street, and danced for like 30 seconds with an old man “king of tango” and also went to a fancy dinner and tango show which was soo great! The whole time I was there I wanted to be tangoing…haha”