Another incident, that I’ve described before, happened when I was very small and was asked to take a diaper to the trash for my mother. I had a sensitive gag reflex as a kid. Smells or sights could make me vomit. My father saw this as a character flaw and lack of self-control, so he mandated that my mother find a way to break my sensitivity.
This particular day, I gagged on the way to the garbage can and was punished severely. Part of that punishment involved two weeks of eating the same meal (a meal that had previously made me toss my cookies): liver and onions. I hated the texture and smell. Yet, every night, while the rest of the family enjoyed whatever my mom had prepared, I was presented with liver and onions. I sat in my chair for hours, until the meat had congealed and cooled, trying to force down smaller and smaller bites. If I didn’t finish it, it was reheated and served for breakfast the next morning.
When I finally managed to eat the meal without throwing up, I was given oatmeal dyed with food coloring or some other unappetizing or stinky menu option. In the end, I learned to disassociate from what I was eating and I got past my gag reflex. My dad claimed this as his victory.
My siblings and I became robots for Jesus and my father took all the credit. We were picture perfect children, on the surface. Beneath the surface, we all suffered from various forms of anxiety disorders. It’s not surprising! Everything, and I mean everything, was a big deal. If, when we finished our dinner, we didn’t place our forks precisely on our plates (with the tines at two o’clock and the handle at ten o’clock, horizontally), it was considered a lapse in self control. If we spoke an unkind word or raised an eyebrow, it was a lapse in self control. If we ran, rather than walked, to get to a toy… you get the general idea.
One of my dad’s “friends” was a pervert. Much later in his life, he was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior towards a minor. This didn’t shock me because, one afternoon, when I was six, he attended our home church and the bbq that followed. I was inside the kitchen, gathering condiments on my mother’s orders to take back outside. One of my younger brothers was with me, getting hamburger buns and putting them in a basket to take to the serving line. Directly off our kitchen was a small pantry. “Martin” followed me inside the house and engaged me in small talk.
When there were no other adults present, he told my brother and I to go into the pantry. Once inside, he shut the door and told me to kiss my brother. I pecked him on the cheek without questioning the order or the reason for the order. Apparently, he didn’t want to see a peck. He told my brother to open his mouth and told me to stick my tongue inside his mouth. I was nervous and felt awkward but I’m also ashamed to say that, after having been drilled into following orders even if they were morally questionable, I did exactly as instructed. I didn’t even hesitate.
This haunted me for years. How could I do such a thing without even pausing to consider that what we’d been instructed to do was wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it- this is why the obedience game is dangerous. It replaces your ability to reason or pause to consider if the request is reasonable or safe. That same afternoon, Martin told my father that I had defrauded his son by sitting on a fence.
As an adult who’s been through hours of therapy, I now see how twisted this experience was. Here’s a grown man ordering two children to tongue kiss while he watches, who then goes outside and suggests that a child is being sexually enticing (defrauding young boys) by sitting astride on a fence. It’s terrible
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