Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Month: November 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Are Spiritual Marriages “Real”?

This is another issue which seems to be hotly debated among Christians, especially teenagers who are too young to legally marry, and especially now that various forms of “marriage alternatives” have become popular in Western society: commitment ceremonies, same-sex blessing ceremonies, secret promises exchanged by couples who do not want a legal marriage for whatever reason.

Even Sting has a song about it: The Secret Marriage, copyright 1987, about his relationship with his own wife.  (For ten years, their union was not blessed by church or state: story here.)

These have been around for some years: I have read about Christians having “spiritual marriages”–secret marriages contracted with only God as witness–as far back as probably the 1980s, possibly even farther.  Where did people get the idea?  Probably from history.

History of informal marriages and their legal/religious validity

In the Middle Ages, at least since the twelfth century, such a marriage, called verbum or clandestine, would have been considered valid, even by the Catholic Church.

The girl had to be at least 12, and the boy at least 14.  The parents didn’t have to agree, there would often be no witnesses, and the couple might even continue on living in their parents’ houses, pretending to be unmarried–basically, Romeo and Juliet’s marriage without the friar.

A couple who exchanged consents in the present tense in the back woods with only squirrels for witnesses, against the wishes of their parents, and never had sexual intercourse was just as legally and bindingly married by the law of both church and state as a couple married by the Pope himself with the proud parents looking on and a child nine months later. —Sharon L. Krossa, Historical Handfasting

The Church hated such marriages and required penance, but considered the couple to be married.  The requirement of a public sacrament came much later, in the Counter-Reformation, after the Reformation caused state involvement in marriage and the issue arose of Catholics marrying Protestants.

Even now, the priest is merely a witness to a sacrament the couple carries out.  My references are the Time-Life book What Life was Like: in the Age of Chivalry: Medieval Europe AD 800-1500, and other sources listed in this article.

From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required.

However, bishop Ignatius of Antioch writing around 110 to bishop Polycarp of Smyrna exhorts, “[I]t becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust.”

In the 12th century, women were obligated to take the name of their husbands and starting in the second half of the 16th century parental consent along with the church’s consent was required for marriage.

With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties.

The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the “verbum.”

If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., “I marry you”), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense (“I will marry you”), it would constitute a betrothal.

…In England, under the Anglican Church, marriage by consent and cohabitation was valid until the passage of Lord Hardwicke’s Act in 1753. This act instituted certain requirements for marriage, including the performance of a religious ceremony observed by witnesses. —Wikipedia

According to note 17 of For God is also the God of bodies by Wanda Deifelt, quoting Steven Ozment, Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution, p. 155,

Luther accused church law of encouraging immature and unhappy marriages by its recognition of so-called ‘secret’ marriages. These were private unions entered into by youths of canonical age (at least twelve for girls and fourteen for boys) without the knowledge and consent of their parents and apart from any public witnesses.

The medieval church sanctioned such unions grudgingly in an attempt to control premarital sex and to bring marriage, at its inception, under the moral authority of the church.

According to Wikipedia,

Clandestinity is a diriment impediment in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. It requires the presence of witnesses to the marriage vows, one of which must be a priest or a deacon, in order for the marriage to be valid.

It was promulgated in the 16th century by the Council of Trent in the decree called Tametsi. Prior to that time, an unwitnessed exchange of marriage vows was deplored but valid. The decree was enforced only in those regions where it could be proclaimed in the vernacular. —Clandestine marriages in the Middle Ages

Catholic view on who does the actual marriage sacrament

During the Middle Ages, when European tribes overtook the Roman Empire, a conflict arose between Roman civil law and European law and custom regarding marriage. European law held that marriage was a contract; that the couple owed each other sexual rights to procreate; and that witnesses and a formal ceremony were required.

Parents who arranged marriages for their children to increase their power and property wanted marriages to be public contracts. Roman law held that only the couple’s vows to each other were important and that they could be taken in private.

A whole series of popes declared on the side of Roman law, ruling that marriage was the result of a couple’s mutual consent and nothing else. No witnesses were required, and no contract needed to be signed.

However, such privacy led to problems. Parents who arranged marriages in what they held to be the best interest of themselves and their children were still being thwarted.

There were abuses as well. Jealous or greedy people could prevent someone’s marrying by claiming they had already wed someone else in private, and no one could dispute these false charges. —The Marriage Vows by Helen Keeler and Susan Grimbly

But also note that the modern Catholic Church also does not recognize civil marriages unless later blessed by a priest, or marriages between Catholics and Protestants which do not take place in the presence of a priest, unless they have special dispensation.  Yet these marriages are recognized as valid by both law and society.

We begin to see so much variation in who considers a marriage valid and when, that we may wonder, Who gets to decide in the eyes of God?  Or if you don’t believe in God, Who gets to decide when a marriage is truly valid for a couple?  Is it a religious group, or the law, or society, or the couple?

(Or triple, or quadruple, etc. in polygamous marriages, which also are considered invalid by law in America, but valid among certain religious groups.)

Catholic Encyclopedia article on mixed and clandestine marriage

Theology of marriage and the problems of mixed marriage

mixed marriages in Catholic church

As written by Jeff Favre in “I Do, I Do,” the Catholic Church did not always have so much influence on what defined a marriage among its members.  In the beginning of the Church, except for the rules defined in Scripture, Christians took their marriage rules from the society, not the other way around.

Then in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, he writes, theologians “specified the church’s beliefs regarding Christian marriage,” and “held that marriage was part of the created order and subject to the laws of nature, a societal contract entered into freely by the parties involved and a sacrament that was subject to church laws.”

Though St. Augustine had already called it a sacrament centuries before this, this was just

to emphasize its permanence and stability.  When it became a sacrament in the practical sense, everything that had to do with marriage became the church’s responsibility and under the church’s authority.

This represented a significant shift from the church’s previous policy, which was simply to add a layer of blessing to whatever local marriage customs prevailed.

Favre continues that when Martin Luther came along and sparked the Reformation, he said the “church’s laws on marriage were arrogant.  He believed marriage existed since the first humans, long before the formation of the church.”  He wanted the state to regulate marriage, not the church.  “In fact, to Luther a marriage existed even if it only was an agreement between a couple, without either a civil recognition or church blessing.”  Eventually, marriage became a legal arrangement. –(“I do, I do” by Jeff Favre)

Here is a paper showing how marriage customs changed since Roman times, and how different Christian thinkers had different ideas on what constituted a proper marriage.

During a period of time in Ireland, Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry. —New York Times article, Taking Marriage Private

The Orthodox church also does not permit its members to be married in non-Orthodox ceremonies.  But Protestant churches usually recognize any marriage, whether it’s contracted by a judge or a preacher, and even if it involves the mixing of two Christian denominations.

Would clandestine marriages be recognized as valid among Protestants?  It probably depends on the preacher, on how liberal or conservative the congregation is, and on how much of a role the church insists on having in a wedding.

For example, the Nazarene church probably would not recognize a clandestine marriage as valid, while preachers from the UCC and other liberal denominations sometimes consider a non-legal blessing ceremony between a gay couple to be valid.

I also read about a secret marriage (no witnesses/clergy) in a Washington Irving story, “The Adventure of the German Student.”  In my own desert island novel Jerisland, which I’ve never published but worked on in high school and college, the castaway teenagers eventually began performing their own ceremonies, because they couldn’t possibly find a minister or follow U.S. marriage laws.

Popularity of such marriages

This practice of non-legal, sometimes secret marriage is common, even among Christian couples, long after the demise of medieval verbum marriages; opinions of its validity vary greatly.

It has even made it onto TV: I saw it on the vampire soap opera Port Charles: Allison and Rafe had a secret ceremony in a barn and called themselves married (“Secrets” book), even though there were no witnesses, and they didn’t live together or tell everyone they were married.

Spiritual marriages have been depicted on other soap operas and TV shows as well.  In 1993 on an episode of Picket Fences, set in Wisconsin, a judge dissolved a Mormon’s second marriage, but said there was nothing stopping them from a common-law marriage.

And now we have reality shows depicting polygamous marriages, not legal but considered valid among certain religious groups, such as Sister Wives and My Five Wives.

Retirees sometimes go into a “spiritual” marriage so they don’t lose pension benefits.  I occasionally read about couples who consider their true wedding anniversary to be some time before the anniversary of the public ceremony, though there were no witnesses or licenses.  Another thing couples do is to get legally married, then keep it secret, having a public wedding later.

It is not living in sin, it is not playing house, it is not practicing for the real thing. It is a legitimate option for people who cannot, or are unwilling to, get legally married. It is the practice of taking private marriage vows.

It’s not a common practice by any stretch of the imagination. Very few people do it, but is that simply because it is very much an unknown option? Is it because society pressures us to tell the government and any church we are affiliated with that we are in love and committed to building a life with another person?

Taking private marriage vows is a personal commitment, and it is true that some couples may find it easier to dissolve a marriage that has been finalized in this way.

However, for those couples who are truly dedicated to having a married life but cannot do it for one reason or another, the marriage may be just as strong as, if not stronger than, a marriage that has been governmentally sanctioned. –Suiiki, Private Marriage Vows: When Legal Marriage is Not an Option

The pop singer Brandy is said to have had a spiritual marriage: see here and here.

This has also occurred between two famous actors, two famous singers, and various other parties, who have tried to get it legally recognized after a breakup, with varying success: see Common Law Marriages, which describes those legal cases and how “informal” marriage has been dealt with for centuries.

While “common-law” no longer simply means an agreement to be married, and is no longer recognized in many states, it used to be just that agreement, and legal.

Nowadays, in certain states (which ones, depends on which website you read), such couples would be considered common-law married on their vows and agreement alone, and would have to get legally divorced.  In other states, the best you can get is “spiritually” married.

For much of American history, informal marriages with no clergy or witnesses were legally binding.  This helped the pioneers get married, since they did not always have a clergyman or official nearby.  Only in the past century have common-law marriages lost their legal status in such states as Indiana (1958) and Wisconsin (1917).

Throughout history, you can find stories of people marrying “spiritually” but not civilly because their marriages were legally banned, such as between slaves or homosexuals.  In the Early Church, marriages between people of different social classes were not legal, so the church “affirmed lifelong, monogamous relationships whether couples were officially married or not” (p. 90, The Unauthorized Guide to Sex and the Church, Carmen Renee Berry).

The novel Clotel portrays a secret, spiritual marriage between a mixed-race woman and a white man in the days when the law did not allow such a marriage.  Though the novelist considers their marriage to be real, the man eventually decides to take a white wife, and abandons his slave wife (pages 80 and 108).

A series of popular novels by Diana Gabaldon includes a young woman and her boyfriend (Brianna and Roger) who secretly take vows, which they call “handfasting.”  This allows them to be considered truly married until they can find a preacher to make it permanent, even though nobody witnesses it.  They tell no one until her parents discover it.

Of course, whether handfasting in this form actually occurred is up for some debate.  In modern times, neopagans have taken up handfasting, themselves, complete with a public ceremony, deciding whether to make it temporary (with a permanent ceremony later) or permanent.  It may or may not become a legal marriage.  (Another source.)

But is it valid in modern times?

Okay, we’ve established that these “marriages” happen a lot.  But is a marriage binding in the eyes of God (or in the eyes of two people, if they don’t believe in God) if the law or the church does not recognize it?  It is an oath, so it could be valid spiritually.  This website has a relevant section on oaths.

It’s easy to find links to websites of people who believe there must be a public, religious and/or legal declaration for a marriage to be real.  Go ahead and get that side of the issue.  But also check out these links, which either describe or promote different beliefs (not necessarily the views of this writer, but examples to show how societal values are changing):

Marriage

Common-law marriage

Libertarians are likely to disagree with the notion of government-sanctioned marriage itself. Specifically, they would deny that the government deserves any role in marriage other than enforcing whatever legal contract people choose to enter, and to oppose the various additional rights currently granted to married people. —Libertarian Party

 

[Libertarian View]: The government has no authority to recognize any marriage. The over 1,000 legal rights granted to heterosexual couples should not be granted.

For example, the tax code should not treat married couples differently than unmarried couples. The government should not compel hospitals to allow any individual access to patients or medical records, except in accordance with that hospital’s policy.

Individuals can choose to cohabitate, and can declare themselves married, or perform a ceremony.  It is up to individuals to choose, according to their own beliefs, whether to recognize any such marriage. —Wikipedia article on Same-Sex Marriage issue

The Libertarians have an unlikely ally in this one issue in abortion extremist Pastor Matt Trewhella of Mercy Seat Christian Church of Milwaukee, who refuses to marry couples with state marriage licenses, and here’s why.  (Disclaimer: I’m not saying his arguments are right, just that he makes them.)

“Christian think-tank raises radical questions about marriage,” a source on marriage views

A website with marriage laws for Texas, run by a Texas State Justice of the Peace who served for twelve years.  See “Must we have a marriage license to get married?” section.  It states that laws do not prohibit personal commitment ceremonies, or prohibit people from calling themselves married if they want to.  What they do prohibit is legal protection/rights/recognition for such marriages, which are the basic reasons for getting a licensed marriage.  So no, having a non-legal marriage is hardly “breaking the law” or “illegal.”  (It used to be illegal in Utah, but thanks to a case brought by the Browns of Sister Wives, this is no longer the case.)

http://www.unmarried.org/ceremonies.html

http://www.unmarried.org/ceremonyfaq.html

http://www.unmarriedtoeachother.com/commitment-ceremony.html

http://www.unmarried.org/legalfaq.html

http://www.weddingdialogues.com/

On this page, they discuss whether or not marriage requires a “piece of paper.”  The answer seems to be that no, it doesn’t, since marriage is a lifelong commitment, but in the US, why wouldn’t you want legal backing?

A debate on a Christian forum about whether or not spiritual marriages with no witnesses or clergy–and even secret ones–are valid in God’s eyes.  Opinions vary greatly in this thread.  [Update 11/30/14: Link no longer works.]  And this is not the only such thread I found!

Here’s yet another which just popped up.  [Update 11/30/14: The thread shows that I wrote or completed this page around July 2007.] 

And here’s a huge thread in a non-religious forum.  [Update 11/30/14: This used to link to a Wisconsin forum called Moms Like Me.  However, the forum no longer exists.  But Googling will bring up all sorts of more recent discussions on the validity of spiritual marriages.]

These websites and others show that attitudes are changing, especially now that the debate over same-sex marriage has been thrown into the mix.

Though many people still consider a marriage to be real only if it’s legal and public, and accuse those with non-legal or secret marriages of lacking commitment or maturity, there are a lot of people who feel the law has no bearing on what two people commit to with each other.

They know the law won’t recognize their marriage, but they do it anyway, and call it a marriage in the eyes of God.  Many people also have religious ceremonies without licenses, for various reasons.

According to one post in a forum, which may or may not be trustworthy, many Christians accept lifelong spiritual bonds as valid even if there’s no legal marriage.  [11/30/14: Unfortunately, I did not link to this, and after 7 years, doubt I can find it again.] 

I found debates all over the Internet–between adults, not teenagers debating the meaning of abstinence–on what constitutes a “real” marriage in God’s eyes.  I found plenty of accounts of adult, mature couples privately committing to each other and considering it binding, even without a legal backing; it’s not just kids who need to “grow up” or “accept adult responsibility.”

Even in college, a Pentecostal friend once told me that spiritual marriages could often be more real than ones with a “piece of paper,” though for various reasons the bride would be better off getting that “piece of paper.”

If local customs are what makes a marriage a marriage–well, those “local customs” are changing in Western society.  Still, unless it’s legally valid, you won’t have legal protections, whether the marriage fits “local customs” or not.

Of course, having a marriage not recognized by others can happen even with legal marriages.  For examples: Two people marry legally, but secretly because their parents won’t allow it, something that happens now at the courthouse and often happened in the Middle Ages with verbum marriages; what about the common argument that a marriage is a public declaration?

If gay marriage is legalized, many groups (especially conservative religious ones) will still not recognize the marriages as valid.  And the Catholic church considered my ex-boyfriend Peter’s parents, though legally married, to be “living in sin” and Peter as illegitimate, because his mother was Catholic and his father was Lutheran.  (I don’t know why they didn’t have it at least blessed by a priest.  I’m not privy to so many details.)

Here is an online advice column: Two divorced people came together and decided they would be spiritually married.  The counselor, taking a Christian perspective, says that our word should be just as bonding as God’s word, whether we back it up legally or not.  She supports the idea that a spiritual marriage is valid.  Of course, she also advises caution in such matters:

So, in God’s eyes, whether there is a ‘spiritual marriage’ with a promise or commitment, or a cultural civil ceremony with a piece of signed paper, it is one in the same [sic].

However, throughout history man has chosen to define the spiritual commitment with the civil act by emulating solemn ceremonies witnessed by others out of necessity for many reasons, chief among them being that man is deceitful and will want to break a vow!

So one point she makes is that we should be careful what vows we make–not just in public, but in private–because God will hold us to them.

Also see this [original news link no longer works] article.  Nicole Hastings, an Ohio girl dying of cancer, needed to stay on her parents’ insurance policy because the treatments cost far too much.  But she also wanted to marry her boyfriend.  So, on September 16, 2006, Make A Wish Foundation paid for a commitment ceremony held in her church, Mentor United Methodist Church.  Quote:

And despite some murmuring in the family about moral issues regarding the non-wedding and honeymoon to follow, Nicole is confident about her ethical standing after talking with the minister who will perform the ceremony.

‘He told me that when Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden, that God was the one who performed the ceremony–and they didn’t need a marriage license either,’ Nicole said. ‘I already have the approval I need.’

Many people do marry secretly with a license, not just without, then let their families think that the later, public ceremony is the legal marriage.  But the problem with an unlicensed, secret marriage is that one spouse can claim that marriage never existed–as happened to the singer Brandy and also to me.

These days, when Americans are of various religions and many are not religious, it’s simple enough for a couple to decide to be married without either a public ceremony or a license.

If they draw up legal contracts, they can even get many of the rights lacking to unmarried couples.

The lack of a legal wedding or church wedding will not phase them if they do not wish to be legally married and do not go to church.  To them, all that matters is that they have committed to be together for life.

Is this a valid marriage in God’s eyes?  Only God can judge.

But should a Christian do this?

But what is a Christian to make of this?  He has to be careful, because he answers to God, not to himself.  He also has to answer to his church.  (I use “he” generically, because “he or she” or “they” are awkward.)

An atheist or Wiccan couple could indeed consider themselves married without a license or a ceremony: They only have the law and themselves to answer to, and as long as they don’t try to claim the legal rights of a legally married couple, the government probably won’t care.

But members of less permissive religious communities should follow the rules of their community.  A Catholic or Orthodox believer could get excommunicated (prohibited from taking the Eucharist) for marrying without a legal license combined with a church wedding.

So whether a nonlegal marriage is valid in God’s eyes is moot for a Catholic or Orthodox believer, because anything less than a wedding performed or witnessed by a priest, is not allowed anyway.

Many Protestant churches recognize civil marriages as just as valid as a church wedding, but probably would frown on a clandestine marriage.  But some liberal Protestant churches allow individuals to make up their own minds about how or whether to get married.

If sex outside of marriage is allowed in a church, if living together is allowed in a church, then a nonlegal, private wedding will probably be allowed.  And some Christians do not attend a church.

A combination of the Protestant belief that you decide for yourself what the Bible says, and living in a pluralistic society, can easily make a person believe that he can marry even without the okay of one church or another.

Whether this is correct or not, I suppose that’s up to the individual to decide.  Even in conservative churches, you can often find the belief that only the Bible and your conscience is your ultimate authority, rather than the preacher.

My own belief is that a nonlegal, even secret marriage is spiritually valid because of the oath and the commitment.  My own belief is that breaking up that marriage to be with another is akin to adultery.

But I advise caution.  I advise holding off on that commitment ceremony, vow exchange, consummation, and/or setting up house until you have thought things through and spoken with your priest or preacher.

First of all, what if the relationship goes sour?  You will have no legal recourse.  You will not have the help of society which you would have if you were legally married.  Instead, you will be left trying to sort out whether you can marry someone else without committing adultery.

If your nonlegal “spouse” leaves you, he will be able to remarry–in the church, no less–without trouble.  But you will be left thinking, “Isn’t he committing adultery?  Yet he gets a church wedding!”  If the church does not consider his remarriage to be adultery, then you will have no means to contest it.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches also teach that marriage is a sacrament, and without that church-ordered sacrament, you don’t get the grace you otherwise would receive in your marriage.

I’m not going to tell you your marriage isn’t “valid” because it wasn’t done publicly, or in front of the right priest, or with a license.  I’m not going to tell you it isn’t “valid” because it was a handfasting ceremony with no license or justice of the peace, or because it was done in front of a justice of the peace instead of a preacher.

But your religious community and secular society are different matters which you’ll have to contend with.

I do not recommend secret marriages, because many people won’t accept a spiritual marriage as real and could even accuse you of all sorts of base motivations.

Literature and drama is full of the problems of secret marriages (legal and non-legal), such as Romeo and Juliet and Cimarosa’s The Secret Marriage.  Or you can break up and your “spouse” will claim that you were never actually married in the first place, making you look like a fool to many.

There are good reasons for those marriage laws and customs in the first place.  You’re much better off following your church’s guidelines/rules for marriage, and having a public ceremony, not even eloping.

–Written probably between 2006 and July 2007

 

Index to my Life Opinion pages:

Topics on Page 1

Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 

Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? 

Am I supposed to spend all of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it? 

Topics on Page 2

Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? 

Topics on Page 3

Abuse in all its forms: Links to help 

My Personal Stories

Sociopathic Female Bullies Pt 1: Before Tracy, There Was the Avenger–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 4

Sharon, Pearl and I soon discovered a bullying and smear campaign being carried out on TCB, led by “Lima” against his ex-girlfriend Pamela.

Lima’s usual greeting in Teleconference was “hello” written backwards, or “olleh,” the mirror-image effect Rachel was so fond of.  So I always greeted him with, “hello lima bean–olleh amil neab” or “hello olleh lima amil bean neab.”  But this was before I knew about the bullying.

Now, whenever I went online, I found Lima (a tallish, dark-haired guy of about twenty who worked instead of going to college) and his friends ripping on Pamela.

One day, Pamela came online and he complained about seeing her.  I asked why; he whispered to me (that means, he sent a private message to me) that Pamela was his ex-girlfriend, that she cheated on him and was just awful to him.

After this, Sharon went online one day and found Pamela.  Pamela, a pretty girl with dark hair who was about our age, took her into chat.

She said that Lima and his friends were lying about her, that she never did those things they accused her of.  She said he’d already dated and dumped another girl since her, so Avenger, his new girlfriend (who was only sixteen), was afraid he’d do the same thing to her.

(Actually, a few years later, he married her.  I have no idea if they’re still together, because–even though I can search divorce and criminal records easily in Wisconsin–I never knew their full names.)

Avenger posted sexual innuendos in her profile, which disturbed me because Lima was twenty and she sixteen: Sixteen-year-olds are jailbait in Wisconsin.  In fact, if the police discover that two minor teenagers of the exact same age have slept together, both get charged with sexual assault!  It’s nuts, I know.

“Pigpen” and “Cankersore” were friends of Avenger and Lima.  They were teen-age girls: Pigpen was pretty and slim, and recently broke Stimpy’s heart in a nasty way; Cankersore was plump.  I met them at Gypsy’s party.

Sharon and I witnessed the horrible things Lima, Avenger, Pigpen and Cankersore, probably Nobody, and probably some of Lima’s male friends did whenever Pamela was online.  They waged out-and-out war with her.

She didn’t like being online at the same time as they were, especially in Teleconference, where they’d rip and rip and rip on her with no mercy.

They posted nasty things about her in the forums.  No matter who else was in tele (Teleconference), this group posted everything publicly.  If they whispered anything to her, I don’t know.  This cyber-abuse, cyber-bullying, upset Pamela a lot.

Sometime during this period, I met Avenger online for the first time: I went into tele, finding Ish Kabibble, and Avenger in private chat with a boy who wasn’t Lima.

She came back into the main Teleconference channel and the boy left.  Ish said words like, “I see you brushing yourself off, there, Avenger.  You’d better be careful not to let Lima know you were alone with another boy.”

I made some joke in this vein which I can’t remember now, just some harmless throwaway comment to make her laugh.  Everyone else laughed.  But she turned on me and wrote, “Listen, NEW USER, you’d better be careful.”  I had no clue why she’d say that to me, especially when she wasn’t mad at Ish for teasing her.  It was bizarre.

I believe she left tele soon after, so I discussed it with Ish, wondering what the heck had just happened.  He didn’t know what set her off, either.

When Avenger logged off a few minutes later, she sent a message to me that said, “Avenger is hugging you!”  I paged her with, “So you’ve forgiven me now? 🙂 ”

She didn’t respond because she was already offline.  I didn’t know at the time that this was her logoff message, sent to the entire board, that she wasn’t hugging me personally.

(By the way, I soon began to type “.wave all” before I logged off each time, which sent a message to everyone online saying, “Nyssa Of Traken is waving to you.”  That was my good-bye wave.)

After I discovered my mistake, and that Avenger had not “forgiven” me at all, I dreaded her appearance online, and avoided her.  I grunted “Avenger” with a frown whenever she came online.

I checked her registry.  It said she was sixteen, which I knew to be a volatile age, so I said to myself, “That explains it.”  Well, sort of, since I wasn’t like that at sixteen.

It wasn’t just her age, but her personality.  Of course, I didn’t know that yet.  She was rude and mean to me ever since she first met me, even though I was always nice to people online.

Her attitude problem didn’t go away with age, as I discovered a year or two later, and then around 2006 or 2007 when she found this memoir on my website.  She still refused to admit that she was mean and nasty to everyone, still saw herself as some kind of champion.

At 16, she seemed to hate anyone over 20.  She seemed to think people that “old” hated teenagers.  She turned on them with the slightest provocation–even with no provocation–and twisted anything they said into a slam on teenagers.

She and her cronies ridiculed older users in the forums.  If anyone tried to defend them, she ridiculed them, too.

She was immature, but insisted she was mature (which Cugan later told me was a sure sign of her immaturity).  She was bad-tempered, arrogant and cocky.

I never did anything to her–except disagree with her–yet she hated me.  One of the other users told me there were few girls on the BBS, so many of them hated competition.  (What’s with this “competition,” anyway?)  However, that didn’t excuse how nasty some of these girls got.

After all, Avenger wasn’t just rude to other girls, but to men, too.  Speaker was one favorite target.  So were Krafter, Stimpy and their male friends.  Once, an older guy wrote to her in the forums, “I don’t understand you at all.”

Nowadays, I believe that Avenger is a sociopath.  She could also have other Cluster B personality disorders, considering how easily she took offense, a sure sign of borderline or histrionic disorders.  I soon discovered the full extent of Avenger’s abusive personality, so much so that you could call her the teenage version of Tracy, another personality-disordered bully whom I met later on in life.

But this was not the end.  More on this batsh**-crazy sociopathic female is in the March chapter.  There, her drama-queen antics reached a fever pitch as she tried to mob-cyber-bully me off the board with a massive smear campaign.

That’s what she and Lima did to Pamela, who eventually stopped going on the BBS entirely, yet another nice person intimidated off while the nasty ones took over.  That’s what she tried to do to another girl, Amethyst? a year later–except Amethyst just laughed at her.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

Technical Virginity and the Christian Single

This topic has been big among Christian teenagers since at least as far back as my own teens.  I got very upset when my fiancé Phil told me he’d had oral sex with two previous girlfriends.  I saw it as plainly sex (as a Christian, I always believed my future husband and I would save ourselves for each other).

But he and one or two friends told me they didn’t see it as sex.  Phil–who made a big deal about going through a few years of sex education in high school and “knowing better” than I did–also believed that dry humping was not sex, either–even though it seemed a lot like it–because it didn’t involve “penetration” and the clothes stayed on.

Meanwhile, I did not realize that if what he did was “sex,” then I had engaged in “sex” as well–a different kind, but still sex–with my friend Shawn.

There are various activities Christian teens engage in to avoid “fornication” while also satisfying their lusts with each other.  But are they right to call themselves virgins?

I don’t believe they are.  Giving someone an orgasm is a basic element of sex.  Just think about it: If a lesbian has had several lovers but never vaginal sex, can you honestly call her a virgin?  Even Wikipedia, in its article on sexual intercourse (which I won’t link to because it has pictures), includes oral sex as “intercourse.”

I’m not here to judge what you ultimately decide to do with your body, but to help you make an informed decision based on your beliefs.

See these articles:

Can you get pregnant without having vaginal sex?  (Answer: possibly!)

USA Today article on Teens and Technical Virginity

Losing It–What is Virginity?

Medical Definitions of Sex

Technical Virginity and the Definition of Sex

Magical Cups and Bloody Brides: Virginity in Context  (The authors of this website have many viewpoints which are not Christian.  But Christian young people still should see that even this website includes other forms of “stimulation” under the heading of “sex,” and would not call a lesbian a “virgin” if she’s only had female lovers.)

Can I Get Pregnant If….

What’s Sex

State laws on legal ages of consent  Note that, in Wisconsin, you don’t have to be over the age of majority to be charged with a sex crime.  Even if you’re 15 and so is your girlfriend, and it’s completely consensual, you can be charged as a sex offender.  I live in Wisconsin, and my source is the daily newspaper, where I’ve read many such stories of kids under 18 being charged as sex offenders for consensual sex.

USA Today article–Teens define sex in new ways

Christian article on technical virginity

Article (warning: explicit terms and pictures) from Wikipedia about activities which avoid intercourse, yet still are termed “safer sex”

Extremely helpful advice to an extremely naïve couple:

While what virginity is and is not is not something medical or actual, but an idea some people have that can differ from person to person, I think it’s very important that you acknowledge that you have been sexually active. You have had sex.

Most definitions of abstinence simply mean that a person is not having any kind of genital sex with another person: not manual, oral, vaginal or anal sex.

Here is a good article about Christian dating.

Today, casual dates and “hookups” are so prevalent amongst teens and young adults. “Hookups” are one night stands with strangers (someone never met before), or that are only acquaintances. Any relationship starting on the foundation of sexual activity will not last long. All that lasts is the broken heart….

The pressure today to develop only shallow friendships, or friendships that are all about “me”, is significant. In a world of one night stands, and how many partners can I bag this weekend, today’s relationships are not started to last.

Many relationships are over before they even really begin. With broken relationships come broken hearts. It takes an incredibly long time for a person’s heart to heal. —Friendship in the 21st Century

Be warned about legal definitions of sexual contact and intercourse, especially if you’re under 18.  You may think you’re still a virgin when legally, you lost that a long time ago, and you (or your sexual partner) could be liable for prosecution.  For example, Wisconsin state law says, for the purpose of assault:

(5) “Sexual contact” means any of the following:

(a) Any of the following types of intentional touching, whether direct or through clothing, if that intentional touching is either for the purpose of sexually degrading or sexually humiliating the complainant or sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant:

1. Intentional touching by the defendant or, upon the defendant’s instruction, by another person, by the use of any body part or object, of the complainant’s intimate parts.

2. Intentional touching by the complainant, by the use of any body part or object, of the defendant’s intimate parts or, if done upon the defendant’s instructions, the intimate parts of another person.

(b) Intentional penile ejaculation of ejaculate or intentional emission of urine or feces by the defendant or, upon the defendant’s instruction, by another person upon any part of the body clothed or unclothed of the complainant if that ejaculation or emission is either for the purpose of sexually degrading or sexually humiliating the complainant or for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant.

(c) For the purpose of sexually degrading or humiliating the complainant or sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant, intentionally causing the complainant to ejaculate or emit urine or feces on any part of the defendant’s body, whether clothed or unclothed.

(6) “Sexual intercourse” means vulvar penetration as well as cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal opening either by the defendant or upon the defendant’s instruction. The emission of semen is not required.

(7) “Sexually explicit conduct” means actual or simulated:

(a) Sexual intercourse, meaning vulvar penetration as well as cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal opening either by a person or upon the person’s instruction. The emission of semen is not required;

(b) Bestiality;

(c) Masturbation;

(d) Sexual sadism or sexual masochistic abuse including, but not limited to, flagellation, torture or bondage; or

(e) Lewd exhibition of intimate parts. —State Statue 948

(Also, State Statute 940.225 uses this definition of intercourse.)

(19) “Intimate parts” means the breast, buttock, anus, groin, scrotum, penis, vagina or pubic mound of a human being. —State Statute 939.22

Also see:

Go Ask Alice

The Center for Young Women’s Health

TeensHealth

 

Index to my Life Opinion pages:

Topics on Page 1

Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 

Are Spiritual Marriages “real”? 

Am I supposed to spend all of my free time at home with my spouse/kids now that I’m married?  Will that strengthen my marriage–or weaken it? 

Topics on Page 2

Is it okay to be jealous of the opposite-sex friends of my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? 

Topics on Page 3

Abuse in all its forms: Links to help 

My Personal Stories

 

Learning my ex Peter was a love-fraud; New Men–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 3

(Love fraud definition here by the one who coined the term.)

The following may have happened soon after February 7: I found my ex Peter, or “Red Dwarf,” on TCB.  I sent him a cryptic e-mail one day, saying he could look in my registry and know who I was.  I got no reply, so I thought he wanted nothing to do with me.

Then one night, he paged me on TCB with, “Hello Nyssa.”  He knew who I was.  He said he hadn’t answered, not because he didn’t want to, but because he wanted to catch me online and talk to me.

He said, “I never expected to see you on these BBS’s!”  I told him about Dad’s old modem in Pearl’s computer.

That night we talked online for a long time, mostly about what happened between Phil and me.  He heard we broke off the engagement, but didn’t know why.  “What happened???” he wrote.  He also told me he converted to Wicca/Paganism.

He got angry with Phil when I told him the things Phil did.  At one point, I wrote, “Phil should go and be a monk, and spare all women.”  He’d once wanted to be a priest, but I figured even a priest gives marital counseling to his parishioners, so a monk in some isolated monastery would do the least harm: safely locked away, sparing all women.

Peter made some shocked cyber-gesture and wrote, “I’m shocked that you would say–or rather, type–such things!”

Heck, I had written this and all sorts of other things in my diary on February 7, when I wrote that I no longer wanted Phil because he wasn’t worth it.

My mother also had never heard me talk about anyone the way I talked about Phil.

Peter talked about a girl he recently broken up with who was twenty(?) and acted fifteen(?).  I wondered if it was the same one I met earlier that school year in the cafeteria, though I didn’t mention her.  I couldn’t be sure, though; it could have been someone totally different.

Peter gently scolded me for using cold medicine and not herbs or other natural remedies.  Which struck me as weird, because doesn’t everybody do that, and why would I do different?

He said that he went to see the O’Haras recently, and was treated like crap.  So there was no love lost between him and Phil now, even though they once were good friends.

Soon after we started using TCB, and before February 8, Sharon went on one late afternoon before dinner and met someone who called himself Krafter, age 26.  He chatted with Sharon for a while, then told her he was administration.

Sharon, apparently thinking that a member of Roanoke administration was hitting on her, said, “Oh, yuck!”  As it turned out, he was a member of TCB administration, or one of the co-sysops, so there was nothing icky about him hitting on her after all.

He spoke with Sharon often over the next few days, and seemed to have more than friendship in mind.  One day, I talked to him as well, starting my own friendship with him.  One night, I even chatted with him for hours–somewhere between three to six.

I may have run out of time on TCB, because he told me the name and number of his own BBS, Deltapolis, and we went over there to chat.  We had many things in common and really hit it off (obviously, or we wouldn’t have chatted for so long).  Now he seemed interested in both Sharon and me as more than just friends, but didn’t know which one he preferred.

He’d never dated before, so he couldn’t believe that two women were actually interested in him.  He said he must be dreaming.  My handle, Nyssa of Traken, also interested him because as a kid, he had a huge crush on my namesake, Nyssa on Doctor Who.

He also hated the Doctor’s other teenaged companion, Adric, with a passion because he was “in the way.”  After that chat, he seemed more interested in me than in Sharon, which wasn’t my intention, though I was starting to fall for him, myself.

When Sharon discovered this, I couldn’t tell if she was mad or just faking, but part of it seemed real.  She said, “I hate you,” and laughed.  I didn’t think she meant it, though it made me uneasy.  I didn’t mean to steal Krafter away from her.

I told her, thinking of my ill-fated meeting with the Vampire, “You might not even like him when we meet him.  You don’t know.”  I probably said we should wait until our meeting with him on the eighth to decide who should have him, if either of us.

We set up our meeting for 5:30pm in the Chase Center in the hall beside the plants, or the greenhouse which was on the main floor of Chase.  Sharon had a class there at six.

His description: long leather coat, brown coat, red backpack, a (hooded) sweater/sweatshirt in many colors, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes.  I think he was about six feet tall, and something over 200 pounds.

We ate our dinner in excitement.  Randy joked about our meeting.  When 5:30 neared, we rushed off to Chase.  We sat in the hallway by the plants, wondering what we got ourselves into.

A scuzzy-looking guy in a leather jacket walked by.  At first we feared it was him, but it wasn’t.  We sighed with relief and waited some more.

Finally, Krafter arrived.  He was cute with striking, slanted, dark eyes.  He had short, brown hair, glasses, a shapely mouth, and a sweet, cute smile.  I was attracted to him, but Sharon wasn’t.

She said none of this to him, of course.  We went into a classroom, sat at the desks, and talked for maybe ten minutes or more.  I was jealous because Sharon had more to say than I did, so the two of them talked mostly to each other.  He smiled a lot.

When it was time to separate, Sharon said to me, “He’s so nice!”  Whether either of us wanted to date him or not, we certainly wanted to see him again.  And I was definitely interested in dating him.

I probably met Speaker online around this time, too.  He was 20, which seemed young to me then, even though I was only 21.  He had low self-esteem, refused to give his real name, and complained that he could never find a girl to love him.  We chatted for hours; I seemed drawn to such guys.  Phil had been similar.  I didn’t mind trying to encourage them.

Speaker had spoken to many of the other girls on TCB, but I was the “only truly nice girl” or the “nicest girl” there.  We became fast, online friends.  He called me Nyssie, and I called him Speaker-y.  I called myself his Nyssie.

Speaker and I got acquainted by doing the Budweiser frog thing to each other: One of us typed “Bud,” the other “Weis,” and the first typed “Er!” or “ER!”  I didn’t know it then, but he hadn’t even seen the commercial.

(When I met him finally, he said that on the way over he saw a Budweiser frog billboard, and thought of me.  Then I had to explain to him that I got the “Budweiser” thing from the frog commercial.)

Krafter wanted to meet us again.  He said he and his friend Stimpy watched Mystery Science Theater:3000 and ate pizza every Saturday night.  Though at first he wanted to just see us alone that Saturday, he said, “No, I can’t do that to Stimpy.”

Krafter knocked on the kitchen door on Saturday the 11th at around 5pm, holding a box of pizza.  Somebody also provided Mountain Dew, since, as my roommates and I now discovered, caffeine-filled Divine Dew was the drink of choice for computer geeks.

I answered the door.  Stimpy was nineteen, tall and skinny, with distinctive eyes.  His handle came from Ren and Stimpy.  His hair was long and light brown, and under a baseball cap–but facing front, not back, a good thing.  I thought he was cute, and Sharon and Pearl thought he was hot.  If Sharon wanted Krafter, I could take Stimpy.

We seemed less like two people meeting two other people, and more like two girls and two guys trying to get together and pair off.  All we needed to know was who wanted to pair off with whom.

That night, I sat on the couch, Krafter in a chair to my left and Stimpy on the couch to my right.  I wanted to choose one of them, but wasn’t sure which one I wanted most.  At the time, I thought it was Krafter.  I also flirted with Stimpy.

Sharon thought they were paying too much attention to me and not to her, so she finally went to bed.  She didn’t understand that she was Krafter’s favorite, not me.

To me, TV wasn’t a conversation killer, but a social gatherer.  By watching it and not each other, and filling up uncomfortable silences with it, you could feel more comfortable with people and begin to open up to them.

(Farwest Trivia, though it killed teleconference after its debut, was also this way, because you could comment on the questions if the conversation lagged.)

You could learn a lot about people just from their comments and laughter during TV shows.

Krafter was “in charge” of an imaginary corporation named Delta, made up of some TCB users (such as Ish Kabibble; more on him later).  Its aim was to take over everything.  This was all a joke, of course.  He even gave us Delta business cards.  The name of his BBS, Deltapolis, came from this.

Delta was housed in an imaginary pyramid, which, Krafter said, one day would “crush H–.”  I asked why H– (the town in which my friend Mike grew up); he said it was arbitrary, picked for being tiny and close to S–.

I dropped a Mississippi Mud ice cream sandwich (chocolate ice cream and nuts) on Stimpy’s lap in a flirty fashion.

After the TV shows ended, Krafter and Stimpy sat on chairs by the kitchen counter.  Krafter said,

“Stimpy and I can tell you about the users on TCB.  We can tell you who’s nice, who you can trust, and who you should avoid.

“If you want to meet someone, do it in a public place with people around.  If somebody doesn’t want to meet you, you should beware that they may not be as nice as they seem.

“Ish Kabibble is the one truly nice guy on TCB.  Speaker is a problem, since he never wants to meet anyone, and keeps giving girls these sob stories to make them feel sorry for him.

Red Dwarf is the worst!  He pretends to be what a girl wants so she’ll date him.  And he’s always borrowing programs from us for his BBS, which is really annoying.”

This revelation floored me.  I smiled and said, “I used to date Red Dwarf when I was a freshman.”

Krafter and Stimpy looked at me like I’d been contaminated or there was something wrong with me.

I laughed and said, “He was a Christian back then.”

Of course, what they said about Red Dwarf, or Peter, made me wonder how much of our relationship had been real, and how much had been an elaborate lie so I’d date him.  Was he like that back then, or was I not only his first girlfriend but the one who actually got to see the real him?

I had no way of knowing, especially since he changed completely after the breakup.  That could indicate that he lied to me, except that back then everyone else saw him the same way I did: as a sweet, Christian person.

Of course, Shawn wondered all along if Peter truly changed after the breakup, or if he’d been that way all along.  He said sophomore year, “Nobody changes that much.”

I didn’t believe Shawn back then, but now I didn’t know what to believe.  I still don’t; it’s not the sort of thing you ask somebody, even when you’re friends again: “Were you just fooling me and manipulating me?”

Apparently he makes a girl think he’s just the guy she’s always wanted–then wonders why she’s so upset and can’t let go after he breaks up with her!

I saw Speaker online soon after that, and he began beating himself up again.  Instead of reassuring him like usual, I got mad because he seemed to be manipulating me just as Krafter and Stimpy had warned me.

He then got mad at me for getting mad at him based on what other people said about him.  We eventually made up; I decided to be his friend and make up my own mind about him.

When I returned from Christmas Break, I planned to go back home after I graduated, and be with the Vampire, my old friend Josh and my high school friend Becky.  Now I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving all the wonderful people I was meeting on TCB.  I decided to stay in S– with them and my roommies.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Meeting Cugan (Hubby)–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 2

My last semester was comparatively light: two classes and my senior honors thesis.  But that thesis needed a lot of work: reading the massive book Middlemarch at my teacher’s request and writing reaction papers, research, drafts and rewrites.

Todd, my Irish Writers teacher, was now my Brit Lit teacher.  Most of the students were female, and often amused by him.  He loved Jane Austen, and was quiet and shy.  One day, forced to mention women’s periods because they related to something we’d read, seemed very nervous about it.  I didn’t notice it, but others did, and giggled about it later.  He was a favorite teacher.

On Wednesday, February first, I spoke to Dr. Nelson about my senior honors thesis.  I’d dreaded it since freshman year; junior year I almost took a regular junior studies class instead of junior honors so I wouldn’t have to do the thesis.  But I finally decided to go ahead and see the honors CORE classes through.  As I was about to find out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

I began to write my thesis based on Victorian women writers, how they perceived society’s restrictions on women, and how they treated the subject in their writings.  Nelson was to be my adviser.  Sometimes his wife, who shared his office, was there as we discussed the paper; she made her own comments on such things as Middlemarch and Victorian society.  She noted that some women long for the Victorian days so they wouldn’t have to have a job and write.

Middlemarch is by George Eliot, the penname of a woman who wrote in Victorian days.  This book was huge: The recent Penguin edition is 880 pages.  I was supposed to read it as quickly as possible.  I read as much as I could each day, but I did have two other classes, and, despite my comprehension skills, had always been a slower reader than everyone else I knew seemed to be.

I also had to read Chaucer in Middle English.  Catherine and Anna were in Chaucer class with me, so it became a common topic of conversation.  I already liked The Canterbury Tales; Catherine grew to love his works.  She hadn’t realized how clever, fun and, especially, bawdy they could get.

We read not just The Canterbury Tales, but many of Chaucer’s other stories, poems and translations, such as Romance of the Rose, a tale of Antony and Cleopatra, and Troilus and Criseyde.

The most fun part: We were required to learn the first 12 lines of the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, and recite them to a teacher other than our own (Christina) by a certain date.  On about that date, several of the students in Brit Lit cornered Todd after class and recited it to him.

Until that time, Anna and Catherine and I loved to recite lines of it to each other.  It was fun, and the lines were musical.  This is also when I posted lines from the Prologue in my TCB tagline.

Others still complained that Middle English was difficult to understand, but within a short time I got the hang of it.  The theory was, you were supposed to read it in its original pronunciation to understand it better.

But I discovered that just looking at the words without sounding them out made them easier to understand.  Many times Modern English has the same word in the same spelling, just pronounced differently.  Still, it took quite a while to read my assignments each night.

****

On Sunday, February 5, Catherine took me to my first SCA meeting.  It was for the S–/M– shire.

I was already interested in checking out this group of people who wear medieval clothes.  But she enticed me into going by saying, “There are lots of hot guys there, and they love to flirt with you.”

The meeting was at 2pm, though Catherine told me we didn’t have to get there on time.  I think we got there up to an hour late, which she said was normal for the SCA.  She said they wouldn’t have started until then, anyway, because most everyone else wouldn’t be there until then, either.  Unfortunately, this one started close to the proper time.

Steve the Head of the Psychos used to be part of this group as well, until he graduated with most of the Octagon in 1994 and (I believe) moved back home to Chicago.

The meeting was held at the home of people with the SCA names Ragnar and DiAnne.  Ragnar was a big, burly, blond-haired Viking with glasses and a beard.  He loved to hug, and to take smaller people, like me, and bounce them on his knee.

DiAnne had a pleasant face, glasses, and long, brown hair.  They had a newborn baby girl.  I don’t know how old they were, but I’d say 20s.

Catherine took me to this place, a duplex, and led me in the door and up a high entryway staircase.  She went in and the shire members cried out in happy surprise, not having seen her for some time.

“I brought somebody new,” she said.

They cried out in happy surprise again.  For the rest of the afternoon, I felt like the star of the show.

We set our coats down, probably on the floor, and found seats.  I quickly scanned the room for the hot guys Catherine had told me about, but most of the ones I saw looked too old or too married or too plain.  (Apparently she meant the SCA in general, not just this group.)

One, however, stood out: Cugan, who had been in the SCA for a few years, and joined the shire after Catherine stopped going.  (Well, actually, two were cute, but the other one had a girlfriend.)

I sat down in a chair near him and opposite the couch.  Catherine sat in a nearby corner.  These were the only places we could find to sit, and the chairs had been so arranged that I felt like my chair was out in the open, while Catherine’s huddled into the corner.  I felt self-conscious.

The meeting ended up being very dull.  It was long and all business, since they changed the format recently to make it more efficient.  (No more late starts, tangents or turning on Star Trek: TNG.)  Though it was very boring and I didn’t understand it, I did learn some things about the group, including Cugan.

He wore a black hat with a dragon pin, a Celtic knotwork medallion, and a large cross on a pendant.  In time, I discovered he made the medallion himself in Ireland, when he was about seventeen.  A Dungeons and Dragons book sat on a table near him.  (I later asked Catherine if that was his, and she said it probably was.)

As a person with NVLD, I couldn’t tell how old he was just by looking at him.  I feared he was much older than I, and would consider me too young.  I feared he was married or had a girlfriend.  I hoped he was a Christian, but wondered if the universe could really be so much in my favor.

He just couldn’t keep still during the meeting: His hat kept traveling from his head to his hand to his knee.  Sometimes, it even ended up on the head of a girl named Nadine.

I thought he kept looking at me during the meeting.  I hoped so.

At one point, somebody asked Cugan, the Chronicler (writer of the newsletter), “What about this note in the newsletter about the pitter-patter of little feet?”

Cugan said, “What?”

Cevante, the Seneschal (chairperson), who sat next to him, answered the question.  I thought at first that Cugan and Cevante were married and the baby was theirs, but soon discovered this wasn’t the case–to my great relief.  The baby in question probably belonged to our hosts.

I soon discovered that SCA people usually referred to each other by SCA names, rather than real names, though some people were called by their real names more often.

(For the most part, I’ve kept real SCA names and online handles here because they reflect personalities and can be hard to duplicate with fake names.  Not only that, but they’re much harder to trace than real names.  But not all the names I use for SCA people are SCA names, because some people were better known to me by their real names.  And not all the SCA names and Internet handles I use are real, especially if their misdeeds are recounted.  So you won’t know which is which.  🙂  )

Nadine was the best friend of, same age as, and possibly roommate of Cevante’s daughter, Tatiana.

When the business portion of the meeting finally ended and the members broke up into smaller groups, a tall blond, Marcus, got up and pulled up the hood of his red robe.  Unlike the others, he wore SCA garb.  Catherine poked me and said his persona was a druid.

Cugan said to me, “I’m Cu’gan-mhatthair MacMuircheartaigh.  That means in Gaelic, ‘b**tard son of a bi*** and a passing sailor.'”  Actually, literally it means, “Dog without mother, son of a passing sailor”; the rest was his embellishment.

This was the only time he cussed during the entire meeting.  He then grabbed a clipboard with some papers on it, jumped over and knelt down before me with a big smile on his face, and asked for my name and address.  I smiled and wrote down my name and college address.

At one point, someone announced a homemade brew or wine was available.  Cugan, after proclaiming his enthusiasm, got up and went with the others who sampled it.

Cevante spoke with me as well.  I said I just took a Celtic class at college.  She said, “Good girl!”

The meeting went on for probably two hours or more after Catherine and I arrived.  We mostly stayed in the living room.  At one point, she sat with Nadine on the couch, while I got cornered by the Herald, Donato.

I would have preferred to find Cugan and start a conversation, or listen to Nadine and Catherine’s conversation.  But to be polite, I sat and listened to Donato explain the structure of the SCA, its offices and ranks, and some of the rules: play the game by wearing garb at events, etc.

(You can find this same information here.  A few years later, I heard him give the same talk to a girl with the online handle Malika; she seemed fascinated.)  I caught parts of Nadine and Catherine’s conversation:

Nadine: “You’re married now?  Wow.”

Catherine: “You’re nineteen now?  I feel old!”

Cugan eventually returned; Catherine asked him about a music group he put together to practice period music.  She mentioned it to me before, and the possibility of my joining in with my tin whistle.  (This never happened, and the group didn’t last long.)  I wanted so much to break away from Donato and chat with Cugan.

Finally, Donato finished talking, and I was free! free!

In late afternoon or early evening, people began to go home.  Cugan put on a classy jean jacket, his hat and maybe a scarf, and said to me, “Do you hug?”

These SCA people were like Catherine, and loved to hug.  Now, probably like most people, I felt uncomfortable hugging people I barely knew.  But I said, “If somebody hugs me.”  In my mind I added, “Especially you.”

He hugged me, and I enjoyed it tremendously.  He said a cheerful good-bye to the rest of us, including Nadine, and left.  I hoped to soon see him again, and get to know him a lot better.

Complication: Nadine now said to the shire members near her, “It seems when I like him he hates me, and when I hate him, he likes me.”  (Much later, when I told him about this, he got upset and said, “I don’t know where she gets the idea that I hate her.”)  I wondered what was going on between them, and why she felt this way.  I didn’t think they were dating, at least.

(As it turned out, she had a huge crush on him that he didn’t know about for a while.  She wrote a letter about it to Tatiana, who showed it to him.  He got scared, because to him she sounded obsessed.  So I just walked into a little soap opera.)

Soon, Catherine and I also left the meeting.  On the way back, as Catherine played her Prince tapes as she usually did when driving me places that semester, I told her about Cugan hugging me.  I said,

“I didn’t mind being hugged, especially by Cugan.”

I had no idea that Catherine had been scheming all along for me to meet Cugan, that when she told me there were hot guys in the SCA who love to flirt, she was thinking mainly of Cugan.  I wouldn’t know this until probably a few months later.

She didn’t know him well, but figured he was the kind of guy I’d like.  He seemed better for me than Phil.  She hated Phil (and Persephone).  She must have been pleased that, with no prodding from her whatsoever, I now sat there saying how cute Cugan was and how much I wanted to get to know him better.

I had no idea that, so soon after my divorce, I met my future husband, one who would stick around; Cugan had no idea that he met the future mother of his child.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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