I think the biggest confusion in this whole my-sister-is-a-viral-blogger-after-her-first-post thing (besides the part where everyone is assuming her surname is Ettinger — it isn’t, and she’s a minor. So, my parents have requested anyone using her real name please redact it for her privacy), was about why Clare cared about the modesty guidelines more than getting kicked out of prom.

Everyone is reacting along the lines of “oh how HORRIBLE that she got kicked out of this momentous life event!” or “she’s being a drama queen and just wants attention because she didn’t get her prom night.” Neither are true.

While I won’t deny that Clare is an extrovert with a Just Plain Fancy sort of joie-de-vivre about her, she is not a drama queen out for attention. She didn’t write her post because she was upset about missing her prom. And she didn’t lie about what happened — my sister has always had a fierce sense of justice and I’d encourage everyone to actually read her original post rather than just the news articles or petty reactions by her peers. (I’m sorry your prom got so much heat. No one, least of all me and Clare, expected this would generate so much attention.)

For those who aren’t familiar with our background or what going to a homeschool prom like this one implies, let me give you a bit of context.

1) It was a big deal for Clare to be allowed to go to prom. I wasn’t allowed to go to a prom (though there was one and many of my friends went). The homeschool scene in Richmond is rich in cultural appreciation, and some awesome ballroom cotillion groups exist for extracurriculars. But my dad and I had lots of fights throughout high school because he would not permit me to participate in any of their Friday night dances, out of moral objections. Obviously, this standard has now changed, which is pretty awesome for Clare.

2) Our family was part of a cult group (see here for coverage of a sex offender’s trial that shows how the pastors in this cult have been exposed for covering up sexual abuse and pedophilia) and if you’re confused about what that kind of childhood looks like, go read my piece for Cracked.com about growing up in this culture. More details on this stuff and how it related to sexuality and autonomy can be found in my Immodesty Rail series. And a great response to the parental angle in all of this, written by my friend Ashley, can be found here.

3) HOWEVER, that prom (while it was held in a church), wasn’t explicitly Christian. That said, homeschool culture is predominately conservative Christians and the majority of people at that prom were probably your good old-fashioned family values voters who chose to homeschool their kids because they wanted to keep their children away from corrupting influences in the public schools — sex, drugs, gays, abortion, global warming, mini skirts. (I jest. Partly.) But that’s why it was convenient for the parents to hold it in a church rather than another facility, and that’s why modesty standards were imposed on attendees (this year the rules were actually a lot less stringent than in years past).

4) Modesty standards do not hold the same social weight as your average dress code. Which is why a homeschool dad would feel himself legitimately entitled to comment on a girl’s outfit at such an event.

Point #4 there is really the crux of all this, and it’s why Clare originally called the people who shamed her for her dress “rape culture activists.” I’m going to follow up on this with a post later this week, but for now, I’m going to let Clare speak for herself once more. And this time, she made you a video. Enjoy!


On Saturday, I built myself a bookcase.

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I’ve been living out of boxes since September, but before that it was January to July. I put up some paintings on the walls (thanks to baby sister). I lit a couple candles.

new place

My roommates are making an herb garden on our deck.

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In the mornings, I get splashed by light while I do yoga. My cat has been dashing all over the apartment in the middle of the night, chasing her catnip-stuffed squirrel toy.

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m taking a deep breath to appreciate this moment. Thank you to everyone who helped get me to this point. I can feel my mind relaxing, settling. Order and light and a door of my own to close? Bliss.


I’ve been quiet here since I’ve been traveling, driving solo from DC to LA, but the other night I had the happy experience of an evening with Sarah and Micah Murray, and we talked a lot about our stories and processing the conservative Christian world we’ve come out of. And I had a flash of epiphany this morning as I drove away, so you’re getting an Immodesty Rail post instead of a happy-Hannah travelogue post.

***

When I started courting, I was hyper aware of how everyone else I knew had done this thing, what the stories in Josh Harris’s books showed as the “godly” ways to “walk out” their courtship in “good faith,” and what was necessary for having a healthy romantic relationship. Or at least, I knew what I thought a healthy relationship should look like and I had a pretty good idea of how to make mine look like a happy, godly thing for others to later emulate. This wasn’t conscious — this was just SGM culture.

See, the overall focus of everything in SGM (for me) was: be a good example for others. Every piece of my teenage and college years was set up in reaction to either 1) what my elders would think, and 2) what those younger than me would interpret as license to mimic if they watched my behavior.

Welcome to legalism.

And my ex, being who he is, was also really aware of what was and wasn’t socially acceptable in these circles. As a result (because, luckily for me, I was also aware that I was dating a person), I was tuned into this, too.

Given what we saw modeled for us in courtship culture (and, honestly, serious/”mature” Christian dating culture overall), his initial behavior as my boyfriend was much like this:

From xkcd

And it seemed like the reason he did this (well, the primary reason), was because of the culture in our Christian community where everyone assumed responsibility for policing each other (accountability) and thus you had to behave a certain way to assure everyone that you were being “above reproach” and “mature” and “godly” with your relationship choices. It was basically dating as social performance art.

Being uber happy with your new relationship — in a verbal performance sort of way, because physical demonstrations were too risky/sinful — was the best way to keep everyone off your back. I think, maybe, I engaged in this a lot more than he did. I’d be aware of the social expectations and talk up the positive things in our relationship and try to gloss over or tone down the negative elements. I felt compelled to talk about things that were too intimate to appropriately share (swapping dirt with your girl friends is one thing, but it’s entirely another to share that stuff with everyone to try to preemptively keep them from being “concerned” about you), and it drained me a lot. I felt like I was always on the defensive, needing to justify my relationship and my choices.

I’m not actively assigning motives here, but after all of that I tend to wonder a bit about why courting (or newly dating post-fundy life, or even newlyweds from this background!) couples tend to frequently feel the need to spam social media with announcements of how happy they are, how grateful they are for their bf/gf, how blessed and undeserving they are in/of the relationship. And I don’t really care about PDA if it doesn’t seem like a performance to make a statement.

But that all brings me to the problem with this defensive reaction to accountability in a legalistic atmosphere. Your simple motives aren’t good enough, and you are forced to second-guess yourself and over-think things to the point of cultivating insecurity and codependency. Decisions are made by committee — you talk yourself blue in the face telling everyone you know about your decision dilemmas, and ask endless questions about motives and fears, and then take steps based on where you are at the end of the accountability gauntlet. And advice from mentors and peers and parents is great, but this isn’t that. It’s losing yourself and appropriate sense of boundaries and privacy for the sake of fear, and you often forget to enjoy the ride of a new experience because you’re so afraid you’re doing the wrong thing.

I missed a lot of the joy in various “firsts” because I was so busy over-thinking everything and tense and afraid of doing the wrong thing. And that’s just silly. Dating is supposed to be about learning, not getting everything right the first time.

Why are Christians so afraid of making wrong choices and learning through mistakes? If we’re a practicing a faith that’s centered in grace and redemption, we shouldn’t be obsessing over having the Instagram-perfect, thoroughly “accountable” relationships like in the glossy courtship books our parents handed us. We should be enjoying learning about the beautiful things that can be had in community and learning about ourselves and each other, without fear.

***

All that said, I doubt I’ll ever recommend a relationship book to anyone ever again. Instead, I’ll shove a copy of Daring Greatly in their face and grin and say “this will change your life.”


Welcome to my new home on the interwebz! I’ll be posting here and retiring “The Nest Egg” for good. It has served its purpose and outgrown its name and original focus.

I never really explained that name, “The Nest Egg,” very well, because it was quickly outdated, though still personally relevant. It was the name of a sacred space in the novel Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, where a primary character (named Mattie Chatham) would withdraw to be still in the sanctuary of nature. She was a good woman in a hard situation, but was always loving and kind. The tract of land called the Nest Egg was where she would retreat to be made whole–it was her inheritance from her father, and Berry uses it as a sort of microcosm for heaven. It’s still something that holds beauty and meaning for me, but I feel it’s not really a good fit for the general tone and focus of my writing here. And I might as well retire the pseudonym–it was to keep certain people from getting upset at me writing honestly, but that hasn’t been possible despite my efforts, and is mostly just confusing now. I am Hännah, and we’ve been talking about what I’ve been writing almost since I started. I will do my utmost to respect their boundaries and privacy while still trying to talk about why quiverfull/Christian patriarchy philosophies are damaging and undermine grace. And I will be honest about what spiritual abuse is and why it’s wrong. Hearing people be relieved to find that they are not alone in their recovery from these harmful teachings is worth it. Seeing my younger siblings living more freely and knowing healthier expressions of love is worth it.

So I’m retiring that blog and the corresponding pseudonym, and I’ll be here at Wine & Marble. I plan to explain in several posts why I chose this name (thanks to the friends who put up with me during the brainstorming process and provided input). I’ll also tell the story of how I’ve been finding healing in the Anglican church, why I say that communion is the main reason I’ve been able to hold onto my faith, why I see Advent as being a penitential season, and how my understanding of place and placelessness has driven me to this shelter in the traditions and prayers of an old church heritage. It’s not a new story, and it doesn’t have a lot of reasoned arguments for God’s existence or the problem of pain. But it’s my story and I’m thankful that I have found some wholeness and fellowship beyond my wandering.

In the meantime, I’ll probably be working out the kinks here a little, so if you notice anything funky, let me know. A housekeeping note: If you were subscribed via email on the old blog, your subscription has been tranferred here. However, if you just followed through WordPress, you need to resubscribe.

And many thanks to David Somerville for creating the header.



Tomorrow Kevin and I regress into the “need” of having an internet connection at home. There’s a lot of good things that will come with this, but I’m trying to steel myself into Wendell Berry-esque curmudgeonry so I don’t forget the real life things that we value more than connectivity and entertainment or feeding our information addictions.

I’m not going to apologize for going AWOL for a bit. My real life has been rich and full. Writing stagnated while other things thrived.

Since I wrote last, we celebrated our first anniversary and dreamed big while spending a long weekend in the Shenandoah Valley. Kevin stopped temping irregularly and started working regularly as a waiter at a snazzy DC restaurant (everyone loves him–he’s great with customer service). We downsized to one car. He’s planning on starting school for music therapy in the fall. I got a UVA hoodie. I finally got around to reading Quivering Daughters (and highly recommend the first 2/3rds of it to anyone who grew up in a conservative Christian home where “courtship,” “gender roles,” and “homemaking” were buzzwords). Nearly the entire department I work in turned over and I’m adjusting to the new strategies and work styles. My dad called a family meeting and we had a Christmas miracle. Kevin and I flew to Oklahoma for my best friend’s wedding.  My sister came home from college and is taking charge of her life in healthy ways. We found a church we where feel comfortable and welcomed, and are seeking to get confirmed in the ACNA. Kevin wrote new songs. Old friendships were discovered to have life in them yet, and we started attending a monthly couples’ dinner club + Bible study with new friends.

[fullness]

In the meantime, I need to decide which of my blog post drafts from the last few months to finish first.  It’s never too late to post on Advent, right?


1) I have some long posts in draft form. Coming soon. This stuff is personal and hard to write about, sometimes.

2) Hopefully, I’ll be posting some guest posts, too!

3) A friend wrote a really good post about contentment disguised as laziness and legalism.

4) I started NaNoWriMo yesterday. This is the result of a panic this weekend when I thought I had lost all. my. writing. from the last four years, but then found it again on an external hard drive. Once recovered, I browsed around and found the seed of a good story. Inspired, I declared: crazy, here I come!

5) Mika’s new single, “Elle Me Dit” is super cute. Here’s a sort-of decent translation.

6) All Saint’s Day was yesterday. Go read about it.