When I was a brand new teenager and just beginning to like boys, my best friend decided she would get me a boyfriend. She was a pretty green eyed blonde and had always had a boyfriend. It wasn’t always the same boy because she could go through them like Kleenex, but there was always a boy in her life just dying to spend his allowance to take her out to see a movie.
I remember many weekend sleepovers at her house that were interrupted because the boyfriend wanted to come by for a supervised visit. She and he would sit on the sofa in the formal living room and I was banished to her room for about an hour or two. I entertained myself playing records loud enough to serenade the two love birds while they sat very close to each other on the sofa and smooched. Of course, my musical selections weren’t chosen to produce romantic feelings. They were picked to hurry them along so the boy would go home and she and I could get back to doing girly stuff and having fun. Some of my favorite musical selections included anything by Led Zeppelin and a particular song by Stephenwolf called Sookie Sookie.
Let it hang out baby, let it hang out now, now na-na now
Let it hang out baby, everybody work out
Sookie, sookie, sookie, sookie, sookie, sookie, sue
They did other things besides smooch, but were pretty slick about not letting her mother catch them at it. Many of those boys got to first and second base on that sofa. If her pious mother had known, she would have set fire to that sofa in the front yard and locked my best friend in a chastity belt until she was in her 40’s.
I enjoyed visiting her house. Her mother was a zealot about God and the television in the family room was always tuned to PTL, the Praise The Lord station made famous by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Her mother gave thousands of their dollars to this religious organization and even after they were arrested and charged for misconduct, she still believed they were innocent.
My best friend’s mother was a dyed in the wool Evangelical Holiness Church, devoted church going member. I never really understood exactly what that meant until I worked on a film called Night Of the Hunter starring Richard Chamberlain. I was responsible for doing much of the research involved for the church scenes and for hiring the snake wranglers.
I remember going to church with my best friend and her mother.
My friend decided this would be the best place to find me a boyfriend.
Her boyfriends always went to church with us and my friend and her mother went to church quite a bit. There were at least two or three nights a week for devotionals and twice again on Sundays. I never went to church so much in my young life as I did hanging out with her! She and I were allowed to sit by ourselves in the back pews, along with her boyfriend of the moment. They would hold hands and sneak kisses and I’m pretty sure they missed the whole point of the sermons. I would always be on the other side of her with whichever new boy they had picked out of the congregation as my future paramour. I did not hold hands with them and I certainly did not kiss them either.
At the time, I had never been kissed by a boy and had no plans to start kissing.
I was fascinated by the church atmosphere! I had never seen anything like it! People would yell out anytime they felt moved to. “Aaaamen brother!” or “You tell it preacherman!” or “Halleluyah Praise the Lord!” The first time I saw this I was shocked.
In my family’s church if you yelled out like that during the sermon, everyone in the congregation would have turned in your direction to give you some major stinkeye. I could not imagine yelling out like that during church. I could imagine what my grandmother would have done to me if I had. She probably would have reached into her patent leather purse, pulled out one of her starched stiff linen hankies and shoved it in my mouth. Then following the service when we all walked out in a civil and orderly manner to greet the pastor, she would have placed a request for an exorcism.
I really freaked the first time a lady rose up from the wooden pew where she was sitting and fell to the floor. She started thrashing and screaming out nonsense. I thought she was having a seizure, but my friend reverently explained to me that the woman was being possessed by the Holy Spirit and was speaking in tongues! My friend also proudly admitted that she could speak in tongues too. Oh my! I wanted her to demonstrate this for me the minute we got back to her house that night, but she told me it had to be done during church. Oh, I see…
One Sunday the newest boyfriend recruit marched over to me in the churchyard before the services started and handed me a small envelope. Then he turned and walked away. I was so excited! My friend and I huddled together as I nervously opened the tiny note card, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of love note I was expecting. The small card had a picture of praying hands and a white flower on the front and there in big letters were the words “In Sympathy”. In Sympathy?! He had given me a condolence card! What was he trying to tell me?! I was completely crushed and bewildered, but my best friend patted me on the back and encouraged me to open the card to see if he wrote anything.
“I like you. Do you like me? Yes or No. Circle one.”
I circled NO. A great big bold circle around NO!
That was the day I ended the mad search for a boyfriend at her church. I could do much better on my own, and eventually I did. I also stopped going to church with her. This wasn’t a religious experience I was prepared to explore any further. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of worship, but it wasn’t for me. It’s not for everyone.
The moral of this story is that at this age a girl should be encouraged to figure out who she is before she goes looking for someone else to fill up those holes she hasn’t had a chance to excavate on her own yet. Whether it’s religion or romance, never settle for something you don’t fall completely in love with at first blush.
You’ll know when it’s right, and trust me, it’s worth waiting for.
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