Today we're discussing: Dawn circa 1986.
My initial plan was to send Dawn some fluff interview questions and stretch this thing out as long as possible. But Dawn was so forthcoming and her answers so interesting, that I didn't need to use the fluff questions or stretch it out at all.
Me: You're wearing a cross in the photo and I remember you told me you wanted to be a Nun at that time. Tell me more about this. Why did you want to be a Nun?
Dawn: I have no idea. I don't think it lasted long but I remember my mom being concerned. She wanted me to get married and have kids and have a life. She even talked to the priest's wife about it, who had been a Catholic Nun. I spent a lot of time at the church. I was very close to my mom. She worked there as a bookkeeper. I even went to Episcopalian summer camp for a week after fourth grade. I watched Superbook every morning before school. I think I just wanted to be "good." Who knows?
I'm glad I was exposed to organized religion and I'm really happy my mom was so open about it all. She didn't BS at all and being the only child, I was treated more like an adult than a child. (Which has its pros and cons.) I'm glad she was open with me and I'm glad I was exposed to more than just one religion. We didn't always go to church, but I remember always wanting to go, probably because everyone else did. I also remember one of my friends being Baptist and riding one of those big school buses to her church once. I went to a Methodist vacation bible school one year. I got a Kumbaya record. And when I met you and were a Jehovah's Witness, my mom was again very open with me. As long as "they didn't try to kidnap" me. Ha! We had just watched a Sally Jessie Raphael episode where that happened. You also gave me a Witness book once and I know I must have showed her, but she was still very open about it. I didn't realize how lucky I was. Some parents would have freaked out.
Dawn: Hmmm.....this is hard! Hopefully I don't offend anyone. No form of organized religion appeals to me. It seems very "cultish" to me. I didn't realize how lucky I was growing up, for awhile I was very religious. I forgot how "into it" I was and it was right at the time this photo was taken.
I did always question a few things though. The hell concept always got me. They were telling us how God and Jesus loved us so much, but if you weren't "good" you were going to hell. Looking back, I'm glad its part of my life. In a weird way, I'm proud to say I was an Episcopalian. If I had to choose out of all the Christian religions, it would be that one. They're definitely the most liberal I would think. Growing up, I was embarrassed because no one had heard of it. It was a funny name - you had to say E"piss"copalian. Kids made fun of it. All the cool kids were Catholic. We were what you called "back door Catholics" ....I was an acolyte. Dare I say, I was the "star" acolyte. I was awesome.
The Episcopalians were different because they allowed girls to do it. I am now remembering that it was there too where I first learned the term "gay". I remember my mom talking about the choir director or youth group leader and said he was "gay" and then I asked what that meant and all she said was "sometimes boys love other boys and some girls love other girls". I kinda love that.
But now, if I had to describe my religious beliefs, I would say "spiritual". I definitely believe there is some sort of higher power. I'm just really turned off from organized religion. I don't know how people can blindly follow like that. Just not my thing. I feel like its taken such a long time to get to this point. And I feel a bit guilty because I sometimes feel I'm letting my kids down a bit. Not in not taking them to church, but because I'm anti-church. So much so, just thinking of it hurts my stomach. But I do want to guide them somewhat. And because I feel like I'm just getting to that point in my life, its hard to explain in to them at their age. Once in a while, but not so much now, they would come home from school and ask, "What religion are we? How come we don't go to church?" and I'm sure I just fumbled some answer out. It aggravated me that some kids at school were talking about it and they probably felt superior because they were "good and went to church." But that was probably me. I guess all I can do is answer any questions they have as honestly as I can.
There's an Episcopalian church within walking distance of my house. I've thought of going a few times, just for kicks. They had a public garden and I read some of the "god" stuff and I just couldn't do it. For some reason, I just wanted to go and sit in the church, but I think deep down I just wanted to go and see if I would feel the way I used to feel.
Me: As you know, my father wouldn't let me cut my hair and thought that short hair wasn't feminine. Your parents obviously felt quite different. Tell me about your hair in this photo.
Dawn: This is all so interesting. I've never questioned any of this. Maybe my parents were way cooler and progressive than I thought! Hair length was never an issue in my house. I had really nice normal "girl" hair until my mom decided to chop it right before kindergarten. She claimed I never took care of it and the short hair was easier. Looking back I must have had a very compliant attitude because I don't remember voicing an opinion one way or another. Every now and then I would decide I was "growing it out" but it never lasted long and I would end up getting it cut short again.
My mom wasn't very girly ~ I never learned how to "do" hair or braid or anything like that. I do remember getting called a boy a lot (before I got boobs) so that was probably at this time. I mean at random, it seems old men would come up to me in grocery and hardware stores and call me a boy...it seems weird. And like I say, I'm finding this so interesting, because I don't know if I've ever thought of this. When I think back, I think my mom just preferred short hair, and because I was so easy and compliant, that's the way it was: I had short hair. And I just don't think my dad cared one way or the other. I do remember other people suggesting I should have long hair. Perhaps this is why when I was older and had short hair, I never understood hairdressers or other people asking if my boyfriend or husband cared if I had short hair. I couldn't imagine being with someone who would tell you how you should have your own hair.
Me: If you could give the fourth grade you any advice, what would it be?
Dawn: Don't worry so much about pleasing everyone and making sure they like you. Think about if you really like THEM. And don't take that job at McDonald's when you turn 16. You can do better. Oh, and don't race your Honda Civic on the last day of school in the 10th grade.
Me: Do you mind if I transform your fourth grade photo into that of a child vampire?
Dawn: Ha ha! No, not at all.
Thank you Dawn for letting me interview you! And I highly recommend that everyone interview their loved ones from time to time. You might find out something you didn't know.