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World History and Cultures: Foundations

To make things a little bit easier on y’all the readers and myself the reviewer, I’m going to split each review post into a few sections. The intent of this is to allow me to spend the bulk of my time digging into the philosophy at work in these textbooks instead of dedicating more of it to fact-checking and the at-times incredulous claims they make. I will highlight any inaccuracies that I can spot, as well as anything noteworthy that I can’t spend time on but that is still worth discussing.

Inaccuracies:

  • The timeline only goes back to 4,000 BCE, which is labeled “creation.”
  • Humans originated in Mesopotamia and were dispersed from there.

Wild Assertions:

  • The continents “broke apart” during one man’s lifetime from a single land mass (8).
  • Evolution leads to widespread abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and people become evolutionists to “escape their accountability to God” (4).
  • Humanism always leads to “decline and ultimate ruin” (5).

Assumptions:

  • History has a definite, identifiable structure and a narrative arc.
  • The Bible is factually, historically, literally accurate.
  • Everything following the Death and Resurrection of Christ is history’s dénouement.
  • The Tower of Babel sequence broke humanity into the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

***

One of the most important things I want to emphasize about studying World History and Cultures is that this is not a general survey history textbook in the sense that we would typically understand it: it is a religious history textbook. A more accurate title for it would be A History of the Christian Religion in a Global Context. It would still be full of misleading information, inaccuracies, and a stupefying amount of conjecture, but at least with a different title we would understand what it actually is in function.

However, it is also important to recognize the intention of this book, which is to provide a far-right, Christian fundamentalist interpretation of global history. Its mission is to “educate” students in a very particular, very narrow lens of viewing human events and to provide a framework for understanding current events. They’re crystal clear on this point:

The study of history is important because each generation needs to know about the people, events, and ideas of former generations in order to make wise decisions in the present …

We can learn the lessons of history and apply them to our own times and our own lives. In other words, we can begin to look at history in Christian perspective. (3-4).

The point of this textbook– the reason why Abeka commissioned it, the reasons why the authors wrote it– is to teach a generation of students to understand their position and role in modern society in a very particular way.

The primary message of the first chapter (“Foundations for the Study of History”) is that history has a definite and easily identifiable narrative arc. WHAC repeats that history has a “beginning, middle, and end” and that the Christian religion is the only means of accessing the “whys” of history. The authors will be looking to a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible to shape their historical narrative, and will be using a fundamentalist understanding of God’s sovereignty to explain the “whys” instead of bothering with silly little things data or research.

Along with declaring that the Bible is the only credible source of information on “prehistoric” times (which it teaches doesn’t actually exist, since the Bible encapsulates all of history and all of it is therefore “recorded” [7]), WHAC gives two methods for contextualizing all of human history. The first is an explanation of BC and AD, the second is that history is divided into three eras: ancient, medieval, and modern (4). Their benchmarks for these eras are localized to Europe: the fall of the Roman Empire and the Protestant Reformation. I’ve written before on Christian fundamentalism’s obsession with Western Civilization— this is just one more example of it. When a Christian fundamentalist harps on the concept of “Western civilization,” they don’t just mean a broad cultural, economic, and legal heritage: they mean white and Christian.

***

Since we’re dealing with the section of WHAC that is using Genesis 1-11 to “teach” about pre-historic and proto-historic times, it’s filled to the brim with about what one would expect. Adam and Eve, Noah, and Nimrod are all definitively real people, there was a global flood, etc. It’s barely worth comment.

What did draw my attention was how they explained the rise of government and nations. They explain that “The sovereignty of God over all nations is the foundation of human government,” and then argue that “God established” the “first foundational civil ordinance” [emphasis theirs] by “ordering the death penalty for murder” (4).

Well… that certainly explains a lot.

This view of government– the view that capital punishment is the foundation of government— is inherently violent. It posits that the state’s purpose is primarily punitive, that governments do not exist to protect or help anyone, but to discipline and chastise.

At this point, please remember what WHAC has already made brutally clear: we are intended to learn from history to apply it to our current context and our actual lives. Take the lesson that government exists to punish and apply it to any current situation and what do you get?

Babies being ripped out of their mother’s sobbing arms. Women miscarrying in detention without medical care. Children dying in government shelters. Jeff Sessions invoked Romans 13 to justify his atrocities (and so does WHAC: “He did command his people to be obedient to civil authority” (5).), but the actual justification comes from this entire logic chain. If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen an infuriating number of people contend that if parents didn’t want the US government to kidnap their kids, then they shouldn’t have come here. This is where that argument begins.

***

…there are many different kinds of people. Mankind can be divided into several large groups called races. The people of each race differ from those of other races in the color of their skin, in the size and shape of their head, in the kind and color of their hair, and in many other physical features.” (6)

We need to talk about “kind.”

World History and Cultures is the 10th grade history textbook from Abeka. Many schools and parents use the same publisher for more than one course– mine did, and we used the Abeka science textbook also meant for 10th graders: Biology: God’s Living Creation. In it, 10th grade students would be learning about the young earth creationist definition of “kind.”

Abeka’s definition of “kind” is drawn from Genesis 1:12, the divine instruction for creation to reproduce after its “kind.” Kinds is a roughly similar term, in creationist parlance, to “species.” Answers in Genesis says that “if two things can breed together, then they are of the same created kind.” They (and Abeka) note that some kinds can be closer than others, and that animals from different groupings can mate and produce offspring but that the offspring will often be sterile, or have other genetic problems.

When WHAC says that there are “many different kinds of people” and that these “kinds” are “divided into several large groups,” it is making this claim in the context of Biology’s definition of “kind,” which the student would probably be reading on the same day.

Obviously they are not making the claim that people of European and African descent can’t mate and produce fertile offspring. However, they are arguing for a very particular view of racial theory: it is a real barrier, a real divide, the differences between the races are concrete, measurable, definable and “plain.” They even point to some supposedly quantifiable “shape of their head,” which is evoking the racist “scientific” field of phrenology.

They are arguing that different human races exist.

Please note that WHAC does not make this claim as a cultural one, or a historical one, or a sociopolitical one, but as a biological one. Biological definitions of race– “biologically” based means of “dividing” the races– only exist in the minds of racial supremacists.* This view is not just morally bankrupt, it has led to some of the worst acts of barbarity the world has ever known.

And they have to audacity to claim that evolution and humanism only ever lead to decline and ruin?

***

Each chapter concludes with a review– as a homeschooler, this sort of thing was my only homework. There’s eight questions for students to answer, and it’s revealing what those questions focus on. They ask the students to use the text to define evolution, humanism, and race (where the answers would be, based on the reading, “evil, evil, and a biological reality”) and to identify the “builder of the first world empire and the meaning of his name” (answer: Nimrod, “rebel”). Half the questions focus on things that are ideological in nature: remind yourselves how bad evolution and humanism are, please look up our definitely-white-supremacist definition of race again, and oh, by the way, here’s a heaping side dish of “one world governments are rebellion against God.”

And this is just the first chapter.

The third edition shortens this chapter by a half page, but all the same elements are present. Since the Beginning focuses exclusively on telling the biblical story from Genesis 1-11, and interestingly does not include any  discussion of race.

*For more reading, please check out “The Science You Need to Know to Explain why Race is Not Biological.”

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Art by Nicolas Raymond
Social Issues

World History and Cultures: the Review Introduction

World History and Cultures in Christian Perspective (which I will abbreviate as WHAC from now on) is put out by the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, Abeka Book (named after Rebekah Horton, one of PCC’s founders). Not only did my family use this textbook when I was in tenth grade, this is also the textbook used at PCC in their history survey classes HI 101 and 102, which were required courses for nearly every student. When I introduced the concept of reviewing WHAC on Facebook and Twitter, a few of you asked if this is a common homeschooling textbook– and yes, it is, but Abeka curriculum is widely used in many Christian schools around the world and in the US. This fact is especially concerning considering that many of these private Christian schools benefit from scholarship and voucher programs; so, if you’re a tax-paying US citizen, chances are your tax dollars are paying for books like WHAC.

A few news outlets have already done an enormous amount of work looking into these textbooks and their widespread use; I’d encourage you to read the following articles to get a good understanding of the significance and cultural power publishers like Abeka now enjoy.

Schools without Rules” at the Orlando Sentinel by Leslie Postal, Beth Kassab, and Annie Martin

Voucher Schools Championed by Betsy DeVos can Teach whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies” at Huffington Post by Rebecca Klein (normally I wouldn’t link to a HuffPo article, but Klein did an incredible job reporting this)

14 Wacky ‘Facts’ Kids Will Learn in Lousiana’s Voucher Schools” at Mother Jones by Deanna Pan

Klein found that Abeka tended to be the most popular– used in about a quarter of the Protestant schools she looked into– and the Sentinel reporters discovered that 65% of the schools they looked into in Florida used either ABeka, BJUPress, or ACE. The prevalence of these textbooks in taxpayer-funded schools should be deeply disturbing to all of us because the ideas these publishers teach are counterproductive to a democratic and free society.

That sounds conspiratorial and borderline hysterical, I know. However, it is not a coincidence that we’ve had a half dozen white supremacist domestic terrorists this year who were homeschooled using these textbooks and went to colleges like Pensacola Christian. It is not the ultimate goal of these publishers to radicalize terrorists, but it is an acceptable inevitability to the people who created these programs. The curricula exist to indoctrinate children in a “Christian perspective” of society, a perspective that explicitly includes white supremacy and Christian nationalism.

I know that’s a broad claim. Unfortunately, it won’t be difficult to prove.

***

A lot of time and attention has been given to examples from Accelerated Christian Education booklets– if you’ve seen a screen shot or picture about a conservative Christian textbook making ludicrous claims about the Loch Ness monster or how Black children are “ugly” and white children are “pretty,” chances are it’s from ACE. Their booklets have some of the most outrageous and egregious examples, so they get a lot of space in articles about conservative Christian textbooks. Abeka is the most popular publisher, though, and part of that is due to their relative circumspection. They teach all the same ideas as ACE, but they do it in a … less spectacular way. In order to expose the white supremacy at the heart of Abeka’s history textbooks, you have to spend a lot of time digging into them.

That, plus my personal experience, is why I chose to focus on Abeka. After that, I had to pick a grade and edition. I decided to start with world history because Abeka’s goals to manipulate and indoctrinate are clearer than if I were looking at US history (and, to be honest, you can throw a rock and hit a racist US history textbook). Ultimately, I decided to focus my attention on the second edition of WHAC because that was the one most commonly used by students my age. The point of examining WHAC is to expose what an entire generation of students grew up being taught, not just to point fingers at ABeka. For fairness’ sake, I also got their newest edition. I didn’t notice any significant changes, but I will note them as I go through if they change something that matters, like correcting an inaccuracy or shifting the ideological assertions.

I also got a copy of Since the Beginning: History of the World in Christian Perspective, Creation through Twentieth Century (the 7th grade Abeka history book) from my colleague, Ryan Stollar. He’s already tweeted his way through Since the Beginning, but I thought it could be useful to see what Abeka teaches before high school, since a lot of private schools cut off at eighth grade. I’ll mention Since the Beginning on occasion, just to provide more context.

***

WHAC is the product of a team of people (several of whom were my professors at PCC), but the primary authors are Jerry Combee and George Thompson. Both were difficult to identify, but I finally found their bios and … to be frank, it surprised me and made me even more suspicious.

Combee has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from Emory University, and PhD in Government from Cornell. He’s taught political philosophy at a bunch of places and was president of both Grove City College and University of Jamestown (ND). His other work is flagrantly ideological, and makes it obvious why PCC asked him to write their history textbooks.

Thompson when to Colgate University, then the University of Connecticut. His PhD is from Princeton, and all of his work has been in rhetoric and persuasion– after helping with WHAC, he went on to found an organization to teach “Verbal Judo,” a “way to defuse conflict and redirect behavior into more positive channels.” His program has been heavily utilized by US-based police forces, apparently.

Combining these two authors should make it clear that the primary purpose of World History and Cultures isn’t education, but ideological indoctrination. They didn’t seek out excellent history scholars or good research-writers, but men whose entire education and life’s work was focused on manipulation and persuasion, not the honest relaying of information and its context.

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Art by Nicolas Raymond
Social Issues

The Misuse and Abuse of “Gaslighting”

The ride home from church was the most miserable thirteen minutes I’d ever spent in a car. My parents were gone, in south Florida dealing with my late uncle’s house and furniture and baseball card collection, so a pastor’s daughter was staying with my sister and me over the weekend since we weren’t quite old enough to be left by ourselves.

That morning, in church, the pastor had taught from the Parable of the Talents, and his words have been branded into my memory. Even though over a decade has come and gone since that Sunday, I can feel the pew underneath me, see the wood paneling on the wall next to me, watch the light filtering in through wavy, colored glass. I feel my stomach wrench as I see necks in the congregation stiffen, fighting the urge to turn around and look at me. I’m still not sure what most of those people felt for me in that moment: pity or recrimination?

He spoke about the man who buried his talent into the sand, and then, without looking directly at me, told everyone that “a young lady sitting here in this church service” had stopped playing the piano for the congregational singing because I was rebelling against God and burying my talent in the sand. According to him, it had nothing to do with the tendonitis that we were desperately trying to heal without needing surgery. No, I was vain and ambitious and God was going to punish me for my sin.

I got home and went straight into my parent’s bedroom. I shut the door behind me, grabbed the phone from a nightstand, and then shut myself in my mother’s closet. Curled up in her laundry, I called my parents and sobbed out what had happened.

My father demanded a private meeting with the pastor the very next week. Calmly but fiercely he confronted the pastor over what he’d done, and that he expected an apology. Without missing a beat, the pastor looked my father and I dead square in the eyes and lied. Yes, he’d mentioned that someone wasn’t using their piano talent, but he was not talking about me. He was talking about a different person, an older man who could also play the piano. I had misunderstood him. I’d taken what he’d said personally when I shouldn’t have—but shouldn’t we take this as a sign that the Holy Spirit was convicting me, if I’d heard him talk about a different person and assumed it applied to myself?

I protested—“no, you said ‘a young lady sitting here in this church service’”—but he stuck with his hideous lie. All through that horrifying argument he insisted that I’d over-reacted, that I was being overly defensive, that I was selfishly and childishly making everything about me. Toward the end he started swaying my father. Wasn’t it reasonable that I’d just misunderstood him? I even started doubting myself. Maybe he hadn’t attacked me, personally, from the pulpit. Maybe he was right.

***

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as “gaslighting” has become a more familiar term to many of us. The first time I encountered the word, it was almost a the-veil-has-parted, scales-have-fallen-from-my-eyes moment. I found peace and comfort in that word, because I finally understood what had been happening to me for most of my life. What that pastor did was gaslighting. What an abusive rapist did to me was gaslighting. It made everything make sense. Finally, I had a word for what I had only been able to experience silently: desperation so real, so hard, I could choke on it. Panic, confusion, and humiliation all at once.

Gaslighting works because it is so utterly shocking, so incomprehensible. What kind of a person tells his wife that she’s imagining things for thinking the gaslights have not changed after he just changed them? Who would do that? Our generally empathetic, rational minds assume: no one. No one could do that. Instead, the more reasonable answer is that our memory is faulty, that our comprehension is flawed. After all, we’re only human. We can make mistakes. We don’t always remember things accurately.

Abusers do this specifically to destabilize their victims, to cause them to mistrust their own perception. It’s a core tactic that makes the rest of the abuse possible: the victim learns to trust the abuser to provide the narrative. Over time, their very identity can be supplanted by what the abuser wants.

For years, I was grateful that gaslighting was getting so much attention, because it’s one of the most alien parts of a victim’s life, and it can be extremely difficult to explain. Just remembering—reliving—that meeting in the pastor’s office makes me shake. I physically flinch away from thinking about it. All the times an abuser has twisted everything around me until I doubt my own memory and sense of self … it’s devastating, and the effects are long lasting. It took a very long time for me to be confident in my memory of that sermon, and even now I can feel the stirrings of doubt.

However, I’m becoming convinced that “gaslighting” is going to lose its usefulness because people are casually misusing it. There have been a few times over the last year, even, where I’ve seen people use “gaslighting” maliciously.

As people have begun using the term more frequently, what has stayed with it is the implicit moral judgment it makes: gaslighting is not just bad, not just impolite, not just harmful: it’s abusive. Describing a person’s conversation, or social media comment/interaction (since, let’s be honest, I’ve seen this happen most often on Facebook and Twitter), as “gaslighting” means that the person opposing you in the discussion is being more than unfair, they’re being abusive. Once the accusation has been made, it substantively changes the interaction. Suddenly, it’s about whether or not this person is behaving abusively, and that’s an incredibly serious matter that deserves the proper amount of concern. Considering this accusation gets tossed out among people who know what gaslighting even is, the reaction is usually swift and nearly universal: stop. Get out, get away from us, we don’t serve your kind here.

In a way, I understand why it happens. As an abuse survivor, one of the things that can send me for a loop is when someone questions my honesty or accuses me of deceit. Since I’m a feminist on the internet who frequently talks about sexual assault, that happens … well, it happens a lot. In the beginning, someone saying I’m a liar would keep me up at night. I spent a lot of time defending myself, trying to prove them wrong, until I realized how absolutely pointless that was. Even after developing a pretty thick skin, “you’re lying!” still bothers me in a way few other types of harassment do.

When I’m in a discussion, I can sometimes feel triggered by someone dismissing me, denying my experiences, belittling them, or just plain disagreeing. Sometimes, it feels like I’m back in that office being gaslighted into believing I am capable of making up entire statements out of hole cloth and mistaking my imagination for the truth. So, I get it. I get why we could be in a conversation, especially with a hostile person, and start feeling that way again and trusting our instincts. If we feel the same way we did when we were being gaslighted, well, then, they’re gaslighting.

I think we need to be more cautious.

Over the last several years, I’ve seen “gaslighting” come out as an accusation so many times when what is happening is not actually gaslighting. People can be jerks without resorting to gaslighting. People can be obtuse—even deliberately obtuse. Our experiences can be dismissed, and we can be made to feel irrelevant, noisy, bothersome. Our totally appropriate anger can be derided as an over-reaction. People can be infuriating when they refuse to trust the words we’ve chosen for our stories. They can lie and manipulate. It’s utterly galling when any of the above happens, and that sort of behavior deserves to be called out. Expecting our discussion partners—even hostile ones—to converse in good faith is reasonable and we should hold them to that standard.

I want future abuse survivors to hear the term “gaslighting” for the first time and have it mean something to them, the way it did for me. I want it to exist for them as the beacon it was for me, for it to restore them to themselves. I want it to say to them “you can trust yourself, you aren’t crazy, you are not imagining it.”

That’s not going to happen if we keep accusing people of “gaslighting” when we actually mean “you’re being an ass, please stop.”

Photography by Steve Snodgrass

Social Issues

on HSLDA and homeschooling culture

When I found out about the Turpin parents and how they had starved and tortured their children, like most of my colleagues who have been fighting for more protections for homeschooled students … I was unsurprised. Horrified, sickened, heartbroken, but not surprised. This isn’t even the first time parents have starved and tortured more than a dozen kids in California since 2000. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear about yet another case of a “homeschooling” parent abusing or murdering their children.

For a lot of reasons– in my opinion, primarily the pictures that show the family in matching clothes that don’t change from year to year– the Turpin story made international news. 20/20 did a story on them, as did many other US-based national media outlets. Friends of mine that live overseas from me read about it in their newspapers. The common theme: how could this have happened?!

The answer is easy: The Home School Legal Defense Association.

I started pitching pieces about the Turpins, explaining exactly how that was possible and how they were able to get away with it for decades, and an editor at The Establishment was interested. In our conversation, she asked a lot of really great questions about HSLDA, and the piece morphed into an explanation of the political power HSLDA wields in American politics. I’ve been interviewing people, including the heads of HSLDA and Generation Joshua, for about a month now, and the article came out this morning.

I am hoping this article can become a resource, hopefully a touchstone for people trying to explain HSLDA and how homeschooling culture has become what it is: a bastion, a legal shelter, for abusers and killers. As far as I’m aware, this is the first article anywhere covering the HSLDA like this, in a way that’s accessible and can be read in about five-ten minutes.

You can read it here: “Meet HSLDA, the Most Powerful Religious-Right Lobby You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Also, if you use the Medium app, The Establishment is a really awesome online magazine and you should totally follow them.

Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw
Social Issues

Living in the Loopholes: Home Education and Abuse

As y’all know, I spent this past weekend in Raleigh, NC presenting at The Courage Conference with my friend and colleague Carmen Green. Preparing for that took a lot more out of me than I thought it would– we both wanted to emphasize story telling instead of getting deep into the weeds on the facts and legalities, so I spent the bulk of last week digging through the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database looking for stories that illustrated each type of abuse we wanted to talk about. That took a toll, and then the conference was also emotionally draining. It was a good experience and I’m very glad I went, but the focus was on abuse and two days of that is just going to be hard.

I was looking forward to meeting Boz Tchividjian, who founded Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) and whose work I’ve talked a lot about. He was as incredible in person as I thought he’d be, and it was comforting to meet an older white man who actually gives a shit and is actively doing something to fight abuse in Christian culture. I also got to meet Linda Kay Klein, who is as impressive in person as she sounds on paper. She has a book on purity culture coming out next year (Man-Made Girls) and I’m now desperate to read it. The second I have a copy, I will be posting a review. Her talk on the modesty doctrine was funny and insightful and tender and beautiful, and I was definitely impressed with her.

You can still actually “attend” The Courage Conference if you’d like to– you can buy online tickets to see video recordings of the main speakers, and I think it’s worth the $20. Also, in coordination with The Courage Conference, I’ve made it possible for you to see the workshop Carmen and I did. If you make at least a $5 donation to my Patreon this month, I will contact you with a password to view the video after Patreon processes everyone’s transactions.

Also, here’s the PowerPoint presentation if you’d like to take a look at it.

Many thanks to everyone here who made presenting at this conference possible. Your readership and support over the years is why I continue doing this sort of work. The workshop we gave seemed to make a really big impact with the people who came– many said they’d learned a ton that they could instantly put to practical use to fight abuse. You made it possible for us to do that, so thank you.

Social Issues

The Courage Conference: Homeschooling & Abuse

I mentioned this in passing a bit ago, but wanted to take some time to really give this the attention it deserves. I will be presenting at The Courage Conference in Raleigh, NC on October 20-21. Here’s the description of the conference from the website:

The Courage Conference is a non-denominational event that will offer a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse (and those who love them) to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors about moving forward in boldness and healing. The event will also educate pastors and church leaders on the topic of abuse and introduce them to safe practices and resources for their faith community. The Courage Conference offers a unique opportunity to hear from advocates and trained professionals through inspiring keynotes talks, Q&A sessions and workshops in addition to connecting attendees with local and national resources, so you don’t have to do this alone.

I’m excited about the lineup of speakers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about a topic I think is not well understood. Abuse in homeschooling environments can be so headline-grabbing (children locked in closets and starved to death, chopped up and stored in freezers for years, beaten to death) that most news outlets seem to get pretty myopic. While all of those happen and definitely deserve to be addressed as the atrocities they are, the focus on what are, in actuality, a handful of cases out of millions of homeschooled children lets homeschoolers who are abusive in much more mundane ways escape notice. People can say “we’re nothing like that” or “I don’t know anyone like that” and then dismiss the need to examine their communities for the ways it might enable abuse.

These communities end up fighting any kind of oversight and frequently use the sometimes-myopic treatment of the press as a way to cry persecution. Why should they be punished with regulations and oversight because someone somewhere did something unspeakably awful? It happens again and again in the conversations I find myself in about homeschooling and the need for oversight. We end up talking past each other– they think I’m thinking of Lydia Schatz when I’m talking about my own experience and how every single child I knew in my homeschooling communities were physically abused. Not locked in closets, not starved, not murdered, but still very much abused. They feel comfortable with “self-regulation” because no one they know is an axe-wielding child murderer, and they get to ignore the other forms of abuse that may not be obvious to them.

My presentation, which I’ll be giving with Carmen Green who’s founded the Center for Home Education Policy and who you can read about here (I was background research for that article, btw), will be going over all of that for about an hour. What does abuse in homeschools actually tend to look like, and what can we do about it?

Anyway, if you can make it to Raleigh, NC in two weeks I hope to see you there. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please pass along the website. The conference still needs some funding, too. I appreciate that the organizers are trying to make this as affordable as possible, so maybe if you think educating religious leaders on abuse, trauma, and how to help is important, throw a few dollars their way?

Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: summer edition

As y’all know, I took the summer off from seminary in order to try to better manage my time and prepare for the fall. I was able to wrap up one big project I’ve been working on since February, and my other responsibilities have settled down some so they’re not as overwhelming. I was even able to officiate a wedding for the first time (and shoutout to Emmy Kegler and Nicholas Tangen for helping me prepare for that). Seminary starts back up in September, and I’m taking a class I’m especially excited about: “Interpretation as Resistance: Womanist, Feminist and Queer Approaches to the Bible.” Doesn’t that sound just gob-smacking amazing?

I’m going to be incredibly busy from now until the end of the year, though. I’ll be traveling once or twice a month from now until December, which is daunting although it’s mostly for fun things like weddings. I’ll also be giving a workshop at The Courage Conference on how to appropriately respond to abuse occurring in homeschooling environments, which I’m over-the-moon about. I’d encourage anyone who attends a traditional church to ask their pastors to come, since I believe it provides a necessary corrective for the lack of training pastors typically receive on how to respond to trauma and abuse.

Politics

As one can imagine, a lot of my reading this summer has been about politics. I’m sure the same is true for most of you, so I’m going to do my best to only share pieces I think didn’t get widespread attention.

First, something at least somewhat positive: “A Conservative Christian College Protest of Mike Pence” by Molly Wicker. Being an alumni of Liberty University is absolutely humiliating right now, but at least support for this administration isn’t ubiquitous at similar colleges.

One of the most frustrating things about the last eight months has been the fact that my disabilities prevent me from getting involved the way I want. The fact that some activist orgs almost actively bar my participation … it’s a little more that just frustrating. “On Disability and Emotional Labor” by S.E. Smith captures a lot of my feelings.

This one is older, but it’s stuck with me ever since I read it. “Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump” by Kate Imbach was unsettling, but offered such an interesting perspective.

Another excellent resource: “By Any Other Name: The Power of Loaded Language in Christofascism” by Kieryn Darkwater gives amazing clarity to things that are obvious to anyone who grew up in Christian fundamentalism but might seem innocuous to those not “in the know.”

Race

The Struggles of Writing About Chines Food as a Chinese Person” by Clarissa Wei offers a lot of insight to an area that I don’t think white people consider all that often. I think a lot of progressives understand things like police brutality or other failures of our justice and immigration systems as problems, but there’s so many other insidious things happening that we need to learn to pay attention to.

Feminism

I don’t know how to sum up “Hysteria, Witches, and the Wandering Uterus: A Brief History” by Terri Kapsalis, but it was fascinating and oh-so-incredibly-relevant.

Biology is one of my great loves, so I’ve read this article multiple times and haven’t been able to shut up about it. “War in the Womb” by Suzanne Sadedin was an excellent presentation of a biological reality – fetus and pregnant person are at odds– and I think a wider awareness of this could be critically important in helping adjust our views of pregnancy and reproductive justice.

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men” by Bailey Bergmann took the “I think better of men” argument against modesty culture and made it better.

Theology

Many of us grew up with the assumption that there is only one way to understand Christ’s work on the Cross. Sometime in or around graduate school I found out that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is only one theory among several. “A Thoroughly Biblical Argument Against Penal Substitutionary Atonement” by Emma Higgs is a good introduction and resource in case you wanted one.

The Defenders of Slavery Taught Us How to Bible” is one of many articles by Fred Clark that explains the link – and by link I mean “foundation of the whole damn thing” – between white supremacy and American evangelicalism.

Film & TV

I’m very happily re-watching Stargate SG-1 with Handsome at the moment and it’s just as delightful as it ever was. The overarching theme of the show is “we never leave a man behind!” and that is a message I think we should all hear more consistently.

We cancelled our Netflix subscription in exchange for Hulu so we could watch SG-1, but we’ll be going back to Netflix this month in order to bingewatch The Defenders, and when we do I’ll be back on my House of Cards marathon. Netflix has been telling me to watch it for months and each time I was all eehhhhhh but then I watched it and holy smokes I’m hooked. Frank Underwood is Eli Gold from The Good Wife, only … a lot more ruthless, and it’s amazing to watch. I’m mystified by why I’m getting such a kick out of watching Frank and Claire Underwood, but I am. I’m still in season two, so no spoilers. I know nothing about what happens, somehow, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Who else is excited about The Defenders and Stark Trek: Discovery? A lot of the build-up to Discovery has left me underwhelmed, but the most recent trailer finally started getting me excited. I just really, really want them not to blow it.

Watched Arrival a few weeks ago and that was incredible. It captured an element that’s been missing from any other “first encounter” movie I’ve seen—a sense of realism, a tension between pessimism and hope. It was a sci-fi movie that made me feel things, and I loved it.

I’ve been looking forward to Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, and it was brilliant. Kate Beckinsale absolutely nailed it, and I think it’s one of the best Austen adaptations around.

Assasin’s Creed is one of my favorite video game franchises, so I gave the movie a shot. It was about what I was expecting. Fun, but wow the plot holes. I was also disappointed by John Wick: Chapter 2. I adored the first John Wick movie, but the sequel really did not stand up. By the end I was just incredibly bored—and it didn’t have what I liked so much about the original, which was the fact that John Wick was basically perfect. He didn’t make mistakes. The fact that Chapter 2 ends with a colossal mistake that ruins his life and it was completely and totally avoidable… ugh. I felt cheated.

Books

I’ve been playing more Elder Scrolls Online than I’ve been reading books, but since it’s essentially just playing through an epic fantasy novel I think it counts.

I re-read A Wrinkle in Time this summer, and if you haven’t read it at all or in a while, I recommend that you read it now. It’s short—I read it in two hours—but so beautiful and uplifting and encouraging and can we talk about the film adaptation because I cried tears of joy when the trailer released.

I didn’t expect to like The Queen’s Fool by Phillipa Gregory, but it surprised me. It’s about a young Jewish woman who flees the Spanish Inquisition with her father and then ends up serving in the courts of Mary and Elizabeth—and it was a satisfying reading experience. If you like historical fiction, this one is a solid choice. I liked it enough to get Lady of the Rivers, which was also enjoyable.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is better than a lot of the YA fantasy that’s out there. Victorian England is not usually my cup of tea as far as setting goes, but it’s got a lot to offer and the queer romantic tension flying around in the midst of literally Patriarchal conspiracies speaks to me.

Handsome and I are reading Mort by Terry Pratchett together, and if you’ve never had the chance to read a Pratchett story out loud to someone, you should. They are meant to be read aloud.

I just finished Kristen Britain’s Green Rider and … it is perhaps a particularly frustrating example of the clichés and tropes in fantasy writing. The ending did not feel earned, and seemed to just slog on forever. It’s ostensibly a Hero’s Journey, except the main character doesn’t seem to be transformed by her experiences at all and she overcomes every trial with a patently obvious deus ex machina. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but I finished it—which says something.

I picked up the first two volumes of The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold at the library book sale, and the whole quartet was a lot of fun to read. The pacing of the first novel is a little slow, but it’s worth it. The books are an in-depth exploration of possible ways to overcome prejudiced based in ignorance, and I appreciated how invested I became as a reader in that journey.

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Now, what have you all been up to? This curious mind wants to know!

Photo by Silvia Viñuales
Social Issues

what Anne Shirley means to me, and surviving trauma

When I first heard about the Anne with an E adaptation, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I was introduced to L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books when I was around nine years old, and I inhaled them all, re-reading them all through my childhood and adolescence. I watched the beloved Megan Follows CBC adaption probably as many times as I read the books– that series was sleepover gold for girls my age. In college at PCC, Anne of Green Gables was one of the few things in the library worth watching. I re-read the books for the first time as an adult almost two years ago, and was surprised at how well they stood up to the passage of time. I thought as an adult I wouldn’t connect with them as much, but that wasn’t true. They were just as absorbing and lovely as the first time I read them. I think it’s possible I enjoyed them more– both aesthetically and empathetically.

Since Anne with an E hit Netflix, though, the internet’s exploded a bit with some pretty intense feelings on whether or not this adaptation is “good.” Vanity Fair calls it “bleak,” TVGuide described it as traumatizing, and one review at the Huffington Post says it’s “relentlessly grim.” Individual reactions on Twitter have been just as negative– I’ve seen people calling it a “desecration” more than once. I’ve seen many people argue all over Facebook that they don’t like Anne with an E because it took “happy” and “positive” books and made it all gritty and dark. That seems to be the general consensus for people who didn’t enjoy it, but loved the previous adaptation and the books: to them, Anne with an E appears to be taking a hackneyed grimdark approach for ratings or something.

This is where they lose me. For full disclosure, I haven’t seen it yet although I’m planning to watch it this weekend. However, I just want to focus on the reaction to Montgomery’s books, since that’s what is really bothering me. Everyone is going to have different opinions on film adaptations, and that’s fine and I’m not really here to debate anyone’s response to the show. What is bothering me though is the apparently fairly common perception that the Anne books were rosy and light and sweet and happy and positive.

I apparently did not read the same books.

Granted, I’d describe the writing style as lovely, dreamlike, beautiful … there’s an elegance to the prose and I find the reading experience delightful. However, style is not the substance of the book: the narrative and content are anything but rosy or light. Anne of Green Gables opens with an orphan who has been bought and sold for child labor multiple times, and when describing some of the more traumatic moments of her childhood I got the sense Anne was describing dissociation. The sheer desperation in the opening chapters, which are capped off by the fact that Anne is bullied by an adult … the Anne books resonated with me as much as they did because Montgomery didn’t anesthetize the pain.

How anyone can read through the scene when Rachel Lynde objectifies Anne and is oblivious to her humanity– who without any empathy or compassion calls a child “ugly” not even to her face, but as if she wasn’t a person who could feel the insult … how can someone read through this and not experience the horror and violence? I’ve had adults do that to me. I’ve had adults mock me, belittle me, and dismiss me as if I weren’t recognizably human. Anne’s fury and hurt were my fury and hurt, and I choke as much as Anne does when she’s forced by culture and society– personified by Marilla– to “apologize” to her elder, her “superior.”

That is one of the earliest scenes in the book, and Montgomery doesn’t let up. Anne’s humiliated at school, bullied, ignored; so she decides she’s going to dedicate herself to academic success because she knows it’s her only route to acceptance. She throws herself into school in a way only someone who’s been abused her entire life can really recognize or appreciate, I think. Reading through it as an adult who finally had her lifelong anxiety disorder diagnosed, I was astounded at the ways Montgomery writes Anne dealing with all types of nerves, especially social anxiety. Anne’s coping mechanisms are my coping mechanisms, and part of me wonders if I learned to cope with anxiety and depression by reading these books.

Anne through the rest of the series is drawn to hurting, suffering people. Marilla and Matthew hurt in their own private, silent way. She befriends Aunt Jo, who is grieving the loss of her lifetime companion (read: lesbian lover). She convinces Rachel and Marilla to take in the Twins, whose life had certainly not been a rose garden. Then there’s Lavender, the older woman filled with regret and pain and loss, and who Anne manages to bring some happiness. This pattern is echoed in each of the books– Elizabeth Grayson and Katherine Brooke in Anne of Windy Poplars, my favorite, and Leslie in Anne’s House of Dreams, and then her own children follow the same pattern of reaching out to hurting, lonely people in Rainbow Valley.

All through the books, Anne struggles with self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and the leftover ramifications trauma and abuse leave behind, regardless of how happy her life with Gilbert becomes. There’s always the sense that she’s not quite accepted, not quite loved, that she always has something to do, to prove, to become, in order to be seen as valuable and wanted. She has wonderful people in her life who affirm her and love her, but they’re never quite able to overcome the voice inside her own head.

What bothers me about the reaction to Montgomery’s work is that we’re all doing what society always does: we don’t listen to children. We don’t believe them. We dismiss them. Anne declares in the opening pages of Green Gables that she is feeling despair, and our reaction is usually to read that as histrionics. Except look at what’s happening: she’s been sold off as child labor to horrible, abusive people for eleven years and this is the first glimmer of hope she’s ever held in her hands– and then Marilla announces she’s not wanted, that she has to go back … Despair is the only possible reaction to this situation. But Anne is a child, and so we treat her like her feelings aren’t real, that she’s not actually entitled to them. We’re just like everyone else in Avonlea constantly telling her to pipe down and stop being so melodramatic.

Most of the bullying I experienced as a child were for similar reasons. I was smart, articulate, outgoing, vivacious. The more I spoke up, the more I tried to be myself, the more I was rebuked and rejected– and not always by my peers, but by adults who should have known better. But society sided with them when they belittled me in public and my anger wasn’t acceptable. Like in Anne’s life, I’ve always had good people around me loving me and valuing me, telling me I’m good and worthy of love– my mother even adopted Cornelia Bryant’s phrase about “knowing Joseph” from House of Dreams. “They just don’t know Joseph, Samantha, ignore them.” I still comfort myself with that phrase today. To me and my mother it means that there are just some people in this world who don’t understand us and won’t like us, and that’s alright. Not everyone is going to, but the people who do “get” us are blessed by who we are, just like we’re blessed by our friends.

I’m looking forward to a show that takes all of the things I loved about Anne seriously, that doesn’t flinch away from what her life was actually like. What I’d like us all to remember that lovely and true can go together; the books can be delightful and rapturous and make us long to live on Prince Edward Island and they can show us what it could look like to blossom and thrive in a world full of pain.

Artwork by James Hill
Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: winter edition

First up: my new blog feature of making blog recommendations. I’ve fallen a bit out of touch with the blogging community, and this is my solution to that, as well as starting to help build connections. We’re going to need that more than ever in the days to come.

Everyone, meet Bailey. She writes at her blog Ezer, which y’all know is a nod to ezer kenegdo and the big complementarian vs. egalitarian debate about “helper.” She reminds me a lot of me when I was first starting out. Obviously we disagree on some things, but her writing and thought process makes me want to engage with her– when I usually just want to rant at people about how ill-informed they are. It was a welcome experience.

I’m also very excited to introduce Zaynab, who runs the Queer Muslims blog on tumblr. Her twitter and the tumblr she runs are good resources, in my opinion, and I’m so happy to have discovered them.

Feminism

I responded to Kate Shellnut’s “Women’s March Sets Out to Exclude 40 Percent of American Women” by tackling the misunderstandings driving the whole conversation and talking about the limits of “big tent” feminism. There was one part of Kate’s article that bothered me, but I didn’t have the time to really dig into since it needed an article of its own. Thankfully, Ruthie Johnson wrote on it: “Stop Appropriating Intersectionality.”

A colleague of mine wrote this, and I absolutely adore it because it made me Think New Thoughts. I present “Discourse in the Garden of Eden” by Amethyst Marie.

Abortion is a Social Good” by Veronica Flores is not as well-argued as I would like (in the sense that her intended audience is already convinced abortion should be legal and accessible), but it’s a less abrasive presentation of this argument than many that I’ve come across.

Judith the Activist” by Alicia Jo Rabins is a good introduction to this apocryphal character that we should all be better acquainted with. I’m a big fan of women weaponizing femininity because I have a dark sense of humor, so Judith and Jael have a special place in my heart.

I’ve known for a while that Monopoly was stolen from a woman inventor, but I had no idea how awesome her story really was. “Monopoly’s Radical, Anticapitalist, Feminist Origins” was a great read.

In the “things everyone needs to be aware of category,” we have “‘I Have to Text my Rapist’: Victims Forced to Parent with Attackers” by Thom Patterson. And yes, this even applies to fathers who were convicted of assaulting their child’s mother.

Racism

Sometimes There are More Important Goals than Civility” by Vann Newkirk II is, in my opinion, incredibly well written and well argued. It does everything I want good argumentation to do– acknowledge the strengths of your opposition, the nuances in the argument, and then shred them all to bits. Respectfully.

If you haven’t read “White Evangelicalism is White Nationalism” by Fred Clarke, read it now and then bookmark it as a resource. I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations over the next four years where it will be relevant.

Misc.

Not everyone is a literary nerd like me, so “In Defense of Facts” may not be the writing you’re looking for, but honestly William Deresiewicz is commenting on a broader trend than just John D’Agata’s A New History of the Essay. I don’t know how I ended up on the side defending Facts and Truth, but somewhat hilariously I am and I’m also arguing that everyone else should care about them, too. How I changed places with fundamentalists on this, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

Books and TV

Facebook had been pushing The Magicians trailers on me for a few weeks, so I decided to watch the first season on Netflix before the second season aired. I did not regret it. Like most new shows it takes a bit for the writers/directors/actors to gel, but once they it got interesting. It’s being advertised as “Narnia meets Game of Thrones” which confused me at first until I figured out that “_____ meets Game of Thrones” doesn’t mean “______ meets epic scale or political intrigue”– it means “______ meets We Kill So Many People. So. Many.” Mostly it’s just very … whimsical yet dark. Like things are cute and light-hearted and a little bit quirky and then someone kills a puppy or a fluffy bunny rabbit and oh my heart. So– I warned you. It’s good, but may not be for everyone.

Also: massive trigger warning for the season finale, where there’s a rape scene. I trust the writers and directors and show runners not to ruin it for me and I think they’ll handle the storyline well, but it was really triggering … largely because of how well it was shot, interestingly enough. I’m not usually triggered by rape scenes because they’re usually … well, the “masked man in a bush, she fights and screams and kicks and also we’re going to make it seem a little bit sexy” variety. The one in The Magicians is much closer to my actual experience and what I think rape is actually like for many of the people who experience it. They don’t sexualize it, and it’s compassionately filmed … all of which made it difficult for me to handle. I think it does get one thing amazingly right: the character who is raped doesn’t fight, and doesn’t really articulate a verbal “no” in any way that I can remember … and it is still absolutely clear that her character is most definitely not consenting. For that one thing alone I can appreciate what the show did by including a rape scene. It’s clearly, unambiguously rape, but they did it without signaling that to the viewer in a way that reinforced rape culture.

I read Ender’s Game as a young teen, and that book shaped a lot of my experiences over the next eight years. I’ve read it somewhere around a dozen times– I’ve bought multiple copies of the book because I’ve worn a few out. So when Earth Unaware, a prequel set during the First Formic War, came out I was so excited. I read the first prequel trilogy over Christmas and then went to the bookstore to buy The Swarm the second I finished Earth Awakens. It introduces a new character, a Buddhist chemist, who is amazing. Most of the characters are amazing– Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston are doing a fabulous job.

I also really enjoyed The Invisible Library trilogy by Genevieve Cogman. It was delightful, and I’ve blown through each of the books. Each one has a different flavor– the first is solidly steampunk although I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the next two in the same way. It subverts a lot of tropes and it has a “magic” system that my writerly heart deeply appreciates. One complaint: Genevieve does the thing where her main character thinks of herself as “plain” but like three dudes and some ladies interact with her like they think she’s gorgeous, so blah. But otherwise I liked them.

I read Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch a while back, and I’m liking the sequel Windwitch just as much– sometimes second books aren’t as successful as first books, but I think this one is standing up to the promise of Truthwitch. I enjoyed Susan’s explanation of her writing process, too– “Writing Out of Order.”

Larkin and Erik K both recommended that I read Michella Sagara– and while the library never got her book in for me, the first book in Chronicles of Elantra was 99 cents recently so I downloaded it. Cast in Shadow was entertaining– I don’t usually read fantasy series that are intended to be a “monster of the week”-style story, but I’m enjoying the second book so far. Although, question for you two: where does Michelle go with the flower on Kaylin’s cheek (cough cough)?

I also convinced my dad to buy Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky for my mother for Christmas … and then I read it. Because obviously the way I’m dealing with everything that’s happened since November is reading every book I can lay my hand on. A Hat Full of Sky was what you’d expect from Terry Pratchett: solid gold, and an amazing ending that manages to communicate Deep and Abiding Truthfulness without gettting preachy.

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So what all have you been reading and watching?

Photo by Laszlo Ilyes
Social Issues

re-writing bad advice #1

Among my favorite things in the world are advice columns. I read Dear Abby every week growing up, and as an adult I discovered advice columns like Captain Awkward and Dear Prudence— which is written by Mallory Ortberg, one of the founders of The Toast  and who is definitely one of the funniest women on the internet. Captain Awkward has been life-changing for me and many of my friends, and I can’t recommend her enough.

Not all advice columns are created equal, and some are really, really bad. One of the worst offenders, in my opinion, is the advice column at Boundless. If you’ve never heard of Boundless before, it’s a branch of Focus on the Family and is designed for twenty-something singles, “with the goal of helping young adults grow up, own their faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage and family.” I heard of it when I was at Liberty, where it was really popular because it pitched itself (oh-so-slightly) against the I Kissed Dating Goodbye narrative. One post in particular that went viral is “Learning from Ruth” which encouraged women to make romantic overtures toward men.

I read Boundless regularly for several years until I couldn’t take their advice column anymore because it infuriated me so often. A long time ago I kicked around the idea of taking the letters written in to the Boundless team and answering them with better advice, and I’ve decided to actually go ahead a do it. With almost 600 letters to choose from, there’s tons of fodder and it should be light-hearted and easy enough to continue when I’m slogging through mid-terms in seminary.

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I’m a 28-year-old guy with stable income. I feel mentally and emotionally ready for marriage. I’ve been praying about it for sometime. I met a wonderful Christian lady during my college years. After we both graduated, we stayed in touch. She has all the characteristics of a godly woman, and I am sure she will be a great wife. The only problem is that I am not attracted to her.

I know that she is somewhat attracted to me, and even her family seems interested in me.

Should I pursue her, hoping that I will become attracted to her, or should I keep my distance?

If you read the original response, Candice Watters tell him that being a man means “leading his feelings,” but that he’ll need God’s strength to do so. She goes on to tell him to spend time with her “with all purity and honor” and that he might be surprised if (heavily implied when) he becomes attracted to her.

Dear Stable Income,

Before I answer your main question, I want to address a possible assumption here that might affect other choices you make about dating relationships down the road. You said “she has all the characteristics of a godly woman, and I am sure she will be a great wife,” and your phrasing here implies that the first guarantees the second, when that is not how relationships– especially marriage relationships– work. Godly characteristics can be all well and good, but they must be placed in context; depending on the context, those “godly characteristics” may be fine for one relationship and disastrous for another. Take for example the virtue of patience. To one person, how they demonstrate their patience may be comforting and helpful– to another person, it could feel constrictive and overly passive. People are complicated, and it all depends.

Figuring out who you want to date and eventually marry isn’t about finding someone who lines up with your Godly Woman Checklist. Two women could appear to have the same exact list of “qualifications” you’re looking for and one could be a good match and the other your Date from Hell. It is important to find someone who shares your values, but equally as important is that you’ll be sharing your entire life with a partner. Your personalities should mesh well, you probably shouldn’t have wildly conflicting ideas of how you want to spend your average day, and you should respect their ideas, arguments, point of view, opinions … even if you don’t always agree. That and so much more goes in to figuring out who you’d like to eventually be with.

In short, don’t obsess too much about whether or not she meets your definition of A Godly Woman and instead figure out if you even like her and want to spend time with her, for starters.

Now, moving on to your main question. Chances are since you’re asking this question you know a) what attraction is and b) that you’ve experienced it. While it is possible to develop an attraction over time, I’m guessing you’ve known her for at least six years at this point (if you graduated around the average time) … if after six years you’ve never been attracted to her, you’re probably not going to be attracted to her. Not every person wants or needs to be sexually attracted to their life partner– see asexual people who have platonic partners– but since you’re writing the question I’m assuming you’re not one of those people.

Sexual attraction isn’t the end-all-be-all of marriage (neither is sex), but it is a component that shouldn’t be neglected for those of us who feel it. It’s totally normal to feel different kinds of attraction for different people, but it would be unusual for attraction to develop after you’ve known someone this long. Not impossible, though– so if you want to hang out with her and see, there isn’t anything stopping you.

Which leads me to my final piece of advice: if you date someone and it doesn’t work out, that’s ok. The world will not end, and you will not have given (or taken) a piece of heart you can’t get back. That’s not how it works. If you do decide you want to see if something could happen between you and your college friend, just make it clear to her that’s all your interested in for the time being, and that neither of you should feel obligated to force anything if there just isn’t a spark. There’s no need to tell her “I want to see if I can be attracted to you,” but do be honest that you’re not hearing wedding bells and that this is just to see how it goes. If she’s not interested in that, well, there’s your answer.

Kindly,

Samantha Field

Photo by Steven Depolo