Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “S” for Slut.

Late last night, exhausted after a frustrating day fiddling with my recipes here on my blog , I finished re-reading The Scarlet Letter.

After the steady diet of Mind Twinkies® I’ve been gorging on lately, i.e. Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, I figured I’d do my dilapidated brain a favor and feed it some real classical food. And what better than THE book–after The Holy Bible, of course–that spoke to me most deeply during high school?

Forsooth, I cannot indeed separate the confluence of effect that The Holy Bible, coupled with The Scarlet Letter, had on my formative years, so profoundly did they both inform me; emotionally, spiritually, and sexually.

********

See that sentence? Nobody writes like that anymore because people today only skim what they read.

But Hawthorne wasn’t a blogger; he was a genius. His book is filled with convoluted sentences, and lots and lots of adverbs.

I feel muchly improved after reading it, like unto one who has imbibed a strong paranormal romance novel purgative.

But for you, dear Reader Skimmer, sadly, this meaneth that thou wilt haveth to skimmeth through adverbeths, today.

The value for you is that you will soon begin to understand why I’m so messed up.

********

So settle did I, forthwith, down for a long winter’s reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great classic, The Scarlet Letter, to revisit once again whether or not could I, perchance, glimpse the meaning that I once saw therein.

And glimpse it therein, I did. Only now from the vantage point of a woman full-grown with a lifetime of experience behind her.

I am in awe of what my 14-year old self discerned, and yet so deeply saddened that she perceived it so starkly true with what should have been, by rights, innocent and uncomprehending eyes.

I can easily see that, first and foremost, the Girl Who Would Be Me related most acutely to Hester Prynne for she also was a social outcast in her society, which will henceforth be known as ye old High School.

I know. Isn’t everybody an outcast in High School?

But like unto Hester, I was outcast for my sexual transgressions; some real, some imagined, and some unimaginable to those small minds.

We can congratulate ourselves that today’s modern girl does not wear a visible crimson letter “A”.  But we should not think for a moment that any girl gets off scott-free.

Today’s girl must needs wear the hidden letter “S” thereon upon her back because that’s where everybody talks about it: behind her back.

********

To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely outcast. I did have two girl friends. One I loved, but betrayed, and the other was a beautiful girl who departed High School for an exciting career in Prostitution. (She tried to talk me into it by telling me, “The sex is just the same, only you get paid for doing it.” Even in my foolish youth I knew she was grossly mistaken.)

Over the years I have searched in vain for these two women, but have not found them. Hopefully, just like me, they have simply changed their names.

********

As I wrote before, I went to high school with Tawny Kitaen.

She was a sex goddess and I was a nobody with a bad reputation. And somewhere therein that true tale lies the metaphor for the double-edged sword that is a woman’s sexuality.

********

I wish I could say that my comprehension of the agony of The Scarlet Letter begins and ends with Hester Prynne, but I’m afraid that isn’t so. Sadly, I also closely sympathize with Hester’s illegitimate daughter: her little Pearl.

Conceived from the ill-fated embrace of two passionate–if woefully mismatched–teenagers on a bunk bed in a Housing Project, I know well what it is to be illegitimate.

Although my father married my mother to protect her and me from our shame of illegitimacy, he proceeded to NEVER let either of us ever forget it.

But my sympathy with little Pearl does not end with my own narrow brush with ignominy. Oh, that I wish it did.  But it gets worse. Much worse.

At the tender age of 7, while my father was off valiantly fighting the good fight in Viet Nam, I stole into my mother’s bedroom one night to find her engaged in my parents’ marital bed with another man. A man who just happened to be a fine, upstanding, married man from our Church.

Now is a good time to remind you, kind Skimmer Reader–for surely if  thou hast gotten this far in my woeful tale thou art deserving of that vaunted title–we were Mormons.

The lovers did not see me, but I saw them.

Realizing with abject horror the threat to me and mine this unholy tryst represented, I did the only thing I could think to do: I lay in wait for the opportunity to present itself to rectify this evil.

And as luck would have it, such an opportunity did not tarry.

While at a Church meeting the very next day, I queried my mother quite loudly, and within earshot of all present, “Why was Corky* in bed with you last night when I was supposed to be sleeping?”

Yes. You read that right.

I called my mother out.

Publicly.

At a Church meeting.

This did have the desired result of ending the affair right then and there. Corky, very soon thereafter, moved away, and my mother claimed to the end that they never spoke again.

But the unforeseen effect was that my mother became branded in our Church as an adulteress, and this had some lasting implications that a seven-year old simply could not have predicted.

My mother was called before the Bishopric to answer for her crime, and it was decided that my father alone would be allowed to make the judgement of whether or not my mother would be ex-communicated when he returned home from the war.

My father’s decision was again to spare my mother her humiliation, but not her punishment. He never forgave her, and for the rest of my childhood my father openly–at least to my pricked-up ears–derided my mother doubly so for the faithless whore she was.

He blamed her for enticing him into her bed in the first place and ruining his life at the start, and then he blamed her for being a faithless whore who continued ruining his life by humiliating him as a cuckold (my word, not his).

I suppose in retrospect I think I should have kept my mouth shut.

And far worse for me–socially and, most assuredly, spiritually–a record of  her unfaithfulness followed us in our family’s Church records henceforth. Never again was I to know pure acceptance in the Church. I always felt that I was looked upon suspiciously, as though everyone knew that I masturbated.

I later learned that, while I was still just a flat-chested child of 11 or 12, my mother was approached by certain other women in the Church and warned that I was “too sexy”.  She was asked whether she wouldn’t do anything about it?

But then I suppose the acorn falleth not far from the tree, right?

But you’ve suffered enough. I’ve already used twice my allotment of words a blogger is allowed on any given post, so I’ll have to leave the telling of that tale to another day.

*Yes, Corky is his real name. I only change the names to protect the innocent.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

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Caroline James February 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

In a patriarchal society, women are indoctrinated to feel guilt about expressing their sexuality and too often this primal, social and therapeutic impulse is driven into hiding and relationships are damaged by betrayals and the secrets that are kept (or exposed, when it comes to that).

There are some who believe that women are, in a sense, the center of the universe giving birth and representing love, desire, growth and even wisdom. They deem that sexual monogamy is unnatural to woman whereas monogamy is natural to men. This goes against the dictates of the patriarchally inclined but it has become a compelling way of life for a growing number of couples who bond with the complicty of this lifestyle and eschew the secret betrayals that are all too common to modern relationships. No scarlet letters for them…

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marlen September 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

Churches, Religion they are all such a joke, and yet they survive and have such large followings. I have experienced a similar situation with a church. I was devout catholic , believed deeply all their rituals and felt at home in my church. It was a great community to be part of until one faithful day my daughter came out as gay. Well low and behold instantly I was not part of the clan any longer, mothers very carefully pulled their daughters away from mine, the whispers and behind your back comments started, the blaming , the ” I new it” comments continued and then of course I was faced with what I believed while I was a comatose catholic that my daughter was an abomination and was damned to hell for practicing her hellish ways. When I felt this an atom bomb exploded in my mind and heart and I opened my eyes to who I was and where I was and decided that my daughter was not an abomination and no religion or group can make me feel that. Its been a struggle but it has made me realize just how evil organized religion can be and how blind their followers really are. Your Mom did not deserve what happen to her for just being attracted and fulfilling a sexual desire and the fact that that religion marked her and ruined her life just proves my point to the tee. Love your blog.

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refluks August 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

Hello! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!
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Beverly Diehl February 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Incredible story – not in the sense that I don’t believe it, but in the reality that people do some incredibly cruel things to each other, especially in the name of religion. The whole slut-shaming phenomena is quite horrific, and we older dames need to step up and say, oh, HELL no! We’re not taking it lying down anymore.

Er, well, something in that spirit, anyway.
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Shannon Bradley-Colleary October 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Chloe, Chloe — I will be back and often. Though you do not have to make your husband a cuckold with me.
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Sade Strehlke December 31, 2011 at 1:19 am

OMG, my friend just told me about Tawny the other day, I had never heard of her before!

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Susan in the Boonies December 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm

That’s one event that no 7 year old SHOULD have to figure out how to handle.

But happen, it did, and handle it, you did, and I DO think that there is always value to be gained from whatever crap we endure.

And I think that it’s possible, even as we acknowledge the pain, damage, and suffering, to see the good that God can bring/has brought from that suffering.

I see this post as a way of you doing that, as well. I’m glad for that.

(And I’m sorry for your pain.)
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Robyn of Coffee and Cotton December 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

May I just say…woweth!
It’s *nice* to know other lives are Jerry Springer Show worthy
Nicer to know we are survivors!

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Legume December 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

I remember reading Scarlet Letter, as an adult, and thinking that Hester’s husband was a jerk for sending her on alone and leaving her alone for so long, and Dimmesdale a coward. Hester, well, wasn’t she really the forgiven saint that was so much further in her spirituality than the rest by the time it was all said and done. What Hawthorne has to say about religion is astounding and sad; at least about the religion of that time (a good ol’ day to which I have no desire to return), but can easily describe much about religion today. They didn’t care about a person’s heart, just their appearance. A man who returns and pretends he doesn’t know is own wife, a man who doesn’t have a “set” to come clean about his involvement with another man’s wife, a society that can see the speck in their sister’s eye and yet ignore the plank in their own, and a lone woman and child who is left to deal with the reality unprotected and unloved.

This book, while it falls flat on many a high school students, really spoke to your reality, and I find that fascinating as much as horrified that you had to experience what you did at seven. I think about my own daughter who read the book last year, and wonder, what did it really mean to her? It was one of her favorites, but truly, why?
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Judy December 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I think as a seven year old you showed a lot of wisdom with how you dealt with things. I am sorry you had to deal with the crap at that young age though.
All I remember from reading the Scarlet Letter is that Hawthorne used the word bossoms a lot. I am not very deep. :P

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Chloe Jeffreys December 29, 2011 at 6:44 am

You speak truth, Judy. Hester is always grabbing this or that and clutching it to her bosom wherein yon ill-fated letter be stitched.

It does seem incredible that I did this at so young an age, but even more incredible that my mother and I NEVER discussed it.

EVER.

We left the meeting in silence. And while we did touch delicately upon the people in and around the event, she never said a word to me about what I saw or what I did.

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Jack@TheJackB December 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm

My 7 year-old daughter in a confluence of conflagration and condemnation she could not have anticipated reignited a battle between my MIL and I.

Good times I tell you. If my MIL would only recognize that she cannot defeat me with words or deeds she would focus on using the great asset of desert forsooth I would be doomed for my mouth would be filleth with food.

Ignore that last paragraph because reading it twice will only make your head hurt.
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Chloe Jeffreys December 29, 2011 at 6:38 am

I am not deceived. Your humorous tone belies a bitterness you would seek to mask with farce and whimsy.

But, forsooth, I confess in all honesty and humility that thou second phrase doth give me much ache in the head if I dare readeth even but once, and doubly so the suffering therein increaseth if I dare ponder it’s words beyond that initial glance.

I dare not get between a man and his mother-in-law for therein lies much ominous mischief and dark folly.
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Sally December 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

After being given another peek at the emotional weight-bearing you took on as a child, I look forward to hearing more about the impact of Hawthorne’s book on you, as a teen and as a woman.

I’ve wondered if your dad would ever make it into another of your blog posts, given the ominous way you spoke of him when you talked about changing your name.

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Chloe Jeffreys December 29, 2011 at 6:28 am

My father is an ominous figure, Sally. He was a cruel and angry man.

Up until now I’ve preferred not to write about him, but there is no way to avoid him if I’m going to write about The Scarlet Letter.

Thanks for reading, Sally.

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Birthblessed December 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm

For your next read, I suggest Mistress Shakespeare. I’m enjoying it.
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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I do not know of this Mistress Shakespeare of which you speak. I shall have to investigate forthwith.

I do so love your Comment Luv link though. In light of this post, I think that Christians shouldn’t “DO” anyone other than their spouse. But then I have that on the brain today, as you can tell.

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Les Kertay December 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I supposeth that I must be a shrink. You, I worry about not, since it seems you have become merely normally neurotic (you might argue the point, but I am in a position to render expert opinion). Corky, I could care less about. Your dad, on the other hand, fascinates – how does someone get through life blaming someone else for all that ails?

Great post, Chloe, or whatever is your “real” name! It’s such a pleasure to read someone who can convey real feeling in an entertaining way.

Les
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Magnolia December 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm

How does one get through life blaming someone else for all that ails? Oh dear sir, that would be called “denial”

I do know someone who is quite adept at it. It continues to fascinate me as well, I assure you. :)
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Les Kertay December 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Denial, perhaps, but it seems more sinister than mere misdirection or ignorance. Alas, I too know entirely too many who are virtuosos. But that’s another strain and will take us down a different path than Chloe’s original post.
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Magnolia December 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

In deed.
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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

After several years of serious psychotherapy and two years of group therapy studying the works of Karen Horney on neuroses, I must agree with your professional assessment. Neurotics make the best bloggers, I think. Well, ever since Woody Allen cornered the market on movie directors.

Now my father? That’s an intense subject, Les.

The fact that he fancied himself the Savior of the story, when he was nothing more than a co-conspirator to their crime of passion, hints at the sickest parts of our societal attitudes about female sexuality. I guess it merely points to the fact that then, as in Hester Prynne’s day, men could walk away unscathed by their sexual indiscretions while women were left holding the bag, so to speak.

But I’ll leave further discussion of my father until I write about my thoughts and feelings about Hester’s paramour, Arthur Dimmesdale, . My takeaway from him and my father left a profound mark upon my life and the choices I made as a young woman.

What astonishes me is how often I hear people today lamenting the passage of those times, calling them “The Good Old Days”.

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Kelly December 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Let yourself off the hook. You did the best you could.

Oh and I hope Corky somehow finds this and feels really, really guilty.

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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Wouldn’t that be something? I wish I could remember his last name. Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.

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SewWhat? December 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm

A 7yo doesn’t know anything. Ya can’t beat yourself up for your 7yo self! You did nothing wrong.

I have some thoughts about 11dds clothing, since I currently have one of those! LOL I let her wear things that I probably wouln’t really want her to wear in 5y, because she’s ONLY 11yo! I had a real hangup about bikinis, until I realized my daughter can’t wear a tank suite cuz she’s so long torsoed! Getting it to fit vertically means it’s too loose, hence she’s hanging out. So, she gets either a tankini or bikini and rashguard to wear over it. (her choice)

I must admit thinking those moms are crazy on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding letting their 4+yos wear such revealing clothing… It’s not so much the wearing of it but they show all the little girls dancing so provocatively and encouraging the ‘man getting’ behaviors.

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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

So much of what girls are taught has to do with “man getting” behaviors. Modesty is also sold as a means to a man-getting end. I guess it’s all in the man you’re trying to retrieve.

I cannot look back upon that 7yo and think she could have done any better, and maybe it would have been much worse. Corky was married and it is likely there never was a future between him and my mom. I feel that I did save my family.

The thing I have come to hate about adultery is how much is destroys those around you.

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SewWhat? December 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I”m sorry you had to deal with that. I can’t even imagine :( Tho, I do see how it’s playing out in my stepson Jake. My dh’s ex cheated on him with her to-be 2nd husband, then cheated on him to go on to a 3rd husband. He sees it all. I pray he has learned from her. (we won custody when he was 4yo… so at least he only saw it from afar most of the time)

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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Cheating is so destructive. Both my husband and I experienced it in our childhoods and it left a mark.

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Magnolia December 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm

And now, Tawny Kitaen is a nobody with a bad reputation. Go figure.

I now understand why you have God issues.
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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Then my mission is accomplished.

Tawny and I have switched positions, it would seem (at least in my warped imagination). Life is funny that way.

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Shorty December 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I actually never read “The Scarlet Letter”, choosing instead “Ethan Frome”… a book I really, really hated at the time but somehow I think I would ‘get’ now. Anyway, Holden Caulfield was the Classic Literature character that most spoke to me at the time. Now; not so much. I will attempt to acquaint myself with Hester posthaste.

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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Holden Caulfield came to me my Senior year. I was past him by the time he came along.

Check out Hester. Love her or hate her, I think her story and the times she lived in are compelling reminders that theocracy is not a good idea.

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Robin December 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm

holy cow. Why do church ladies think it’s necessary to think an 11 year old is too sexy?!?!?! why?!

I loved this post. I dig that ol’ timey language. ;)
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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I love it too, but I’m glad we don’t have to text that way!

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Julia December 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I always wanted to know what happened to Pearl…but Hawthorne didn’t write a sequel…

And you asked the question in church?! Cojones, girlfriend!! Whew!

Can’t wait for the next installment…and maybe I should go re-read The Scarlet Letter….

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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I was terrified of my mother. I perceived that there was safety in numbers. If I confronted her in public then she couldn’t kill me. It was a crazy move, huh?

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Julia December 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I played that game at times…but then there was also the silence on the way to the car after the public “situation” that let me know that I might be near death’s door that evening….. :-/

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Maddie Kertay December 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Holy crap girl! .. Hopefully Corky also changed his name.

Maddie
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Chloe Jeffreys December 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Since I do not know his last name and my mother is passed away and cannot remind me, I’ll never know.

He was a Utah Mormon, and I was told that after the affair he returned with his wife from whence he came.

Won’t it be nice when I don’t write like this anymore?
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