LITTLE MISS CHURCH GIRL was birthed in California by a fourteen year-old mother who was molested and impregnated by a fifty-year old man—who just also happened to be the pastor of the church her family attended.
Not exactly a righteous beginning. But then again, Little Miss Church Girl eventually became awfully good at turning up her nose at others who did immoral things in her eyes. She never knew the assaulter, her biological father, because he died when she was two years old. But later Little Miss Church Girl would have to deal with the unforgiveness she harbored against that man. She wouldn’t survive unless she did.
Meanwhile, her mother did the best she could, which was remarkable considering how naïve and confused she was. As a young girl from a small town in Arkansas, she knew nothing of the world, men, or sex when she was first molested by the trusted pastor at the age of thirteen. She took toddler Little Miss Church Girl to the same church her father had pastored before his death, a denomination whose parishioners were mostly African-American. Though her mother—understandably—eventually lost interest in church and focused instead on trying to make ends meet for her daughter and herself, Little Miss Church Girl was still drawn to it and was allowed to continue to attend with her aunt, who had loved the Lord from a very young age.
The church’s strict, legalistic approach to Christianity molded Little Miss Church Girl into its do-no-wrong mentality. By the time she was ready to start middle school, Little Miss Church Girl was well versed in how to properly dress in long skirts, keep her face free from makeup and jewelry, and scornfully look down on anyone else who dared to do otherwise. Her holier-than-thou attitude wasn’t helped by the many church kids who teased her for, of all things, being too dark-skinned and having a wide nose and short hair from a botched home perm. After being enlightened about the circumstances that led to her birth, Little Miss Church Girl was hurt, bewildered, and couldn’t understand how a supposed man of God could do that to her mother. It also reinforced within her a sense that she was inherently bad. This attitude, paired with an almost paralyzing fear of rejection, characterized Little Miss Church Girl as she began attending middle school.
By this time, Little Miss Church Girl’s mother had not only returned to church but was teaching adult Bible study groups at both the church and elsewhere. For her part, Little Miss Church Girl was a talented singer, a lead vocalist in the church choir, and on occasion directed the praise and worship service. Over time, her mother’s exposure to other church denominations, combined with her own growing knowledge of the Bible, led her to believe that the tradition of her church was too much of a “bondage lifestyle” for both her and her daughter. As Little Miss Church Girl entered high school, her mother gave her permission to wear such “unholy” adornments as denim jeans, earrings, and mascara when she was away from church. This started to bring Little Miss Church Girl out of her cloistered shell, but she often beat herself up about these “violations” of what a good girl was supposed to be as she remembered past sermons about looking and acting “holy.” Whether it was about what she wore or something she said, Little Miss Church Girl wallowed in self-condemnation, meticulously analyzing every choice she made.
This is just so wrong, she’d think accusingly. I shouldn’t be this way. I’m supposed to be perfect.
This internal strife didn’t prevent Little Miss Church Girl from turning her condemnation outward. In high school, her girlfriends told her how they were having sex with boys and about the misshapen love triangles this created. “How dare you do that!” Little Miss Church Girl raged. “Not me. I’m saving myself for marriage and my husband.” Of course, her actions didn’t match up with her words when, at age seventeen, she fell head over heels for the first boy that showed her any attention and lost her virginity to him in a fly-by-night encounter that left her shaken and ashamed. Although a loner at church, Little Miss Church Girl had a small circle of friends at school. She tried to fit in as best she could and be a “homie” to the few who did accept her, but she still often felt a nagging in the back of her mind that what she was doing was wrong; she was bad and always would be bad.
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