Friday, August 5, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 46: Last summer at home before implementing the policy of telling the truth in all my classes my senior year

I knew I had just one more year to make my mark in college and since this was not going to be possible with any significant acting roles or other achievements in my major I did not think, it was going to have to be accomplished in my classes.  I had an increasing sense of strain about what this truth telling I was planning might involve.
I thought I had barely escaped serious trouble when I started this policy in the third quarter of my junior year.  If I had encountered any teacher but that particular one, I would probably have had to pay dearly for my honest but irreverent opinions about the high school text books I was assigned to review.
I thought through once again what would happen if I just coasted on through as I knew I could easily do.  I didn't have to rebel.  I did not have to risk my degree by saying what I really thought in my classes, but it was just that not saying what I really thought would lead to no progress whatsoever in dealing with the criminal behaviors of my molesters or with what I thought was a major problem in Utah, men like my father behaving the way he did while believing he had covered the tracks of numerous affairs he had while partying with males and even working with them so his wife and daughters would not suspect.
I just could not recover from the arrogance of him driving to Salt Lake, screaming like a maniac, accusing me of having sex with my Escalante boyfriend who I rarely saw and threatening to cut off my school funds entirely because of it.
My sister LaRae had staged a mini-rebellion of her own, marching off to Salt Lake to work in a jam factory for the summer, so she could get away.  I tried to talk her out of it, but she said she could not stand one more summer at home.
My God, I thought, she had not been able to escape as I had at the age of 13. So she was willing to labor in a jam factory at the age of 15, the only job she could find at her age, for a break before she had to come back and finish high school in Escalante.
I was troubled by her rebellion as I had not been able to establish a satisfactory relationship with LaRae during the busy summers when I was home. Now I was losing another summer without contact with her. I feared she would get into trouble, or her rebellion could lead to it, if she was not close to anybody in the family, intellectually. I questioned my younger sisters, Ann and Linda, trying to find out if she had been having bad clashes with our dad.  They said no, she just didn't like working with him.  She said he was too mean.  She had been rebelling against 'boys' work for some time, so Ann and Linda were called upon to do most of it.

I actually had not minded working with Daddy in the summer, but I didn't have to put up with him the year around. I had even broached the idea to Mother and Dad of sending LaRae away to school in the city because she had proved to be an absolute whiz in her typing classes.  I had an awkward two fingers that made typing difficult for me, but she was soon typing over a hundred words a minute with no problem.  Daddy had a top future secretary in her, but she was also smart enough to be her own boss, start a business of her own, become a lawyer instead of working for one, any number of alternatives besides becoming some man's Girl Friday.
Mother and Dad ignored my advice.  That would cost money.  Besides if it wasn't LaRae's idea it might not be safe to send her into the city as  Mother and Dad were already having a tough time keeping track of her in Escalante.  I thought they hardly had any influence over her, anyway, since she did not respect them. Who really could?

As for the University of Utah, I kept thinking about how Archie was celebrated when he made his appearance.  At last, my theater professors could show real enthusiasm for a student actor who was not a returned veteran, but an attractive, talented, impertinent kind of guy, made even more affecting by serious health issues. If their marked enthusiasm for a student like Archie had not convinced the girls that they had no real place in the theater world I don't know what could.  The girls didn't even have to be talented to play their parts.  But it was better if they were really pretty.
A female bookworm?  Who needed one of those.  Utah was not a book reading society.  The church provided.  Voracious book readers like me risked being treated as though we were poor unfortunate nerds with nothing else going for us. But I would say I was practically one of a kind, so it was not really necessary to discourage book reading.  Girls were still proud they preferred to sew.  
Ambitious females seemed to elicit little more than a sense of unease.  I had taken Robert's first play writing class as a junior and he was not impressed with anything I wrote.  I was just so clearly the wrong sex  He was markedly conflicted, hostile, or indifferent in his general attitude toward female students.
Both Sharon and I had failed to hold Ghiselin's attention.  Sharon finally gave up trying to get any respect for her poems, which she had been writing half her life.  I had hoped to write some short stories for his class and for the school literary magazine that would illuminate what it had been like to be the daughter of a troubled and conflicted man.  I thought I could have impacted the college literary scene just as Laurence had, if Ghiselin had been the least bit receptive. 
As it was, the student literary magazine was completely dominated by male writers.  If there had been another notable female writing talent Sharon would have found her and formed a coalition if at all possible.  Nobody with writing talent ever escaped her eagle eye.
In the theater department, while riding the bus out to my aunt's house, I had become closer friends to Marilyn, my best friend in the theater department, who lived along that route.  She was the daughter of a doctor, and several times she invited me to get off the bus and have a cool drink to her house where we proceeded to have somewhat crippled discussions about theater.
Marilyn had gone to school with June, another theater major our age, for years.  We were the young girls amidst the returning veterans, probably seeming like still children to them.  June was a very bright young Mormon theater major.  She had been raised, Marilyn told me, in a very religious home, one of the youngest of a large family. She just could not help being as totally nice, committed, and thoroughly admirable as she was. I naturally did not know June as well as I did Marilyn, because she was kept so busy with church, family, and her studies she had no idle time for talking. She was already planning to go to BYU, the church university, to get her masters degree in theater. 
H.E.D. Redford was still tearing up the theater department with his acting genius, but he would probably be gone when I returned.  He was a veteran almost ten years older than the three of us. H.E.D. marched entirely to his own drummer, so he was not susceptible to the favoritism  bestowed on Archie that caused us all jealousy.  Archie just had to bat his incredibly long eyelashes, it seemed, and another plum role was his.  Not that he could not act.  But I did not think he was nearly the thinking actor that H.E.D., the older veteran, clearly was. 
Marilyn was an attractive girl and quite observant, but I thought she reflected the rather undeveloped personality of her mother, who seemed to have spent her life just being there but without meaningful work.  She kept house and took care of the two children, Marilyn and her brother, so the doctor did not have to worry about anything when he was gone long hours from home.  I thought Marilyn was trying to make more of an impact on the world than her mother, but she did not try to act.  She wasn't going to teach.  She didn't aspire to write. I was not quite sure what she did intend to do with her degree in theater.
But she was interested in everything I was doing. She was of such a conventional mind set, I could not tell her very much at all about the quandary I was in about how to be more effective in reacting to my father and other men like him I had met at the University of Utah on the teaching staff. The professors didn't drink and carry on as my did did, but I did not think some of them were being honest with their wives.  Their dishonesty could not help but affect their students.
The cover-up of male interest in other males was I was discovering wide spread. I only knew one student who had come out as gay in college.  The rest all gave the distinct impression that marrying some unfortunate girl was an option.
Gail was a cheeky defiant young modern poet, who seemed to take perverse pleasure in declaring he was gay and shocking people, but I was sure he was going to pay a price for his dreadful decadence.  At that time in Utah, a bold guy like him would have been deemed a very pernicious influence on the young.
Well, what message did people imagine a cover-up of such traits would send, once detected.  I had detected my dad's tendencies when I was only five.  Was that all my extraordinary powers of observation were going to merit me, a stubborn wall of silence and denial among the males?  I did in fact think that homosexuality was widely accepted in my dad's world as something to experiment with.  No problem with the women finding out and voicing any objections, generally speaking.  They were too ignorant.  Too unsure of themselves when it came to these practices ever to accuse a man of unmentionable acts!
No wonder many men did not find women to be challenging enough to satisfy. The young male who knew all his secrets might be the one who seemed more his match.  We young girls in Utah were growing up in the dark ages of female development. We had not really advanced much further than Shakespeare's time.  No wonder Shakespeare was so popular in Utah! 
Until my mother could figure out my dad, he was going to thwart and frustrate her.  In fact, she acted like she hated his guts but had no alternative but to live with the bastard until the kids were grown.  So far he had not killed her when he suspected that she was straying!  So far so good! 
The male students at the University, normal or not,  accepted favoritism as their just due, while the females did not rebel, they never rebelled.  That was generally a good Mormon girl's main characteristic.  She did not question male authority. My mother was an exception.  She had rebelled against being a good Mormon girl even by marrying a skeptic like my dad. But I did not want to follow her example, because she was resigned to being bad.  She did not seem to think she had any other choice, if she was not going to be thoroughly dominated by my dad.
I knew how confused my mother's thinking was.  A couple of years later I finally dared to voice a protest to her about her affairs with other married man while still married.  She drew back her fist as though she was going to hit me in the face full force, then instead began jumping up and down and screaming, "I want to be bad, I want to be bad!"  I knew she was dangerous at that moment, so I shut up.  Taking Gary, my first child with me, who was still a baby in arms, I walked in the fields all day, thinking my mother was clearly insane.  But so was my dad!  Great!   
The church dominated society in Utah, which my mother tried to escape by marriage to my dad, was a patriarchal one.  Men knew best.  They were the only ones who could hold the priesthood.  God had invested his authority in them.  Women supported them, bore the children, and were generally expected to be meek and submissive.  They did not do the important thinking, and so therefore they were incapable of doing important writing. This was my grandmother's attitude, on my mother's side.  My mother rebelled because she had come to hate her mother's submissiveness to her dominating husband, my grandfather, so was not an ally to her daughter in her conflicts with him. 
I thought this was the message I was getting at the University of Utah as well as at home from my dad.  There was no sense of a girl trying to become an important writer. Especially of the world.   
Yet, in my family there were no sons, so out of necessity we daughters had had to take on boys' work whenever it was physically possible.  My younger sisters were now expected to punch cattle, scatter hay, ride horses, and drive trucks. Mother was as good a driver now as Daddy was, and often did the driving because Daddy was apt to get drunk.  She had also become a Case Farm machinery dealer and would go down in the fields with her book of instructions to help the ranchers fix the machinery they bought from her.
The only paying jobs Daddy could think of that educated women were good for were secretarial work and teaching school.  The idea of a woman becoming a playwright was so far fetched I had not even bothered to mention this goal to him.  Where was I going to do that?
Well, the truth of the matter was that woman playwrights rarely made it to the top anywhere.  If I ever wrote plays I was going to have to break into a field that was easily dominated by males, whether in Utah or New York.
I really felt discouraged about where I was headed in the job market as a female. I still thought I would get into almost instant trouble if I tried to teach in Utah schools.  Why I could probably go back to the University of Utah this coming fall and get into almost instant trouble by trying to say what I thought in my classes.  What kind of crazy idea was that?  What did what I thought have to do with anything important?  As a matter of fact, I might not even be able to graduate if I continued to assert myself.
If I did try to surface the secrets I had been keeping and was punished by having to leave the University without a degree, how would my dad react? 
I figured he might threaten me with extreme violence, but it was hard to imagine how he could top the fit he had thrown over me possibly having sex with my boyfriend.  Someone might have to step in to protect me.  I might have to run away.  I would probably need to get entirely out of Utah.  I could go to Spokane to visit Dean, maybe.  Rent a room and try to find a job.  I could tell Dean that we would probably have to get married, or I would just have to leave there, too, as my dad would not allow us to have sex without benefit of marriage.
Dean was still acting as though he could go on forever writing to me and seeing me once in a while.  I needed for that all to end.  I needed to give him an ultimatum!  A commitment to me or an end to this dabbling with my sexual feelings through the mail!
Dean was writing that summer he did not think he could get a leave to come home now until Christmas or even later.  This was ridiculous.  I could not continue to be emotionally and sexually tied to a young guy I never saw.  This situation was going to have to be resolved one way or another.
So my fevered thoughts ran as I was bottling away as we had to do every summer, no matter what went down.  LaRae came home, tired from her long hot summer bottling in the jam factory in Salt Lake. We made a few jokes about her wonderful job in the city bottling jam. Gee, she must have learned a lot. And it was so different.
She just ignored us, and said what is more she planned to escape her dreary home every summer.  When she was sixteen she would go back to Salt Lake to work as a waitress and would make a lot more money.  We would think make fun when she was rich from all her labors.
But if I rebelled too vigorously and did not get my degree, who knew, I might be trying to find work as a waitress or a store clerk before long, too.
Oh now I was really looking forward to going back to the University that fall, about like I would have looked forward to a trial where it would be decided whether I lived or died.
But by now I was committed.  I was definitely going to rebel.  I was going to speak the truth in my classes as it had rarely been spoken by a student in a Utah university.  Oh, rebel boys did it after a fashion, and got thrown out, usually for substance abuse, absenteeism, and bad grades, but Daddy was used to well behaved daughters.  He would have been very upset had we become little drunkards.  This privilege in our family was reserved for him alone.
Well, he was just about to find out what it was like to have a rebel daughter.  Good luck to him, and to me.  We were both going to need it.   A dangerous plan to respond with my real thinking which previously had to be concealed was just about to be implemented into my daily rounds of senior college classes.  Fall quarter.  I could not put off this move any longer.

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