One of the reasons I have such sympathy for the entire Quiverfull survivors network, and the survivors of religious patriarchy is because of my background, which has nothing to do with either life style. I have had to put up with the advice and financial control of men all of my life, until about 4 years ago when we discovered my father was well into Alzheimer’s, enough to have caused him to have made some disastrous financial decisions and have been bled dry by those who were entrusted to deal with his investments. The bitter irony, and one reason I absolutely refuse to ever put up with such a situation again is if he had listened to me, we would not be in this situation. Instead, and this was far before the AD was doing more than causing him to be a little flaky, was to be told that, when I had made a million dollars he would listen to me. Until then, because I was such an abject failure in life, I was to sit down and shut up about money. My calculations are, if he had done what I had suggested, he would have made about $10 million on the investment. Instead, his ego driven choice may or may not yield a profit.
The problem with my father began a good 40 years earlier, when he went into business with a horrible, old school, southern misogynist, who thought women were good for only one thing. The last vestiges of Reconstruction, all of them having been born in the previous century and were a good 10 years older than my grandfather, who had been born in 1896, they weren’t as we look at today, bigots. They just had no use for women. They adapted quite well to desegregation, and the Civil Rights era, not even blinking, but when it came to women, no matter what the race, they were disgusting. A woman’s place was, well, you know where, along with in the home, cooking, being a hostess, and so forth and so on. They could be educated for careers as teachers and nurses. If you wanted to travel in foreign lands, either become one or marry a missionary. Women were not to handle money or investments.
My grandfather wasn’t this way. His sisters had careers and were college educated. Their was no hit of patriarchy in his family. Women were equal in every way. They controlled their own destiny. The problem with them was the fact that they were too busy being socialites and shopping to go out into the world, on their own. A business was a hobby. While they physically did not live in Palm Beach, the family home being six miles away, in the middle of a wonderful orange grove and at the time sprawling pastures, that’s how they lived. To put it into perspective, the caterer who did Gloria Vanderbilt’s first wedding did my parents’ a few days later. When they were married, there was one party after another. Before we were born, there was one party after another. For many years, my mother could not conceptualize that we did not want that life – where my sister and I grew up, that life was impossible.
When the time came for college, my mother thought it was useless. Why not just live at home until I was married, and have a good time, like she did. During this time frame, we were going to a large Baptist church. The only way I was going to get to college was to become a teacher and a missionary – to the poor Indians in New Mexico. What I wanted to do was go to UNM and study archaeology. That was not a viable career choice. When I changed my major to history and the fine arts, with a emphasis on the Arthurian and medieval Britain, that was okay. Just remember, my sister had decided to become a nurse. There was such control over my life that, when my parents were told that I had acquired not just 1 but 2 full scholarships to study just that – at Oxford, the never told me. By then my dreams of archaeology had been destroyed. It took years for me to realize I could have manipulated those scholarships, and studied archaeology. I was never allowed options.
Due to another situation, entirely, I was allowed to think that our financial options were such that I had no choice, other than to quit school. My sister’s nursing career came first, or so I was allowed to believe. I worked in a department store, primarily for spending money. After all, I was living at home. When the usual options for an opportunity to be the usual legislative aid on the Hill arrived, I was discouraged from taking them. I was stuck, at home. When I was hit with the writing addiction, my father informed me that writers must suffer for their craft. Writers had no social life. Women who became writers could not marry or have families. I could work for him, part time, making the same as his drugged-out day laborers, but no more. I had no special privileges. I was the hired help, making nothing. I was a woman, so I did not have what it took to learn his business. Never mind, one of his friends kept telling him to let me learn the business. His daughter was making big money. She has now turned it into a multi-million dollar enterprise. But – not me. I was living at home, for free. I was allowed to drive a 15 year old beat-up Buick convertible (my nephew now has it, lovingly restoring it). That was it. Since I did not want to marry and have a family, I was basically nothing.
Then, the trust fund my grandfather had set up kicked in, and I was there only long enough to change clothes and pack for another trip. I traveled so much that for the next ten years, I had so many upgrades, I rarely flew coach. During this time, I was presented with an investment idea from a friend who had become a broker. There was a new tech company going public. Computers were the wave of the investment future. I stupidly put my $2500 into ATT like my father and his friends told me to do. I didn’t know any difference. It would be safe. That other investment option was for an unknown start-up, which was probably going to go bust, they told me. That company was… yep, you guessed it – Microsoft.
The years became one manipulation after another. I never thought of them as manipulation. I was a good daughter, doing what was right. Only, it wasn’t right for me. It could have been, but I had a father who was strange about such things. If it had not been for my mother, it would have been worse. My father wanted to be the one in financial control. As the AD took control, it became worse. The worst part of it was the only time he was ever organized is when I took care of things. I kept up with his business records and paperwork.
Now, though, I’m in charge. There are no male power figures in my life, and I intend to keep it that way. It isn’t because I don’t like men. Trust me, I do. It isn’t a gender choice. I’m just sick and tired of having men tell me what to do. I first noticed what was going on with me, when, last summer, I mentioned to someone that I was not going to use her husband for a project. He is the most qualified person for it. But – they are almost family. I’m not going to have another man in the family tell me what to do. It’s that simple.
What set off this rant and rave is the fact that, on Friday, I was required to have a business conversation with the person who is now the ‘patriarch’ of the family. Because I am handling the family investments, I must deal with a jointly owned piece of real estate. He explained how money works, investments work, then started telling me why we must do this and that – and how the Russian economy is tanking – like I’m not aware of any of that. He assumed that I know absolutely nothing, and that I must have his advice.
My parents have an excellent trust attorney, one of the best in this part of the country. We have about 5 more months for probate. I spent and hour and $300 on the phone with him, learning about probate, capital gains, and estate taxes in different states. It doesn’t matter to this person, but I’m trying to avoid capital gains on property purchased 40 years ago. That’s 35% – which is huge when very little was paid for a piece of property and it is now worth a small fortune. It is also enough savings to keep my mother very well, the remainder of her life. According to him, capital gains are not that big a deal, yet he did not know what they were this year, nor what estate taxes are today. Yet – I’m to defer to his judgement?
According to my mother, I am to defer to men men like this, who know something, when it comes to investing. Yes, it’s her money, and she can do what she wants with it. My problem is the fact that I’m sick and tired of having to deal with the men in my family, telling me what to do, and calling the shots. Yes, I’ve been stupid over the years, but I’m wide awake now. Having spent the past three years in familial hell, dealing with finances and the mess the men of the family have made, you know, enough is enough.
The lesson here is strange. I always considered myself fairly liberated and something of a feminist. I’m also a decently devout Christian. Our family never considered women any different from men when it came to religion, politics, or managing – much of anything. There was never even much of a division of labor when it came to business, decision making, or real estate. It’s strange really, just creeping up on me. There are situations in life where you never realize what’s going on until it happens, then it’s too late.
My mistake was being the devoted daughter. Like generations before me, I was basically screwed into caring for aging parents, at the expense of my own life. I should have listened to my sister, but I did not. I think there are so many of us out there who are just trying to do the right thing, then discover life should have been different. I don’t understand why I did things the way I did. Sure, I spent the years from the age of 9 until I was 39 dealing with the nightmare of abuse, without recovery or knowing why I was the way I was. It took another 10 years to fully recover, and I did, shockingly. After that, you realize that half your life has been eaten up, like a game of PACMAN. In many ways, my father was dealing, as best he could, with the results of what had happened to me. When it happened to me, people just kept things quiet, for the benefit of letting the child forget.
I was robbed, not by abusive parents, but by an educational system where pedophiles were shuffled from one situation to another. It left me with a total and complete contempt for anyone in a position of authority. I understand abuse, and I understand the annoyances and limitations even the most well-meaning families put on daughters. It has dawned on me that the real ‘abuse’ I suffered was the fact that my father did not thing a college education was necessary. He believed in the school of hard knocks, and loved sales. He wanted me to follow in his foot-steps, in sales, which he always encouraged. He always wanted me to get a real estate license. (As if!) He was a product of the Great Depression. His determination to hold on to his last cent, not to spend money needlessly, and invest in land, no matter what, came from those years, not from a patriarchal mind-set. But, it left me with an understanding of what women must still endure, in order to be godly daughters.
And – then the Alzheimer’s Disease set in, and we never knew it.