Telling Our Stories


One of the few compensations of growing up as a member of a restrictive, some might even say cultish, religion, is that if you manage to get free of it as an adult, you have great stories to tell. I relate very much to Scott Cheshire’s story at Killing the Buddha because I had an almost identical experience, though without the same hand-drawn illustrations.

We sat down on our sweating and plastic-covered couch, my mother was in the kitchen slowly doing dishes, and we talked about God’s view of sex. We read from a suggestively pink hardcover Christian publication written specifically for the adolescent. A kind of hot pink handbook for kids called Your Youth—Getting the Best Out of It! I can still see my father, sitting awkwardly in his tight brown slacks hugging his middle-aged scrotum way too closely, threads wearing thin (and why does he sit with his legs spread so wide, even now? my wife has actually asked me this), a clown-sized paisley tie hanging heavy from his white and blushing, freshly shaved neck.

My father read to me from a chapter entitled “Masturbation and Homosexuality,” and we began an extraordinarily stilted conversation about the dangers and sinful nature of “self-abuse” and of touching other boys.

The whole thing is worth reading, though I wish he’d named the church–the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had the same awkward conversation with my dad, and it had about the same net effect.

Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →