(This is the last of three posts from Joseph.)
Mother gave me dolls to play with, played house with me, and taught me how to sew. (Surely she knew better.) My stepfather psychologically abused us both—told me I would never amount to anything. (He lied: I taught school for 39 years; have published local history books; and am a well-known poet in my state. But I still felt less than a man.)
I wasn't allowed to play sports or join the Boy Scouts because the “other boys would be a bad influence on you.” I was allowed to go to one high school football game and that was in the ninth grade. I grew up knowing nothing about sports, cars, or guns.
I was never comfortable around men, but work and church put me around them, so I developed survival skills although remaining “dumb and stupid” about manly things.
Furthermore, I was warned against kissing girls—that could start a boy on the downward path to damnation. As an adolescent, when adult men enticed me, I saw it as kindness and I felt needed. When I discovered it was wrong, I felt that I couldn't ever be a real man.
Having a licensed Christian counselor and telling him everything—and I mean every shameful thing I have remembered—has been unlocking doors and I am progressing into freedom from the past.
God has put me in a church with godly men who like me and I am at ease around them. I may be old, but I’m not too old to learn and to enjoy the fellowship of men.