Part III in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle. Here are Part I and Part II.
We now skip ahead to 2004: I had been married for seven years and Miss Pink was two. I'd been sticking to the "standards" pretty closely, mostly because Justin was raised in a church that was even a little stricter than ours. I knew that my long hair and skirts were part of the reason he was willing to get serious about me, since his family expected him to marry someone who looked like every woman in their church.
It wasn't very hard to stop going to movies and wearing leggings (I wore them under my dad's button-down shirts, which billowed around me like sails. SO attractive.) But the whole time I was dating and married to Justin, I never stopped trimming my hair.
It was a dilemma, how much to cut off--enough to get rid of the worst of the split ends, but not enough to look like it had been cut. (I always curled it, wore it up or braided it, so the split ends ot lack thereof weren't as obvious as you might think, but Pentecostal women are very good at noticing when hair has been cut.) I didn't dare go to a stylist--I had heard horror stories of asking for an inch or two off, and ending up with hair around your ears. So that meant I had to cut my hair myself, pulling it over my shoulders and snipping off tiny bits that peeked out from underneath my comb. I doubt it was ever really even, but it made me feel better that my hair wasn't so scraggly. My husband never guessed.
Yet something had begun to bother me in 2004. Our church had been changing for the past few years. Plenty of people had openly discarded the standards, and--get this--they had not lost their spirituality. Their faith was still strong, they still prayed and worshipped and served others. If anything, they were more friendly and caring toward people who didn't attend church than the traditionalists, who tended to have only Pentecostal friends.
We had always been warned that if we looked like "the world" on the outside, then our hearts would turn away from God toward worldly desires. For traditional Pentecostals, Christianity was judged (and I do mean judged; judging came as naturally as breathing to us) by the way a person looked on the outside. Yet it was beginning to seem as if what was inside a person was far more important--the way Jesus had said. (Imagine that.)
I knew, however, that I couldn't make the leap without my husband. And I couldn't see him abandoning those beliefs. I was scared that he'd be angry with me if I said, "I'm cutting my hair and I don't want to stop." Thank goodness for a dear friend who knew about my journey, and who hinted ever so gently that it might not be good for my marriage to keep a secret like that. I didn't argue with her suggestion but did not make any plans to tell Justin.
However, my mouth apparently had its own plans. One night as we were driving home, somehow cutting hair was mentioned and Justin said, "You wouldn't do that, would you?"
My mouth must have been completely disconnected from my brain, which still did NOT want to tell, because it opened and said, "Actually, I have, and I've been doing it for a long time." Then I stared straight ahead at the garage door opening and wondered what was about to happen.
"Really?" he said. I was thankful to hear that his voice was not angry, only surprised.
Then I apologized to him. "I don't feel bad about cutting my hair," I said. "I don't think it was wrong. But I do think it was wrong to keep it a secret from you."
And...I think I have to leave the final part of the story--where we are now--for later.