There are 9 years of my life I could, if I wanted to, categorize into the “I was in a cult” genre. Or you could call it “I was in a secret society.” It wasn’t really a cult though. It was sort of secret. It certainly wasn’t elite.
The International Order of Job’s Daughters is a non-profit organization for young girls aged 10 to 20. Membership can only be extended to a girl who is related to a Master Mason. It’s an offshoot of Freemasonry, and that is probably why, to this day, I have an inexplicable curiosity about secret societies, the Illuminati, and conspiracy theories.
Like other secret societies, certain aspects of the practices of the group and meaning behind symbols and ritual ceremonies are kept secret on purpose. The knowledge of these are extended only to those who become members, and their guests. This was my first exposure to cliques in many ways – there is a level of secrecy allowed for open meetings, and a much stricter policy for closed meetings. Those seeking entry must be introduced to the group and trust must be earned that the secrets will not be divulged.
I feel lucky in that I’ve been able to experience from the inside what an organization like the Illuminati or Freemasons might be like. It’s one thing to learn about it as an outsider, but I find for my own learning, there’s no better way than to immerse yourself in it.
One of the requirements to join, beyond who you’re related to, is also the willingness and ability to state, under oath, that you believe in God. This organization is founded on the story of Job in the bible, and thus a fundamental pillar of this organization is belief in God.
I can’t say when I was 11 years old that I felt that strongly about religion. I wrote a post **here** about my feelings toward organized religion. I also can’t say that my belief in a God hasn’t wavered at different points in my life. What I can say is that when I was 11, I didn’t yet dive too deep into any moral restrictions against a belief in God, so I went with it, and said I did. If asked now, I don’t know that I could confidently do the same. I’ve pondered it many times in my life and the brief answer is – I am spiritual, I have a moral structure besides religion which guides my integrity and morality, and I do strive to be a good person by the broadest sense of the word “good”. Do I also believe that sometimes one has to lie, sin, or otherwise navigate a gray area in order to do good? Yes.
But I digress. This youth group was not about religion – not entirely. If you’re interested in the facts about the organization, I urge you to check out the Wikipedia page (for easy reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job%27s_Daughters_International), as it’s succinct and clear, and I can confirm its factual representation, having been a member.
The purpose of this blog post is not to expose the group for anything here – so if that’s what you came here looking for, secrets revealed, I do apologize in advance as I won’t be able to quench that thirst.
What I will say is that being a member of Job’s Daughters is a part of my life not many people know about, unless you were in it with me. It’s an unspoken bond in my life. I’m now Facebook friends with many of the women who were in the Bethel at the same time as me. Many people wouldn’t get it. They made friends with people in school really easily, or they found their wolf packs via sports teams, band, drama, or some other extracurricular activity. My father was a devout Athiest, and his own ill-formed preconceptions about what it was caused him to miss out on a big part of my teen years because of my involvement with this organization. Some could call it a cult. I just called them friends.
We had meetings a couple times a month, and there were other activities. This was a circle of friends at the same age or older than me, who went to other schools and lived in different parts of San Jose (where I grew up, even though the organization itself is international). This gave me exposure to a peer group going through the same awful awkward angst years as I was. They served as examples of people I wanted to be like, and others, as examples I did not want to be like.
My school friends were always a bit secondary to my friends in this organization, when I was in it. It was my life. I had to memorize parts of our ritual book for whatever office I held at the time. I got my first exposure to leadership in going through the “line” positions which were elected positions, and ultimately serving as Honored Queen of our Bethel. I gained exposure to Robert’s Rules of Order, and how to take a vote both by voice and written ballot. I learned prayers as part of my memorization work as the role of Chaplain. My skills were best utilized when I was Recorder and Treasurer, using my organizational inclination for numbers and records, which served as great experience for the career I now have in accounting. I was able to nurture what informal talent I have for singing in the choir, and even learned hymns, and I loved the responsibilities of being the inner/outer guard of the doors during meetings. I now know the words to the song played by the band as the Titanic sank “Nearer, My God, To Thee”, though I’ve maybe been to church 4 times in my entire life.
Each year, we took an amazing road trip to southern California for a week of networking with other members from other CA cities, and always did a Disneyland day trip as part of it, if we were in Anaheim. If we were in Fresno, we spent any spare time not in session at the pool, trying to beat the heat. There were Monopoly marathons for 48+ hours. There were slumber parties with pranks, and scavenger hunts, carwashes, enchilada sales, crab feeds, kidnap breakfasts, toilet papering adventures, and so many other activities.
It was with these girls that I had the guts to get into a bathing suit during my awkward formative years. There were all body types, and I learned that they were comfortable with their bodies. I was practically brought up around confident women in those years. It’s part of the reason I’m relatively comfortable in my skin now.
It is not because of this organization I am a lesbian. In fact, a good amount of my time between ages 11-20 were spent listening to girls talk about boys with a fervor and gusto I simply could not emulate. I thought for a while I might be asexual. Turns out, I’m not. However, I never was inappropriate or even had interests in any of these women. They were more like sisters I never had, than any kind of romantic interest. It’s odd, after the fact, when I contemplate how hard it was for me to be a lesbian in a big group of sisters. Perhaps I repressed a lot more than I realized just to try to appear more normal to them. So I pretended to like boys, and I danced with them at dances. I became good friends with lots of boys. Because of the religious foundation of this organization though, I was afraid to be myself completely because those who were perhaps more religious than I might judge me more harshly than I was ready for.
So many of my friends I made in Job’s Daughters missed my whole coming out party, and by party, I mean the last 13 years of my life after becoming a majority member at 20 and exiting membership in the organization.
So much of myself as a person is tied in to that stone-cold group of weirdos, and I still have memories that quite vividly appear out of nowhere about a bird cat dog fish and other inside jokes with these women.
In the end, they served as the example for me to grow up myself, and make choices about the kind of person I wanted to be. For that, I am eternally grateful. You gave this only child your friendship and sisterhood at a time when I needed it most. In return, I forced you to suffer through the years of my life I’d like to pretend I’ve forgotten the most. I feel I grew the most in college and after, but without this group teaching me that I could be anything I set my mind to, I wouldn’t have been able to grow in the last 13 years.
I would not change a single thing about my experience. I only wish I would not have lost contact in those years after with many of them. If I had a daughter, beyond what I said I’d teach her in **this post**, even if she chose not to join the organization, I’d like to instill in her the same principles I learned in Job’s Daughters:
- Respect for yourself, parents, elders, and friends
- Leadership abilities, speaking in public, singing in public, making mistakes, laughing at yourself, embarrassing yourself in public, and having a good time doing it, not worrying what anybody thinks
- Confidence in my abilities and my body, strength in my emotions, accountability and integrity in my words and actions
- Memorization skills, organizational skills, and people skills in dealing with all kinds of neuroses, especially the religious right
- Loyalty to friends that bonds as strongly as blood
- Love of a country that allows me freedoms to speak my mind, love whom I choose, and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
- Acknowledgement of a higher power such that one feels small and powerless, and is humbled in this world.
- I have a tiara, so that makes me a princess. Every little girl has a princess inside, even the little lesbian who liked having short hair, playing basketball, rollerblading, summer reading, and hated wearing dresses.