How the Cage Crushed Me: Eleanor Skelton’s Story

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Eleanor Skelton blogs at, is the news editor of the UCCS student newspaper, and is majoring in English and Chemistry.

I don’t have a courtship story.

But I believed in courtship. I desired that lifestyle, wanted​ my dad’s approval of​ the man who ​asked for me.

I loved the cultural symbolism in Jewish bethrothal ceremonies​ as a teenager​​, and I’m still sentimental about Fiddler on the Roof. I never got as far as the Maranatha story​ and child marriages, ​but it was part of my dream.

But it was the dream of one in a cage. 

While living at home going to college, as a disillusioned 20 year old, I wrote this journal entry:


Feeling better to some extent. [the last entry, I’d had suicidal thoughts.]

Yesterday, a thought hit me that I really can’t shake. It makes me so sad. 

I realized that if I ever married, no husband would really like having Dad as an in-law. Which sort of means I shouldn’t get married. (Since in-laws are a major cause of divorce.) 

I had sort of wondered if I would ever marry because I don’t know if I could ever trust someone so deeply (since I have been hurt so many times by different people). 

But…that means no children. Ever. 

None of my own at the very least. Probably none at all. And that hurts so much inside. It makes me cry so hard. I didn’t realize how much I wanted children one day until I realized I probably can’t. 

I can’t know a ‘normal’ life of motherhood / womanhood. Probably I’ll never know what it’s like to be cherished, loved, thought beautiful (by a man).

I mean, I haven’t met any guys I really like at school, and those I do like I couldn’t really love in that way. But still, I had sort of been hoping in the back of my mind, though I hadn’t been ‘looking’ or flirting at all. But maybe this is why God hadn’t ever brought anyone across my path anyway. 

Maybe I’m not meant for it – though a part of me desired it deeper than I ever knew. 

My friends are growing up and thinking of marriage and getting to know some young men – not me. I have my nose in schoolbooks (though I really enjoy school)…still…

It’s not that I don’t want to rest in Jesus’ love for me – which is perfect love – it’s just that I had expected certain things would happen to me. 

And now the wisdom of ever getting married doesn’t look good. I know I shouldn’t give up hope. God can change anyone’s heart and anyone’s situation, but facing the prospect of never having children and growing old alone someday is difficult. 

And yet getting married really isn’t a requirement for being fully human (I read something about this in my Bible study notes). Jesus went through his whole life without being physically married – he was celibate. 

So I know I wouldn’t be alone in that…it’s just hard to face all of a sudden like this.


Nearly five years later, it still hurts to revisit how the ​cage crushed me. 

How these doctrines set up an unattainable ideal in adolescence that I later realized would never work in my family. So I tried to kill my desire for companionship, made myself ineligible. ​

I still want to be a mother. Now I think​ of being a foster mom if I never “find someone.” Now I know how many iridescent possibilities the world holds.

I can appreciate the significance of Jewish tradition without letting courtship and purity culture hijack it, without being obligated to follow it.

Courtship and purity culture were never mandatory, and they didn’t make me better than anyone else.

They were just another part of the fundamentalist box that I left.

One comment

  • Eleanor, I came across an article today published on MarieClaire under the title “The Daughter’s Great escape”. I shared it in multiple groups as it resonated very deeply with me and I knew it would with many of my fellow survivors from the IFB. I love the part about your underground railroad and the way you and others have been able to help others find their way out. Its an incredible feeling to walk this journey and to be able to assist others along the way. Ive been doing advocate work with women survivors for about 5 years.
    Someone in a private group for survivors who saw my post has asked about the possibility of being able to help with your work and I suggested we try to connect. Please let me know what you think. Im sure that there are many of us who have escaped that might wish to assist the ones that are still looking for a way out.

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