Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Picnic Extinction
(“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…”)
It was another world back then; another time and another place.
You had to have been there to have any sense of it--as a young, impressionable Jehovah’s Witness under the Watchtower presidency of Nathan H. Knorr--social gatherings (backyard BBQ’s, swimming parties) among the ‘friends’ consisted of having a great time at a get together or a picnic. It was not at all as it is today.
Let me tell you about it.
Pull up a chair. I’ve got a story or two to share
I was a young teenage boy, not yet baptised, surrounded by beautiful female creatures. My genes and hormones had a chance to orient and adjust themselves toward natural mating instincts. If I hadn’t shown up at the local Kingdom Hall, being a shy boy in Ft.Worth would have condemned me to a vacuum of solitude. Inside the Kingdom Hall, however, it was fertile mating grounds!
Era-wise, I found myself in the peaceful eye of the Watchtower hurricane.
The wartime chaos of Judge Rutherford’s presidency was over and a more businesslike gentleman, Nathan Homer Knorr, was busy organizing efficient preaching methods rather than picking fights and creating upheaval.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, JW’s were practically living like Amish folk in some rural setting as far as sophistication. Such outside nonsense such as beatniks, rebels with / without a cause, rock n’ roll music, or sexual revolution had nothing to do with peace inside your local Kingdom Hall.
Born-in Dubs didn’t go to suggestive movies, listen to loud music, or watch violent TV shows.
Only outsiders (like me) who loved horror films, shoot-em-ups, romantic comedies and such had “notions” of what boys and girls did together (if they ever got together). My ideas were only as sophisticated as Hollywood writers had made them seem.
A sister of my best (JW) friend told me cryptically and suggestively, “Terry, girls want the same things boys want--but--we need to be coaxed into it under the right circumstances.”
I confess: I didn’t know what the hell that meant! I did suspect it might be dirty. (Or at least I hoped)
Eventually, I found out. (I married her.)
When Jehovah’s Witnesses put on a picnic at a local park or one of the 6 lakes around Ft. Worth, you could count on 3 things for sure.
1. Chaperones watching your every move
2. Lots of the opposite sex (especially from nearby towns) arrived to check each other out.
3. Fun, games, laughter (like real people) and sneaky flirting would occur.
For a shy kid like me, watching smooth Brothers chat up a Witness girl was quite an education. But not in a good way. It was immediately obvious to me they were DOING IT ALL WRONG!
How did I know?
I had watched Rock Hudson with Doris Day, Cary Grant with Sophia Loren, Troy Donahue with every young actress in Hollywood. Those guys were funny, smooth, suave, and swept the girls right off their feet.
The best Hollywood writers allowed for banter, wit, clever conversations filled with delightful double-entre.
Sadly--that wasn’t the case for Watchtower boys!
JW boys were clunky, corny, over eager and dull.
What puzzled me for awhile is why the JW girls pretended they were enjoying it. The answer was so simple I had overlooked it. Dub girls were BORED with their lives and the total lack of opportunity to BE GIRLS, to be fun and sexy! The only chance they had for dating or conversation (or other ‘stuff’) with the opposite sex--maybe some “bad Association” to spoil their useful habits-- was pretending the Witness boys were
At a swimming party, JW girls wore one piece swimsuits.
For JW boys, they may as well have been cavorting naked--it energized the same impact on our hormones! We were like Elizabethan era gentlemen catching a scandalous glimpse of a lady’s ankle!
BOOM! CRASH! Be still my beating heart-on. (Yes, I said that.)
Once we had plunged our throbbing bodies in the lake, we gradually inched our way toward the center and out of the line-of-sight of chaperones. We could “engage” in conversation and maybe even an embrace. (All this shocking language may be too much for you. If so, I apologize :)
My point in telling you this is obvious. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls--except--if you were one of Jehovah’s Witnesses--the tensions and suppression and constant surveillance made it barely possible to express all the exploding feelings of puberty and beyond.
But on picnics: IT WAS SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING!
Eventually, the sexual revolution and the Youth Rebellion of the late 60’s and early 70’s created a tidal wave which spilled over from “worldly” spaces into the Kingdom Halls. Almost every young person had access to media and figured out the world at large was having way MORE FUN than they were.
For us, there was only modest, godly dating.
Dating meant you-know-what. Experimentation with out-of-control hormonal expressions of exploratory delight. (In other words, you were in a duel between what you wanted to do and what you’d be allowed to get away with. Note: you both hoped you’d lose.)
The Dallas JW girls motored over to Ft. Worth to scope out the Ft. Worth boys and eventually, everybody dated everybody else in the ‘food-chain.’
It was like a sanitized group orgy of experimentation without any actual sex. (Allegedly).
The goal could only be one thing: MARRIAGE!
You couldn’t be a Jehovah’s Witness unless you figured out that’s what Dub girls were ‘for.’ We were under a big reinforced delusion that marriage solved the ugly sex problem.
Guess what? It did NOT solve the problem.
So many JW guys had extreme hang-ups about sex they were messed up in their head.
They wanted sex but were made to believe their thoughts and actions were unnatural, evil, and wrong…(leading to being murdered by death angels at Armageddon coming soon to a battle near you.)
JW males took out their frustration on their wives by dominating them and controlling their homestead like Medieval liege Lords. Can you say, “Me Freud--you Jane”?
PICNICS ended. Party’s ended. Social gatherings after books studies ended.
The Watchtower Organization would not and could not give up their obsession with total CONTROL over their members. (And the members of their male members, wink-wink-nudge-nudge.)
A crackdown on how Dub girls dressed, how they wore makeup became ever more control over the years. Even married JW’s felt the icy penetrating stare of Governing Body invigilators in the bedroom. In 1972, the official denouncement of oral sex struck the Kingdom Halls like the Black Plague.
A letter to the Watchtower asked if it were okay for married people and the answer was a supersonic bang: NO! (Note: apparently such behavior was only for homosexuals to enjoy).
More and more repressive pressures applied from the Governing Body of the Watchtower in public and private life ratcheted down on the squirming humanity inside the Kingdom Halls.
The disappearance of Picnics and parties was just a symptom of the greater problem of CULT LIFE. Yes, it only becomes truly provable how much of a cult the Watchtower Organization truly is when you view the overwhelming mind control instituted over the decades, like a python swallowing its prey.
Today, JW sisters aren’t allowed to date a young JW lad unless he has Congregation privileges of one sort or another. This insidious strategy is obvious. Young horny JW’s can’t date unless they pass the litmus test of congregation duties first. Girls will never have a chance at sex unless they marry. They can’t marry unless they date pre-approved boys willing to knock doors, give sermons, and uphold the dictates of the corporate overlords.
The memories of a relaxed era of innocent fun at PICNICS is a distant memory now. It was a kinder, gentler social atmosphere back then. I was fortunate to have known such a time because I developed social awareness around girls. It probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
As for my story?
I was engaged to a young JW girl just before I went off to prison as a conscientious objector. While I was away, JW boys kept asking her out on dates (knowing full well her situation) and she finally decided it was all innocent fun. I got my feelings hurt (i.e. heart broken) and that was that. How blind could I be? I was out of the dating/mating pool for a couple of years.
Two years later, the first social get together after my parole was at--what else--a picnic.
I was a hot commodity, believe it or not.
I would have been pre-approved by any JW father for dating his daughter.
Some day, soon maybe...I’ll tell THAT story.
But for now--the story of Picnic Extinction is just as I’ve described it.
“We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…”