Monday, October 4, 2010

I'd Prefer Vodka-springa

Oh. My. Gah. I’ve been waiting for WEEKS for this book to come in to the library. Well, it finally came in. I picked it up during my lunch break today and, 100 pages later, I’m having a very difficult time putting it down to write this blog. It’s called Rumspringa: To Be or Not To Be Amish. And it is juicy!

Okay, so I’ve been completely obsessed with learning about Rumspringa for a while now. Basically, when an Amish child turns sixteen, they can start experimenting with the outside world. They do drugs, drink, fraternize with the opposite sex, wear regular clothes, and so much more. Then, at some point, they make a decision about whether they want to stay in the outside world, leaving their family behind, or return to their family and get baptized and stay Amish forever. Drama!

They get cell phones, drive cars, go shopping, snort cocktails of drugs, and act “English” like their mainstream new friends. The book starts with a few girls quietly whispering in a bedroom on a farm. They light a candle in the window, and that’s the sign that these chicks are ready for action. Up the long unpaved driveway comes an old truck, filled with ne’er-do-well boys. Then they stop at a gas station, buy beer, change into jeans and skanky shirts, and head off to an open field to party with “thousands” of other teens also on Rumspringa. Kids do all sorts of illegal things. And not just “illegal” in the Amish sense, but straight up ILLEGAL. Heroin, cocaine, drinking, smoking. These little 16 year-olds do it all. Meanwhile, their God-fearing parents snooze away, knowing that their kids are up to no good, but praying for their adolescent souls.

Then, come Monday, the kids are back at home honoring their parents, farming the cows (or whatever farmers do), and reading the bible in High German. At that point in the book, I was all “Lame! Who’d choose to be Amish?”

Then the author, Tom Shachtman, really throws a wrench in the system. He goes on to explain that a lot of Amish people find happiness in a life strictly lived to serve their family and faith. And when most of these kids go out in the real world, they are confronted with emotions like temptation, guilt, disappointment, fear, instability, and addiction. At this point in the book, I was all “Lame! Who’d want to live that kind of life?!” Well, color me conflicted. Okay, Mr. Shachtman, you’ve piqued my interest. Before I thought it was all hilarious and circus-like that these kids do all these crazy things (sorry, Amish people, but it’s funny. Not like you’re reading this anyway). Now I feel, like, horrible for these kids. What 17 year-old is capable of making such a huge decision?

Okay, so I’m at the point in this book where I’m just as torn as these kids. They seriously have to choose between finding and making their own life, and staying committed to their faith and family. I couldn’t make that decision, and I’m like a decade older than these kids. So, something like 80-90% of these kids return to their families, get married, and have like 20 kids, only to watch their kids go through the same thing in 16 years.

Amish Fun fact: Amos and Anne Bieler, of Aunt Anne’s Pretzels notoriety (not to be confused with Famous Amos), are both Amish. They left the church, got married, and were all “Oh crap. We don’t know anything about ourselves, or how to deal with emotions.” Then they were all “How do the non-Amish people deal with this stuff?” So, they went to therapy. And started a pretzel chain. The American Dream: fulfilled.

Learning more about this has proven to be more way more profound that I anticipated. Sure it's still a little hilarious (the kids can't take Science classes in school, but still find ways to make their own crank), but it's provoking and intriguing as well. My main question remains: HOW IS THIS NOT A REALITY SHOW?! Hello? TLC? Get on this! I'll sign on as Executive Producer. Now if only we could do it without technology...hmm. Okay, I'll get to work on that.

5 comments:

JessiferSeabs said...

Sort of embarrassed to tell you that my only knowledge on this subject comes from 1) a really REALLY ridiculously shitty movie called "Sex Drive," where they mock the Amish kids going through Rumspringa, and 2) an MTV True Life special that was actually very interesting. Now I want to read this book!

sarahabt said...

I watched a show the other night on that....I will try to find it...It was a documentry...really good..

Pharon said...

Jess, there's a True Life on this?! I gotta watch that! Sarah, I have seen one also. The one I saw was on National Geographic channel. A lot of this kids in that documentary are in the book I'm reading. One boys name is "Faron" and it really messed with my head...

Madeline said...

You HAVE to watch the movie "Devil's Playground" it's a documentary about Rumspringa..I don't think it was on the National Geographic channel at any point but I could be wrong...

cindi said...

didn't read your blog completely.....SPOILER ALERT !!!...but I will be getting that book for sure !!!!