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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

Hi, I'm the Preacher's Daughter: How I Exploited that Label

Published in the Language issue of Fathom Mag.


I was eight or nine, maybe ten. I remember the day, because a playdate outside the neighborhood was a special occasion. I don’t know if playdates weren’t as common then or if I just wasn’t invited. Over the years, I’ve tended to think it was more that I wasn’t invited. It’s not that I’m playing victim or that the other kids didn’t like me—it’s that I just understand better now. You see, I was the preacher’s daughter. 


Being the Preacher’s Daughter


I didn’t know then what that meant or how my arrival anywhere was indivisible from my father’s occupation in the tiny town where we lived. But at that playdate on that day, in a lovingly kept ranch set back from the country road, with its flat yard that stretched away from all sides, I came to understand something of power. 


After we played in my friend’s bedroom where I admired her canopy bed, we sat down at a glass-top table for a meal not just with my friend, but also with both of her parents. I can’t remember why exactly, but something occurred that required my friend to be disciplined. But as I ate my food, I picked up on the parents’ embarrassment about whatever happened. They were embarrassed in front of me, their guest who wasn’t quite ten. And from somewhere deep within me, I felt a surge of authority. 


It shames me to share with you that, in between mouthfuls, I decided to tell them how my parents—how their preacher and preacher’s wife—would discipline me. It went further than honest comparison. I actually made things up because I recognized how intently they were listening. During our meal together, I said something like, “At my house, my parents always spank us right away.” But my parents definitely didn’t spank us often, and I can’t imagine we’d interrupt dinner for that. Apparently, I appreciated a captive audience. My friend’s parents jumped up immediately from the table, whisked my friend off, and administered the threatened consequence right away. I could hear everything, all the while enjoying my heaping plate of satisfaction and smugness.


Apparently I was a terrible friend—perhaps that’s the real reason I didn’t have many playdates. But this was the day that I began to understand the power of my words. What I didn’t understand yet was that what I said held power because of who I was. 


Read the rest of "Hi, I'm the Preacher's Daughter" here -- and be sure to check out the rest of the Fathom Mag's Language issue.


Photo credit: Helena Hertz

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