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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

The Fixx (and How to Get it): Part III

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Part III: The Final Conflict

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The Fixx / Shameful Aftermath of Unchaperoned Parties

“The doctors then observed: ‘Too frequently, such parents send their ten- to twelve-year-olds to unchaperoned parties with “dates” wearing silk stockings, high heels, adult-style clothes and lipstick, and then wonder how they get into trouble at fifteen years of age.’ It is true that youngsters may at times pressure for freedom to do such things. However, as parents you must stand firm and enforce necessary rules. It is your responsibility to do so! And, really, your children will be grateful if you do.”
“Meeting the Problems of Your Children”
“Watchtower” magazine, 2/15/67

“One 17-year-old said frankly: ‘Anyone can say, “we know when to stop.” True, a person may know when, but how many can do it? It is better to avoid the situation. Have others there.’ Yes, a chaperone can give you the extra strength to dominate completely over the sexual desires in your bodies when you are together.”
“Youth, Is Bible Morality the Best Way ?”
“Watchtower” magazine, 11/1/81

This business of “un-chaperoned parties” was (and still is) a hot-button issue among Witness adults. My own dad, who had previously been an Elder, told stories about a congregation meeting ten years earlier, when he had to announce that every teenager in the congregation had been reproved. Apparently it was a big deal, mostly because there was nobody left to handle the microphones. Witness adults I knew referred to this sad episode as “Black October,” and it all started with an un-chaperoned party.

So, as Witness teens, we heard frequent sermons on this topic. At our twice-yearly conventions, we saw short dramatic skits which poignantly illustrated the tragic fate in store for young people lured into attending such parties: venereal disease, teen pregnancy, loss of microphone privileges… sometimes, people DIED.

While most Witness sermons are written by the person giving the sermon, those on particularly important issues, like the dangers of un-chaperoned parties, were written by unknown persons back at Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, and simply read aloud by local Elders. If the Elder was vision-impaired, illiterate, prone to extemporaneous ranting, or just slightly off his nut, these manuscript readings could be deeply bizarre. In one of my most cherished memories, a local Elder giving a manuscript sermon railed on for several minutes about teens and teen parties and what should be done about all of it.

“Some of these young people,” he bellowed, “may be experiencing the impure, lustful feelings that come with puberty, and may be seeking an outlet for those lustful feelings. That is why we must invite CHEAPER ONES to every Witness gathering! If CHEAPER ONES are not available-”

He was interrupted by a second Elder who had scurried up on the stage behind him and tapped him rather firmly on the shoulder. They conferred in whispers for several seconds, after which the first Elder carefully examined the manuscript before resuming.

“As I said, it is crucial that we invite CHAPERONES to every Witness party…”

The Fixx / Showdown with the Congregation Overseer

The day after the party was Sunday, which meant the first of three weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and I was dreading it, even more than usual. There was simply no way the scandalous un-chaperoned party could go unpunished, and the Elders already knew that I had been there, thanks to that snitch telling her dad on the phone. I knew some bad shit was about to go down…

The tension at the Kingdom Hall was palpable. All of the kids who had been at the party were trying to act casual, waiting for the hammer to fall, and there were too few Elders on the floor. Also, the door to the back room was closed, and the curtains were drawn. The Inquisition had clearly already begun. But who did they have back there? I scanned the room and saw nearly everyone that had been at the party, so who in the world were the Elders interrogating?

As if in answer, the door to the back room opened, and Jim came out. I glimpsed three Elders behind a card table before the door closed again. Jim was red-faced and shaking as I approached. Before I could ask him what was going on, he jabbed me in the chest.

“Who told the goddam Elders that I was at your stupid party last night?” he demanded.

In fact, not only were the Elders convinced that Jim was at the party, they had also gotten it in their heads that he was the ringleader, that he had organized the whole thing. Judging from Jim’s recounting of his interrogation, the Elders also had a fairly distorted view about what had taken place at the party.

“Okay, first,” I told Jim, “there was no alcohol in the house that I could find. Second, the radio was on some Top 40 station, not ‘acid rock,’ whatever that is. And third, Miss Prissy Pioneer Sister told me I was a Satanist for listening to The Fixx! Do you think she’d let us get away with playing co-ed Twister? As if! They’ve blown all of this completely out of proportion!”

That’s what I said out loud, but inside, I was thinking, “Thank God they didn’t hear about the two-person party in that same house on Wednesday night.” Pamela was older than I, but less “experienced” (or so she claimed), and she had invited me to visit her while she house-sat. After I arrived and sat on the couch, she draped herself across my lap and demanded that I teach her how to kiss. Forgetting all about the immediate crisis, I drifted off for a moment, recalling that blissful evening, until Jim snapped me out of my reverie by punching me in the shoulder.

Are you listening to me? Look, whatever you guys did at your stupid party, I’M taking the heat for it! I’ve got enough problems with the Elders as it is, without being your fall guy! Dude,” he implored, leaning in close and seizing my lapel, “You’ve gotta tell them that I WASN’T THERE!”

I noticed that another attendee of the notorious party was being ushered into the Back Room, and realized that sooner or later, they would reach my name on the list of suspects.

During the following two hours of sermons and prayers and songs, I agonized over my impending summons and limited options. Eventually I concluded that my best hope for avoiding public reproof was to execute a daring end run: Approach one of the Elders directly and speak frankly, rather than wait for my personal invitation to the interrogation chamber, where they could use their special Elder mind tricks to break me down and possibly extract a confession for some other, unrelated thing that I had actually DONE, like fooling around under a quilt with Jim’s sister during the drive home from a Bible convention, for example.

Sweet Jesus.

Just thinking about the POSSIBILITY of such a conversation made me swoon with panicky nausea. I could hardly wait for the meeting to end, so that I could stride purposefully over to one of the Elders and tell him exactly what happened at the party, and make it clear to him that their investigation was unnecessary, because honestly nothing had happened, and also Jim wasn’t even there, and this had nothing to do with me playing mumblety-peg under the quilt with Jim’s sister ! No, wait – I had to leave out that last part. That was completely irrelevant!

I was finding it difficult to get enough oxygen, so I removed my clip-on tie and started to loosen my collar, until I remembered the bright crimson hickey concealed there, and quickly re-buttoned my collar and replaced my tie.

I had decided to approach the head guy, the “boss” of the Elders, if you will: the Congregation Overseer. This was a bold move that they would not expect, and it would display that I had no fear of being reproved, ergo: I had done nothing wrong. Also, I figured, it might make some points with his amazingly hot daughter. That part didn’t pan out, but I think it was the right thing to do, regardless.

At the conclusion of the final prayer, I took a deep breath and steeled my resolve. As I courageously marched to confront my fate, all background noise became muted, my surroundings faded to abstract smears, and time slowed to a crawl. All I could see was the dreaded and revered Congregation Overseer at the other end of the Kingdom Hall, holding court amidst a coterie of giggling Pioneer Sisters.

As I approached, the CO spun to face me and smiled, but in an menacing, slightly unbalanced way that almost made me turn and run. Before I could flee, he spoke.

“Jason Toews. Nice to see you. I was… planning to speak with you today.”

Despite my fear, I convinced myself that the best thing to do was press on ahead, so I did.

“Yes, uh, Brother Flynn, nice to see you, also. Look, I hear that you’ve been talking to people about this get-together we had last night, and I just wanted to say that- ”

“I presume you’re referring to the un-chaperoned PARTY that took place at the Boyle’s house?”

“Right, but see, it wasn’t even really a ‘party.’ All that happened was that we sorta accidentally ended up over there, and we watched some TV. It wasn’t anything premeditated, I mean…” I lost the thread for a few seconds, then remembered to make my key point: “And also, Jim wasn’t even there, so you can leave him out of it.”

Like gawking motorists slowing as they pass a overturned and smoldering car on the freeway, congregation members were slowing as they passed our tense exchange in the Kingdom Hall aisle, hoping for a glimpse of freshly spilled blood. The presence of an audience prompted an increased display of histrionics from the CO.

“Under the direct guidance of Jehovah, The Faithful and Discreet Slave has REPEATEDLY warned us about these temptations in the pages of the WATCHTOWER! As if that were not enough, we have heard COUNTLESS personal testimonials at our conventions, making clear the DANGERS of such un-chaperoned parties! We have been given this counsel by JEHOVAH GOD!” thundered the CO, eyes crazily aflame. “Are you QUESTIONING the counsel of our lord JEHOVAH?”

I’d like to say that my next move was calculated, but the truth is, I did not intend to snort in derision. It just sorta came out: A clearly audible snort, just this side of a guffaw. It all struck me as so absurd, the amount of energy being expended on denouncing what was basically the MOST BORING PARTY EVER. A party with stupid little kids running around, watching a stupid G-rated movie and drinking stupid warm pop. A party so square, so painfully NOT FUN that the high point was when I got reprimanded by a Pioneer Sister for listening to a new wave band with an unfortunate name.

As the CO sputtered and fumed, threatening further witch-burnings and trips to the Iron Maiden if he found evidence that a game of Co-Ed Twister or Erotic Mad-Libs HAD taken place, a lucid calm settled around me, and several things became evident.

A: This guy was nuts.

B (and even more important): I HADN’T ACTUALLY DONE ANYTHING WRONG. I might get in some sort of trouble, but it wouldn’t last, and even if it did, I would have the sick pleasure of suffering unjustly. I could write about the experience later, like Solzhenitsyn, and the whole world would gnash their teeth over my undeserved wounds. “How could they have treated this good man, this honorable man, with such unkindness?” they would cry.

So, anyway, I snorted.

“Look, Jerry,” I began, “I’m sure there are good reasons to be wary of un-chaperoned teen parties. But this party WAS chaperoned. There were little kids there, and one Pioneer Sister ten years older than me. We watched TV for about 45 minutes, until we were ordered to leave the house. That’s it. And no matter how many people you question or threaten, you’re never going to get the proof you want against Jim, because HE. WAS. NOT. THERE.

A vein on the CO’s forehead appeared to be in imminent danger of rupturing. His eyebrows jumped and twitched, he blinked ferociously, and his lip was beaded with anger-sweat. A murmur passed through the surrounding mob, and it sounded like treason. The CO’s lips worked impotently for several seconds before he could form a reply.

“Be VERY careful, Jason! VERY CAREFUL! When you reject the word of one of Jehovah’s CHOSEN SERVANTS, you REJECT JEHOVAH HIMSELF! So you believe that YOUR judgment on these issues is SUPERIOR to JEHOVAH’S?”

He concluded this tirade at a fever pitch and full volume, before leaning in close and lowering his voice ominously. “Don’t think I don’t KNOW about you, Jason… you and your whole family, with their low SERVICE hours, and your sister who doesn’t go to school, and your father had to give up his Elder privileges because YOU were causing so much TROUBLE at home, going to SATANIC ROCK CONCERTS, and your mother who doesn’t make it to the Kingdom Hall very often… don’t think I don’t know everything about YOU and your whole SPIRITUALLY WEAK family… I’ve had my eye on you for some time now, BROTHER Toews, and it’s about time you learned that I will not… HEY! Where do you think you’re going? Come back here!

Normally, I am the first person to respond with outraged denial of guilt when unfairly accused. In fact, I often respond with outraged denial of guilt even when I’m caught with my hand deep in the cookie jar and crumbs on my chin. This one time, however, I remained silent and walked away. Sadly, my decision had nothing to do with prudence or dawning maturity. No, walking away from the CO in the middle of his freak-out was just the most disrespectful response I could come up with at the moment. Luckily for me (and for Jim, and all the people who were actually at the ill-advised party), pissing off the CO turned out to be a brilliant strategic move.

I then took the only reasonable course of action remaining to me, something I probably should have done much earlier: I went crying to my daddy. I told him about the party, about my conversation with the CO, and also gave a mildly exaggerated report of the CO’s slanderous comments about my mother. My dad, no longer an Elder (the CO was right about that part) but still a well-respected authority figure in the congregation, walked grimly up to the CO, placed a hand firmly on his arm, and asked if they could speak privately. The CO agreed, and the two of them disappeared into the Back Room.

Some time later, they both emerged, both carrying their Bibles, my dad wearing a poorly-concealed bemused smirk, the CO fuming but keeping himself in check. “Get your things,” my father said to me tersely. I obeyed, and we left the Kingdom Hall without any further discussion.

I have no idea what transpired in that room, but I did find out later that the CO had a serious long-standing beef with my dad. Apparently, years earlier, after a sermon given by the CO, my dad had privately pointed out to him that a key point in his sermon was “incorrect,” which, in this context, means: “not in line with the most current theological scholarship as documented in the Watchtower magazine.”

Perhaps the CO was always looking for a chance to get back at my dad, and “Un-Chaperoned-Partygate” seemed like a perfect opportunity to exact his revenge indirectly, which still doesn’t explain his balls-to-the-wall freak-out, cheeks livid with fury, wagging his finger accusingly in my face, flecks of his saliva spraying across my clip-on tie.

Whatever the explanation, this brought “The Case of the Allegedly Un-Chaperoned Party” to a close. No further suspects were questioned, no charges were filed, and the whole episode was expunged from the official Congregation Record, only to be recalled whenever I hear “Red Skies at Night” on that 80’s station while I’m driving to work.

Postscript

While verifying some facts for this article, I read the FAQ on the Fixx website, and stumbled across the following:

Q: What is the tale of the second X in “Fixx?”

CY CURNIN: It’s pretty much something the record company thought, about the drug reference. I remember saying to them, “Can you say the Fix with one X?” And the guy went “ficks” and I said, “Could you say it with two X’s?” And and he went “ficckkss.” And I go, “Well, that sounds the same. That’s fine by me.”

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