The Rumspringa years

In her second article about growing up Amish, Anna Dee Olson describes her experiences during Rumspr

The definition of Rumspringa is running around. This term refers to young Amish people, anywhere from the age of 16 until they get married. It is the time of dating and getting together with other Amish young people that have not married and it is a chance to get to know one another. This is also the time for the boys to take the girls on dates. In my experience (24 years living as an Amish person) it was not okay for the girls to ask boys on a date, the boys always asked the girls.

For a young Amish person this was a very important and exciting time. Being part of the young folks group was something that everyone looks forward to. The young folks gather on Sunday evening for some fun. Playing volleyball in the summer or cards in the winter, singing and dating if you wish to. In my experience, if I was on a date I could stay up until 2:00 in the morning visiting with my date but those who were not on a date were required to be home by midnight. These rules were sometimes followed and sometimes not. I am sure this rule was implemented to try to keep those who were not dating from gathering for late night parties.

During the Rumspringa years, not all Amish communities allow their young people to have cars and street clothes. Most of the communities in the Midwestern United States did not allow this and it certainly was not an option when I was that age. Although I was a part of the group that gathered for late night parties with beer, cigarettes, and music, all of those activities were done in secret. If we had been caught we would have been in trouble or considered in sin and shunning would have been necessary.

When I tell people about my experience with parties some are shocked that Amish teenagers would ever do something like this. I always respond by saying, "We have to remember that the Amish are human beings just like the rest of the world and we all had shortcomings too."

Rumspringa did not mean that I had the option to wear street clothes, smoke cigarettes, own and drive a car, go to the movies, or go on dates on Saturday nights. In some communities this is the case but certainly not in every Amish community. The rules and practices do vary quite a lot from one church district to another but all Amish believe in adult baptism. Once you have accepted instructions and been baptized, you are expected to follow the rules of the church.

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An alternative Trainspotting script for John Humphrys’ Radio 4 “Choose Life” tribute

Born chippy.

Your mole often has Radio 4’s Today programme babbling away comfortingly in the background while emerging blinking from the burrow. So imagine its horror this morning, when the BBC decided to sully this listening experience with John Humphrys doing the “Choose Life” monologue from Trainspotting.

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Radio 4?” he concluded, as a nation cringed.

Introduced as someone who has “taken issue with modernity”, Humphrys launched into the film character Renton’s iconic rant against the banality of modern life.

But Humphrys’ role as in-studio curmudgeon is neither endearing nor amusing to this mole. Often tasked with stories about modern technology and digital culture by supposedly mischievous editors, Humphrys sounds increasingly cranky and ill-informed. It doesn’t exactly make for enlightening interviews. So your mole has tampered with the script. Here’s what he should have said:

“Choose life. Choose a job and then never retire, ever. Choose a career defined by growling and scoffing. Choose crashing the pips three mornings out of five. Choose a fucking long contract. Choose interrupting your co-hosts, politicians, religious leaders and children. Choose sitting across the desk from Justin Webb at 7.20 wondering what you’re doing with your life. Choose confusion about why Thought for the Day is still a thing. Choose hogging political interviews. Choose anxiety about whether Jim Naughtie’s departure means there’s dwindling demand for grouchy old men on flagship political radio shows. Choose a staunch commitment to misunderstanding stories about video games and emoji. Choose doing those stories anyway. Choose turning on the radio and wondering why the fuck you aren’t on on a Sunday morning as well. Choose sitting on that black leather chair hosting mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows (Mastermind). Choose going over time at the end of it all, pishing your last few seconds on needlessly combative questions, nothing more than an obstacle to that day’s editors being credited. Choose your future. Choose life . . .”

I'm a mole, innit.