It sounds like people meet each other as teenagers at church sing-alongs. But if you like someone you immediately are supposed to spend the night in their bed, but not necessarily have sex.
Was it a weird adjustment, to use a website to find a boyfriend?
When she voiced her feelings to a family friend, he snuck her the phone number of an ex-Amish woman who would help with her escape. The rapid pace of technology, she says, is forcing the Amish community to grapple with big, existential questions like it never has before. They don’t use it, but I guess there's been so many people leaving and then going back home, so they're becoming more familiar with it. Khazan: What did you think of it when your GED program first said, here's this system of web pages where you can look up anything? I found a picture of him on the Internet and I just thought, I can’t believe he’s my grandfather.
One cold January day in 2006, at in the afternoon, Emma took off her bonnet and walked out the door of her family’s small farmhouse. Now living in a suburb of Dallas, Emma blends in well. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. I didn't know how to use it but I figured it out when the time came. I was in shock for days after I found that on the Internet.
She left a note for her parents: The life she found could not be more different. Accustomed to making supper for her family of 16, she learned to cook for one. She wears brightly colored blouses and a full face of makeup. Olga Khazan: What technology were you already using when you left? Another person that had been Amish and had left gave me the cellphone. Khazan: How did you figure out how to use it when the time came? Gingerich: I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear anybody because I had never talked to somebody on the phone. That encouraged me to look more and more and more, to see if there was more stuff out there about my family that I don’t know about. Gingerich: He was accused of sleeping with his daughters.
They’re scared to talk to him, they want to just text. Khazan: When’s the last time you talked to your family? That part is hard because I would love to see that. Khazan: Would you consider moving to Maine and still not being Amish, but just visiting your Amish sisters more often?
It’s sort of like hiding behind who you really are. Gingerich: At the end of May of last year, I went to visit my sisters who are married. Gingerich: I have tried doing that ever since they moved up there.
When Emma Gingerich left her Amish community in Eagleville, Missouri, she was 18 and had an eighth-grade education. The life that awaited most Amish women—one of cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing—never appealed to her.