Welcome To Invisibility, Formerly Young and Pretty Women. We Unconventional Women Hope You Enjoy Your Stay

I had an intense urge to troll Oprah’s website yesterday, because I happened to stumble across this article that was linked via Huffington Post. In it, a woman about my age bemoans the fact that she has become invisible, and the commenters also bemoan the fact that they have become invisible too. Why? Because they were pretty girls and pretty women, and now that they are older, they are not getting the attention they used to take for granted from men, and other women, that validated their sense of self-worth daily.

Well, boo-effing-hoo. I’ve been invisible all my adult life.

This morning, I had a crazy “back in high school” dream no doubt triggered by pondering my “invizibul girl” life. In it, a guy that I didn’t know well, but had been friendly with, argued with me about being invisible or unattractive. In fact, this dream-guy told me that I was admirable for having “an awesome and world-changing command of goof.”

Yes, my subconscious reminded me that my greatest attribute as a woman is my awesome and world-changing command of goof. It’s not my appearance, but my cock-eyed outlook that makes me stand out. I have to agree with my subconscious that my command of goof has served me well over the years.

So I guess it shouldnt have been shocking to me how difficult it was to be distinctly ignored. I hadnt been aware that the glances Id been accustomed to had been falling off. That afternoon, I felt as if I had been stripped of all color and was the only gray-and-white figure in a richly tinted painting. I was Marion Kerby, one of the ghosts in Topper, all dressed up and nowhere to…be seen.

via How to Deal with Aging – Valerie Monroe on Getting Older – Oprah.com

Welcome to my world, bitchez: I’ve been invisible since high school, except to a select group of males that were more interested in the color of my hair (bright red) than my face (unconventional) and figure (pear-shaped). Thank God, I married one. My husband David thinks I’m beautiful; I can’t see it, but I love him for it.

I pondered this story all day yesterday, remembering how odd it was to go from being intensely, uncomfortably visible in grade school and junior high (I was bullied by both boys and girls for being red-headed and chunky) to being completely socially invisible in high school and college (no dates, few friends, no signs of interest whatsoever).

At first it was a relief not to be bullied or hassled on my way home, or to be cornered by a pack of shrieking girls calling me names and pulling my hair. Fortunately, ALL of them were headed to East High, while I was going to Highland. And the worst ones were a year older, so just as in 6th grade, I had a year off from being bullied in 9th grade (Utah has since changed the grade divisions, but then it was K-6, 7-9, and then 10-12).

They had made fun of my clothes for so long that I strove to blend in when I entered high school, which made for some memorable fights with my mom about what I would (and would NOT) wear. I was a hard shape to fit, as puberty had been cruel to me: no boobs, big hips and thighs, thick stocky legs and cankles. Even with makeup on, I could charitably be called something between “sorta cute” and “unusual.” I didn’t smile, because my smile looked more like a grimace, and I tended to squint because my glasses were always a little behind the prescription I needed for my bad vision.

In my junior year, I started out with contacts, a new haircut, and a cute dress that was the only thing I found on the annual school-shopping screamfest that was flattering to my shape. It followed “the rules” which I had instinctively worked out for myself: it added interest to my top and deemphasised my big bottom, and it wasn’t a light fabric so it didn’t cling to “problem areas.” I still wish I had that dress, just for comparison: it was a denim pullover shirtwaist with a wrap collar/neckline that had colorful Mexican poncho fabric insets (also on the rolled cuffs). It was the 70’s, and it was the only thing I could convince my mom to buy at a real department store, and not a Kmart or Sears or Penney’s knockoff of a “name brand.” Money was a problem, and a complete lack of style was another.

I walked in the first day, feeling terrific, to get my photo taken for that year’s student ID card, which was taken by the male cheerleaders for some reason. For a brief moment, as I smiled happily, I thought “This is going to be MY YEAR. One of the most popular guys in school is taking MY PICTURE. He can’t help but notice me, and the other boys are going to notice me, too.”

He took the picture, said something like “What are you so happy about, sunshine?” and encouraged the girl cheerleaders to join in making fun of the way I looked. I don’t recall if they did anything other than smirk prettily; they were too busy cutting down the Polaroids and laminating the little pictures for everybody. I liked the picture, and thought I actually looked cute. But soon enough, I found that I was still invisible in class, in the hallways, and at games, and people talked around me rather than to me.

I went to exactly one school dance that year (or any year). It was the “Hello Dance,” not long after registration. It was one of those ones where people weren’t expected to have a “date,” though the girls felt they did anyway, and tended to come in packs in order to avoid the shame of not having a male escort. I went with some girls I was friendly with, one of which had a car. I stood around waiting for something to happen; I danced with one friend from church, and then the head cheerleader guy pretended to greet me like a long-lost girlfriend, and walked past me to a group of giggling girls. They looked at me like “Yeah, you’re ridiculous, we’re laughing at you.”

That was it, I was done with standing around being alternately ignored or laughed at at the Hello Dance, so I said “goodbye, dance” and went home. I never went to another dance, other than “girls choice” events I had to attend as a member of Job’s Daughters. Most of those, I ended up signing up to serve refreshments; I managed to ask dates to two, and the experiences both turned out to be disappointing or embarassing. I gave up on even that and hoped that college, in liberal non-religious Oregon and not conservative religious Utah, would be more fun.

I was worried after the ID badge and “Hello Dance” incidents that I was about to become “that ugly fat girl that everybody teases” as a junior and senior, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, I became “that red-headed girl that’s kind of weird, don’t talk to her.” I was never asked out. I never dared to “be myself,” I ignored girlfriends who urged me to be more outgoing or “be bubbly.” I hung back for the rest of high school and waited for others to make the first move, because experience had taught me in junior high NOT to be outgoing; that way always led to rejection and sometimes public humiliation.

I became, in fact, completely invisible wherever I went.

The rest of my high school years were spent going to and from school, sometimes going to basketball and football games, but not going to any social events at all outside of church. When the big seasonal dances and prom season rolled around, I was baffled. It seemed people were going, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait to be asked, or try to arrange some kind of fixup. I sat home and wondered why people said high school was supposed to be this magical time of dates, parties, and socializing. I just didn’t get it.

My poor mom tried to deal with my mopiness; I was a wet mess. She gave me all kinds of good advice about “being a friend to make a friend,” and she’d say “You’re such a pretty girl, if you’d just try.” That would just make me shriek with frustration and have door-slamming tantrums, because I knew it was all lies, lies lies: I was ugly, and fat, and life was not fair to girls like me. I wish I’d gotten some kind of counseling, but Mom didn’t believe in that.

A boy called me once, apparently, but didn’t leave a message. I accused my mother of making it up to make me feel better for being the kind of girl that sat home every weekend. I also think she orchestrated a fake “Valentine’s Day” message that was taped to the front door one year in junior high. Thank God, my husband David has given me some cute and funny Valentines over the years; it helped me get over a lot of that stupid self-imposed “not pretty enough to have a Valentine” bullshit.

I spent a lot of time in my room, daydreaming and feeling sorry for myself. Like I said, I was a wet mess, but I didn’t have much to work with other than my sense of humor (best described as “quirky”) and the accident of my bright red hair, something that only about 1% of the general population actually have without resorting to hair dye.

Actually, my hair wasn’t that big an asset, as it was limp and wouldn’t hold a curl, and a disastrous perm my mom gave me junior year didn’t help.

So I became “the goofy fat redhead girl;” one handsome football player sometimes greeted me with “Hi, Goofy!” in choir class, and his spectacularly good looking younger brother called me “Copper Bottom.” I didn’t think they even knew my name: nobody knew my name. So I was shocked and kind of annoyed when they both signed my yearbook on the last day of senior year in the right place, near my name, but with my unflattering nicknames. Thanks guys; 35 years later, I’m still kind of irked about that. But I left them both cranky, goofy messages in return, so maybe we’re even.

I think I was flirted with exactly… twice in high school, not sure. Again, it was someone from senior-junior choir. That seemed to be the only class where I was at least a little bit visible (or maybe audible). The rest of my time in school, I had a boyfriend (someone from church) but that ended without any of the fun “going to the dance” moments.

I actually browbeat him into taking me to the Homecoming Dance that year; we got all dressed up, I ordered him to get me flowers, and we were driven to the door of the school gym by his dad. At that point he balked, refused to walk in and be seen by all the popular kids wearing a suit, and we left to go to a movie. I was crushed; I wanted to be seen (and possibly admired), but my boyfriend refused to go along with my stupid pretty-girl fantasy. The movie was in French, with subtitles. It started out with an ambulance and devolved into some kind of complicated love-triangle murder-suicide; my boyfriend was impossibly bored because he didn’t like reading. It was a date that decades later would be described as EPIC FAIL. Mom had made me a peacock green silk granny dress; maybe this was actually a kindness that nobody saw me in it.

A few months later, he broke up with me (which was probably a relief for both of us and our families). I was assured by my Jobie girlfriends that the rest of the year, I would be asked out and get lots of attention from the boy-men that were the dating pool. At that time, you could not be both LDS and a Masonic group member in Utah, so it was one social group where I felt I belonged. I hoped my Jobie friends were right.

However, none of the guys from school showed the least amount of interest, and neither did the guys at my church; the breakup apparently left me “off limits” afterwards to both groups because my ex-boyfriend was kind of a hood by Utah standards. The rest of the time, I was like a ghost in the hallways. I went everywhere by myself, and had no sense of belonging to any one clique although I hovered on the edges of one or two. I fell in with a group of girls from PE who were also weird, quirky misfits. None of us dated or went to dances. We waited high school out.

I had tried out for Pep Club and was one of the few that didn’t make the cut; my “cheer sisters” had come to the house to give me a homemade, oversized card that featured a weeping “Ramette” with long eyelashes and a poem about keeping school spirit alive “from the stands” and not from out “in the field or on the floor” in drill formation.

I had tried out for a musical small group for senior year, but found out I hadn’t made the cut early one morning, because some of the popular kids who made it in were on the air at the local radio station as part of their initiation prank. I was again one of the few that didn’t make the cut, though some of my friends had. Aside from my choir activities, that was it for extra-curricular involvement for me. I had done a fairly half-assed job at the goofy “school spirit” projects I had to submit for Pep Club all that one heady week of being a girl who belonged; I hadn’t really prepared carefully for the music audition. Still, I was disappointed, and lonely.

One childhood girlfriend went on to social and academic success, but we weren’t as close then as we’d been in grade school; that was partly different interests, and partly the cruel way things worked for non-LDS kids. Our friends tended to “drift away” whenever they were under intense pressure to socialize only with other LDS kids, at specific stages in their lives. I lost friends when they went through baptism at age 8, I lost friends in junior high when their “released time” LDS seminary classes covered dating and socializing only with other LDS young people. It happened again in high school, apparently, when the seminary classes across the street were working on the more mature “dating LDS” sections that supposedly encouraged people to proselytize their non-Mormon friends, and drop them if they weren’t receptive.

Yeah, I was socially invisible, AND a religious pariah! FUN!

If I had done things differently, if I had forced myself to be more outgoing and organize things to do with friends rather than them let them do all the work, maybe my brilliant high school career would have been more fun. But maybe it would have turned out pretty much the same, because of the social and religious pressures I was up against. Sometimes I tell myself it wasn’t my fault, the way I looked, though I could have dealt with it better.

I used my invisibility and anonymity to great comic effect at one of the 2 reunions I attended – I went to the 10 year reunion at a Salt Lake hotel, and hung out with people I didn’t know who had gravitated to the tables that featured minibottles of liquor (a delightful shock in Utah!).

That was actually fun. I had to first run the gauntlet of the namebadge table, staffed by some of the same girls that had been working on student IDs. They had no idea who I was, then when I gave my (still maiden) last name, they cut their eyes to the “Lonely Rams” poster they’d set up next to the table. It was on an easel, a posterboard that actually listed all the people who were not yet married – welcome back to Utah, indeed. The badge table women were ex-cheerleaders and Pep Club types, they had made cutesy posters with cartoon rams all during school, and here was one more example of their work.

Yes, my name was on it, and I was one of very, very few females on a list that represented about 5% of the people in my graduating class.

I was therefore irked to be singled out for public sympathy as a failed adult woman, and walked into the ballroom with a glint in my eye and a determination to make mischief. After meeting up with people I’d known, I set about mingling at the other “fun tables,” finally settling at the one that defiantly displayed the most mini-bottles. The people sitting there had gathered them from all the other tables around (the reunion package apparently included liquor at about half the tables, but the prissy LDS types didn’t want to even touch them). I greeted one girl as an old pal – she was also a Jobie, but from Bethel 1 (I was from Bethel #5) and we dragged some guy along with us on a horse-drawn carriage ride to “sober him up” at the end of the night.

I was at least partially visible that night, by dint of being pretty loud and “out” about not being like anyone else there. So at one point I found myself upstairs in a hospitality suite with a bunch of the “popular kids who were also the canyon party kegger kids” that I hadn’t known well. This was where I amused myself by going up to the most good-looking ex-jocks in the room, covering my badge, and challenging them to remember my name. The drunker they were, the funnier it got. One of them, Garth, earnestly tried to tell me he remembered me, the invisible girl.

“Oh, no, you don’t! You don’t know me from Adam. What’s my name?”

“Oh, you’re that redhead girl, I knew who you were! Umm…”

“Come on, Garth, what’s my name? You’d don’t know. We were in choir and you were on the football team (this was NOT the guy that called me ‘Goofy,’ either).”

“Yeah, I do, I saw you around, um….”

It was funny, it was gratifying. The other reunion I went to, 5 years later, was held at a country club, there was NO booze, and all the “fun” (translation: non-churchy) people stayed home. I ended up tangling with a kid who’d tried his best to proselytize me in high school. I had a satisfying time refuting him point by point, backed up by my extensive reading in books like Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History.” I finally left, since it was no fun arguing my right to be vocal about not being Mormon, and all the men in attendance were married (the divorced people apparently stayed home too). Almost everyone there were the parents of teenagers, and pretty stodgy parents, too.

Maybe it was partly the fact that I wasn’t LDS, (and outspoken about it) and that made me an untouchable. Maybe it was my own attitude, which was a mixture of “do you like me?” and “please don’t be mean to me” that made me unapproachable. Maybe there were tons of blond, pretty, toned girls and so anybody that didn’t fit that very specific mold was just not worth the effort.

Even with my own friends in school, church, and Jobies, I wasn’t just sort of invislble, I was sort of inaudible as well. I sensed that nobody paid much attention to me; I probably made a fool of myself by being clownish, because THAT was the only thing that seemed to get their attention.

I thought it would change in college, but it didn’t, not really. I did become partially visible at frat parties, but only near the end of the evening. I began to have a pretty good idea that my stock on the dating market was never going to rise.

No matter what my actual weight was, I was always a flat-chested, bottom-heavy pear shape. Males usually paid me no attention, but I did notice something odd: if I was standing or sitting behind something, where my lower half couldn’t be seen, they’d banter with me or make comic “lookit you and your flaming red hair! Hey, red!” comments. But if I walked out from behind a counter, or got out of a car, the eyes would drop away, the faces would lose expression.

During and after college, the only socializing I did was going to the bars to hear music, or going to the occasional dorm or house party. As far as I could tell, I was completely invisible in daylight, and mostly invisible at all other times. After moving to Seattle, I occasionally saw college friends, but as far as dating? Forget it. I lived there 10 years, dated very rarely (and briefly), and eventually went 7 years without even making eye contact with a male, unless he was a waiter.

I was so used to being invisible, in fact, that I was shocked when one of my adult niece’s male friends spoke to me directly on a beach and hking outing. My niece had more friends in Seattle than I did – and she’d never been there before, so there was that “social isolation” thing working against me. One of the unattached guys came up to me as we were exploring an old wrecked wooden dock on the beach at Magnolia Park:

“How come you never married?” he asked.

I was sort of surprised into a churlish answer, and wasn’t exactly happy about my apparent transition to tomboy-spinster-aunt status. I felt sort of bristly.

“I dunno, I always thought I’d have to be actually DATING somebody first.”

I remained invisible to almost all males right up until that fateful day in October 1994 when I became fully visible to just one man.

I’m a lucky girl, that I was finally in the right place at the right time – but I still struggle with negative self-image, especially when shopping for clothes in rooms with mirrors.

I don’t know, but to this day I still resent that as a young woman I was ridiculed for the way I looked, or completely invisible because of it. I envied girls that effortlessly sailed through life getting all the positive attention, dates, and opportunities they wanted just because they were decorative. I wasted a lot of money struggling with my appearance, and even now the prospect of “dressing up” – and still looking like a frumpy, pear-shaped lump – makes me want to spit and snarl. Even when I lost weight a couple of years ago (it’s come back), I couldn’t find a lot of clothes to fit, and I hate, hate, hate looking at myself in the mirror. I rarely bother with makeup, for that reason, though I like the way it looks when I do. I’m comfortable in my invisibility.

I know that people can say very cruel things to the morbidly obese, or passively agressively utter them within their hearing. I’m not in that league and so, thankfully, I’m also invisible to the sorts of jerks who make fat jokes in elevators.

So there’s that.

I guess I am okay with this, now. I got my hair cut the other day, my hair is still quite red and now sports some bright silver streaks in the front. The hairstylists are the only ones that give me compliments now other than my husband David; they marvel that it’s my natural color. That’s about as much attention I want or need from relative strangers, any more makes me extremely uncomfortable. Maybe I actively avoided visibility as a girl and woman, because getting attention usually led to heartache and humiliation.

Still, I don’t have much sympathy for this woman in the Oprah article, or the other women who posted comments wailing about their new-found invisibility. Most of them sound like nice women who’re at a loss at finding themselves without something they’ve counted on all their lives: their beauty and self-esteem (I could care less about their loss of “femininity,” being a lifelong tomboy).

But I can’t help feeling quite a bit of schadenfreude, when I think of some of the girls that hassled me in grade school and junior high.

Welcome to my world at last, all you ex-pretty mean girls. Now you’re as ugly on the outside as you always were on the inside. Enjoy your invisibility.

If You Want To Understand Mitt Romney, read Glenden Brown at OneUtah.org

Also cross posted at Daily Kos, Glenden Brown offers a perspective on Mitt Romney from behind the Zion Curtain.

In Mormon culture, hierarchical status confers respect.  Authority in Mormonism is rarely questioned.  Mormon authorities are bad at explaining why they’re doing what they’re doing because within Mormonism they have the ultimate conversation stopper – “God said so.”  I think Romney is genuinely confused when his public assurances aren’t simply accepted as fact.  Why should people want to see his taxes when he’s said there’s nothing illegal in them?  His odd, robotic public persona is the political version of the Mormon church leader who speaks in a near monotone the “church voice” which is designed to comfort by its very blandness.  The histrionics of the pulpit pounding evangelical are totally alien to the Mormon church.

Haglund’s thesis – that Mormon masculinity gets knocked out equilibrium by the larger culture – can be expanded.  It’s not just Mormon masculinity, it’s the Mormon personality in general.  Mitt Romney is an exemplary Mormon with all that implies.  The  contemporary public square has knocked Mitt out of his equilibrium and he’s wobbling.  The collapsing of boundaries between public and private, the refusal to casually accept his authority, the jostling of different groups, standards and rules all feel anarchic to a good Mormon who is accustomed to the order and tidiness of Mormon life.

Living most of my life in Utah and in the shadow of Mormon culture, I see Mitt’s troubles as a near perfect reflection of what happens when Mormons encounter the wider world.  They feel adrift, lost, unsure and they feel their sense of self wobble; and then return with relief to the orderly and organized world of Mormonism.  Mitt Romney is experiencing this dynamic on the national stage.  His missteps, mistakes, and organizational problems all reflect his personal disequilibrium.

via Mitt Romney: Wobbling From His Carefully Constructed Equilibrium | One Utah

Glenden Brown’s starting point was this essay by Kristine Haglund:

The performance of Mormon masculinity is a difficult balancing act, a tightrope walk between poles established by a brutish, hyper-masculine “natural man” and an effeminate gay man. It is perhaps unsurprising that Mormon patriarchs—as well as Mormon men running for high elected office—wobble from their carefully constructed equilibrium when buffeted by the cultural winds of feminism and the gay rights movement.

Her byline reads Kristine Haglund is the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. She lives and goes to church in Belmont, MA. She’s a Mormon scholar and an intellectual; a difficult position to hold in the authority-unquestioning culture of Mormonism. So she knows a little something about high wire acts — but she also may know Mitt Romney from church (he was a bishop and then a stake president in Belmont) or she knows people who do. I think for insight Glenden is on the right track as far as parsing “the public vs. private Mitt Romney.”

However, his experience living “in the shadow” in Utah is a lot like mine, and one thing to consider is that Utah Mormon culture is quite different from… I guess you’d call it “outside-Utah Mormon culture.” It’s MUCH more insular, much more frustrating to the “not-Mormon” person who encounters it at school, in the neighborhood, at the store, at work in Utah. Mom used to get so irritated trying to shop at big Salt Lake retail stores, with NO sales people available; invariably she’d look all over for someone to help with a purchase or a question, and find a huddle of men at the back, deep in conversation. What anybody else would call a male “bull session,” like guys at the automotive score discussing sports or whatever, she’d call a “priesthood meeting.”

On the other hand, LDS friends of Mom’s that were Outside Mormons were much more like any other American family. They complained about Utah Mormon culture, too!

Mitt Romney is a rich big shot in a church that has the unquestioned power to look at your financial statement to determine your worthiness to enter their Holy of Holies. In fact, the church probably knows EXACTLY what’s in the last 20 years of Mitt’s tax returns. It’s funny how quiet the hierarchy has been about the tax return issue. Maybe Harry Reid has a friend “on the inside” who has no love for Romney.

If Huntsman had done better in the primaries, I don’t think I’d have as much of a problem. He went to my high school and some of my younger family members knew some of the family. By all accounts he seems to have been a pretty good governor, and he’s fairly moderate (and moderately fair). I’d have been a little weirded out, but not deeply uneasy and worried about some dumb apocalypse.

That Romney has a private vs. public persona, I think is accurate. I’ve known friends with just the same serious demeanor for church, with a goofy and utterly unserious face for “not-church.”

Anyway, his sense of Noblesse NOT Oblige (n’oblige?) probably comes just as much from being wealthy and privileged as it does from being the closest thing to an LDS prince or god-king on earth.

I highly doubt Romney was into “Church Ball” but he seemed to mix it up pretty well with his hair-cutting and teacher-trapping in school. I do agree that he’s completely baffled by the refusal of We the (Little) People to take him at his ever-shifting word.

One last thing – I spent some time Sunday watching some videos shot inside an LDS temple (not all at the Salt Lake Temple, but some of them. They were surprisingly boring and repetitive – the 1:20-long one with the endowment movie is eye-stingingly dull.

New Episcopal Bishop Of Utah Will Try To Solve The Notty Problem

I’ve met Bishop Scott at various meetings here in the Chicago area, and I think he’ll be a great “pastor to the pastors” and leader of the Utah Episcopalians.

Video of the consecration service will be at the Diocese of Utah website.

The first time the Rev. Scott Hayashi served Utah’s Episcopal Church, he was puzzled by some parishioners’ tendency to define themselves by what they weren’t:  Mormons. He even remembers pointing out the silliness in a sermon at Ogden’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where he was rector from 1989 to 1998.

“I asked, ‘Does this mean if the LDS people are against gambling, we should be for it? If the LDS people have the Mormon diet and believe whole grains, moderation in eating and getting exercise is what you should do, that means we should eat all high-fat foods and not exercise?  If the LDS people are against smoking, that means we should all be smoking like chimneys? Does this make any sense?’ ”

The next bishop for Utah’s 5,200 Episcopalians now frames the question this way: “Shouldn’t we have an identity that is formed on the positive, as opposed to being against something?”

Hayashi, 56, will be consecrated as Utah’s 11th Episcopal bishop Saturday by the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a ceremony at The Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

via Soon-to-be Episcopal bishop: Don’t let LDS Church define us | The Salt Lake Tribune.

I would add, “If the LDS people are non-drinkers,  does that mean we have to have alcohol at social events, and name local brews “Polgamy Porter” and complain about liquor-by-the-drink until the Legislature is forced to abolish it for the sake of the Olympics? Do we have to slurp coffee loudly in restaurants just to show all the Postum-drinking Peculiar People that we’re Not Like Them?”

Yeah, when I was younger and dumber I did a lot of beer-drinking and coffee-slurping whenever I was in Utah.  It stemmed from a compulsion to “stick it to THE charch” by visibly being a “sinner” instead of a “Saint.”

For a long time, this blog has had a category called “Notty Problems: Even Leaving Doesn’t Solve Them.”  It’s not often that I use that category any more; I thought I would be spending a lot more time working off some of my old issues, when I started blogging, that had to do with being a “NOT” from Utah.

When I lived there, I chafed under the overwhelming sense that I was alone in school amidst a huge throng of religious lemmings who all shared the same monolithic belief system, shunned outsiders like me, and occasionally turned on me in packs because they were unable to deal with the concept of “different.” Of course, I developed a bad attitude about it; because I was a non-Mormon who refused invitations to Primary (which was like Sunday school, but I think it was on a weekday) I was not to be trusted. I suppose for them it was hard to be friends with someone who was GOING TO HELL. Understandable, really. Fortunately, there were a few good friends who never treated me like that, but I bet I wasn’t an easy friend to have. Also, I was prickly and constantly on the defensive,  so even with other NOT-Mormon friends, there was some carryover.

As I got older and into high school, the feeling of being actively shunned changed. It seemed then that I was merely socially invisible, but if I dared to complain about the conditions of life in Utah as an unbeliever, I became visible for a moment. Then someone would always snap, “Well, if you don’t like it, you can just leave!”

This “like it or leave it” mentality was very common and being hit with it happened pretty frequently, because I complained A LOT about the status quo.

What? I was in high school. I couldn’t just leave. At least, not until it was time to go to college. And that couldn’t come a minute too soon. But I did end up “leaving” a lot of conversations and potential friends in high school. The lesson that I learned from that was “people don’t want to be your friend unless you’re just like them, so don’t bother or you’ll only get hurt.”

But when I did go off to college, what happened? I had a lot of friends, from many different backgrounds, especially during the first couple of years when dorm life forced me to get to know a lot of people at once.  Some of them are still dear friends and we remain in touch, mostly via Facebook these days.

When I first arrived at the University of Oregon 34 years ago, it was amazing to be in a place where most people were actually not interested AT ALL in religion, and who were not conservative, but liberal in their political views.

However, I was still forced to define myself in negative terms, as I often introduced myself as  “My name is Ginny, and I’m NOT Mormon!”  I had noticed an odd thing – people outside of Utah never asked what religion I was, as it seemed to be considered impolite or in bad taste. That is, UNLESS I was asked where I was from, and then religion was on the table. As in “Oh, are you Mormon?”

“NO. I am NOT MORMON.”

It didn’t matter that in college I was not attending church, although at the time I identified myself as a Congregationalist (“You know, like the Pilgrims, but not as conservative”).

It became a joke between friends, because I quickly gained the reputation for getting cranky if someone new asked me where I was from, and then if I was Mormon. Because NO, I am not one of those bullying assholes that tried to convert me as a kid, then told me I was going to hell because I refused to believe just like they did. And also because “no, I’m not like any of the few tolerant people I knew growing up who didn’t mind whether I went to their church or not.

My friend Kevin Swan had a special telephone shorthand; he would call now and then (even years later, long after leaving college) and start tapping out a little tune on the touchtone. The name of the tune was “You are a Mormon.” It went 3-2-1 11. And my response was to mash all the numbers at once so that it sounded like “CLASH! CLASH!” which of course meant F*** Y** and then of course, ha ha! we would carry on a more normal conversation. Except sometimes, just to get me riled up, he’d play the tune again and then I’d make the [expletive deleted] sound again. If he reads this post via Facebook, he knows where he can reach me, “CLASH! CLASH!”

So here I am, more than 3 decades after moving away from Utah, and I still have issues that for lack of a better term I’ve come to call “Notty Problems.” I still read the Salt Lake Tribune, taking note of quirky news stories that happen “Only in Utah.” As in high school, I read the letters to the editor in order to mock the Kolob-Aid drinkers and cheer for the independent thinkers, except now I do it online and get to use the handy “like” buttons. We have one or two LDS friends (one in Utah) and I refrain from bitching about “THE charch” because I care for them, but I really am very intolerant of official LDS leadership, as it comes from being treated with intolerance. It’s a failing;  I struggle with it. I only wish some leaders (Boyd K. Packer, I’m looking at you) would have a revelation about their own intolerance towards gay Mormons, and gay people in general.

The thought of Mitt Romney making a successful run for President horrifies me, because I know what and who he would bring along to the (Grand Old) Party. On the other hand, I like and admire Harry Reid (D-Hard Eight), because he’s an LDS Democrat, a feat only achieved by people who REALLY think for themselves.

I will probably never, ever be rid of this notty problem; I will always have a chip on my shoulder about a religion whose truest believers tormented and rejected me as a child and young adult.  I will try to take Bishop Scott’s advice to heart, though, and learn to define myself and my beliefs in positive terms, not negative ones.

Concerned Busybodies of Zion

…they claim to have infiltrated Utah undocumented aliens’ social networks. So don’t Tweet, poor downtrodden brown Utahns! Change your Facebook status to “In Hiding!” #fb #immigration

Honestly, when I first shared this story from the Trib, I didn’t realize it’d have such legs, but I’ve been hearing it on NPR, and seeing it everywhere in my feed. And I’m glad it’s getting wide coverage, because it’s a very troubling and disturbing story indeed.

Mystery group lists 1,300 in Utah it claims are undocumented immigrants | The Salt Lake Tribune

“We then spend the time and effort needed to gather information along with legal Mexican nationals who infiltrate their social networks and help us obtain the necessary information we need to add them to our list,” the letter explains.

The accuracy of the list is unclear. Some phone numbers were disconnected or answered by a different person.

A West Valley City woman said the contact information for her and her family is correct, but she became a permanent resident earlier this week. The Peruvian woman, whom The Tribune is not identifying, said she has been in Utah 14 years.

“I don’t even know who would send out a paper like that,” she said.

Compiling and distributing the list itself could be illegal. If the compilers took data from state or local databases not available to the public, they could be charged with a misdemeanor under state law, said Jeff Hunt, a Utah media attorney. If the group lied to obtain the data, that could be fraud.

Asked whether he was aware of similar efforts, Hunt said, “I’ve never heard of anything close.”

A note next to one Clearfield woman on the list said, “Baby due 4/4/10.”

She confirmed to The Tribune she has a baby, but she said she lives in the United States legally.

What’s troubling and disturbing to the Concerned Busybodies of Zion, which will turn out to be one passive-agressive gamma male paleo-conservative who can’t even get elected president of his local LDS stake, is that LAWBREAKERS ARE GOING UNPUNISHED.

Illegal aliens are here illegally, you see, and thus a crime is being committed every! moment! they! are! here!

What’s troubling and disturbing to me, and everyone else, is that some fussy passive-agressive dickwad with more access to confidential medical records than ought to be allowed has illegally passed along information that is probably covered under that law where your doctor’s office makes you sign a form attesting to the confidentiality of your records every year.

UPDATE: to clarify my poorly developed stream of unconsciousness here, I was wondering who the mystery group was, and how they might have easily gathered the confidential information. As it has turned out, the “mystery group” turned out to be two women, one an employee of a Utah state agency, and one who was a temp. So my guess was wrong – I had speculated that someone had gained access to a non-profit’s records, and the largest non-profit social service group I knew of that focused on the Latino community in Utah was Crossroads Community Center.

The comments threads on the Salt Lake Tribune’s followup stories have been rather hair-raising, to say the least. BECAUSE THE CRIMINALS THEY GO UNPUNISHED! Anyway, my guess that the group had collated the “brownlist” from Crossroads’ records was wrong, drat it. On the other hand, they are in much, much bigger trouble for accessing Utah state records from their place of employment.

The only way it would be relatively simple to gather the kind of data that’s in this list is via medical records at a public clinic, such as one connected somehow to a cultural center for Latinos (in Salt Lake, the big one would be Crossroads Urban Center, which has a very basic and frames-based website indeed. So I can’t link directly to their privacy policy, but here it is:

DONOR AND CLIENT INFORMATION PRIVACY POLICY

Information collected from donors and clients of Crossroads Urban Center is never made available to anyone outside the organization. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, and dates and amounts of any donations made or services rendered.
No information regarding visitors to the Crossroads Urban Center website is currently being collected by Crossroads.

You may review any information Crossroads may have on file regarding you, or request correction of such information, by contacting Jim Hokom(email) at Crossroads. Because no donor or client information is shared outside the organization, an opt out provision regarding the sharing of said information is deemed unnecessary. You may, however, contact Crossroads’ Executive Director, Glenn Bailey(email), to verify this policy at any time.
All information about donors and clients of Crossroads is secured internally at Crossroads. We are currently not making use of any outside servers or data management systems outside our immediate control.

That certainly seems like a very firm and reasonable privacy policy, so I’d be very surprised if some secret-agenty Concerned Busybody would actually BREAK THE LAW or DO SOMETHING AGAINST POLICY by passing along personal information to ICE (who isn’t all that interested in it, frankly) or to the Salt Lake Trib (who are probably happy with all the extra hits on their recently redesigned Internets tubes).

There may be some other group that offers medical care whose records might not be secure, but Crossroads is probably hurting for donations for their FOOD PANTRY THAT FEEDS CHILDREN THAT ARE COMMITTING THE CRIME OF BEING POOR AND BROWN and so forth, and you can doniate via something called Network for Good, or donate time, food, clothing, or something off their Wish List.

They do good work and they don’t discriminate: if you’re poor, but not a citizen, all that matters is that you are in need.

Amongst all the hoo-ha the national press is kicking up about this “illegal alien LIST OF SHAME AND PREGNIT WIMMIN” story is a very small detail that makes me feel proud, sad and exasperated at the same time. The Crossroads Urban Center is part of a group called CORC, or Coalition of Religious Communities. The member organizations are listed (in a desperately sad little table, can’t some kind web designer help them??):

Religious Communities Represented

in the CORC Coalition

American Baptist Baha’i (Orthodox)
Buddhist
Catholic
Christian (Disciples of Christ) Episcopal
Greek Orthodox Humanist
Independent Baptist Islamic Society of Utah
Jewish Lutheran
Metropolitan Community Church Presbyterian
Relgious Society of Friends (Quaker) Unitarian
Univeralist
United Church of Christ United Methodist
Affiliate:
Mormons for Equality & Social Justice (MESJ)

Yeah, that’s right – all the major mainline and world religions represented, including the Baha’is and Buddhists and Moslems AND JEWS, together! Except, the One True Religion (That Is The Only One That Matters And The Only One You Need To Accept And Know Is True And Vote Republican For Time And All Eternity) is represented by a piddly little affiliate listing, for something called “Mormons for Equality and Social Justice.” Wow, it must really be a challenge to be in that last group, but I wish them all the best. May God bless the work they do and send them lots of volunteers and donations in kind.

Anyway, whilst Googling around for fodder material, I ran across an interesting site that rang a few warning bells for me.

The Center for Immigration Studies

Sounds academic and scholarly, doesn’t it? But this is what popped up when I Googled “Salt Lake Latino center” because I couldn’t remember Crossroad’s name:

Salt Lake City Police Chief Protecting Illegal Aliens
By Ronald W. Mortensen, June 3, 2010

Not too long ago, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank was in Washington along with other big-city police chiefs. They met with Attorney General Eric Holder to complain about how the newly enacted Arizona law (SB 1070) would inevitably lead to racial profiling of illegal aliens and how unfair it was.

So, just how fair is Chief Burbank?

Chief Burbank, who denies that he sees things in terms of race, spends an inordinate amount of time and resources proving that Latinos do not commit crimes in excessively high numbers. However, the chief fails to distinguish between Latinos who are legally in the United States and the estimated 100,000 illegal aliens in Utah who are primarily Latinos. (Note: Police Chief Burbank is the one who specifically focuses on Latino crime and it was the authors of a study that he commissioned who said, “Salt Lake City’s immigrant population is predominantly Latino”).

In addition, Chief Burbank conveniently overlooks the fact that a senior Social Security Administration official estimates that about 75 percent of all illegal aliens have fraudulent Social Security numbers. This is a felony. So, unless 75 percent of the general population is committing major felonies, it would appear that illegal aliens do indeed commit crime at an inordinately high rate.

In addition, based on investigations by Utah Workforce Services and the Utah Attorney General’s office, it is estimated that at least 50,000 Utah kids under age 18 have their identities being used primarily by illegal aliens to get jobs.

Under Utah law the use of another person’s identifying data, including their Social Security number, either knowingly or unknowing. is identity fraud, a felony.

Oh dear!! Let me run upstairs to fetch the costume jewelry pearls Mom left me so I can clutch them (since they’re too small to fit around my rather beefy neck, I can wear them as a bracelet looped over my wrist).

Very interesting. Mr Mortensen is very deeply concerned about ALL THIS ILLEGAL ALIENISM GOING UNPUNISHED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT. He quotes from rather dubious “sources” and “studies.” He is EXTREMELY CONCERNED ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT BY BROWN LATINO PEOPLES!

HE IS ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT ILLEGAL ALIENS CRYING “SANCTUARY! SANCTUARY!” OUTSIDE THE CATHEDRAL OF THE MADELEINE (okay that’s a stretch but I had a very Charles Laughton moment just now).

HE IS VERY CONCERNED THAT SALT LAKE POLICE CHIEF CHRIS BURBANK IS NOT ENFORCING THE LAW AND IN FACT IS REFUSING TO BELIEVE MR MORTENSEN’S IMPORTANT STATISTICS ABOUT THE BROWN PEOPLES COMMITTING ALL THE IDENTITY THEFT SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD ILLEGAL ALIEN LAWBREAKING THAT UTAH IS SUFFERING FROM OH MY!

(SORRY..sorry, caps key got stuck. Is there a CAPS ON CAPS key? or should I bold the most shouty bits?)

So what I think, the Salt Lake Tribune should ask the Center for Immigration Studies to comment on the story… because they’re very concerned citizens indeed. They claim to have “former government officials” and “retired university professors” on their roster, so they’re just the folks who would be a great resource. Also, it appears that Mr Mortensen is Utah-based, since many of his blog topics on the CIS.org site have a Utah slant.

Yes, kind of wondering if there could be a connection. Interesting, no? Si!

True-Blue Believers in God, Guns and Postum to the North, Caffeinated Non-Violent Pinko Heathens to the South

…that’s how politics in Utah works when both major parties book their conventions into the same complex on the same date.

Rolly: Guns and coffee don’t mix – Salt Lake Tribune

The Republicans secured their Salt Palace space some time ago and will hold their convention on the complex’s north side. The Democrats were having a difficult time finding a suitable place for what they were willing to pay, then settled on the Salt Palace’s south section after a group canceled its reservation for that day.

So between the two parties — the Democrats have around 2,700 delegates, and plan for a total attendance of about 5,000, while the Republicans have 3,000 delegates and could get as many as 7,000 attendees — there will be about 12,000 folks at the Salt Palace with huge trust issues between them.

The good news is that most of the guns likely will be on the Republican side of the Salt Palace while most of the coffee will be on the Democratic side — and there shouldn’t be too much mixing of the two.

I’m pretty sure none of my family members still living in Utah are involved in local politics, but if they were, most of them would be on the south side of the complex, arguing anti-war, pro-health care planks over a nice mocha java with the other East Bench Liberals. One or two might be inclined to stroll over to the north side, but the only cousin that’s what I’d call “gun friendly” is probably too centrist in his politics to feel comfortable at a conservative Republican shindig; he’s a public radio listener, for God’s sake!

The joke in the title depends on the underlying religious divide in Utah; it’s pretty much a given that conservative Republicans are generally of the “majority faith” (with a generous admixture of evangelicals from the northern half of the state). Therefore, anybody that’s a “not” tends to be a non-believer, a non-Christian, or from one ‘a them ebil social justice churches, and also tends to vote Democratic when given the opportunity. It’s a way of letting everybody know your “not-ness.”

With all that caffeine, you’d think Utah Democrats would get a lot more done, and a lot more of their people elected, but outside of the Salt Lake Valley, the overwhelming majority of people look on caffeine and liberalism as practically Satanic.

When Your Mom Gets Baptized Into Some Weird Church After She Dies

It would piss you off, right? I know it would really make me angry if that happened to my mom, but I can’t check because the information is hidden behind a registration wall AND a “member in good standing/temple recommend number” wall. Because when she was alive, she was really horrified by the idea that everyone in her family had been baptized against their will, after they died, and that someday she would, too.

Well, it’s apparently happened to President Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. I think it’s a terrible breach of spiritual protocol, the church’s own supposedly “hard and fast” but frequently broken rules, and the normal bounds of human decency.

ldsbaptism

I ran across this first at Wonkette, but it’s such a personal issue for me (growing up as I did in Utah, as a non-Mormon) that after the first horrified reading, the flip, arch style that usually makes me giggle like a twelve-year-old wasn’t what I wanted to quote. So I went to the source:

AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth: Did the Mormons baptize Obama’s mother, after her death, without his knowledge or consent?

A reader sent me a tip about this last week. But it’s a sensitive topic, sure to cause the President some anguish, so I waited until I could find more information. I now have more information. And what I have is troubling.

A reader contacted me last week, saying that last year, in the heat of the presidential campaign, the Mormons had posthumously baptized Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Baptizing the dead of other faith’s, secretly and without the consent of their families, is a common Mormon practice. For the past fifteen years the Mormons have caused quite a stir by forcibly baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims – in other words, converting them to Mormonism – despite strong objections from the Jewish community.

This issue comes up every few years: the Utah church has to put out a lot of fires and claim that members had overstepped the rules by baptizing people who were still “within living memory” and/or baptizing people who had died in the Holocaust. In a way, this practice completes the “final solution” of the genocide, by erasing the Jewish identity of each victim.

The LDS people who do this are operating from a spiritual compulsion: they truly believe that everyone on Earth must be enrolled in the record archives after death, and supposedly these dead souls can “choose” to accept a faith that has been imposed on their memory via an efficient, if not unholy bureaucracy. These people take on the role of victim when living relatives object to the practice of baptism for the dead, because their beliefs are being attacked. This, I find to be almost as offensive and infuriating as the practice itself. It’s spawned a huge industry, and of course as the archives are available to anyone to search, the hobby of geneology owes a lot to the efforts of countless workers who’ve scoured the Earth, searching out and scanning birth, death, and census records. Not to mention the countless well-meaning members who go to their local temples armed with the records of the dead, being baptized and anointed or whatever takes place, wearing their spey-cial tem-ple gar-mints.

Personally, I think it’s all a bunch of crap.

Sorry, family members and friends. That’s my opinion.

I’m a believer in Christ, and I’d like to think that there will turn out to be a Heaven where all our dead family and friends are waiting for us (and of course, OUR PETS are waiting impatiently, too). But I’m enough of a rationalist to realize that there may be nothing at all after death, or something so unimaginably different from our living existence that it can’t be put into human context, let alone words. I prefer to be a follower of the Way while I’m still alive and kicking, and I struggle try to live a more spiritually grounded life and reach out to people in need. I don’t succeed at it, much, but I try. This whole issue of one faith imposing itself on people’s dead loved ones, no matter what they believed (or didn’t believe), just bothers the shit out of me.

I did try to pull some records from the FamilySearch.org site (no linky love for you! ) and was rather surprised to find that I could get a text document with Mom’s name, birth date, death date, AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER without having to even register. I attempted to register under a bogus name and found that to get to the REALLY good stuff, you have to give an actual record number proving that you’re a member in good standing. But I did look at records for various Colorado Springs relations on my mom’s side – this is probably how my cousin Bill did most of his research for his genealogy hobby, and the family history book that he self-published.

I can almost hear Mom holding forth now on today’s news; she’d be adding another note to her “to be read after my demise” papers via dictation as we speak.

FLDS Polygamists: No Records of Births, Deaths, Abuse

One thing to remember: the FLDS compounds are as self-sufficient as possible. Medical care is handled “inhouse.” State mandated reporter laws for suspected abuse cases and records keeping: forget about it.
More Clarity About Abuse, Intermarriage, Child Breeders, and the Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints | PEEK | AlterNet

Of Course I Had To Comment

I had to comment on the Salt Lake Trib’s forums on the following column:

Guy: Overcoming the bigotry inside myself

Two teenagers, a 16-year-old female and an 18-year-old male, vandalized a local church, causing $1 million in damage. They broke in and ran amok, destroying things with a baseball bat, spray-painting epithets and sacrilegious symbols on the walls, and, finally, lighting the building on fire.
The members of this church, which has seen more than its share of persecution, were shaken and heartbroken.
For 16 months the congregation relied on the hospitality of another church that rearranged its schedule to accommodate their friends. For nearly a year and a half, both churches shared one building for worship and myriad meetings during the week.
When the vandalized church was ready to reopen, they threw a big party to celebrate, including the whole neighborhood on the guest list. My husband Chris and I got a nice flier on our porch inviting us, as did other neighbors who, like us, are not members.
I didn’t give a thought to attending, but I was glad for them. If I was invited to a party for the Jewish synagogue, Muslim mosque, or Hindu temple closest to my house, and if one of those congregations had been vandalized, had been victimized by people motivated by hate, I would never pass up the opportunity to celebrate with them as they returned to worship in their own renovated, resanctified building.
Yet I have to admit that since the wronged congregation was of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I was less interested in attending their celebration.
For most of my life, especially that crucial early part, I couldn’t have imagined Mormons as people who had been persecuted. Quite the opposite; they were persecuting me. Ask anyone who grew up non-Mormon here in the ’60s (for example) and you’ll hear the same.
We all had a few friends who were Mormon, but the scars inflicted by Mormons as a whole run deep. So I’m predisposed to have a bad attitude about Latter-day Saints. Like any form of bigotry, I try to resist this, to rise above it.
I’ve made my peace with much of what happened back then. I’m grateful for the painful interactions that caused me to strive to befriend people who are different. I am happy to have become in some small sense someone who speaks out on behalf of other people. However it happened, Mormons gave me that.
Nearly 30 years after I left public school, Salt Lake City is a different place. The world has arrived. Even my old suburban neighborhoods have evolved past the time when a brown-haired non-Mormon white girl constituted a level of diversity, if not outright novelty.
Today, there are LDS people whom I love like family and my unpleasant experiences have dwindled until they mostly involve the most ridiculous members of the Utah State Legislature, the type who spend their time worrying about issues like “discrimination toward the white, family-oriented Christian male.”
Late last month, the phone rang and I got a special invitation from my friend Carolyn to attend the party at the ward house. For a lot of reasons, it would have been easy to skip it. But sometimes when a bell goes off like that, it’s because someone needs to learn a lesson. This lesson: You can encounter a group that’s different from you in some way, yet you can find the faces of friends and friendly faces there. That day, that lesson was for me.
Congratulations to the members of the LeGrand Ward and thanks for the invitation. I wish you many years of safe worship.


* BARB GUY is a regular contributor to these pages.

I have to admit that I’d feel a similar lack of interest in attending a rededication celebration at an LDS house of worship, over just about any other denomination (including Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever). It’s a reaction to past perceived hurts that’s almost on an instictive level – I was rejected, therefore I reject. If I were invited to some kind of bridge-building event like this, I’d struggle with the decision. It would really depend on the circumstance and whether I had some personal connection with person doing the inviting.

And here are the comments for that particular piece: very typical of discourse “across the divide” in Utah, but there’s more reason and less lather on both sides nowadays. Still, Barb Guy is accused of being a bigot. For some reasons, this always happens to people who’ve suffered bigotry; they get accused of it if they have difficulty forgiving the hurt.

The Salt Lake Tribune – comments for Guy: Overcoming the bigotry inside myself

Mine starts out on the second page:

I was a red-haired, non-LDS tomboy in the 60’s on the East Bench. I think I was initially singled out for abuse in grade school because of the way I looked and dressed, and the fact that I didn’t have a ready-made group of friends from primary gave my tormentors carte blanche. Otherwise, *how did everyone seem to know that I wasn’t LDS?* It’s the nature of children to pick on loners, but it all gets mixed up with the dominant religion *whereever you are*, and for me it’s still hard to let go of the anger and accept and love family members who converted to the LDS Church…

It goes on from there. Suffice to say, I’d be a much, much happier person if my dad had never moved us to Utah in the early 60’s. Being a “not” kid in Utah guarantees a lot of problems with socialization, self-esteem, and conflict – both interior and exterior. Even leaving doesn’t solve them.

I started out reading the piece thinking it was going in a different direction. I assumed that it would be about a non-LDS church, because I
When I was in high school, some teenage kids got into the nearby Wasatch Presbyterian church building and vandalized it, then started a fire that gutted the sanctuary. It was a huge deal and some of the kids apparently took off via my neighborhood, because I was “sleeping out” that night (too hot to sleep inside) and some kid came through the yard and woke me up – scared the crap out of me, frankly, but I yelled aggressively at him and scared the crap out of HIM in return.

I could hear sirens. He seemed kind of freaked out, and I asked him what he was doing in our yard and who he was. He said he’d heard something “kicking around” (me, sleeping on the yard swing settee thing we had) and had come into the yard from the alley to see what it was. And it came out that he had been up by the church on the hill with some other kids, and now they were scattering for home because “something happened.” He took off and I didn’t get his name. It was all very weird, and then the news of the fire was the big thing the next day. Mom was totally ranting about the vandals and how it had to be “Mormon kids” and all that. She went on and on, and asked me very closely if I’d heard anything the night before.

Well, it had to come out, because a vandalized church was a big crime and so I told Mom about the teenaged stranger kid that came in the yard in the wee hours. Teenager solidarity just didn’t apply. She reported it to the police, but I don’t recall ever talking to a cop or giving a description. The church rebuilt, and then added on, and then more recently they completely rebuilt their education wing again – they seem to be going great guns.

Church arsons seem to happen all over, but in Utah they get all mixed up with the majority/minority tensions across the religious divide.

Michigan Republican Women Read This

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s days as an LDS bishop. It’s an interesting sidelight on an aspect of the man that many people are curious about – his faith and where he stands.

You might admire his stand on abortion, except for running as a pro-choice candidate in order to get elected in Massachusetts. It’s interesting that people still remember an incident that took place in a hospital room.

Salt Lake Tribune – Mitt and his faith: Remembering when candidate Romney was Bishop Romney
Not everyone shared that positive view of Romney. Though somewhat progressive in his approach, Romney was still a product of LDS male culture of the time. He didn’t initially believe, for example, that there were any cases of physical or sexual abuse of women in the stake, though plenty of evidence pointed to it.
“He’s not a people person,” says Nancy Dredge, “he’s so much an organization man.”
Yet, Dredge says, she’s seen him learn from his mistakes. “He’s in a much better place than he was 20 years ago.”
While a young bishop, for example, Romney got word that a woman in his ward was considering an abortion. This was the sixth pregnancy for the woman in her 40s, who had four teenage children, and she developed some medical complications.
Romney arrived at the hospital and forcefully counseled her against the procedure. She felt Romney misunderstood and mistreated her. The woman later wrote about the experience in Exponent II, a national newspaper for Mormon women that was published in Romney’s Boston stake. Though she didn’t use her name, many church members knew who she was.
The episode came back to haunt Romney when he ran for Massachusetts governor in 1994 as a “pro-choice” candidate. It also reflected some of the ongoing tensions he had with some Exponent II writers during his tenure.

Some context might be necessary to explain some of the issues described in the next few paragraphs:

Regardless, Mormon women in Boston still talk about an extraordinary 1993 meeting Romney called to address the women of the stake.
More than 250 members poured into the Belmont chapel. One by one they called out their issues while he stood at the front with three pads labeled: policies we can’t change, practices we can change, and things we can consider.
Nearly 100 proposals were made that day, including having female leaders give talks in various wards as the men on the high council do; letting women speak last in church; turning the chapels into day-care centers during the week; letting women stand in the circle while blessing newborn babies; recognizing the accomplishment of young women as the church does of Boy Scout advancements; and putting changing tables in the men’s rooms.
Many women left with a new appreciation of Romney’s openness.
He was “so brave,” says Robin Baker, who has worked on Exponent II.
Sievers, who worked with Romney to set up the meeting, was ecstatic.
“I was really surprised,” she says. “He implemented every single suggestion that I would have.”

The LDS church has a lot of proscriptions about the roles women can and can’t fulfill. Some of them are directly based on their sacred texts (in addition to the Bible, the LDS church relies on at least two other texts that have equal or greater weight in their thinking than what we think of as the word of God). These are some the ones that can’t be changed.

There are some rules that are always observed, but they’re more traditions than sacred obligations. Some of them might be negotiable, and some might not. These were the ones that might be changed, or could at least be discussed without risking eternal hell and damnation.

Putting changing tables in the men’s restrooms might not seem a matter of doctrine, but the LDS take gender roles very, very seriously. I don’t know if that one was subject to change, or only for discussion.

The only item on the agenda I can discuss from personal experience is the rather obscure one about the blessing of newborn babies. And I’ve realized that I’m in a position to offer extra perspective on that.

When my youngest great-nephew was born, his health was extremely fragile, and when he was brought home from the hospital, his parents decided they’d better hold the blessing for him at the home of his paternal grandparents rather than at the LDS ward they attend. The rest of the family – all us “nots” and “nons,” were included. But we also felt excluded, because when the blessing was done, all the men in the room (including a lot of rather high-status church leaders) gathered around the baby, who was held by his father. They formed a tight knot, each with their hands on the baby, chest to chest and forming a solid wall around him.

His mother and the other women in the room looked on, passive participants in one of the most important events in her son’s life.

The rest of us watched from the margins, not really understanding the implications, but wondering if the believing women would have liked to be part of the blessing. It seemed the rest of the room was symbolically being shouldered aside as irrelevant.

I guess this is an issue for thinking LDS women, something that I find heartening.

Mitt Romney is a complicated guy. He’s willing to listen to other viewpoints, but he’s a little accommodating in some of his positions for the most conservative, and a little too rigid for the most liberal. He might appeal to the center, but there’s no telling what he’ll think of as “policies we can’t change, practice we can change, and things we can consider.”
[tags]Mitt Romney, Michigan primary, Utah, vote[/tags]

Salt Lake Tribune – Keep a distance: Seminary, school should be in separate buildings

Salt Lake Tribune – Keep a distance: Seminary, school should be in separate buildings

In Lindon, a new charter school – a public school that operates with taxpayer money – and a seminary operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are occupying the same building.
That doesn’t technically violate the constitutional mandate that government not support or endorse any religion, since each organization separately leases its space. The Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy and the seminary don’t even share an entrance. But the perception is there that the public school is simply too cozy with the LDS Church. And that makes a significant number of people, already sensitive to the church’s influence in Utah, uncomfortable.

Given that precisely that perception is reality to so many, either the school or the church should look for other quarters.

I was a public school student in Utah about 30-40 years ago, but it didn’t matter one bit then that the LDS seminary buildings in junior high and high school were not in the same building – I still had to listen to what everybody else was hearing about. Every day in more than one class, I’d overhear what the other kids had seen or heard in their “sem” classes – gossipy stuff about the videotaped soap opera that was the big thing in junior high, and whispered stuff about what the high school seminary classes were covering about more adult topics like dating within vs. without the faith.

People talked around me as if I had been there, or more significantly, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was invisible.

It was not a comfortable place to be a “not.” It was not a friendly and fun place to be a “non.” I spent my entire school career feeling ever-so-slightly unwelcome all the time, and sometimes I felt like there was nowhere to hide from enemies who wanted to hunt me down for being “differnt”, and nowhere to find friends who might accept me without asking what church my family attended, before deciding if it was okay to be seen with me.

Before we actually attended any church, of course, I was almost completely on my own… once we started attending a Protestant church regularly and I joined a Masonic girls’ group, I had friends, but not at school. With one exception – Mark, who went to my church, also went to my grade school. We were buddies the last couple of years there, but he went to a different junior high although we still were in youth group together. And then when we got to high school, his family had moved, and we ended up graduating together.

My 30th high school reunion was supposed to be last year, but it was cancelled or postponed due to the very sad death of Steve Tempest, who had been student body president and was one of the organizers. He was a good guy, who did good things in his life. I ran into him unexpectedly on a trip to Salt Lake years ago, and was totally surprised find out that he knew who I was in school – actually knew my name.

You could have knocked me over with a feather, as it was a revelation to me to realize that I hadn’t been as invisible as I thought I was in high school. You’d think that a big, tall, red-headed girl with a goofy laugh would find it hard to be invisible, but I was, at least as far as I could tell. So to be greeted by name by somebody who was “somebody,” after so many years, was really odd.

I did attend one reunion at about the 10-year mark and amused myself by covering up my nametag and going up to former jocks and saying “You don’t know who the hell I am, do you?” That was a fun time, but the fact that there was alcohol probably made it easier.  Utah does things like that to you, or did then, anyway. If you drink socially, you drink as conspicuously as possible in order to show everyone else you’re “not” like them. It can make for some rather colorful stories afterwords (and worse hangovers than necessary).  If you use bad language, you use it as conspicuously as possible, too. I always start swearing more when on trips to Utah – it kind of creeps my husband David out, especially if I get together with my salty oldest niece, Holly (she’s David’s age). Then: look out.

During the time I was staying at Mom’s house trying to sort stuff out after she died in 2006, somebody called me to get my mailing address and email address so that I could be contacted for whenever the reunion happened. It was supposed to have been this August, but I never heard a word. I checked with Mark, and he never got a response to his emails, either.

Oh well. I expect there was some kind of event, probably locally organized and arranged, and someone dropped the ball on contacting the “unsocial” types such as myself and Mark, who were kind of non-entities in school because of our “differnts” and didn’t stay in touch with many other people after graduation. As a hopelessly disorganized person myself, I can understand if the information didn’t get collected and organized and used effectively, but it would have been nice to be invited, even if there was no way in Hell that I’d bother to attend. I don’t know anybody anymore, Mom’s not there anymore, I don’t want to see what’s become of our old house since it was sold, and I’m not skinny and gorgeous and well-preserved enough to show up with a glint in my eye at the classic reunion dance, in a kind of “wallflower’s revenge fantasy.”

As far as I know, seminary classes are still conducted across the street from my old high school; Salt Lake has gotten more culturally diverse since my school days, but I bet the “nons” and “nots” still have a pretty good idea of what’s being taught and discussed in the building across the street. It’s probably still inescapable.