Need to Know

“If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave.”

I can’t even remember the first time I heard this – sometime late in grade school, I think. Sure, that’s practical for a nine-year-old, I’ll just pack up and move to another state, and Mom and Pop can follow me in the Comet with the cat and my comic books.

The last time I heard it, I was in high school. I remarked then that I couldn’t wait to shake the dust of the Soviet of Yewtaw from my feet and go to college in a state where Democrats weren’t assumed to be devil worshipers.

The person who said it to me could not comprehend why I would complain about life in Perfect Yewtaw, because she could not imagine living anywhere else. Poor thing, she’s probably still there. A grandmother by now several times over. Can you say “Stepford?” I knew you could.

When you grow up being defined by what you are not, as opposed to what you are, it’s almost impossible to see yourself in anything but negative terms.

Yewtaw is a state where you must know your religious label. You don’t wear it on your lapel, but it’s always invisibly there for others to perceive. You will ask and answer carefully couched questions to establish you are to be considered “us” or “them.” Adults will politely, tactfully, or sneakily ask questions like “what waaard are you in” or make statements like “My old Bishop So-and-So said” or just check for tell-tale garment lines. Kids will just ask each other bald-faced questions like “Why don’t you go to charch with everyone else on our street” or “my dad says your whole family is going to hell someday.” I learned at an early age that I was no longer a member of a Congregational church, or even a Protestant, I was simply a “not” or a “non.”

Yewtaw is a helluva way to run a theocracy thinly disguised as a state. I wonder if the current presidential candidates will call on the governor first, or the sheer profit regulator?

God help you if you are an atheist in Yewtaw, because you have nobody to bowl with and kvetch about 3.2 beer.

“Bitter much?”, you ask. Why yep, about as bitter as the aforementioned beer. It’s been more than 25 years, and I’m still ready to grumble. But at least for a long time post-Yewtaw, I’ve defined myself in terms of what I am instead of what I’m not. Aside from the inevitable question everyone who ever lived in Utah gets the first time they meet something new.

And for the record, the answer is now and ever shall be “No, I’m not.”

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