Mormon coffee talk

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“I mean, seriously, what a douchebag move, am I right? Why else do people go to weddings if not to get drunk? I mean, unless you are getting married yourself or you are like the mother or father of the bride, then you just go there to get drunk or to get laid or, I don’t know, to meet people and get drunk with them. It’s free alcohol. Everyone expects it. You drink and you flirt. And this guy, he refuses not only to drink with me, but then he doesn’t even want to talk to me because I’m a little bit tipsy. Who is he to judge me?”

This woman must be the most unhappy person I have ever heard speak, I thought as I tried to tune her out. She has been going on like this ever since I sat down. She won’t stop! She’s being so loud!

And then there is that stupid Mormon girl, the one bridesmaid who won’t wear the dress that the bride actually chose because she feels it is too immodest. The dresses were cute! They were pink and like sleeveless but this bitch feels like exposing her shoulders will give the boys around her unclean thoughts or whatever and she isn’t even that cute. So she has to go and ruin the wedding because she wants to wear like a sweater over her shoulders and she is the only one in the line who looks different than the rest, and she is like taking attention away from the bride which is basically the worst sin you can commit on someone’s wedding day, don’t you think?”

Stop talking stop talking stop talking. I sipped my coffee, trying to focus on the stack of paperwork I had brought to the coffeeshop with me. There was nowhere else to sit, and this woman was talking so loud. I thought about turning to her and asking her to be quiet. The friend she was with wasn’t even talking back, just making mm-hmm and oh-no and oh-yeah statements. Just breathe. You’re cool. Just focus on your work. I managed to turn her out for a few minutes before she got louder.

“So then I get back to work on Monday after and I’m still hungover and I’m still pissed, but then, bam, guess what, my manager puts me in charge of that work project we have been working on. Like I’m finally in charge of the stuff that no one wants to be in charge over. Probably because I’m the only one who gives a shit. And no on there in the whole company even cares about the little rules anyway, and how do you think they are going to feel when I start making them follow the rules. Like everyone takes drinks to their desks and they aren’t supposed to. How do you think they are going to feel when I start walking by their desks and taking their drinks away, one by one, and just tossing them right in the garbage. I mean, they are going to be livid. I can just see the one guy next to me like ‘hey, I just spent four dollars on that energy drink, don’t throw it away’ and I’ll be like ‘well, guess who’s in charge now, bitch!'”

Okay, I have to admit this is kind of entertaining, I thought. It is unlike me to get so annoyed with someone so easily, she was just so loud. I kind of like eavesdropping on people sometimes. Instead of working on my notes, I instead got out my computer and started writing down what she was complaining about. This woman is a character.

“I just, this isn’t where I thought I would be in my life right now, right? I thought I would meet some guy. Instead it is just me and my dumb dog. I say dumb but I love him, you know that. In fact, he is probably the love of my life. I am done with men, at least for a minute. Did I tell you about that last guy I tried dating, the one from the singles’ ward? I mean, I’m not active or anything but I still want a good Mormon guy. I should have known something was completely wrong with him based on the fact that he’s 30 and not married. I know I’m almost 30, but it’s different for girls. Guys can have whoever they want. I just haven’t had the right person come along yet. So anyway one day he lectures me because he sees wine in my fridge and we haven’t even kissed or anything and it’s like our third date and he wants me to be a good Mormon girl and I’m feeling embarrassed and tell him it’s not mine that I just keep it there for friends who come over and I’m lying of course and he goes ‘yeah, but you should avoid the very appearance of evil’. I’m all embarrassed but then a few days later I find out that he has a porn addiction problem. He tells me that he doesn’t want to get too serious with me before he tells me the truth. And I’m like ‘what a hypocrite’ and I ended things right there. ‘The very appearance of evil’ indeed. I mean, I deserve someone amazing, not just some guy. You deserve someone amazing too. I mean, everyone does, even gay Corey.”

Gay Corey? Who is gay Corey? The two women laugh hysterically for a moment, some inside joke between then, and then I hear a loud slurp as the woman finishes her iced latte, sucking the last bits of liquid from between chunks of ice. She stands up and walks by me, giving me a slight sneer-slash-smile before dumping her drink in the garbage. From behind me I hear her summon her friend.

“Come on, let’s go.”

Her friend says ‘oh, okay’ and quickly gathers her things before rushing out. My fingers are moving on the keyboard, and all I can think is, wait, what just happened? 

 

Leaving Provo

provoSometimes when I travel I find myself wanting to create an alternate origin story for myself, skew just a few details to make my story a little bit more even-keeled.

Today on the flight to San Diego, I sat on the back row of the plane. We flew out of Provo, Utah, departing from a tiny little airport surrounded by dry fields and, farther off, breath-taking mountains. My car in the long-term parking lot was just across a small road from a literal cow pasture.

I was placed in the middle seat, and the woman to my right snored gently as the baby across the aisle cooed and cried, alternatively. The girl to my left, I later learned her name was Kimber, dutifully scrolled words in her leather bound diary as I read my book, the autobiography of Greg Louganis. She was gorgeous, a shapely blonde with her hair in pigtails under a ball cap, and she wore only a modest amount of makeup, something rare for Utah girls. I glanced at her moving pen from time to time and caught glimpses of angsty words.

Why can’t the world understand that people are just people and I’m so tired of having my heart broken and I just wonder what Heavenly Father has in store for me.

About halfway through the short flight, Kimber cleared her throat a few times, gently trying to get my attention. I could tell she wanted to talk. When we made eye contact, she opened our conversation with a casual “So are you from Utah?” and within minutes she was telling me her entire life story. I have the odd ability to get strangers to open up to me, likely my social work background and my empathic nature; sometimes I love this about myself, and sometimes I don’t.

Kimber talked about being the youngest of four kids and growing up in southern California with her single mother after her father left when she was a child. She talked about playing softball in high school and dealing with getting teased for being a lesbian all the time, even though she wasn’t gay. Her eyes flashed to the cover of my Louganis book, and then she glanced back up, seemingly trying to tell me that if I was gay, she was okay with that. She said she joined the Mormon Church when she turned 18 and moved to Utah for college.

As Kimber peppered me with a dozen rapid-fire questions about myself, I found myself filling in the facts wrong, creating a slightly different timeline for myself with the basic facts of my current life staying the same but my past vastly changed. I told her I grew up in Missouri, went to college in Seattle, and moved to Utah to launch a business. I told her I was a single father of two sons, that I was a therapist, and that I taught college.

Kimber leaned forward in the small space, her eyes alive with wonder, as she told me she served a mission in Oklahoma and had been home for two years, when she began therapy herself, and it changed her life, she said. She held up her journal and said it had become her best friend and her best coping mechanism.

Her voice lowered as she began asking me questions. She had an insider, a therapist as a captive audience for the rest of the flight, and she was going to take advantage of it. Is porn addiction real? she asked, as she confided that her current boyfriend had problems. Is it true that Mormons have more depression and teen suicides? she asked, as she talked about a suicidal friend. Is it normal for girls to want to wait until they are 30 to get married? she asked, as she talked about wanting to explore the world before she took the plunge. Is it more important to be in a relationship 100 per cent, or to have a life outside of the relationship? she asked, as she told me about her desire to be a career woman and not a housewife.

At one point, Kimber held up a finger to stop me. She had to write this down, she said, and began furiously scribbling notes in her journal as the flight attendants announced our landing in San Diego. I showed Kimber pictures of my sons, when she asked, and she commented how they looked just like me.

As we stood to gather our bags, Kimber and I exchanged names, finally, belatedly, and wished each other well. She gave me an extra sincere look in my eyes as she firmly shook my hand. “It was an honor to meet you,” she said, and her intense gaze seemed to convey the subtext that this meeting was meant to be, orchestrated in the pre-existence by God himself perhaps. I smiled at her genuineness and sincerity.

I gave Kimber a bright smile as I walked away. “Kimber, you’re my favorite kind of Mormon,” I said, then turned to the waiting San Diego sunshine, ready for adventures ahead.

How to Dress on South Beach

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“Amanda, listen, that is a work dress, not a South Beach dress. Trust me.”

I sat at the airport gate with an hour to go before my flight. The woman behind me wore a red knee-length skirt, a pleasant floral top—yellow with a white floral pattern, and sunglasses. Her obviously dyed red hair looked a bit more orange to me. Her arms and legs were perfectly tan, her feet slipped sockless into a pair of fashionable white pumps. She was clearly a careful dresser, and clearly wanted her daughter to pick up on this trait of hers as she loudly instructed her over her cell phone in front of a group of assembled strangers.

“Amanda, sweetie, listen, if you think you can get away with a dress like that, you’ve got deep psychological issues. You know what, never mind, it is clear you have psychological issues. A dress like that is like your best winter woolen. You wear it to a place like South Beach, and you are clearly going to embarrass yourself. No one cares if you embarrass yourself at work, but in South Beach, trust me, honey, they are going to care.”

The woman barely moves as she speaks. I would expect her to be gesturing animatedly with her hands, or flipping her pump on her foot, or picking at her nails, but this process of yelling at her daughter seems to be something routine, something so common that she doesn’t even move.

“Wait, he’s wearing what? Oh, sweetie, you can’t be seen with him if he is going to wear something like that to South Beach. No, no, no. You tell him, get a nice pastel colored shirt and a pair of white pants. That is what they want at South Beach. It won’t go with your dress, but then nothing would, not if you insist on wearing that one. On South Beach, they are looking for a particular type of thing. If he wears that, they’ll be looking for him. They still won’t be looking for you.”

I look around the people nearby, wondering if anyone is finding either amusement or cruelty in this overheard conversation, but no one seems to be reacting at all, just reading or talking or playing cards or texting. I think about mothers and the pressures they put on their daughters to be a certain way. Growing up in a Mormon household, I watched my mom raise five daughters, teaching them to dress modestly and wear only light makeup and to have only one pair of earrings in their ears. Never did I hear my mom go on a critical tirade like this. Then I wonder, what if it isn’t her daughter? What if it’s a co-worker, a sister, or a friend. I kind of wish I could hear the other end of the conversation, but mostly I’m glad that I can’t. I continue listening, fascinated.

“No, you may not wear one of my dresses. No. No! That one is one of my favorites and you would sweat in it. Frankly I don’t want to pay to have it cleaned. No, not that one either. The last time you wore that dress, you got a stain on it.. You shouldn’t be so sloppy. No. You’ll just have to wear—oh, honey, not the purple-black. Maybe the black-black. That could at least qualify as a South Beach. Try that. Wear the black-black. Now look, I’m tired of this conversation. I only have an hour before I bored, I need some peace. Mm-hmm, love you, honey. Go have some fun.”

The woman clicked her phone closed, packed it into her red leather purse, slipped her shoes back on her feet tightly, and walked away. I smiled, curious at this small glimpse I’d gotten into this woman’s life, and felt satisfied that, while I never wanted to go to South Beach, at least if I did I knew what to wear.

She’s So Mormon

Conversation overheard at the gym

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Okay, so I’m teaching my spin class at the gym, right?

Right.

And there are all these ladies that come in, mostly ladies anyway, and I have the music I’ve selected and my little microphone or whatever. I sit at the front of the class and they all take their seats on their own bikes facing me.

Angie, I’ve taken a spin class before.

Shut up! So I’m teaching my class and there is this one girl who comes in. I’ve never seen her before. She’s so pretty you’d hate her. Blonde hair, blue eyes, hair in a ponytail. Super fit even though she has a couple kids (she told me that later). Huge ring on her finger. In these tight clothes, but they cover her shoulders and go past her knees. Seriously gorgeous. 

Okay.

The workout gets over and everyone is smiling. You know that rush you get when you finish a really kick-ass spin class. High fives and waves from the regulars. And the blonde girl is just standing in the back, all polite, like hands folded on her stomach, by the door while everyone leaves. It’s clear she wants to talk to me.

Okay.

So finally I’m like ‘thank you for coming to spin with me! Will you come again?’ And she actually closes the door to the room, like takes out the doorstop to let it close, and she walks over to me, and I feel like I’m the principal’s office. 

Okay, weird. What did she say?

So she goes, ‘Thank you for teaching the class. That was a great workout. I’m new to the gym and I’m trying out the different classes to see which ones are a good fit for me.’ And I say, ‘That’s great, I’m glad you liked it’ and I’m all freaked out because she closed the door, right?

Yeah, then what?

She says, ‘I was wondering if I could make one small suggestion’, and I nod, sure, I’m open to feedback. And she gives me this look like my mom used to give to me that basically says ‘oh Angie I’m so disappointed in you’. And then she goes, ‘I was disappointed that you chose some songs that are so worldly. There were a few that used a lot of profanity.’ And I took a step back cause  I was surprised, that wasn’t what I was expecting. And she kept eye contact with me and I said, ‘what was it that offended you?’ And she says ‘Well, I’m Mormon, and I try to keep good music around me that brings the spirit, not music that uses curse words or talks about drugs or alcohol or sex. Just part of my values. I have two children, and I try to keep good music around them as well.’ I mean, I’m not quoting her directly, but that was the gist. 

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Oh, god, are you serious?

She called my music ‘worldly’!

Right, they have that whole ‘in the world but not of it’ thing. I grew up Mormon.

Yes! I mean, I live in Utah so I know lots of Mormons, but this girl was so Mormon! I mean, so so so Mormon. And so I’m frustrated now. And in my head, I’m thinking ‘look, chick, this isn’t Family Home Evening. This is a spin class in a gym, not in a ward house or your stake center. And I’m not your bishop or your young women’s president. I’m a damn spin teacher, so shut your mouth and don’t come to my class if you don’t want to come to my class.’

So what did you say?

She just stood there with her arms folded, giving me that disappointed look, so I just smiled at her, and explained that I have a few preselected albums of music that I use for my classes and that I wasn’t planning on changing them. I said ‘I’m sorry you were offended. You are welcome to try another spin class, or use the bikes on your own with your own music if you would be more comfortable.’

You didn’t!

No, I did. I mean, come on, she actually closed the door so she could talk to me. Like I was in serious trouble. 

So did she say anything?

She thought for a second and I wondered for a minute if she was actually going to ask me if I, like, wanted to meet the missionaries. I was thinking, just you try it. But she just thanked me for hearing her out and said she would think about things. Then she actually shook my hand. She shook my hand! Who does that!

I can’t believe she told you she was offended by your music!

I was actually kind of proud of her. I mean, the audacity of it and all, but I think it’s kind of cool that she spoke up. But here’s the thing. After she left, I went through the songs again. There is nothing and I mean nothing bad in any of them. They are like regular songs you would hear on the radio. Barely any reference to sex, none to alcohol, and two ‘swear words’. Guess which ones?

I have no idea.

Damn. And ass.

She was offended by damn and ass?

Yes! And I haven’t checked recently, but I’m pretty positive those words are both in the Bible. ‘Damn you to hell’ and ‘Jesus rode on an ass’ or whatever. 

Wow, that’s amazing. She takes her religion very seriously.

I know! She’s so Mormon!

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