Friday, October 26, 2007

baby pressure

A friend of mine wondered

Maybe the reason the church tells you to pop them out early is because at that point you're still young and naive, and haven't had time to fear it.

This is definitely the spirit in which I had my son. Way too fast, way too young. And we had even been married for years by the time I had him! I've had people at grad school ask me, "Um, I don't mean to be offensive, but was he planned?"

"Yes, he was," I say. "We were just young and crazy."

I remember feeling the push to bear children while I was at BYU living in married housing. The people without kids were referred to strangely enough as "single people." They were outside the social circles, never quite accepted. The ones with kids had nothing to say to them. I felt like I was getting really old and had waited way too long to get pregnant when I was 21 and had been married for about a year.

When I became pregnant while living there, I didn't tell anyone. I was rebelling against that system of motherhood-is-everything. When I started showing, though, at about 16 weeks, damn my belly, I was suddenly in the in-crowd. Oh, goodie me. The women really had nothing else to talk about but babies and scrapbooking; those were the only issues on which they talked and connected. Even then, I hated that culture, and felt relieved that we moved out of there before the baby was born. Not a single one of my new "friends" tried to follow up when the baby was born. I was in a different ward, you see, all the way down the street.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

free speech in Mormonism

I haven't commented on Julie Beck's recent LDS General Conference talk that told women that homemaking, nurturing, and house chores are their highest calling. Aspiring to have a life outside the home is apparently ungoddess-like, and while I, as a faithful Mormon, aspired anyway, I always felt very conflicted about it. It wasn't until I was out of Mormonism that I was actually comfortable with pursuing my master's degree with the idea that I'd actually get a full-time job afterward.

Anyway, many Mormon people in various stages of faith and non-belief have spoken up about Beck's talk since that first weekend in October. Since then, Boyd Packer, one of the church's highest leaders, has made comments that appear to chastise the women and men who have criticized the seemingly 1950's-era talk. Packer quoted a scripture that basically called the critics (both faithful and exmo) "children of disobedience" and "servants of sin." (The scripture's context appears to me to be regarding people accusing Joseph of polygamy, but never mind that for now.)

Hellmut over at Main Street Plaza has written a more extensive post than I have, and I want to bring attention to it. Every Mormon, faithful, doubting, ex-, or post- should have the right to speak freely, even if that means criticizing leaders, their opinions, policies, and doctrine. Period.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

that's a bad word

My brother-in-law, S, and I were driving with his four kids and my one kid in his car. We went over a little hill in the road, and his 3-year old, C, piped up with, "Whoa, my penis feels funny!" S and I snickered a little. I had heard stories about C's current curiosity with body parts, like most little kids.

Then from the back, I heard my son whisper, "C, that's a bad word" and giggle.

I've never taught him that anatomically correct words are "bad words," and I don't want him keeping that idea, either, wherever he picked it up. I, for one, didn't have any words for certain female anatomy when I was a kid, and that silence contributed to my ignorance. I didn't know about vaginas until I was in high school health class, and even then, I didn't pay attention because I was so embarrassed. About my own body.

So I explained, "No, honey, that's not a bad word. It's just a word for a body part. Like ear, or nose, or foot." From the driver's seat, S laughed and whispered something about how a penis is different, but I tried to ignore him. I continued explaining to my son, "It's just that saying penis might make some people uncomfortable, like at school. Some places it's inappropriate to say it, but it's not bad."

Encouraged, my son joined in the refrain, "My penis feels funny! My penis feels funny!" until I said that's enough and S tried to distract them with "Name that farm animal feces smell!" as we drove through the farmland and orchards.

Later, when we met up with S's wife, A, my son happened to hear her say on the phone, "I'm gonna kick his ass!" My son immediately turned to C and whispered, "Hey, C, your mom just said 'kick his ass.' Isn't that funny? That means kick his butt."

"Honey, you can't say that word at school, okay?" I told him.

"It's a bad word?" he asked.

"'s a word only for grown-ups, all right?"

"Okay," he answered, giggling.

Monday, October 22, 2007


When I go out to get a couple drinks, I get carded. More so than other people. Maybe it's my innocent-looking, ethnically Mormon face (supposing there is such a thing). Maybe it's my younger-than-I-actually-am look I inherited from my mom. Seriously, she looks young. We have this family picture from years ago, and if you look at her face alone, you could easily guess she was 15. Except that she's surrounded by five kids.

Once when I walked into a bar to meet a couple girlfriends, I got carded at the door. Then when I ordered my drink at the table, I got, "Um, I'm going to need to see some ID from you." I thought nothing of it, and handed over my card. When the waitress left, though, my girlfriends immediately started teasingly protesting. They hadn't gotten carded at all! And one of them was four years younger than me.

The other day, I got carded again at an Oktoberfest. The gray-haired woman checking IDs looked at my card, then at me, at the card again, then back at me. She smiled and said, "Honey, you're going to be getting carded until you're 50!" I laughed, sure I don't want to look 20 when I'm 50.

There is a situation in which I am never carded, though. If I got out to dinner with my family--my husband, my son, and me--and order a drink, the staff never bothers to card me. I guess they figure someone with a five-year-old kid is old enough to have a drink. Hell, anyone with a five-year-old kid needs a drink.

Friday, October 19, 2007

invitations have started

I've had a couple invitations to attend church with my relatives this summer, but now the invitations to church activities have started. A Relief Society craft night here, a Halloween party there. Luckily, I've had other plans during these particular activities, and so was able to decline politely and easily.

But what's the matter with going to church activities? Would I go? Would I not go? And why? (I'm asking myself these questions, though I'd love to hear your points of view.) First off, I don't want to go because it's the church. Yes, I still think the church is a sick institution and I don't want to support it even with my casual attendance at a church activity. If it were something important, like a funeral or a wedding reception (of course not the wedding itself; I'm not invited ever again, now am I?), I would be okay with attending it in a church building. Second, the activities aren't fun or interesting or stimulating to me, and I don't have any good friends there to catch up with.

Third, I can't help be think that I'm being invited not because they'd think I enjoy it or because they want my company, but because they think it'll help me, even if only a little bit, come back to the church. As in, "See what nice and friendly people we are? See what fun activities we have? The church can't be a bad place if we are such good people!" As in, "Maybe she'll feel the Spirit again." As in, "Something is fundamentally wrong with your life, and I'm going to do every little thing I can to fix it."

Maybe they don't think that. Maybe I should be a little more forgiving. Maybe attending a function now and then would help sooth the relationship, help them be a little more comfortable with my current position. But remembering back to when I was a devout Mormon, how I used to think, I would have seen any "inactive" coming to any function as a step in the right direction--back to the church. Not as a "fine, I'll do it for the sake of the relationship," not as a "I thought the activity would be fun," but as a return to the fold. So why would I lead my relatives on like that now?

Monday, October 15, 2007

no more hiding

This last weekend, we went to a dinner concert with my in-laws. A whole hour before the concert was set aside for people to eat, drink, and mingle. We got all dressed up, and my husband and I went a bit earlier than his parents so we could have a little time alone with the open bar. The very presence of alcoholic drinks apparently keeps my in-laws away from the eating and mingling.

When the parents showed up, I had just finished my drink, and my red-stained glass was still in front of me. My husband's cup was still half-full of Cabernet.

So, there it is. Not only do they know we drink (I think they suspected it before), but we drank in front of them. It was, big deal. To us, anyway. I wouldn't know how they felt about it, seeing as they didn't say anything. And I doubt they ever will.

The reason I suspect they know we drink is because I was drunk and extra loud and expressive one evening in their hot tub a couple years ago. I was too drunk to realize how loud I was, and my mother-in-law looked at me a little weird, but I'm not sure how familiar she is with drunkenness. And I was too drunk to care and really be aware. She eventually left, and I regaled the rest of the group with exactly what I had had to drink that night, still in a loud voice. I didn't realize how loud until I left to get a glass of water, and could hear the hot tub group from the kitchen--the opposite side of the house. My in-laws bedroom is right next to the hot tub. So I'm sure they heard all about my drinks, but everyone in the tub with me had thought it so funny to see me drunk that they didn't try very hard to shush me.

The next time I got that drunk was this summer, and I drunk-dialed Sideon along with Christy and smoked a clove cigarette. Ahem. There, I admitted it. First and last cigarette.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The other day I turned on the TV to find an afternoon cartoon for my son. The TV was tuned to some random channel, and a woman was on telling the story of Samuel from the Hebrew Bible to a group of children. "And Samuel said, 'Here I am, Lord'."

I immediately tensed up. I bristled at the thought of my son hearing that story about god talking to a boy. It could have been any Bible, story, though, and I still would have gone on the defensive. I turned the channel as quickly as possible. To me, that TV show represented the literalist religious tradition I have rejected, as well as the figurative or mythological tradition I have rejected as the standard and origin for morals. To me, the Bible is baggage.

I realized a second later that had it been a religious story from anything outside of Judeo-Christian tradition, I wouldn't have cared. Because to him, the Bible could just be another old book, a collection of stories and sayings about a people and how they see themselves relating to god. I shouldn't keep him from it any more than I should keep him from Hindu scripture or the Koran or Greek stories or Confucian writings. It could have been any Bible story, Celtic myth, fairy tale, Rwandan origin myth, etc. To him, it's all the same. Stories about gods, origins, history, and pre-scientific ways, and oftentimes just fun ways, of explaining the world and human interactions. None more correct or privileged than the next.

What freedom.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

on parenting and religion

I frequently think about how to raise my son, since I was raised believing Mormon things and want him to have a broader, more critical and open mindset than I did. I recently had an email exchange with a fellow ex-Mormon mother about how we handle teaching our kids about religion. The following is from my emails:

"With regards to kids, it's difficult, isn't it? We want our son to be aware why we left Mormonism, but we also want him to be kind and respectful to our families. So far, we've done the bare minimum, like ask him to be quiet while family says dinner prayers. We've also explained why the family prays, and why we think that's, frankly, silly. Why say thank you to an invisible "god" when you know perfectly well that it was the earth, the sun, the water, the farmers, pickers, truckers, and grocers that brought us the food? Isn't it rude to forget them? He's also been really into science, which we encourage, because of the critical thinking it requires. He knows about Big Bang and evolution, so if he hears the Bible creation story, he'll recognize it as just a story. I think literature and art could have a similar effect, of broadening kids' mind to the varieties of human experience.

In all, we rarely talk to our son about religion, and we never take him to any church at all. We think he's just too young, and he doesn't like it anyway. We've never let family take him to church or activities, either, and we've asked them to avoid religious talk around him. If religion is idiotic and harmful--and I think it is, in many ways--I have no problem letting my son see that. I don't think religion and beliefs automatically deserve our respect and deference simply because they are religion and beliefs.

I didn't mean to say we protect him from religion, we just haven't had any interest in going to church right now, and he hates going, so we haven't bothered. He's had a lot of exposure to Islam abroad, the call the prayer, etc., and having friends who are Muslim, secular Jewish, devout Catholic, Mormon, etc. So religion does come up, and we discuss it with him. We talk about different people doing different things because of religions tradition--fasting at Ramadan, lighting candles at Hanukkah, wearing head scarves, etc. I also tell him stories from the Bible, so he'll be "Bible literate," but I tell them like they are mythology, just like Greek myths, African myths, Chinese myths, etc. I think it's very valuable to have that exposure. As he gets older, it will come up more, too, I'm sure."

I also want my son to be respectful of people, whether religious or not, and while he doesn't have to agree with their beliefs, he should be sympathetic to people. I'm still figuring out how to teach that--being both critical and sympathetic. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out how to achieve that myself.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Wow. It's been a year of emerging from the ashes. The year has been good for me. I've sifted through my emotions and beliefs, met new friends, found wonderful people who, like me, are just trying to make sense of their new lives.

It started with a fury of cleansing posts, the words exploding from my head to my fingers. I could hardly keep up with my thoughts and get them down fast enough. The pace has slowed, and my ex-Mormon muse is barely with me these days. Moving on, moving on.

Here's to 274 posts, 16288 hits, and a year of Outer Blogness.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I've had a couple Mormon dreams lately.

In one, I was at the veil in the temple. Except there was no veil, the man representing god was just standing there. And he was a little creepy. I was trying to go through all the signs and tokens and names and kept screwing them up. Not on purpose, just because I couldn't remember them well. It didn't worry me, though. And in my dream, I didn't remember that I am actually apostate and should've just been messing with everybody for some laughs. Hey, it was a dream.

In another, I was lying in bed, sick. Some priesthood-holding man came into the room and started to put him hands on my head to give me a blessing. I most definitely did not want a blessing and I protested, asking "What are you doing?" in an appalled voice. He tried again to put his hands on me, and for some reason this was just the absolute worst thing that could possible happen (you know how dreams are). Short of physically moving out of the way, which I couldn't do because of my illness, I tried to think of the ways to get him to leave me the hell alone. I thought swearing might scare him off, so I started swearing up a storm, but it didn't seem to bother him. That's all I remember.

Why can't I just have dreams where I'm flying?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

love bombed

I was at my "inactive" brother-in-law's house, and noticed a paper plate of cookies, loosely covered in saran wrap, on the counter.

"Let me guess, your home teachers came over?" I asked my brother-in-law.

He looked up, utterly shocked. "How did you know?"

I pointed to the cookies. "Love bomb."

He smiled. "Better watch out. They might be poisoned."

Monday, October 01, 2007


I sat at the kitchen table drinking some herbal tea. My son asked where I got the tea, and I told him my mom gave it to me.

"She drinks tea?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah, herbal tea."

"Even though she believes in god?" he asked.

"Yes," I smiled, "even though she believes in god," I answered. "But, you know, most people who believe in god still drink tea. It's Mormons that don't drink tea."

"Oh," he answered. "So Grandma FTA is not Mormon? She drinks tea."

"Well, yes, she is Mormon. And she drinks certain kinds of tea. Like herbal tea."

"Why?" he wondered.

"She thinks herbal tea is okay, but not other kinds of tea. It's kind of weird."

"But my other grandma doesn't drink tea?"

"No, I don't think she does."

"Is she Mormon too?" he asked.

"Yes, she's Mormon too," I told him.

"They're both Mormon?" he marveled.

"Yes," I confirmed.

"You know what I was thinking?" he said.


"If got caught in a tunnel like Curious George did," he said, "and they covered the holes with metal, I would use my lasers to blast a hole and get out. Wouldn't that be cool? If a laser came right out of my forehead?"

"Dude, that would be sooo cool."