Mormon Discussion

Monday, October 31, 2005

If a floral print dress were the ticket into the Celestial Kingdom, I'd really have to decide if it was worth it...

Why are we our harshest critics?

I've been mulling a lot over my lack of church attendance recently. And why it is that I am not going anymore. And I've been reading other blogs of lapsed churchgoers (isn't lapsed such a cool word to say. Just say it out loud once...lapzzzzzd...ahhh!) and non-lapsed churchgoers.

We are tough on other Mormons. Tough, tough, tough.

I didn't stop going because I was insulted. I think what really happened was I was sick one weekend and then didn't go. And then I was like, "Hey! There are TWO days to the weekend?! Well, WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!" and then just haven't been back in awhile because it's hard to go back to the one-day weekend.

However, I am thicker-skinned than a lot of people. I'm fairly comfortable in my own skin, even though I stick out like a sore thumb at every Church meeting. I mean, really, who else is wearing black leg warmers with hot pink stilettos? No one.

I'd argue that we are a rather judgmental lot, despite all our lip-service otherwise. We like to talk a lot about being welcoming, but are we really? Do we really like those Mormons who aren't quite the same as everyone else? I'd argue that we've got a rather black and white view on what Mormons are and what they are not.

As does the world, really. I hear a million times a day, "YOU'RE a mormon? Wow...you're so...normal..." and I shock people all the time. Because I'm not the stereotype. So, true, we are constantly pigeon-holed by outsiders. In turn, you woud expect us to then shun this practice within our own church, but we don't.

We are quick to judge. We are quick to stamp out a cookie-cutter ideal of Mormons. Think about what a Mormon woman wants/does/is--quick, off the top of your head. Is she weaing a floral print dress? A stay-at-home mom? Married? Striving to be married? Pregnant? Waiting with bated breath until she is? A frequent Talbot's shopper? Driver of a mini-van?

Of course she is. It's the stereotypical Mormon woman. And even those of us who shun the floral print dress don't accept everyone who fails to meet all the requirements of the stereotype. I'll speak from my experiences, because that's what I know.

I'm practically a man. Really. I am. I am loud, blunt, and aggressive. I don't have that lovely nuturing side to me. I'm the girl in the ward with the nice outfit on (because I do not DRESS like a man...just act like one) and the coordinating pink handbag who's picking her wedgie and complaining about how much I hate relief society.

I do not view marriage as a goal in my life. Clarification on this point. A "goal" is something that you set up steps to get closer to it, you work towards it. As in, I want to pay off my credit card debt, so thus, I will pay $50 extra dollars on my card each month and then at the end of X amount of months, it will be paid off. Marriage, however, is completely not like this at all, although wouldn't it be nice? I can't say, "I shall go to this YSA dance and meet a tall, handsome, dark-eyed man who is interested in law and politics and then he shall ask me out. This will be within the month. Then, in the following months, he will court me in this manner and I will marry him by this date." Since you cannot set up steps to advance your goal, marriage is not a goal. Marriage is something that happens, based on what HF has for you. It's not a goal.

Try telling that to anyone in church. Shocked looks abound. Is this girl really saying this? How can any Mormon girl not view marriage as the END ALL BE ALL of her life?!?! Of course it's a goal! IT'S A NECESSITY! I shrug. Still not a goal. And I never hear the end of this.

Nor do I sit idly by when someone tells me that an excruitiatingly painful time in my life is because I'm a "strong spirit." Bite your tongue if you ever are about to say that to someone. How condescending! It marginalizes the pain that someone is going through. Believe me, there have been times in my life when I would have preferred to be the weaker spirit and not have my whole world crumble apart. But if you don't swallow whole the canned answers that are provided by well-intentioned but ill-advised fellow members, you are somehow wrong and raising eyebrows. Do not ask what that means. Do not inquire as to what other answers there are for your pain. You'll raise eyebrows.

We expect Mormons to be "Mormons" even if we ourselves are not. We do not comprehend the range of people that we are stifling because of our binding expectations. I found out that my YWs leader cleaned the house while listening to Black Sabbath because she was an enormous Ozzy fan. Would not have had a clue. Because I expected her to be "Mormon" rather than a real person. I think we are harser critics than the outside world, because we give the idea of love and acceptance and welcome in one hand and in the other, slap the face of the person with the bitter realization that there is a role that "Mormons" are.

People cease to go for issues like this. Is it their problem? In a sense, yes. They shouldn't let a person keep them away from the Lord. But is it our problem as well? Certainly. As an old VT told me when she found out I've not been going, "You are depriving the congregation of who you are. They are missing out on what you have to offer, specifically because you don't fit in and you'll be the one to make people think." Who are we missing out on when we create an ideal and hold people to it? Who doesn't come? Who comes, but refuses to reveal who they are inside?

Why do we impose the strictest judgments on those that we are supposed to welcome into the fold?

9 Comments:

  • Too funny, and of course I agree that we are too tough on each other (translation: people are too tough on ME). The Talbot's comment killed me.

    By Blogger NFlanders, at 10:15 PM  

  • You remind me of a co-worker and of my wife.

    Wish you the best.

    By Blogger Stephen, at 4:31 PM  

  • Around here, we're Anthropologie mormon women. Well, Anthropologie and Target. We have children in the youth program. I haven't seen a floral print dress at church since 1992.
    Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance.

    Since your average American thinks mormons are the Amish, people being surprised that you're so normal doesn't mean much--we all get that.

    I agree with your former VT though I never would have put it her way. I say, wear those fabulous shoes right into the chapel, into the RS room. Be the woman God gifted you to be.

    By Blogger mother of All, at 6:56 PM  

  • I agree with just johnna...be you. Maybe it's time to abandon the singles ward and go to where you can truly serve. That's what I did when i found myself in rough water. Best gift I ever gave myself.

    By Blogger Glo, at 10:26 PM  

  • Are you in a suburban ward? Suburban wards drive me nuts. Of course I'm in one now, but it's the exception. We live in a beach community, so everyone surfs, it's totally our scene. But the last suburban ward I was in was the lamest I've ever been in. Not sure why--the people in it were really awesome. It was all just so cookie cutter, I guess, and I'm anything but that.

    I like a ward where when the Bishop finds out I was at Ozzfest, he says, "Really? Did you see Black Sabbath?" (current ward), or where the sister teaching RS is a lawyer (previous city ward), or where the classiest (most well dressed, polite, genuinely hospitable) sister is an old lady who grew up in a wood shack with no running water (previous rural ward).

    I think the cookie cutter wards need people who don't fit the mold, though. I bet there's all kinds of people who look up to you and admire your individuality, and you're not even aware of it.

    By Anonymous Susan M, at 7:26 AM  

  • I love your post, Mellancolleyeyes. Like you, I stuck out like a sore thumb at church for twenty years and decided that I did not need to do that to myself anymore.

    Eventually, I stumbled over the September Six stuff and my Mormon experience suddenly made sense.

    By Blogger Hellmut, at 11:13 AM  

  • Ned--I try to make these serious ones at least a BIT humorous. I think humor is necessary for intelligent discussion.

    Stephen--Thanks! You too!

    Just Johnaa--Good advice. I try to remember that I am who I am because that's what I was intended to be.

    Glo--I'm thinking about it. The singles ward is so meat-markety...

    Susan M--Where do you go?! I wish I was there! Actualy, I attend a singles ward in the biggest city in my state...still, it's a bunch of college kids from the suburbs so it can have that suburb mentality.

    Helmut--Good to know I'm not alone. What's the September Six stuff, may I ask?

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 3:22 PM  

  • In my experience, when a non-member says to a single LDS man or woman (with horror): "You're Mormon???!!!"
    they're really saying, "You're celibate and don't drink???!!"

    The older you get, the worse it gets. Once, at 34 and still single, I came across a bunch of coworkers gossiping in the lunchroom about my still being a virgin!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:18 AM  

  • Right on sister!

    By Blogger Absent-minded Secretary, at 1:57 PM  

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