Nerds, Mormons, and the Women Who Barely Tolerate Them

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Stop your lamenting, Feminazis. Guys look up to me.

Like kids from most Mormon families who leave Utah, I went to high school in a place where being Mormon ensures that you’ll have more relatives than friends. My entire self-concept revolved around religion. (Seriously, there were Mormonads up in my room everywhere where New Kids on the Block posters should have been- and my parents didn’t put them up.) To state it mildly, the move to Texas was a rough patch in my young life; I was used to a private school in which exactly one student—from kindergarten to 12thgrade—was not Mormon. Like the founders of the school, he was Catholic. I still remember his name, Adam, and he got his ass kicked every single day. I never hit him myself, but I’m pretty sure I would have if my uniform had involved khaki trousers instead of a plaid pleated skirt.

Now, it’s a fun fact that Southern Baptists hate Mormons. Another fun fact to emerge from this is that anti-Mormon propaganda is exactly like Mormon propaganda; the difference is that in one version, the music is scary.

If you watched the latter cartoon, (pun unintended!) you’re probably willing to wager on why Mormons irk Protestants in general. I’m still not entirely sure how those sects “all deny the power of God,” but as you can see, Mormonism isn’t orthodox Christianity. If more people knew the Latter-Day Saint version of Jesus, the Mormon church would be considered less mainstream in American culture, and even more problematic for our boy Mitt.

The problem for Romney is a sticky one, the same I faced in high school politics: what makes people prejudiced against Mormons is Mormon theology, rather than any notion that’s not actually true. So being known as a Mormon is a different matter entirely than being Jewish or African American. It’s hard to break a stereotype that you are actually dedicated to filling.

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Is that Conan the Barbarian holding Mormon, or is it Moroni?

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to believe that they will get their own solar system if they play their cards right. But doing so requires them to wear sacred underwear, baptize dead people, perform marriages to each other on behalf of deceased couples, be polygamist, and turn (more) white-skinned in the afterlife. These are  the “stereotypes” going around about what Mormons do that make them seem presumptuous, insane, insufferable, sexist, and racist; they are also the practices that define holy ritual for them, all the while they’re protesting those labels. Suffice it to say, it’s a difficult position to be in if you want to be popular at any high school outside Utah. Or President of the United States.

Sociology aside, all that really matters to high school kids (and probably voters) is where you fall on the spectrum between normal and weird. Southern Baptists being predominant in my student body meant that suddenly I switched ends of this spectrum entirely. I went from being so normal as to be generic to having two options: be one of the weird kids, or attempt to keep my Mormonism a secret.

And, as you may know if you’ve opened your door to two strangers anytime in the past 80-odd years, Mormons are not good at keeping Mormonism on the down low. Yes, I wanted to convert all my friends, teammates, teachers, fellow shoppers, bosses, bullies, enemies… you get the point. Some because I loved them and wanted them to be with me in the afterlife, some because I wanted them to admit that I had been right all along and feel sorry for teasing me, and others because they would be a great ‘get’ for my God. For having brought so many converts into the fold, I’d finally be popular. (At church, anyway.)

Mormon cosmology… or maybe how Middle Earth got made.

I’m not convinced that Mormons are discriminated against in any way, outside of maybe having a few awkward moments while running for this country’s highest office, for which a lot of us would be considered unsuited. The reason that people say Mormons are racist is because they believe that the whiter your skin is, the more faithful you were to Jesus before your soul was given a body. They’re not called racist because they’re not Protestants. They are called sexist because they believe women don’t have the power of God in them.

And I’m not sure how Mormons can complain that ‘everyone knows me as ‘the Mormon'” when all most talk about is being Mormon. Because of my Mormonism- or, to be more accurate, because I was constantly trumpeting it, I wasn’t allowed to participate in many of the various Christian school activities that did a little dance around, then pissed directly on, the separation of Church and State. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes turned me down; although I was an athlete, I was not a Christian. The FCA was the most popular club in school.

One morning I showed up at school early–directly after our 6am seminary class was over–to See You at the Pole. The name speaks for itself; you’re a nobody if you’re not seen holding hands and praying around flagpole in front of the school. That day was the first time I ever saw a brightly colored, horribly tacky rubber bracelet all the cool kids were wearing. It had the fish symbol on it, not the cross, so I could have actually worn it without getting in trouble at Church. (Mormons don’t wear or display crosses, I shit you not, because The Cruxifiction was sad, and good Mormons don’t think about sad things.) I wanted one of those goddam fish bracelets so fucking bad. They turned me away. A group of hundreds of evangelicals about to embrace and sing and pray together turned me away.

That morning was a watershed for high-school me; I had no where to go. Literally. The people that I normally hung out with were either praying or just waking up. Or Mormon. And despite having the requisite Jesus headshot posted in my locker as all Mormons were instructed (to remind us to Choose the Right, and I may have been denied a rubber bracelet, but wore a diamond and gold CTR ring, thank you very much) I did not hang out with Mormons. I wanted to be popular.

Nothing gay here…

I was a snob. To the core. Still am. I had a whole bunch of people to feel superior to and nothing to wear. Desperate, I went to the classroom where I had a required Public Speaking class. I knew that people hung out there before school started. Yes, folks- the Forensics League. Otherwise known as Speech and Debate. Otherwise known as the biggest nerds in school.

When asked what I was doing there, I didn’t have anything to say but the truth. One of the girls replied to my story of most brutal religious persecution with, “I don’t know how they get away with doing that anyway. If the Islamic Student Group tried to pray together, they’d evacuate the entire building.”

“Are you a Muslim?” I asked cautiously.

“I’m an atheist.” She replied.

I stared at her, blinking. She was pretty even without any makeup on. Her clothes were very plain and neither feminine nor associated with any particular sport. She was acting friendly. And she was not on fire.

..or here!

I went on to join the Forensics League. (Any connotations of The Justice League that brings up are completely valid.) My solution to the same problem Romney is facing right now was to ally myself with the nerds. If brought upon myself, the social stigma was easier to bear.

Plus, all Mormons have instant nerd credibility due to their religion being two parts Battlestar Galactica (leaving out the third that has strong female characters). Under the autocratic rule of the postmortem country club that is the  Quorum of the Twelve, you learn about God- that is, one of many gods, but this one lives on a star called Kolob (not Kobol), which the twelve tribes (of the galaxy Israel) are trying to fly their fancy-ass ships back to.

It was a fairly easy transition; no story arch seems so very ridiculous, convoluted far-fetched, fanciful, made-up, or just plain… well, gay… when you’re raised to believe that the following is the true origin story of Native Americans:

Ancient Jews built submarines, floated from Israel to Mexico, got cursed by God with brown skin for drinking and dancing, became the mighty Aztec empire,  killed off all the white people and left a record of all these events written in Egyptian on solid gold plates buried in upstate New York. (From there, obviously, they were dug up by an illiterate farm boy, with the help of the angel of the guy who buried them, and translated with magic “seer stones”) It’s all very straightforward. Certainly at least as inspiring an insight into the human condition as the Bible. And most sci fi has got nothin’ on it.

Well, this story has a happy ending; I won some speech meets, left the Mormon church, and among the many nerds who have offered me acceptance over the years I found the nerd who is the love of my life. He treats me in every way as an equal. I like learning about the stuff he’s into. But I’ve never joined ranks with nerd culture. I don’t belong. And unlike my former, scandalously single Relief Society President and her “roommate,” I’m not one of those change-the-organization-from-the-inside types. I’m just not that patient. Or optimistic.

Why don’t more women read comic books?

Let sold-out slutty housewife Mary Jane here paint a picture for you. She’s done  pretty good for herself. She’s got a great rack, some pearls on there, she’s literally on a pedestal. And she’s banging Spiderman.

Well, cleaning up after him, at least.

Set aside the bullshit excuses guys make and fact that we all might sleep with Superman–or just offer to do his laundry- if given the chance. The sad reality is that generally in nerd culture, women are regarded pretty much the same as they are by the barbaric, outdated institutions like fraternities and the Mormon church that nerd identity rebels against in the first place. And in American culture, we’d be much better off dropping the fantasy of the nerd getting the pretty girl in favor of pursuing another seemingly impossible scenario: the girl getting treated fairly by whomever she ends up with.

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3 thoughts on “Nerds, Mormons, and the Women Who Barely Tolerate Them

  1. OK, so I completely love this blog and especially this post. I met you at Shanna’s wedding and at the risk of sounding like a total dork, I thought you were one of the prettiest, most stylish, nicest girls at the wedding. and I guess I kind of assumed you had led a charmed life. Never would have guessed all this. Also, random, but just last week I got in a weird political debate with this semi strange but nice guy at work. He told me he was mormon. I didn’t know before. He also thinks Obama is “evil” and “trying to destroy the U.S.” So now I’m all interested to know the real scoop on Mormonism. Good timing that you started this blog right when I wanna know this stuff. ha! I was arguing that we need to make birth control more accessible to teenagers to prevent teen pregnancies and unwanted babies. No wonder he bristled after what I’ve read here. HA. My dad read the BOOK OF MORMON and likes to get drunk and talk about the gold discs with revelations that only Joseph Smith saw and how it is all crazy bullshit. Ripping on Mormonism is kind of like a hobby for him. We all start rolling our eyes when he gets into it, because we’ve heard it so many times. Anyhow, I’m shocked that the baptists didn’t let you pray by the pole. I thought they would take anyone! haha. Hell, I’m buddhist and they wanted me badly. That had to have been a diss getting rejected by those a-holes! 😉 I was a speech nerd so I think you ended up in the right place 😉 Glad you made it through the kookiness and can rock a wedding like a supermodel! Also, you are very nice to children (ha ha). My kids adored you and your man. I know things aren’t that simple having been through what you have, but to the outside eye you are doing just fine, my dear. Stellar in fact. Anyhow, big hugs to you for opening up and sharing your story.
    XOXO
    Beth

    1. Beth, thank you so much! I’m so flattered. Comments like yours are what I need, and the reason I started writing this blog.
      Yeah, in my opinion anyone who truly wants to prevent abortions would enthusiastically support birth control. And yeah, Mormons won’t always come out and say “evil” or the “devil” to describe Obama in public, but they do firmly believe that his presidency ushers in the Last Days and that a there will be a Mormon presidency, and the theocracy he helps establish in the U.S. will save the Constitution. (Don’t think about that too hard.)
      My grandma once sent me a video saying “look how adorable this is!” showing my then 16 month-old cousin reciting, Obama is evil!” Sigh.
      But I’d imagine that coming of age with readily accessible internet sites like Wikipedia gives kids a better chance of finding out the truth about what they’re being told.
      Holy Crap, did your Dad read the entire Book of Mormon? If he so much as got through two chapters, I’m very impressed. It’s not exactly a good read.
      Your comments about me and “the outside eye” are especially meaningful, as you know I admire your family- and covet your kids! Thanks so much, and big hugs back at you. XOXO- R.

  2. Wow, the problems you talked about weren’t something I particularly encountered at school. I was teased a little more than other religious students, but I was never really excluded.

    At the time I thought I had it bad but looking back I can see now that it was just playful joking around from kids who thought Mormonism was a bit weird and were curious.

    Besides one Catholic I knew, (and me and the Catholic still considered each other friends), other Christians were just glad that there was someone else there that didn’t think belief in God was stupid.

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