When I was nine years old, I had a friend named Laura.* Laura was a year older than I was; her parents were friends with mine. Between church and ward activities, Laura and I were thrown together a lot. I worshiped Laura; she was a year older than me, which to a nine-year old meant that she was wiser. She had silky brown hair, clear skin, and was very attentive about her clothing - boys and adults alike seemed to like her. Laura graced me with her friendship and I responded eagerly. We would skip sacrament meeting together and wander the halls to talk. She was a boy-crazy girl; most of our conversations were centered around the boys that she liked and her philosophy on life.
In hindsight, I now recognize our friendship to be toxic. Laura was older, yes. She was pretty, yes. But she was also extremely insecure. She needed someone to make her feel good about herself. As a shy, chubby girl with hero-worship shining in her eyes, I fit the ticket. Anything I would do, Laura would claim to have done better. If I was excited about getting an A on a test, then she would tell me about the A+ she had gotten on her latest test. If I swam a lap in sixty seconds, she would say she swam it in thirty. I say ‘claim’ because there was never any evidence that she was telling the truth. At that age, however, I lacked the cynicism to challenge her assertions.
Laura moved away the following year. Years later I met Laura again only to find her exactly the same as before. We met up at her parent’s house in Utah. Laura had married at seventeen, to a guy in the Army. She had a young child. She showed me picture after picture of her husband, trying to impress upon me just how wonderful he was. After saying hello to her family, we left to go visit some of her friends.
Once we were in the car, Laura said “OK, I have to ask before we do anything. Do you still go to church?”
"No, I haven't gone in years." I said.
“Oh good.” she said. “We can have fun then.”
“Why did you stop going?” I asked.
“It was too hard.” she said. “I just couldn’t be the perfect Mormon girl.”
And for a moment, I understood her completely.
*name has been changed