Monday, October 15, 2012

Perfect Mormon Girl

          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

7 comments:

  1. Awesome. Much better to be real than to be perfect.

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    1. Yes, it is. Although I am still guilty of a perfection hang-up, as much as I hate to admit the fact.

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  2. Man, it sounds like it's a really good thing she left! How's her life going now? That is to say, has she improved since leaving TSCC?

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    1. It's been a while since I've seen her but I think being out helps her - it certainly helps me! Although her parents are uber-Mormons, which probably is tough for her.

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  3. I knew (and still know) a lot of Mormon girls -- now women -- like Laura. They are conditioned to be toxic. While there are influences in the broader culture that impact girls and women in negative ways, the microcosm of Mormonism is much more intense and harmful to a woman's sense of self-worth and personal identity.

    It's "too hard" to be the perfect Mormon woman because that "perfection" requires her to suppress her own desires in favor of "God's will"; i.e. whatever her priesthood leaders tell her God wants her to be. Not coincidentally, God's will for Mormon women typically involves submitting to male authority and serving men's needs. Hence the perfect and obedient Mormon woman is, by definition, not true to herself. It's not natural or healthy. And her resulting lack of self-worth is often manifest in depression, passive aggression, and dysfunctional and toxic relationships.

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  4. Nice post! I found my way over after seeing your comment on one of my posts, and I'm certainly glad I did. I think I'm going to learn a lot from you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog.

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