30 November, 2009

I am aware that I'm a jerk, but this is driving me NUTS

So every month we get a ward newsletter via email, right? Actually I have no memory of this ever happening before. Either they just started the ward newsletter, or I haven't bothered to open it in the past. Both are distinct possibilities.

Anyway, so in most singles' ward newsletters they have little "spotlights," yeah? And they are usually very thinly veiled personal ads, even if the person spotlit is a reluctant participant. I know because this happened to me when I was 19 and got interviewed for the first ever newsletter in my brand new ward. Me, Alli, Nancy and Hediyeh were all fresh out of the dorms and a little frightened of grown-ups, and the humiliating, dripping-with-innuendo spotlight they did of us didn't help our situation in the least. It ended up being one of the most embarrassing summaries of me and my roommates I have ever had the misfortune of reading. I can't remember all of it, but here are some tidbits:

"Elisa's perfect date would be watching the Simpsons while drinking chocolate soy milk in front of a fire (But don't worry boys, I'm sure she'll have some REAL milk for you, too. ;) )"

"Alli's perfect date would be 'something she's never done before.' What hasn't she done? Well, boys, I'll guess you'll have to ask ... "

"Nancy is a New York Princess!"

I'm sure Alli or Hed can supply me with other memories of that awful spotlight. We kept it on the fridge for the entire school year.

Anyway, so this one that I just read wasn't nearly as bad, but please tell me if you notice anything sort of ... funny. Click to enlarge!

See anything? Need some help? This is from the young woman's profile.

And then it goes on. Apparently the third thing she'd like to do is "Learn to count," huh? Ha!

But wait! Check THIS action out, this time for the girl's male counterpart:

Options for this discrepancy:

1. Somebody can't count.
2. Somebody can't edit.
3. I am an asshole.

28 November, 2009

On Football.

Humans do not engage in activities that are meaningless. If you think you see people doing things you find meaningless, look again and try to understand what the activities mean for them. -- Henry Jenkins

There is an old Bloom County Sunday panel that surely lies somewhere in one of the many cartoon/comic books in our mess of a house in Seattle. However, I am not there right now, and Google Images doesn't do well searching for cartoons by subject matter. Someday, there will be a "Google Comics" sub-search. I await the day.

Anyway, in this fabled cartoon, as best I can remember, there is an old lady who doesn't understand football. She is presumably foreign but of vague ethnicity. You know how humorists often create vaguely offensive "Eastern European" characters that speak with a generically weird accent but don't represent any particular country? One of those types. She says she doesn't understand why anyone would want to run around with a ball made from the skin of a pig (get it?) and that all the players appear to do is run around and butt heads like goats. The punchline is something along the lines of "They run like goats and play with pigs ... Some Great American culture! Ha!" And then she spits on the ground, as all Eastern Europeans are wont to do.*

The cartoon is not very funny, but I remember it because the goat imagery stuck with me.

I don't understand football. Nobody in my family likes football. My mom and brothers are baseball people--or were, in David's case. One douche coach turned him off of non-skateboarding sports for life when he was twelve or thirteen. My dad must have been teased mercilessly as a misfit adolescent because his hatred of jocks and cheerleaders runs deeper than the hatred of any junior high student I have ever met. Personally, I can't say that I HATE football, but I do think it is boring. Which is a pity because I think I'm missing out on a huge aspect of American culture. I mean, those Japanese are nuts about baseball, but is football popular anywhere outside of the U.S.? That's not a rhetorical question, by the way.

I don't think hating things. Does that make sense? I like to think that I can see the appeal of pretty much any pastime you can think of. Hence the quote at the beginning. I like to think I am open-minded and empathetic enough to see the appeal in dressing up in Renaissance garb and hosting fake jousting tournaments, or writing Star Wars fanfiction, or ... um ... playing shoot-em-up video games? Video games and televised football are the two things I have the hardest time understanding, both in terms of the "how" and the "why."

I blame my parents for this, particularly the non-love of football. They never watched football on TV, so not only do I find any televised football game impossible to follow, I don't have the good memories to hearken back to. I have a friend who watches the BYU football games in large part so he can have something to talk about with his father when they talk on the phone. That makes a lot of sense to me. My family does the same thing with movies. In fact (and this is a little embarrassing to admit in a public forum) every time I see a movie, or plan to see a movie, I brush up on trivia from imdb.com so I have something to contribute to the conversation at the next family event. I know useless irrelevant facts about pretty much every movie I have ever seen in my entire life. And watching those movies with people I love makes me remember those arguments and conversations, and makes me happy. I am pretty sure this is why my brother and I spend such an inordinate time watching movies (and the Simpsons) whenever we hang out. To the untrained eye, it looks like we are sitting in silence and staring at a flickering screen. But in reality, we are reliving the first time we saw that movie together.

Have I ever blogged about the argument my dad and I had after we watched the film Memento together? Oh man. It was EPIC. Also, I was right.

So like I was saying, I can totally get behind the idea of watching football because it reminds you of your dad (or your mom ... I don't judge) or because you'll be left out at the water cooler conversation otherwise come Monday morning. I can also understand watching football for social reasons, because everyone else is doing it. Returning to the theme of goats, there were several Saturdays this summer when I woke up early and drove to a farm in Southeast Provo and fed old squash to goats, partly because I like animals/gardening, but also in large part because that was what all my friends were doing.

I have noticed that some people really don't like to talk (or rather, explain what's going on to idiots like me) while watching football, which takes away a lot of the social aspect of it in my opinion. On the other hand, I get really mad when people talk during movies (in the theater) so maybe it's not that strange after all.

Here's what I don't understand about football, though. I don't understand the tribal rage associated with it. Here is an example conversation from a typical Monday morning in one of my classes:


[Class is about to start but the professor wants to make a few minutes of conversation before returning our latest assignment. ]

Professor Eggington, who is from Australia and secretly I think only cares about soccer and cricket: So, how about that game?


Me: (in my head) So we must have lost?

Kid 2: Seriously, that was SO HUMILATING.

Other ignorant kid: So we lost?

Kid 3: No, we won. But just barely. Our offense and pretense was abysmal! If we can't totally trash the Vixens we're gonna be NOTHING against the Octopi next weekend!

Kid 2: Dude, where have you been? The Octopi SUCK!!!

Kid 3: Yeah, well that's what everybody said about the Gremlins and look what happened! 5000 to 3.14!!!!! I wanted to feed cyanide to my newborn child so she wouldn't have to live in a world where we lose football games like that!!!!!

Kid 1: Yeah, but the Gremlins are Mango Bowl-ers, man! They ranked ninth last year and almost made it to the UNFRED tournament! They got a legacy!!!!!!!

Kid 3: THEY DON"T DESERVE IT!!!!!!!!


Me and fellow ignorant kid: silently exchange what-the-hell looks

Now that I have revealed how little I know about football, let me just say that every single conversation I have ever overheard about football has left me both confused and scared. I simply don't understand where all that passion and vitriol comes from. I mean, I guess I can get sort of smug and up-in-arms about people who don't like, say, X-Men, but I don't think I would ever yell at someone about it. To be fair, I dressed up for the Where the Wild Things premiere, as well, so I can understand the desire to paint one's face or spend forty dollars on a sweatshirt to make sure people know whose side I am on. I can understand yelling and jumping up and down at the game itself, especially because 1. it's easy to get caught up in the general excitement in the arena, 2. you might get on TV and 3. because it's so effin' cold you have to do something. But I really don't understand why football seems to bring out the worst side of people.

One theory: there are so few healthy outlets of aggression that organized sports is pretty much the only one left. I could see that. But wouldn't PLAYING said sports be a better outlet? I mean when one plays football, one contributes to the outcome of the game. Watching it doesn't do much. Am I wrong? Prove me wrong!

Other theory: there are so few opportunities to be RIGHT and to KNOW that you are right in our modern society, organized sports is one of the only ones left, and quite possibly the only one that won't end up with you possibly dead (presumably). I mean, if you get too caught up in the idea that America is always right, you might end up in some godforsaken desert two thousand miles away, opening fire on sleeping children because of some outdated intelligence. I was talking to one of my friends recently (can't remember who) about being in the military, and he said he would probably enjoy fighting in wars--but not the kind of wars we fight nowadays, the ones where you're defeating evil like World War II. The kind of conflict where you are on the moral high ground and your enemy is truly scum. That kind of black-and-white conflict doesn't occur very often nowadays, so we use football to create it? Am I wrong?

I don't know any more about football now than I did when I started this post.

*Sarcasm. Also, I don't remember if she actually spat on the ground in the cartoon, but that image effectively demonstrates the attitude she had.


27 November, 2009

Confidentially, I think 5 of the 10 traditional Thanksgiving foods are kinda gross

It's very late and I would like to sleep, but my brain won't turn off. Because I was thinking about two things, and at least one will end up in this post. Maybe both of them. That would be ideal.

You know how in high school every kid is known for something that is either positive or negative? And I don't mean positive or negative in the traditional sense of good vs. bad, but rather like positive vs. negative politeness: doing something vs. NOT doing something, HAVING a certain attribute vs. not having a certain attribute. You can be "known" for either one, for being unusual in a positive or negative way (Remember, this is MINUS the judgment call usually inherent in the words "positive" and "negative"). For example, one kid is known for never showering (negative) or never talking (negative) or never wearing jeans (negative), whereas another kid is known for being on the stage crew for all the school plays (positive) or dating someone for a long period of time (positive) or always wearing a cat tail (positive--and there really was a girl at my high school who did that. she was cool).

Are we clear by now on the difference between positive and negative notoriety? I hope so, because I can't think of a clearer way to explain it.

This will likely come as a huge shock to anyone who knows me now, but in high school I was known positively (DON"T FORGET WHAT I WAS JUST SAYING ABOUT THE SPECIFIC MEANING OF POSITIVE IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH) as "the girl who says the Pledge of Allegiance." If you look in my yearbooks, a great number of my entries from other students mention this about me. My children will indefinitely notice it. I do not remember exactly how this whole thing got started, but I will try to provide at least some background.

At my high school, like most American schools, every morning someone came on the intercom during the first period of the day and made some announcements. About sports games, activities, warnings regarding misbehavior, stuff like that. And then all the students stood up and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to hear that in Seattle, being patriotic wasn't seen as being particularly "cool" (except for that three-month period after September 11th when everybody went a little crazy ... no need to remind anyone of how THAT turned out), but conversely, as in any high school, making a fuss about something or calling attention to oneself by NOT participating in something as minute as the Pledge of Allegiance wasn't acceptable either. Anyone read Avi's piece-of-crap teen novel Nothing But the Truth? Possibly my least favorite book ever. But I digress.

So anyway, every morning in whatever class I was in, when the morning announcements were done everybody in the class would stand up and mumble the Pledge of Allegiance at the exact same volume as everybody else, so nobody's voice would stand out from the crowd's. I have no memory of exactly what was going on in my head the first day I tried my little experiment, but I think it was something really simple like, "I wonder what would happen if one person started saying the Pledge of Allegiance at a greater volume and with greater emotion than everybody else?"

Because I am both prone to voracious curiosity and remain a longtime admirer of gonzo journalists, I decided to try it. One morning, I said the Pledge of Allegiance louder than anybody else in my Honors World History class, and with some variation in my voice rather than the standard monotone.

I suppose, on some level, I do believe that something is only worth doing if done right, and that people shouldn't say or recite things they don't mean, but none of that underlied (underlay?) my motivation to say the Pledge of Allegiance differently that day. Because I was in a class with a lot of my friends, most of them just laughed a little bit and smiled at me. A few of the insecure kids looked at me lightly askance, but I was used to that. So I kept it up. For the rest of my high school career I always said the Pledge of Allegiance with a lot of fervor and at a normal volume, which was still significantly louder than everyone else. It became, to cop an old phrase, my shtick.

This is strange for a number of reasons. One, being known for something inevitably leads to people making a number of assumptions about you. Especially among teenagers. Because I was known as the "Pledge of Allegiance" girl, many people assumed that I really loved America and was unusually patriotic. This is not entirely untrue, but it isn't true in the way people assumed, either.

Two, people also assumed that I had undergone some sort of internal wrestling about whether or not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I never did. Like I said earlier, my decision to change my voice that day was absolutely spontaneous. I am a very spontaneous person.

Here is what I think about America. I think it is nice. America has lots of space, and some of it is really pretty. Some of it is a barren wasteland, but I also feel that farmland has a certain charm about it, and can still manage to be beautiful in a barren wasteland-y sort of way. I feel strongly that when I grow up I will live either in the city or the country, none of this in-between suburban nonsense.

Laying the physical aside for a moment, I am happy to live somewhere where we have clean water, decent sanitation, food available for purchase, and medical facilities. I have seen places where these are not readily available, and it totally sucks. Even the poorest in America have access to more resources than many in other countries. I wish that EVERY privilege available to Americans was actually within everyone's reach. But that is a complicated question, and going on for too long about it will reveal to the world that I am a Socialist. I was talking to my brother in the car yesterday about Utah, and about how the dividing line between rich and poor is very clear: immigrants and students and young families on one side, retired people and BYU professors and business owners on the other. Ne'er the twain shall meet unless absolutely required (like the DMV). I wish America did not have such negative feelings between classes. I am as guilty of this as anyone, by the way.

I think a lot of the pride and jingoism demonstrated by America is misplaced. I don't believe that capitalism will save any nation, or even that it is doing that great of a job saving our own. I definitely don't believe our vision of rosy-cheeked pilgrims breaking bread with feather-wearing savages is in line with how it actually went down. On the other hand though, I think it's nice that once a year we actually recognize that the Native Americans tried to help their European brothers out when they were struggling. I'm sure we would have forgotten about it otherwise. Kind of how we forgot about the French helping our asses during the Revolutionary War.

I don't think most of the patriotic images we think of when we think of the word "patriotism" have much to do with actual patriotism. On the other hand though, I am not one hundred percent sure what I mean by that.

Also, I think "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Mostly because the Cold War was effed. Up.

I'm really not sure why I was losing sleep thinking about this. Maybe just because Thanksgiving is such an American holiday.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the calculations in my title were as follows:

Traditional Thanksgiving Foods (according to TV and my 25 years of life)
1. Turkey
2. Mashed potatoes
3. Gravy
4. Stuffing
5. Cranberry sauce
6. Rolls
7. Green bean casserole
8. Pumpkin pie
9. Sweet potatoes
10. Red wine

I like 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9. Hate 3 and 10. Generally dislike 6 and 8. And 1 is essentially irrelevant.

24 November, 2009

Books I will insist my children read

Because I've been thinking about literature lately.

For children:

Matilda by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Holes by Louis Sachar
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Treehorn Times Three by Florence Parry Heide
Nobody's Family is Going to Change by Louise Fitzhugh
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
ALL the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
ALL the Fudge books by Judy Blume
ALL the Russell and Elisa books by Johanna Hurwitz
The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume
Free to be ... You and Me by various artists
ALL the Anastasia books by Lois Lowry
Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

For young adults:

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Cages by Peg Kehret
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
Persepolis I & II by Marjane Sartrapi
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

For adults:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle
The Watchmen by Alan Moore et al.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hiroshima by John Hersey
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
1984 by George Orwell
Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Bible
The Book of Mormon
The Doctrine and Covenants
Mythology by Edith Hamilton

Things I will never let my children read:

My mission journals

Yeah, so I'm blogging about Twilight. What're you gonna do about it?

Not read this, if all you're planning to do is make fun of me.

You will recall that although I usually have exceptionally good taste in film, if I say so myself, I very much enjoyed the previous Twilight installment on the silver screen. I stand by this review today. It made me giggle with pleasure. I just got back from Part Two, my favorite of the two books I've read, and no surprise, I clapped my hands with glee at from the over-the-top opening titles to the JOKE of an ending. Pure pulpy saccharine delight. Good times, I tell you.

For full disclosure's sake, I have read the first two books all the way through, and a while ago I also skimmed through my roommate's copy of Book 4 and read the sex parts. They were boring.

Here is my beef about Twilight. Well, besides the fact that it perpetuates confusing ideas about sexuality to impressionable teen girls (especially potentially naive Mormon ones) and that they (well, the first two books at least) read like Sweet Valley Twins/Fear Street fanfic. But my central problem with this franchise is that the main love interest is just plain not likable.

One of the main conflicts of the entire books is supposed to be that Bella, who sees herself as boring and klutzy and awkward, cannot understand what Edward, he of the marble chest and topaz eyes, can possibly see in her. Truth be told, we don't get much additional info about why he loves her except that she smells like chocolate-covered lust. Bella also finds herself so attracted to him that being separated from him is physically painful.

And that's pretty much it. Edward is difficult, manipulative, overly mercurial, and far too possessive. Bella spends much of her time with him either trying to figure out why he is upset or whining about something. Or they sleep together slash stare into each other's eyes, the Mormon Girl Porn version of making out, although they do that sometimes too. From the get-go, Edward starts making decisions for Bella without consulting her. He watches her sleep before they even become friends. Additionally, he runs a consistently cold temperature, and in the film he always looks either constipated or nauseous. Ew.

On the other hand, though, Bella's best friend Jacob is not only warmer, he is kind and considerate. I may be going out on a limb here, but if your best friend is a dude and you're dating someone else, you're an idiot.* In the books, at least the way I read them, Jacob supplies Bella with all the things a relationship should have: good conversation, trust, company, laughter, acts of service, and a non-pasty, non-pale shirtless self.

Remember when Edward takes off his shirt and it's supposed to be this big romantic climax, but really it's all gross?

The lesson of Twilight is this: If a boy acts like he owns you, and you feel physically weak in the knees when you hang out a few times, DON"T BOTHER TRYING TO FIGHT IT HE IS YOUR DESTINY. Dumb, dumb, dumb. This is why teen girls should read books like Little Women. Ella Enchanted. A Ring of Endless Light. And other books where the heroine falls for a man who is her equal in every way and makes her feel more alive, not suicidal when he (inevitably) leaves. Take it from me, it's better to date someone who smiles.


One more thing. Well, two more things. One, I am SO SO CURIOUS about what kind of marriage Ms. Meyer must have to have produced a work of fiction like this. Have you noticed that even her non-Twilight books still focus on the idea of a woman being unable to escape from a man who equal parts loves her and wants to kill her? Does this worry anyone else?

Two, someday I want to run through some crowded street in broad daylight with such passionate purpose and intensity, and a look of such fear and passion on my face, that I begin to run in slow motion. I wonder how those around me would react? I'm pretty sure I NEED to find out.

And when I do, I'll be sure to blog about it.

*Unless he's gay. Or you're gay. Then I'd dare say you've got bigger problems.

Love that hair, right?

13 November, 2009

In which I yell at a presumably homeless guy, and apparently have bad taste.

I feel really safe in our neighborhood, for the record. But this one time a month or so ago my roommate left our garage open and later that day found some old guy (presumably homeless) rifling through some of the stuff inside. Pamela told him to scram, he left, end of story. However, today I left my car unlocked and when I came outside to bring Joe some of his mail I saw an old, grungy looking guy walking away from the general direction of my car, carrying a bag EXACTLY like the duffel bag I keep in my trunk. It's purple and turquoise and intentionally hideous, and I thought, pretty unique.

I yelled "Hey" at him really aggressively and started toward him, then realized that since I was right by my car I should first check to see if my bag was actually gone from my trunk.

I opened my trunk and there it was. The man walking by just happened to have the SAME EXACT BAG. The guy gave me a suspicious look, and I tried to avoid eye contact and act as if maybe I was just yelling at my dog and not him.

First of all, I felt really bad about making a snap judgment like that.

Second of all, what does it say about me that a homeless guy in Provo and I have the same taste in luggage? Not a lot, I can tell you.

Although I suppose that what homeless people wear and bear is a matter of availability rather than taste.

Not that this makes me feel any classier.

11 November, 2009

I wonder if he thought this conversation was funny?

Info. Guy: Hello, BYU operator.
Me: Hi there. I have a question, and if you can't answer it, I was wondering if you could let me know who could.
Info. Guy: Sure.
Me: I need to know if, with non-major GE classes, if a D is considered passing ... if I would get credit for that?
Info. Guy: An E?
Me: No. A D ... as in "Dammit."
Info. Guy: Ah. Well, I think it would depend on the class. Let me transfer you to the advisement center.
Me: Thanks. I appreciate it.

I also wonder why I say the things I do, sometimes. Because they come into my head, and I have no filter? Oh well.

08 November, 2009

Parry and I were bored at church

Awkwardest Possible Things to Do on a First Date:

1. Make Punnett Square about potential hypothetical children.
2. Say, "We should get married!" and laugh.
3. Make sure to include mission stories, relate them to everything you can.
4. Call your parents and make your date get on the phone and say hi.
5. Invite your date to a family reunion or other family event.
6. Show him or her a scar normally covered by your clothing.
7. Inform your date of your secret desire to be prophet someday.
8. Talk a lot about past dates, past relationships, ex-girl/boyfriends, when you were previously engaged or about the missionaries you are currently writing.
9. Be from Utah ... kidding ... mostly ...
10. Tell a deeply personal repentance story. Cry.
11. Ask how many kids he/she wants.
12. Tell him/her you already have a ring and a wedding dress and a contract at BYU married housing.
13. Wear a facemask, and never take it off, even to eat. When asked why, mention Swine Flu, SARS, etc.
14. Be extremely over-formal: before you do anything make sure it is announced. When conversing, ask a question, and and make sure everybody in your group (if you are in one) answers the question before moving on. Make sure to repeatedly outline all the date's activities, etc.
15. Check out other people while you are going places or walking.
16. Discuss natural vs. medicated childbirth, pros and cons.
17. Tell them that their fly is down, then reach over and zip it up.
18. Tell everyone you are celebrating your two-hour anniversary.
19. Gloat about your future riches, success, and/or righteousness.
20. Show him/her pictures of your dog or cat in costume(s).
21. Tell him/her you are vegetarian AFTER he/she orders oysters for both of you.

Parry claims he wants to try to do ALL of these on a future first date. I say he wouldn't survive past number eleven.


A life without traditions is hardly a life at all. I enjoy traditions of the large-scale variety (such as Christmas, and National Waffle Day) and of the smaller-scale variety (Such as Sego's birthday). Sometimes, you need to create your own traditions to make life more interesting. Well, I do, at least.

To wit: for the past three months or so, I have been dressing with a theme for Church every Sunday. I use clothes I already own, not costume pieces. I try to make the theme as obvious as possible without resorting to anyone that looks too costume-y. It's a magical experiment to find the balance between fashion, symbolism and subtlety. Past themes include:

1. Waitress
2. Catholic schoolgirl
3. Pirate wench
4. Cowgirl
5. The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland
6. Egyptian princess
7. Lamanite princess
8. Lumberjack wench (Note: If you want to utilize any sort of traditionally "male" theme, simply add "wench" to the theme you have chosen)
9. Edgar Alan Poe (AKA melancholy/black and white)
10. Old lady at a tea party
11. Barbie
12. Medieval beer wench
and so on.

Future themes that I am still working on include:
1. Nancy Sinatra
2. Jackie Kennedy
3. The Childlike Empress from Neverending Story
but I'm starting to run low on ideas. Any suggestions?

If you submit an idea and I use it, you will receive some sort of tangible/intangible prize.

05 November, 2009

I'm not a feminist because I love animals, I'm a feminist because I hate plants.

Several happenings contribute to my general feelings of impotence and despondency today. One, no response from the folks I wrote to yesterday re: getting some non-Mormon support for keeping the WRI open. I knew it was a long shot, but I guess they can't get involved with Mormons in any way, shape or form. Our respective missions are too disparate.

Two. Why does it have to be this way? Why do so many people believe that feminism and the gospel cannot possibly co-exist? I wrote this little guy (which is quite similar to the letter I wrote to Amplify, with a Mormon twist) for a blog I really love, one intended for Mormon feminists, which got some positive and some negative responses. A few accused me of not believing in or trusting the Prophet and Apostles, because they are the executive board of BYU, which logic I have always found completely ridiculous. I believe that Church leaders are inspired, but they don't fast and pray about whether or not to sell mint brownies in the Wilk, for crying out loud. Nor do most decisions about programs at BYU make it all the way up the freeway to Salt Lake. That's not how any university is run. The overarching board, especially if they're also preoccupied with running a worldwide church, hasn't the time to micromanage. This was the administration's decision alone. From what I understand, even the man Cecil himself didn't have much to do with the decision to close the WRI. It stemmed from an internal review board, and from what it sounds like, ended there as well.

Because of this post, I was quoted (As "Elise"--seriously, if you're going to go to the trouble of writing about something I said, double-check my name, yeah? Not that hard.) on this blog. The post wasn't too hard on me, but said a few things that hurt my feelings. Maybe I was being a little sensitive, but check this action out:

"What Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does she belong to that believes in gender equality? The only Mormon church I am aware of makes it clear that women are not equal with men (unless you believe that two groups can be separate but equal, and that by denying women rights given to men, you are actually protecting them)."

Ouch. Not on my behalf, really, but on the Church's. And then it goes further:

"Here is the problem with her [my] analysis: the higher-ups in the bureaucracy that she [me] is railing against here are the General Authorities and the Quorum of the Twelve. You can’t say that when something of this magnitude is being done at 'The Lord’s University' (or less tongue-in-cheek, 'The University of the CoJCoLDS') [Note: I have no idea what that is referencing] that it isn’t reflective of the opinion of the Church as a whole towards women, women’s issues, and feminism. I remain baffled by women who can endure this sort of obvious second-class treatment at the Church authorities hands, while simultaneously arguing that they Church itself is not misogynist.

Although I understand that the author (and others like her) is trying to avoid cog dis, at some point these issues will be more than just academic.

Perhaps she will go to graduate school, and be questioned by her bishop – the authorized 'servant of God' for her salvation – about her 'intentions' with regards to having a family and fulfilling her divine calling of motherhood.

Perhaps she will desire to go on a mission, and her Stake President will restrict her, saying that because she has a (pseudo) boyfriend, that she should be thinking of getting married.

Perhaps she will consider getting a job at BYU, only to discover that her department of choice does not hire women of child-bearing age.

Perhaps she will realize that it is demeaning to women when her 12-year-old son (who still wets the bed) has more 'authority' to act in God’s name than she, as a 50 year old woman, will ever have."

Wh-oa (two syllables). First of all, see my above comments with regard to criticizing BYU = criticizing the Church leadership. If they can't be given credit for every little decision at this university, they can't be blamed for them either. I don't thank God every day for inspiring His servants on earth to build a glass building that looks exactly like a fishbowl, and I don't rail at God in my nightly prayers for not selling Diet Coke on campus either. BYU is owned by the Church, but it's its own institution, with its own unique rules and prerogatives. These, I have found, tend to stem from Mormon culture and not the gospel I know to be true.

I had a very interesting discussion with Brooke about this very topic earlier tonight. But before I get into that, I want to make one thing crystal clear.

Feminism is personal for me. My own mother was terrified at the prospect of me joining this Church because of the prevailing sexist attitudes she had noticed were held by many members of it. My father said that Mormons initially reminded him of a paramilitary group. My mother truly, honestly believed that I would be oppressed and mistreated by men in this institution, and so now, years later, I actually don't blame her for refusing to let me get baptized initially. It's a scary thing to lose your child to another religion, especially one that has such a huge affect on one's lifestyle. However, my mother told me, while I was on my mission, that to her great relief, everything she had taught me about feminism and being a strong, independent, intelligent woman did not get swallowed up in my new faith, but rather integrated into it.

Dang straight. Mormon culture may try to tell me what to do with my life, and possibly even how to do my hair, and members of this Church are as fallible as they were when it first started, but the gospel of Jesus Christ has done NOTHING but make me a better, stronger, happier woman and person. I have a testimony of this gospel. My testimony of this wacky Mormon culture is weak, but that doesn't matter because I don't need one! I deeply resent the assertion that feminism isn't personal for me.

To respond to the four hypotheticals:

"Perhaps she will go to graduate school, and be questioned by her bishop – the authorized 'servant of God' for her salvation – about her 'intentions' with regards to having a family and fulfilling her divine calling of motherhood."

You will recall me saying that sometimes my bishopric has a less than ideal attitude about how women (in my opinion) ought to behave. However, when I announced in Relief Society that I had been chosen for an internship with a linguistics company in Paris, the first counselor in the the Bishopric came up to me and congratulated me. I have never felt discouraged by any of my church leaders when it comes to my education. And particularly not by the higher-ups, who have taught for years that women need to be smart. And not just because stupid women are bad mothers, either, although that's true. Because intelligence is eternal, and so am I.

Additionally, it seems completely illogical to me to conclude that because sometimes a Bishop will say something old-fashioned or insensitive, that therefore the Church he represents cannot possibly be true. Mormons are humans, and humans can be idiots. Let's not hearken back to 14th-century Catholicism, shall we? (Just kidding, Mom!)

"Perhaps she will desire to go on a mission, and her Stake President will restrict her, saying that because she has a (pseudo) boyfriend, that she should be thinking of getting married."

As a matter of fact, I did serve a mission, and dumped a pseudo-boyfriend in order to do so. When I met with my bishop and told him about my desire to serve, he said to me (I will never forget this), "Now, some guys seem to not want to date female returned missionaries. But don't worry about that, because those guys are idiots." Well played, Bishop Sterling, well played. Granted, Church leaders do teach that a mission should not be used to escape from the obligation of finding a spouse. I served with some chicks were were there out of boredom, and it wasn't pretty. But if God tells me to serve a mission, who am I to argue? If he had told me to get married instead, believe me I would have listened.

And again, if imperfect people have no chance for salvation, I am screwed, and so are you. One stake president does not invalidate thousands of years of revelation. That's the beautiful thing about the Atonement: sometimes people make mistakes, and that's OK. The Church is still true.

"Perhaps she will consider getting a job at BYU, only to discover that her department of choice does not hire women of child-bearing age."

Two words should silence you here: Wendy Baker. Check out that CV! And if you're looking for women who aren't single, the WRI faculty has some choice gems for you. According to everyone, all those women will be moving departments rather than losing their jobs. Thanks, hiring freeze!

Perhaps she will realize that it is demeaning to women when her 12-year-old son (who still wets the bed) has more 'authority' to act in God’s name than she, as a 50 year old woman, will ever have.

My senior year of college, my parents and I went out for Indian food on my 18th birthday. I distinctly remember telling my parents about my decision to apply to BYU, which I had previously not even considered. My mother asked me if it would bother me to go to a "patriarchal university where I would have no power." I don't remember how I worded my response exactly, but the summary is this: Not having the Priesthood does not make me feel powerless. Being told that I should feel oppressed by my religion, however, does. The gospel is not demeaning to women, although some ignorant, short-sighted people can be. However, those people are recognizably departing from the truth when they exercise unrighteous dominion over anyone, male or female. The organization of the Church is demeaning to no one unless they choose to see all humans as automatons for whom God has the exact same plan. His desire for all His children is the same, but the way He brings about each child's life is wholly unique and individualized.

I'm not sure if I can articulate this properly. But here goes: it's not that I don't want the Priesthood. Some women say that, and I think it's a little disrespectful. The Priesthood is neat. I like helping people, which is what the Priesthood is all about. I imagine that theoretically, if the Priesthood did one day become available to women, it wouldn't bother me to participate in it. However, I don't need the Priesthood to feel powerful. I feel empowered for plenty of other reasons, many of them related to the potential I feel I have because of being a women, because of my body and my future, as-of-yet unrealized calling as a mother. I feel empowered because I know God made me female for a reason. I do not feel slighted because a twelve year-old boy can pass the Sacrament and I cannot. "Separate but equal" is a crude way of putting it, but to be honest, the notion doesn't bother me, in the same way that some people are ordained to be born in Peru and some are ordained to be born in Hungary. Nobody's challenges or responsibilities are better, they are all just different. I feel that saying that all human beings should have all the same experiences and callings is oversimplistic.

To return to my original point, I see no actual contradiction between feminism and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, Mormon culture leans toward the conservative, and Mormon women do have a reputation of being a little bit ... plastic. But I am neither conservative nor plastic, and this is my Church too. I did my time as a missionary, I love Jesus Christ, and I live the teachings of this Church with every fiber of my being (little joke).

I don't see why Mormon women can't be everything feminism says women can be.

I love this talk. Joss Whedon is brilliant. And I want to be all of those adjectives he used to describe his mother and his wife. I long to be extraordinary, inspirational, tough, cool, sexy, and funny. I also choose to spend my time with men who, like his father and stepfather, "prize wit and resolve above all things in the women they [are] with." I can be strong and educated and interesting and still sustain President Monson with all my heart. I see no contradiction there. And so many women on both sides can't seem to get their heads around that. Some think I can't possibly be a faithful Latter-day Saint because of some of the opinions I hold. Others see no way of reconciling these aforementioned opinions with LDS dogma. But bless their hearts, Jesus was the ultimate champion of womanhood. His gospel is the greatest honor I can ascribe to. And if some jerk in my future ward thinks I'm a bad wife for not changing my name, that's his problem, not mine. And certainly not God's.

When Brooke and I talked, I asked her, "Would Jesus tell a woman not to get an education, because intelligence drives men away? Would He discourage women from serving missions? Would He call anyone inferior? No, of course He wouldn't."

The gospel of Jesus Christ, in its pure form, when you strip away the Republican party and the culturally ingrained misogyny practiced by some fringe idiots and the jello, is the best thing that could ever happen to any woman. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I know what I'm capable of, and it's a lot. I feel an even stronger desire to learn and improve and teach and fix everything bad in the world. I feel connected with everyone on the planet. I will never leave this church. It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I fought to be a part of it. I will fight to stay a part of it. I believe that the best women in the world are acting on Christ's behalf, whether they realize it or not. I believe in a religion that teaches the incredible potential of men and women, not just men with their wives hanging on their coattails.

And I would love to know with an absolute certainty that I am not the only woman who feels this way.

04 November, 2009

My letter to Amplify

To all the women and men at Amplify:

My name is Elisa Anne Koler. I am a senior at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, a famously conservative university owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. 98% of the student body subscribes to the LDS faith, but we are nevertheless an extremely diverse group of students, ideologically speaking. Of the approximate 30,000 students at BYU, 48% are female, and 2,691 students are enrolled in the Women’s Studies minor, almost 10 percent of the entire student population. At such a conservative, religious school, the fact that we even have a Women’s Studies minor (Although there is no major, unfortunately) is a pretty big deal, and the BYU Women’s Research Institute has contributed enormously to the university community since its founding in 1978. From 2006 to 2008 alone, the WRI funded 132 faculty research publications relating to women. Some of the brightest and most promising students at BYU are involved with this program.

However, on October 29th the BYU Administration issued a press release (that’s what it’s called, but in fact it’s nowhere to be found on the BYU website or in the school newspaper) saying that the WRI is being shut down come January 2010. The Administration claims that they are “streamlining and strengthening” the program but what they’re really doing is removing all funding WRI used to receive and consolidating it into one faculty research grant and a token amount of funding available for students. Most of us found out about this through blogs or other outside media sources rather than through the university itself, and to put it lightly, we’re infuriated.

There’s a reason why this is being kept hush-hush. All major universities have a Women’s Studies Program, and shutting down ours is more than just a bad idea, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Money is not the issue: BYU receives subsidy from the LDS Church, as well as generous donations from LDS alumni even in this economy. Additionally, 52% of the WRI budget came from outside, non-BYU sources. This is, in short, another attempt by an overtly conservative administration to shut down any “feminist” activities—not because LDS people are anti-feminist, mind you, but because a lack of education makes many people at this institution think feminism is a dirty word.

As a small group of BYU students who believe in the importance of scholarly research devoted to women, we are making as much of a fuss as we can. But this needs to get out. It’s an EPICALLY bad PR move for BYU and by extension for the LDS Church, to shut down this program, and the more people know about this and express their disapproval, the better.

I understand that, most likely, no one from BYU has ever contacted your organization before. I’m sure you’re aware that the vast majority of LDS women are abstinent until marriage, and a large percentage of married women are stay-at-home parents, so it might seem strange that I’m writing to an organization that promotes birth control and sex education with such passion (Both of which, for the record, I am highly in favor of). Just because the choices LDS women make based on our faith are considered old-fashioned, doesn’t mean that we aren’t strong, intelligent women who believe in gender equality and everything else feminism stands for. I am proud to consider myself a feminist, and so do many other men and women at this university. We desperately want for this program to not go the way of several other important programs at this university (such as our International Development minor, another magnet for more liberal and therefore supposedly more dangerous students, which was eliminated recently), and it’s possible that if enough people outside of our community stand up for the WRI, maybe the higher-ups will change their minds.

Please understand that this is not an issue of faith. Most of the students at BYU are faithful adherents to the LDS faith and are not being oppressed or silenced by the Church itself. Rather, it is the bureaucracy at the university level that is the source of the problem for myself and all other like-minded students here. This is a rather personal thing to share in an email, but I have found that my faith is one of the greatest sources of my personal empowerment as a women, and that my religious beliefs and my social beliefs complement rather than contradict each other. For BYU students, the solution is not to abandon our faith, rather to find ways to reconcile the beliefs of another generation to the ideals we uphold with as much fervor as we do our religion. Shutting down our Women’s Research Institute would be a step in the entirely wrong direction.

For more information, here is the official “press release”


Most of us found out because of this article below, from an independent publication run by Mormons, which is unaffiliated with the Church or BYU officially:


The Facebook group working to prevent this:


I’m not sure if the BYU student newspaper accepts letters from non-students, but here is a link to submit a letter to the editor:


More information about BYU in general:


A couple of blog entries with some other students’ reactions: