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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mormon Women Bare

Hi! It's been a thousand years since I've emblogginated!

But look. What an interesting project. I am particularly intrigued by this statement from the FAQ:

What we are exploring is how a woman views herself and her body after spending the majority of her life, particularly her formative years, in the Church.
As a teenager in the LDS church often enough I found few similarities between myself and the other girls in my cohort, even my closest friends; looking back now, it's a bit easier to feel compassion for the younger woman I was, as well as for my friends, who almost certainly were dealing with the same doubts and fears as I was. We all had the same upbringing, after all. 

I wouldn't say that I am comfortable with my body. Certainly I am not properly appreciative of its health, its strength. It rarely gets bogged down with colds, and it's capable of walking two miles in work shoes. It can chop onions without crying, make love while laughing, dance with only twinges of embarrassment--but what I see in the mirror is a weird nose and flab and knobby knees. How much of that is from soaking in US beauty culture for twenty-six years, and how much of it is leftover confusion and assumptions from various lessons learned in fifteen years of LDS culture? 

"My body is capable of producing children, therefore it should, and since it hasn't, I am not a Real Woman (TM)." No, no, the choice is mine. Really. It is. Really.

"The way that my body is maintained is not attractive to some men, and I should probably change that." No, no, I was not born onto the earth to be attractive to men. Really. Really.

Run-of-the-mill Western kyriarchy dosed with dogma backing up the immutability of sex and the eternal significance of gender roles; a culture that--overtly or covertly, intentionally or accidentally--promotes a certain body and code of attractiveness for female members. I have a new litany now, one I'm conscious of, one that reminds me of all the ways I have found joy in my body. May we continue to rebuild ourselves.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The survivor's prerogative

I saw this article linked recently on Twitter, read it and enjoyed it very much, and kind of intended to write something similar from an LDS perspective.

And then I realized that my list of what not to say to a recovering Mormon would be almost identical. Even the mainstream LDS church has strands of fundamentalism, in its doctrine and its culture. This is not something I realized until I was an adult; in fact, fourteen-year-old Diana piped up indignantly in a history class when the teacher included Mormons in a list of US fundamentalist religious (just one of many reasons why "every member a missionary" is, say it with me, flagrant bullshit). Members in many areas, in Utah and the mission field, are survivors of spiritual and sometimes physical abuse. Many outsiders don't consider the LDS church a Christian institution. The jargon, the doctrine, the peculiarities of Mormonism cause it to stand out in the religious landscape, but in practice and in effect it is damningly similar to other fundamentalist Christian groups.

I don't know about you all, but "fundamentalist" was not a nice descriptor in my household, growing up. After 9/11 I heard my parents use it to refer to Islam. My older sister--never baptized, always political--spoke scornfully of the "Moral Majority" and "religious right" (it wasn't until later that I realized she was in fact including the Church in those phrases). It took some doing to rewire my understanding of the term, to get to the point where I could separate my complex feelings about my upbringing and beliefs from the reality of subtle, institutionalized manipulation. 

All fifteen of those statements linked above have been said to me--some while I was still in the Church, some as I was leaving, some quite recently. None of them are constructive, no matter how much love and insight the speaker intends. One of the most pernicious attitudes I have encountered in the last seven years, from both members and non-members, is a certain carelessness: the idea that leaving X Religion is a relief, something to be shucked with a laugh. Sometimes it was like that and I could joke with people, talk smack and shake my head. Sometimes it felt like the world was ending. My experience is my own, is the point, and it's not going to be the same from day to day, which is the survivor's prerogative.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Crescendo of gratitude

There are two parts to enjoying a live concert: the anticipation and the experience. Savoring the idea of what's to come takes up weeks or even months beforehand for me, the feeling growing as I drive to the venue. It builds and builds throughout the opening acts (Eklipse, you are awesome; Delain, you are delightful), and finally you get to let go when the headliner takes the stage. And when the act in question is your favorite in all the known multiverse, the entire shebang levels up. As mentioned in a few previous posts, Kamelot's got a new lead singer, and while they technically toured last year, that was a supporting tour. With a truncated set-list, and no new album to promote.

(Karevik and Alissa White-Gluz, taken by glitzandshadows)
But this year is different. This year is the tour of the first post-Khan album, and the band's first international headlining tour with a new singer. THIS YEAR IS A BIG YEAR. I'm so glad they chose to kick off their continental US road trip in our own Columbus, Ohio. There's a lot to be said against live music: eardrum-destroying, obnoxious people talking behind you during the ballads, waiting in all kinds of weather to get inside, $7 beers and expensive merch. But the ecstasy of a crowd and the chance to sing along and the goodwill that communal excitement fosters are more than enough reward. Live music gives you a chance to see performers' most glorious heights, but also their foibles--fumbling a bow, screwing up a lyric, recovering with a smile. Live music is cathartic. Maybe it only lasts four hours or so, but the hangover is legendary, to the point where there's no listening to other music for a few days after, for fear of blurring the amazing performance still going on in your head.
(the band, taken by marssimons)
And it was a great performance. If there was any doubt that Tommy has the stuff, this tour will kill it. If there's resentment or even apathy toward him, I didn't see it in the crowd in Columbus. We might not have filled the (relatively small) venue, but we were loud. We sang to every song, we headbanged and air-guitared and yelled. The next day at work, someone asked me if I a cold. That's a successful concert experience. May the rest of the tour be as awesome for Kamelot as Monday night was for Columbus, and may their new frontman continue to help carry and build Kamelot's legacy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mind-walk with me: dérive in Pacific Rim

Recently I've been reading a book about walking--not an exercise manual but a general collection of thoughts on the literature, science, history, and psychology of walking. At one point the author, Geoff Nicholson, attends a conference of psychogeographers in New York City and talks a bit about the origins of the movement (har har). Before beginning this particular book I was familiar with the tenets of psychogeography, being someone who walks a lot in certain cities, but I haven't read any of Guy Debord's foundational works on the topic. Nicholson quotes from "Theory of the Dérive" the following passage:
One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions.
Given this, and the fact that "dérive" translates directly into "drift," what else was I to do but conclude that the concepts of the drift and drift-compatibility in Pacific Rim derive from Debord's theory? Of course I have no idea whether this is accurate, whether Guillermo del Toro is familiar with Debord's writing and used it in his own, but the similarities are there. What is drifting in the film if not walking: in another's consciousness and memories, in your own, in the bulk of a jaeger, in tandem with another individual to whom you are closely attuned, or in the case of the Wei triplets, another two individuals? 

(the Becket brothers)

The necessary core of drift-compatibility is that the "same level of awareness" has been reached by all parties concerned. A jaeger can't be piloted alone. Debord indicated that it was preferable for groups bent on dérive to change line-up each time, and this is where the two media diverge, as Pacific Rim emphasizes that although a jaeger pilot can be drift-compatible with multiple other pilots (as in the case of Raleigh and Yancy, and then Raleigh and Mako), when you've found a person to drift with, they're your co-pilot until things go belly up. The larger goal of this drifting is different from Debord's--the hip young things of the dérive are interested in viewing the concrete in new patterns and fractured ways, while the jaeger pilots of the drift have to take broken images and tender memories and build them into a cohesive whole. But the ultimate goal of dérive and drifting is to step out, to tread familiar paths made new by trust and heightened awareness.

(Mako and Raleigh)

Friday, August 09, 2013


The Hairpin and The Toast recently featured posts about Mormonism, the latter written by yours truly. I thought I would say a few words here about why I chose that particular frame for my piece, the twelve steps. Initially, as I was scratching down my memories, I thought it might be amusing to see if some of the major ones matched any of the steps, and lo, they managed to be hammered out that way. But as I refined the piece, I realized that the core of my leaving was really coming into view--that at that time, I would have benefited from any kind of framework to show me the way out. I was flailing, with no one to talk to, no one I knew who had done this and made it and was ok. Not to say that religious belief is an addiction; however I think when it has been part of your life forever, when it has shaped and molded and convinced and guided as firmly as the LDS church had for me, when that changes it is almost on a chemical level. What do you do? With what do you replace the words of the prophet?

That's the whole point, of course, that suddenly there are more options and you're making decisions for yourself. Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom and all that. But navigating them was difficult for me, without some sort of map. A more sincere, more structured Twelve Steps to Leaving the Church would probably include things like "Make a list of people you can talk to about your doubts and decisions" rather than "Make a list of people to avoid." That would be the healthy way. These days, there are plenty of resources online for people having doubts about the church, or starting to make their exit outwards, and I hope that their journeys are smoother, but no less interesting and soul-shaking, than mine has been.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Tramping Tampa: Six Years of Tea

The place is called Kaleisia--none of us know how to pronounce it yet--and I'm afraid that there'll only be coffee and black tea, that I'll have to shuffle to make some excuse to my new friends, but once inside I see rows of herbal blends and fruit tisanes. Once seated and laughing over steaming cups, an older woman comes up and tells us how pretty we are. Gabby, with her long black curls and big eyes, is "exotic," Shauna is "like a Victorian doll" in her lace dress and creamy headband, and I, apparently, look like I should be in Channelside--a part of the city I know nothing about. Nevertheless, the odd compliment combines with collegiate chatter and aromatic tea to create my first real sensation of being out in the world.


My sister thinks it would be fun to bike into Ybor and so we set off, and by the time we cruise up Rep de Cuba we're sweating. Thankfully a cool new coffeeshop has opened recently at a squat brick building called the Bunker and now we have a reason to give it a test-drive. The homemade hummus is good, the iced hibiscus tea even better, and we feel unbearably hip, sitting on the back patio with an issue of Creative Loafing.


Record Store Day happily coincides with the opening of the better-faster-stronger-more-caffeinated version of Mojo Books and Music, and I am lost in the shop, strolling expansive stacks with an iced citron green tea in hand. It's everything I ever wanted from a used bookstore: vinyl and irrelevant hardbacks and good tea and staff just unfriendly enough to be cool and just pretentious enough to play Rumours on the turntable (but skip the best tracks).


It's late morning on a Sunday, humid as balls and bright. I am on an errand to pick up a friend from across the bay, a vastly hungover friend who requests a sharp cup of something-or-other, and so we jaunt down Beach Drive to a place I've seen but never had a chance to visit. It's there that we discover the miracles of Dr. Feelgood, Hooker Tea Company's famous detox tea, and gigantic muffins, and cush places to sprawl in the dusty sunlight and gossip lazily as the vagaries of the previous night seep away.


When Anna texts to see if I want to go study at Sacred Grounds it finally sinks in that I've never been there, despite living ten minutes away from it for the past five years. Out we roll, because it's 10:30 on a Tuesday and Kaleisia is closed and neither of us can bear to be in the library any longer. And if we study less than we lounge, if we find reasons to get refills and snoop around the shop and study the pizza options for longer than necessary, well, that's grad school.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


In case you hadn't heard, Pacific Rim is basically the greatest action film ever made. There's nothing I can say about it that hasn't already been said, so have a few on the topic that I've particularly enjoyed:

  1. Pacific Rim, Raleigh, and Emotional Intelligence
  2. Is Mako Mori a Feminist Hero?
  3. my bud Nathan's review
  4. Simple Does Not Equal Dumb
  5. Beyond the Smashing
  6. in case you needed convincing
  7. Still not convinced?
(Mako will wait while you go buy your tickets)
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