6/5/13

Open Mic Night Update: Loved It

Open mic night update: Spending a few hours with people completely out of my circle mommy friends was the best. I was beginning to think that all that existed in this city were playgrounds, instagram donuts, and tantrums. The Inspired Word crowd was a hodge-podge of people young and old, all different backgrounds, all different views, all different talent. I could be anyone I wanted there. I decided to call myself a storyteller. Since then, I've spent the week listening to the Moth and I even signed up for a storytelling class. It's funny how a sponsored post from the Go Mighty Team has pushed me into something so much bigger than I expected. I was originally doing it for the paycheck. But now, I realize, it's changed my life.

After the jump is the story I read last night. It was amazing experience. Next time, however, I'm memorizing it. That's my only regret. I have to warn you before you read. It's way more honest and explicit than what's normally on here. It talks about sex and my warped devotion to the teachings of the Mormon Church as a teenager. Some parts might make some people uncomfortable. Names have been changed. I'm looking forward to getting it workshopped at my upcoming class. Ignore any typos, it's meant to be read :)

Click through for the story. But first the sponsor info: Become a Summer Stunner! The Color Tour, featuring complimentary salon services with hot P&G products, will be stopping at a retailer near you. Click here for tour dates and more! #SummerStunner


I never had a boyfriend in High School. I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I had crushes on my guy friends and went out with them, but I never kissed them and certainly never called them my boyfriend.

No one was more distraught about this than my mother. She was always encouraging me to go on dates with this guy or that guy. “But mom!" I remember telling her, "He swears constantly and he’s not even Mormon!”

My mom wasn’t raised Mormon, but she converted in her thirties before I was born. My dad was raised Catholic and never showed interest in Mormonism. It was nice growing up in a family with 2 views on religion. I always felt like I had the choice. And I definitely chose Mormonism with an unhealthy vigor.

At times, I felt like my mom didn’t get all the strict rules of the church. I always felt like I had to explain them to her. Like this one time, I went to a chastity meeting where a misinformed Bishop warned us about hugging. He didn’t tell us why exactly, but he encouraged to do side hugs. I immediately assumed that it was because a boy would get an erection just by the touch of my body against his. That's inconvenient, I thought, and was weirded out by hugs from then on. When I learned my virginity was leading me on a path to happiness, I believed and never strayed.

I felt alone on this quest. One of my Mormon friends was named Sarah. She never took the chastity lessons too seriously. One time we were walking through the hallways of church and she mentioned that it felt like her boyfriend scratched her vagina the night before. I nodded sympathetically but I was utterly confused of what exactly his hands would be doing down there. While I adored her, I couldn’t relate to this side of her. I got through each year of high school unscathed and unscratched.

Then my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of my senior year in high school. I remember having totally delusional feelings of hope and optimism about it. I even told a teacher she would probably just have to take a few pills and might not even lose her hair. Reason is the first time my mom had breast cancer I was 8 and she totally fooled me into thinking it was no big deal. She enrolled me in a few summer camps and she slept a lot. At worst, we had to cancel our family cruise we had planned that summer. She never let on to the fear she must have been feeling. Now, 10 years later, everything is going to be fine again, right?

I was the secretary of my senior class. The teacher in charge of the student government pulled me into her office shortly after Christmas break. I was sure she was going to kick me out for those two meetings I missed. I felt so guilty. I apologized for missing meetings and told her I was going to do better. She stopped me and said, "Whoa, whoa. Don't worry about it. You're doing fine. Is everything ok with your mother? And those missed meetings. Just try your best."

But wait, I thought. I had things to do! The senior class voted me to take notes during the meetings. To come up with ideas for Prom! The whole school system wouldn't work without a class secretary!

But it was the way she was looking at me. Waiting for me to say something. I knew then my mother's illness was more serious than I thought. It's not that my advisor knew more about my mom's cancer than I did, but she had perspective. Something most people lack at 18 years-old.

And so each month went by. My mother had chemo. My friend Sarah met Jeff. My mom lost her hair and her hospital stays started getting longer. Sarah started having sex with Jeff and slowly drifted away from me. I felt more alone than ever at school.

That’s when Luke came into my life. He was not Mormon. He spent his junior year in a mental institution and rejoined our class his senior year. When I asked him why he was committed, he pointed his finger to the side of his head and twirled it in a circle motion. Sign language for crazy, I suppose. I didn’t want to know the details although I could see the self inflicted cuts on his arms, so I figured it had something to do with that.

I remember being conflicted with wanting to spend time with him and wrote this in my journal:

June 25th, 2000 
I wouldn’t want to do something I regret, just because at this time of my life I am so lonely. Because it feels good to know that someone cares about me. It’s so nice. My family isn't thrilled about Luke But he's the ONLY, seriously .....ONLY friend I got right now. He's the only friend that cares about me. And that's why I hang out with him. But, how can I say this . .. .ok. .. so my church says I should only associate with my kind, you know good, righteous people, but what if none of them care about me! What should I do then? Sharon 

My mom died 8 days after writing that entry.

Soon after, Luke invited me into his house. There were sticky notes everywhere reminding him to take his medication. Next to the bathroom mirror. Next to the front door. In his bedroom. Oh his bedroom.

It was the first time I had ever been in a boys bedroom that I actually liked. It was a converted garage, which made him seem that much cooler. He turned off the lights so only this one red light was on which gave everything this beautiful eerie glow and he lit this one small candle in the middle of the room. He put on the Sticky Fingers album by the Rolling Stones on the lowest volume and played along with each song on his unplugged electric guitar. You can see where this is going. But it didn’t! I just got up and left after a few hours when I came to my senses. No kissing. Nothing.

But later, after a few days, he somehow did it. He got me to have one of the sloppy make out sessions I had always heard about. And it was fine, until he rubbed his hands on my chest. I loved it. It was on top of the shirt, but I had never felt anything so good in my life. I eventually stopped him and he was so respectful of my wishes. I hung out for a while and left.

The next time I talked to him, I broke things off. I was sure I had ruined any chances of meeting and marrying a nice Mormon boy after I got felt up on top of the shirt. I was aiming for perfection. And what made it worse is that it happened after my mom died. I had a disturbing and gross feeling she was watching my every move from heaven and was so disappointed in me.

This guilt stayed with me for months as I silently went to church and eventually landed at BYU-Idaho, were I was positive the chastity talks were directed at me and my awful transgression. I eventually went to confess my sins to a Bishop, the leader of my college congregation to gain repentance. If I didn't, I thought I was headed on the path to get kicked out of the church. Or worse the school.

I remember squirming on my chair as I sat in the Bishops office as I started telling him.

"I have something to tell you. Over the summer. . . I . Oh gosh. I feel so bad about this."

"Ok, what did you do?"

"It was with a guy. I was lonely after my mom died!"

"Ok...."

I started crying. And telling him no one would ever want to marry me now and how I've tried to be so good all these years and I'm ruined.

"What did you do?"

"A guy rubbed my chest! But it was on top of my shirt!"

And just like my student government teacher, he looked at me with those serious eyes. And said, “Whoa, whoa. You're doing fine. Is everything ok? I think it would be best if you sought therapy. Are you seeing anyone for help?"

But wait, I thought. Aren't there things I need to do to repent! My life is out of control and my mom is acutely aware of it! My worth is gone! No one will want to date me at this school if they ever found out!

He wrote the name and number of a therapist and sent me on my way. Luckily, he too had perspective. Something I was clearly lacking at 18 years-old.

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46 comments:

  1. brilliant. absolutely brilliant :)

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  2. i had so much fun reading this. well done! i had a kind of warped, extreme view of so many church things growing up too, so i totally related to so much of what you were saying :)

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  3. This is such an interesting story and so well-written. Great job! I feel like everyone struggles to gain perspective on life in high school/college.

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  4. I love it! I kind of related in a small way, since I grew up Catholic and felt guilty and ashamed over waaay too much. Congratulations on what sounds like a great night

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  5. This is amazing. Please more posts like this. I was waiting to hear what happened next.

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  6. I felt like you as a teen. I hate how religious culture treats purity as the defining characteristic of a woman's worth. It's so damaging! This article also articulates the idea well.

    http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/elizabeth-smart-purity-culture

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I completely agree. Like it's our responsibility as women. I too was a virgin when I graduated high school, and I was/am atheist. It's just part of our culture to be "good and pure" I suppose.

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  7. that was a PERFECT choice for a reading. i love it! you are going to absolutely adore your storytelling class and get addicted to reading your work in public.

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  8. I really liked this story. It appears that a lot of girls in their teens feel this way. I know I did, probably not as much as you or others, I wasn't religious... I don't know if that has anything to do with it, regardless the guilt was definitely there. Did you read about how Elizabeth Smart felt that way after everything her abductor did to her? That was part of the reason she didn't try to escape because she felt like a "chewed up piece of gum." So sad.

    Congrats on a successful open mic night! :)

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  9. This was amazing. I would love to read more…like about how you got over that guilty feeling? Congratulations on reading this aloud, so fearless!

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  10. This is FANTASTIC! I wanted to read more! Great job!

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  11. YOU WENT THERE! Gosh, so so so sad to have missed this. I'll be there next time. Give me notice.

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  13. Love you and loved reading this!

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  14. So beautiful! My heart broke for you reading this...losing your mother at such a young age.

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  15. Wow - amazing. I wish I could have been there to hear you read it live. More please...

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  16. the only thing better would have been hearing it in person. bravo Sharon.

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  17. I love reading your work. Keep sharing please!

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  18. I want you to perform this when we see in you july!

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  19. This is so lovely! Funny & heartbreaking all at once.

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  20. I love when writer can transmit their feelings to their readers. I cried, smile, laughed and sat with you waiting for the bishop to screamed at you, as I read this.
    I think you once you said that a friend told you to start calling yourself a writer and that everything would fall into place. Always keep that in mind.

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  21. I'm glad your bishop responded as he did. His response makes me really like him, whoever he is.

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  22. You are a fantastic storyteller.

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  23. Sharon,
    Since I discovered your blog, well over a year ago, I have always thought that you were a good storyteller. This post really convinced me. I think you have a much bigger story to tell. Your words are compelling, and as you can see from the comments, your readers want to learn more about your journey.
    I honestly think you need to write a book. Really truly think about it before you share too much here. I am guessing you have friends in publishing. Write a proposal and submit it!
    Thank you for sharing your story, and three cheers for you giving it a go at open mic night!
    Now, hole yourself up somewhere and start writing!

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  24. oh man, i was raised catholic and remember being soo paranoid that i was going straight to hell because i pretended my barbies made out with each other. so don't want my child to go through anything like that.

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  25. What a wonder, tender story. Thank you for sharing it with us! Perspective - what a strange phenomenon. You feel like you have it until something happens... then you realize how little you actually know. It's nice to have others around us. Those with more experience and more - perspective.

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  26. What a couple of screwed up kids we were. Thanks Sharon -"Luke"

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  27. You are an amazing woman and I adore you! Love this and like Rebecca said, Bravo! Maybe next time I will hear it in person.

    So glad I know you in real life! xoxo

    PS - Isn't the Moth great??!! I'm addicted!

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  28. I love this post! I read quite a few Mormon's blogs (which no lie...reaaaaally weirded me out at first). I remember seing words like "BYU" in "About Me" sections and being SHOCKED. I just never thought I, an atheist, would have anything in common with a Mormon, let alone find them interesting. Anyway, of the ones I read, no one ever really mentions their faith (the ones that I've run across that do mention it are..well, seem tad fanatical and not my cup of tea, let's say), so I find this story completely fascinating. Thanks for sharing, and being awesome in general. :) I agree, you're a GREAT storyteller.

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  29. Keep writing, your story is great! Have you ever read The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker? It's a great book, somewhat related to your story, involving sex and young adulthood written from the perspective of a Mormon woman. I highly recommend it for fun summer reading. Best of luck at your next open mike! Enjoy.

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  30. i love that post!! i was wondering, are you still a Mormon?( I never would have guessed) Are you raising your kids religiously? Both my kids (we left them free, told them no one knew if there was a God or not, you either wanted to believe in Him or you didn't)have decided there's no God, much like there's no Santa Claus (says my 8-year-old daughter...)

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  31. Great post!!

    I have read your blog for a long time and you already show so much of your personal life and the fact that you shared this with us is so kind. Your writing is great!

    I have to admit, when I first came to your blog and realized you were mormon, I kinda got weirded out. Here's the thing: I pride myself off of being open-minded, but with mormons I have met it in real life, they just seemed so rigid in their beliefs and that took an open-minded person like me aback. I suppose what I am trying to say is, thanks for making me let go my prejudices against mormons. You have definitely shown that all 18 year old girls, regardless of religion, like to blow everything out of proportion. HA!

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    1. "You have definitely shown that all 18 year old girls, regardless of religion, like to blow everything out of proportion." Agreed!

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  32. Beautifully written. I would love to hear your story in person one day.

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  33. Ditto to all of the above! You are seriously my most favorite thing on the internet right now. #girlcrush (do people hashtag on blog comments these days?)

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  34. This was fantastic! You're a great writer and I can definitely relate to you. Thanks!

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  35. This was just such a well written story. I wanted to keep reading! Brava!

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  37. Bravo - really enjoyed reading, thanks for sharing!

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  38. Sharon, I loved your story. Please, please keep writing these wonderful stories! I know I don't know you personally, but I feel like I can relate to you in so many ways! My father was raised catholic and "converted" to the LDS church when he was 18 (he loves theology and is a member of about every faith out there). My mom is a lifetime member (decendent of pioneers... you know the type). My dad takes a VERY casual approach to mormonism, while my mom is sort of the polar opposite... rules, rules, RULES. I have sort of swung back and forth between my two parents. I am currently, happily, an active member of the LDS church, but I do find the shaming when it comes to modesty and chastity absolutely ridiculous. I hope that I can do an okay job teaching these principles to my daughter. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

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