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!"
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.