Blast from the past: Sex and shame in Mormon teenhood

This last trip home to Utah, I actually remembered to bring back to Chicago my box of old journals (Dad, I know you tried to throw them out, and I have almost forgiven you) . The Mormon Church strongly encourages its young women to keep journals. And, being the little Mormon princess extroardinaire I was, I kept one basically throughout my entire childhood. They’re a pretty interesting look into the brain of cute little bratty self-centered me over the years.

Tonight, I was flipping through one that I wrote in less journal-y things and more just whatever came to mind. Apparently at 13-14, I went through this list writing phase. It accompanied my Aaron Carter phase, my creeper stalker phase, and my gift giving phase (she listed, haha). In this journal, there is a litany of lists and most of them are painfully stupid. But besides the lists, there were other entries like poems, writing assignments, and names I thought would be good for chickens, which I can explain later.

For now, I’d like to offer one o’ my early works of art to illustrate with mouth words just how bizare extreme religion can make kids in their heads. And for those of you gentiles who may not know, the Sealing Room is the room in a Mormon temple where people believe they are spiritually superglued to each other for all eternity. Romantic?


“If I’d saved myself”*

The Sealing Room is splendid with a heavenly glow And I stood there and smiled in a dress white as snow. Then I looked across the room at my soon-to-be-spouse And I knew that I’d never rather be somewhere else. But as he slipped on the ring and leaned close and we kissed I knew–I was sure–there was something I’d missed. It took only a moment to realize what it was And to know why I felt strange, because I’d known what it felt like to kiss long before Many times I had done in at night, in a car While I’d never done anything bad, nothing wrong I’d kissed too many boys and I’d kissed way too long. I looked straight at my husband and smiled, and he Smiled back, and I knew–he’d saved himself for me. Yet his smile brought no comfort. No, it made me feel worse. Oh, how nice it would feel if that kiss was my first! Many times now, I’ve tried to set it on the shelf, But I known I’d have been happier if I’d just saved myself.

Take away the lovey-dovey teen girl bullshit and poor tense changes; in my defense, not bad footwork for a homeschooled kid whose exposure to poetry consisted singularly of tacky Mormon musical prototypes. But still. I’m slightly embarrassed.

More than embarrassed though, I’m shocked by how sincerely embroiled I was in the Matrix. I wrote about it ALL the time. And that might not matter if it were a harmless teenage obsession like Harry Potter. But this was a life -long way of thinking that had been drilled into my skull since before I could scratch my own butt. At this juncture of my fragile teenage identity (kidding, I was always kind of an overconfidant little asshole) I truly believed that my self worth and .marriage potential and likeability and ETERNAL FUCKING LIFE depended on me keeping my metaphorical chastity belt strapped tight around all of my body between my neck, knees, and and shoulders. Can I emphasize that enough?!? I would never allow anyone to teach my daughter that her virtue lay in her quiet, meek virginity. I would also never have a daughter, but that’s besides the point. I would never teach a son to believe the same things about himself, either.

This theme clearly weighed heavily on my mind, as it crops up repeatedly: My #1 goal was to get married in the temple. I worried incessantly about being worthy. I guilted myself for being curious and having “bad” dreams because I was 14 and horny as shit and really had no idea what sex was.

And why didn’t I know? Because my mom wouldn’t talk about it, and neither would my friend’s moms, and I definitely did not hang around the kinds of kids who knew too much about sex. Once, I asked my mother something about sex, and all she said was, “You’ll know when the time comes for you to know.” Which pretty much may as well be code for,”Since I won’t tell you, I encourage you to go find out for yourself.”

The cruel irony is that you really don’t just “know” about sex when the time comes for you to know. You know later when you get pregnant and you contract hepasyphilherpesaids, neither of which things happened to me, but which did happen to many of my friends. Why? Because we were human, and fucking is only bad if you do it unprepared and/or dishonestly. It’s is as natural to humans as picking your nose and eating it. We’re all inexorably driven to do it.

Overshare? Anyway, the moral of the story is to not imbibe your kids with weird notions about sex and guilt and worthiness at a young age. It causes them to fear and resent the most natural parts of who they are, and that’s not good for anyone. And, if you need more incentive, it causes them to have all kinds of complexes and fetishes.

Almost all of which I have gotten over. Now bring me that blow up rhincerous doll!!

*Author’s note: I suffered through my first kiss shortly after this. It turns out saving yourself is less tender and romantic and more spitty and awkward.