Saturday, March 08, 2008

Born in a resort: my real-life BYU boyfriend

Since I've written a fictional story about BYU, perhaps I should tell you a little more about what I really did at BYU.

I arrived as a freshman and newly-minted apostate in the fall of 1989. Almost everyone arrives at college friendless at first, but I had added the disadvantage of being a lone unbeliever among the faithful in a place where being an unbeliever was more than just being a pariah -- it was against the rules.

When I set out to find a boyfriend, the only real qualification I had in mind (beyond breathing, human, male) was not Mormon. Naturally when the campus environmentalists club announced an organizational meeting, I was there with bells on, dragging with me the least-Molly I could find from among my dorm-mates from Budge Hall. These days being concerned about the environment is almost respectable in Mormon circles. In those days, it wasn't. It looked like a good opportunity to meet some rebels.

Unfortunately, the organizers (and the rest of the club, if there was one...) never showed. Aside from me and my friend, the only person there was Steve. I had just turned eighteen; he was thirty-five and still an undergraduate. But he was just what I needed.

Steve was a funny guy. Mostly "funny ha-ha" but there was one thing funny-strange about him: he'd recently been expelled from BYU (for smoking pot), and instead of learning his lesson from this, he'd gone through the repentance/readmission process and came back. This is the kind of selection you get when you go looking for rebels at BYU. Of course I didn't know about his expulsion when I first met him -- I didn't even realize he still had one foot in the church. I treated him as though he were as much an apostate as I was, and after a few weeks with me, he was.

When I met him, Steve was living in a little motor home parked in a trailer park in the far end of Provo. After graduating he moved it to a cheaper-yet-less-legal spot behind his friend's shop in Salt Lake and lived there. He felt it was foolish to join the rat race just to get nicer accommodations and buy more and fancier stuff. As Americans we're born in a resort, he said, where (on just occasional, marginal employment) one can enjoy the simple pleasures of life: books and education, decent food, a little travel, a little weed. He liked to spend his evenings relaxing in his mobile home watching programs he'd recorded on his VCR at the foot of the barely-double bed, working the controls without getting up by pressing the buttons with an old fencing sword he called his "remote control."

And, yes, Steve was the guy from the infamous BYU library story. He was also the one who introduced me to reading primatology books, which I love to this day. He had great stories: about growing up in California, about the pretty Mormon girls in his High School who'd flirted with him to convert him to Mormonism, about his Italian mother and about his father who'd at one point worked setting up pins in a bowling alley, back when that was done by humans, about the archaeological dig he'd participated in to get his financial aid to attend BYU after so many years, about his years off from education, spent -- among other things -- selling heroin, cocaine, and satellite dishes. Sounds like a winner, I know, but any hard drugs were years in the past, so it was cool because he was a little dangerous but not really. He was an intelligent, articulate person who provided a window on a whole array of life experiences that were completely alien to me. He was rich in experience, and I learned from him.

Of course I didn't see it that way at the time. With all my Math and Latin I felt I was a lot smarter than he was, and in my youthful arrogance I wasn't shy about telling him so. But I loved our adventures. One time we drove all the way to Tijuana, via Las Vegas and then a crumbling hot springs resort in California, forgotten by everyone but a few aging guests. Even spending the weekends with him in Salt Lake (once he'd moved there) was an adventure since his friends there were such characters -- they deserve blog posts of their own, if not whole novels.

Back at BYU I explained all these trips as "visiting friends" until the year I moved into an (unapproved) studio apartment and no longer had any roommates to answer to. I had never found pot very interesting, but when Steve offered me a joint to take home, I took it and smoked it in the Student Review office when none of the other BYU-level-rebel kids on the SR staff were around. Why? Because I was baaaaaaad. I was the uber-nerdmeister of badassness in my rebelliously hand tie-dyed t-shirts and other naughty outfits.

It's fun to be young and out to find life wherever it may be hiding. For me, sitting in the warm sunlight on a picnic table in a little trailer park, sipping a glass of white zinfandel (or some other such foolish thing), was a taste of something entirely new.

So is truth stranger than fiction?

You be the judge: BYU


Anonymous said...

Great story. I was a true believer when I attended my conservative Christian college, so my stories are really boring!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Chaplain!!!

Believer's stories are interesting too -- just in a different way.

BTW, congrats on being chosen as The Exterminator's running mate!!! :D

Matt said...

While you were at BYU being truly rebellious, I was at the U thinking that was the way to put it to the heavenly man. But, in truth, at that time I would have been totally afraid of someone like you were then.

There you were in the midst of a modern puritain community doing all you could to play the role of rogue woman. Three hundred years earlier and they might have done the "does she sink or float" test on you. Progress is good.

PS. Thanks for sharing. You made my day.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"Three hundred years earlier and they might have done the "does she sink or float" test on you. Progress is good."

You know, I just had this silly image of a mob seeing if C. L. Hanson weighs as much as a duck.

Rich said...

The bottom pic definitely proves that you were not only naughty, but a very HOT naughty! :^)

Anonymous said...

OOh, you're such a rebel in your Tie-dye T and that bare midriff top, LOL.

Hellmut said...

Thanks for sharing, Carol. The remark about living in a latter-day Puritan society got me wondering if we shouldn't start a Scarlet Letter Society of BYU alumni.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Matt!!!

There was no reason to be afraid of me -- I was friendly and down-to-Earth. That said, during my last year at BYU I broke up with the guy described above and decided to try my luck with some of the Mormon guys. I joked about this at the end of my sex on the first date post. And a few of them really did run away terrified (and avoid me afterwards) when they realized that I wasn't going to draw the line for them and enforce it the way some other BYU gals do. But they weren't afraid of me personally so much as they were afraid of their own sexuality. I have a scene like this in the BYU chapter "Girl talk" which I'll be posting the day after tomorrow.

You're right, though, that the fact that I could get away with this sort of thing socially -- not only go unpunished, but that a wild oats phase apparently didn't put me at any social disadvantage for my calmer later life -- shows an enormous improvement. I never take this for granted, and it's one of the reasons why I blog: I'd like to spread the idea that allowing girls sexual freedom (without the worry that they'll be considered fallen and worthless) is a tremendously positive thing. This is why I keep railing on the feminists who preach the doctrine of objectification (see here and here): by saying that any girl who deliberately shows off her body must necessarily be messed-up by the patriarchy (having low self-worth and internalizing a need for validation from men), they're dragging us back a few centuries into the type of thinking where a woman's value depends on her sexual purity. Forcing women to cover up (in order to protect their value and their male owners' monopoly rights over it) is the real objectification, and it continues to this day in some parts of the world (see sexual apartheid).

Hey J. J.!!!

Yeah, that scene is great!!! :D

Thanks Rich!!!

Hey INTJ Mom!!!

Yeah, I know -- naughty, naughty! ;^)

Hey Hellmut!!!

That's a good idea. Would it be for all BYU alums or just the naughty ones? The only problem is that the atheists (through Dawkins' out campaign) are already using the scarlet letter thing, so people might get confused...

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful Chanson - I've been grinning and grinning ever since first reading it. And wow, yes, the stories about all of Steve's friends in Salt Lake? I'm so looking forward to them. You have to write them you know.

You inspired me and so I added this short rumination on my blog this morning:

Very few people can get me to talk about my mormon past anymore but somehow you keep managing to do it.

BTW, love the bare midriff outfit. Che scandalo!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my link was too long and didn't paste properly. Let's try this:

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Tom!!!

I love it when my stories inspire people to write their own stories, and that's a great one!!!

I'd like to write about Steve's friends in Salt Lake, but I'm a little hesitant to post that stuff to the Internet -- the very best stories might be a little embarrassing and/or incriminating...

Matt said...

My quote in point :> from your "first date" post (and the fact that this was published in Happy Valley just blows my mind):

"Instead, with those [righteous] guys I mostly just tried to trick them into coming over to my lair."

Now I wish, wish, wish I had been so tricked. I might have escaped morgification much sooner.

I'm with you on the objectification part as well. It's no coincidence that patriarchal societies are ones where women are put under wraps. Sexual freedom for women seems the surest sign of freedom in general. Why this isn't more intuitive I don't know.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Matt!!!

Yeah, with that line I was kind of joking but mostly completely serious. Maybe I'll follow up this memory lane post with a post of some of my real-life tales of trying to seduce righetous guys at BYU... ;^)

Maddie said...

I was fond of the tye-dyed apparel during my escape from Mormonism. If Jerry had live just a few years longer I'd have gone full blown hippie and followed the dead. The first time I went to a grateful dead concert was SO exciting! I didn't even do anything...except for be there and it was freaking awesome.

(Looks like I need to write about this!)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Melliferous Pants!!!

Wow, I look ofrward to reading that story!!! :D

Maddie said...

I'm so happy you wrote about your real-life BYU boyfriend...I really like that about blogging. How reading other people's memories has the ability to inspire (and remind) us of our own experiences.

It's in the que...if only I could get this damn paper (for school) finished. Doh!

C. L. Hanson said...

I know how you feel -- my real life job cuts into my Internet time too... ;^)

Anonymous said...


My stories of BYU are untold still. I'll have to crack open the vault one of these days.

What's funny is that the picture of you in the tie-dyed t-shirt, if you made the glasses smaller, looks EXACTLY like you now. Lord you've aged well.

Dig the remote control thing, that is hilarious. What a character -- do you know what became of him?

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Wry!!!

I'd love to hear your BYU stories!!!

I don't know what became of Steve. I keep thinking someone who's in contact with him will see this post and tell him he's famous now. ;^)

AnnM said...

Love it!

I soooo want a naughty byu alum scarlet letter, and I wish wish wish I could have been you. Much more fun than my time served.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey SAM!!!

Come on, I'm sure you had some fun too... ;^)

Bull said...

I sometimes wonder what life might have been like if I'd seen the light (or at least walked into it) much sooner in life. I sort of envy you, although I would have found it strange doing BYU as a non-believer.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Bull!!!

Well it definitely gives you a different perspective on the BYU experience... ;^)

Exclusive Media said...

Thanks, Great Read.