Sunday, April 08, 2012

Joanna and me

I don't have many pictures of myself from my BYU days. But since Joanna Brooks has become the media's go-to person on Mormonism -- and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reacted by spraying her with condescending snark -- the following picture has gone from being "Here's me with some of my fellow staff members at a Student Review party" to "Here's my brush with fame!"

Because the smiling halter-topped chick in the foreground is me, and the one tending bar in the background is Joanna Brooks. If you don't believe me, here's another picture from the same party:

That said, I don't claim I was ever good friends with Joanna. We were more like colleagues or acquaintances. (She was really good friends with my brother John, though.)

Then -- as now -- she believed in the CoJCoL-dS a lot more than I did. I don't know if she really believes the church is true or that it is good, but she's clearly a lot more invested believing it's true and making it good than I am.

Back in my BYU days, I liked the Student Review staffers for their independent streak, but I couldn't really relate to their earnest desire to try to carve out a space for themselves in the church, and improve it, if possible. I asked a lot of different people just enough leading questions to try to feel out if any of them were closet non-believers, but (aside from myself and my brother) it seemed that none of the SR staffers were. Personally, I just wanted to get out of the church's clutches, off its radar, and start my real life. Which I did, a year or so after these pictures were taken.

In the Student Review chapter of my novel I tried to capture a bit of what I felt the staffers were like: They were believers, but they were cool. Which helped hit home the point that the problem with the church isn't that it's not cool. It's that it's not true.

When reading blogs like Godless at BYU, I sometimes feel jealous of the way the Internet allows people to find other like-minded folks. Back then, I would have given anything to have a support system of like-minded non-believers. My brother John found himself a gay support network -- which probably included lots of non-believers -- but that didn't help me much because their main unifying experience was being gay. If they were non-believers, that was a bit of a side concern, at best. It's another example of how the atheist movement is generally a couple decades behind the gay movement, but following in the same tracks.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd go back in time and simplify life for my past self even if I could. BYU didn't kill me or even traumatize me. It was a learning experience, and if it had been easier, I think perhaps I would have learned less.


Holly said...

I really like that picture of you, chanson, but I can never look at anything in it but your incredibly flat stomach. I used to have a stomach like that.... lo, how the mighty are fallen.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

LOL, exactly!! Now that I'm age 40, I don't look quite like that any more either. But that's OK because kilos aren't the only thing I've gained in the intervening 20 years...

Unknown said...

whoa bare midriff at a BYU party?

Honestly, where were the girls like you while I was at BYU? I'm not sure I ever met a girl there that would admit to even owning a shirt like that, let alone wear it in public!

Actually, that's not true. I met a lot of girls at BYU who regularly bought all sorts of really cute and sexy tops and then would proceed to NEVER WEAR THEM EVER because they didn't want to be immodest. Or if they did wear them, they'd wear 3 t-shirts and a cami underneath (which made the whole outfit neither cute or sexy). But, you know, one more thing that drove me nuts about BYU...

Cool that you knew Joanna. If you would have known that she'd be all famous mormon celebrity later in life, you could have scored an autograph right across that bare midriff of yours.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Reuben!!!

Well, naturally, I couldn't wear that to class. ;)

I get that reaction a lot, when I talk about what a naughty little thing I was at BYU -- people are like "Why didn't I meet any girls like that at BYU?" Meanwhile, while I was there, I couldn't find any reasonable guys to date!!!

There were a handful of RMs that I tried to seduce, who were at once too righteous and too afraid of sin/sex -- so they would initiate something, and when they realized that I wasn't going to draw the "good Mormon girl" boundary lines for them, they ran away!! Literally!

So it was pretty frustrating for me, too, and it's clear that the real problem was that it was impossible for the less-righteous to meet one another, because if you publicize your less-righteous status, you can get disciplined, and even expelled.

That's why I'm jealous of today's Zoobies -- now it's possible to meet people safely via the Internet, which we just didn't have back then.