The Psychosexual Development of a Mormon Girl

(1) In my CTR class is a quiet, serious, black-haired boy named Timmy who has advanced through Primary and junior Sunday school with me since we were both three or four. When my mother takes Ziff and me over to his house to play, Timmy lets me ride his bike with training wheels for as long as I want while our younger brothers entertain themselves doing something in the garage that involves a lot of shrieking laughter.

I am smitten. And none too happy when my on-again, off-again best friend claims that Timmy let her ride the bike as well when she went over to visit. I want Timmy’s kindnesses to be mine alone.

(2) In junior high I follow Ziff’s example and begin sneaking out of my room at 10:40 p.m. every night to surreptitiously watch M*A*S*H over my parents’ shoulders (an activity they ultimately legitimize). On some later episode handsome, sensitive, wry Alan Alda undergoes a feminist conversion! Living as I do in Utah Valley, I am fascinated. Do such men exist?

(3) In Search of the Trojan War, a PBS program from the 80s: Michael Wood investigates the archeological evidence for the existence of Troy and Mycenae to gorgeous music and dazzling exposures of hillsides in the eastern Mediterranean and ancient treasures in the Berlin Museum. In one scene, he sits in bed in a rustic inn somewhere in the backwaters of Greece, longish hair roguishly tousled, reading the Iliad by lamplight and commenting on it in his extremely sexy British accent with his shirt unbuttoned. My thirteen-year-old heart nearly leaps out of my chest.

(4) I spend hours listening to sensitive Sting, who hopes that the Russians love their children too, laments Blake’s dark Satanic mills, and (not in so many words) urges us all to recycle. Eventually, under the influence of my very Mormon high school’s self-styled malcontents, I graduate to U2. My senior year, my two best friends and I gather to watch Rattle and Hum every single weekend.

One of my best friends is a girl. The other is a boy. I have nursed a secret crush on the boy for years.

(5) In college, actual serious dating ensues, at some considerable delay from the already delayed Mormon courtship schedule. I love poety men with their dark turtlenecks, their soulful conversation, their existential angst. I want to be dazzled, plunged into a world of stars and nonalcoholic champagne and the mystery of existence.

This leads, as one might imagine, to some mighty weird dates–not to mention some embarrassing dramatics on my part.

(6) After my mission, I meet a microbiology major two years my junior in my singles’ ward. He is outgoing, relentlessly intellectually curious, completely unpoety, kind. He has little use for literature, likes philosophical questions, loves science, despises wasting time asleep, and is addicted to opera and heavy metal. He is an unruffled but tenacious debater, neither losing his temper nor budging an inch on a deeply held conviction. He considers my existential dramatics with his signature tolerant calm and suggests reasonable, soothing distractions–characteristics which foreshadow his imminent career change to psychology.

Reader, I married him.

17 thoughts on “The Psychosexual Development of a Mormon Girl

  1. 1

    Awww. Thanks for the tales, Eve, they made me smile. It sounds like you ended up doing pretty well for

    Okay, this reminds me of a recent conversation. Just a few weeks ago, M. and I unpacked a box of my old crap from all over. In there were a few archived letters and notes and the like, from high school and such. And I saw a letter that I got, fifteen years ago now, from a girl in my ward who I had nursed a crush on for a while.

    She was cute, smart, nice, laid-back — basically, the ideal girl. And I got a letter from her out of the blue one day — an actual letter — and it made my head spin. Could she like me? But of course, I second guessed myself. A girl like her wouldn’t like me. And when I mentioned the possibility of taking her on a date, to my annoying super-jock YM leader — why did I do these things? — he looked at me like I was on drugs. She didn’t really date, he suggested. And that was all the boost my timid side needed — I never mentioned the letter to her.

    So I looked at it again a few weeks ago, for the first time in well over a decade, and it was obvious. And I said to M., “holy cow, she really liked me, didn’t she?” And M. scanned the letter for a second and then nodded. “Yep. You didn’t pick up on that?” The smily faces . . . the exclamation points . . . the little flirty jokes that only covered the _entire envelope_. Nope, I didn’t pick up on it. I wanted her to like me, but I somehow didn’t pick up on the fact that she actually _did_.

    Moral: The cluelessness of the teenage boy really knows no bounds.

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    This leads, as one might imagine, to some mighty weird dates

    Eve, so THAT was you!!!

    Just kidding. I know exactly what you mean. I vaacillate between the hope that sometime in the next life I will be able to apologize to the wonderful young women I traumatized because of my hamfisted dating techniques, and the hope that even in the next life, I will never have to face them again. It’s that embarrassing.


    Moral: The cluelessness of the teenage boy really knows no bounds.

    Why limit this to teenage boys? I was certainly clueless when I was young and dumb. While I am no longer young, I’m not sure I am any less dumb.

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    I enjoyed that essay, but I have to say it made my own development feel awfully defective and messed up, especially from a mormon perspective.

    I would be interested to see how a essay of a less-than-chaste past would go over…

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    Another Anon, it would probably go over like gangbusters at Feminist Mormon Housewives!

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    I totally agree with Mark IV, there are relationships from HS that I hope are totally deleted from the review of my life. Looking back, I think puberty was a dark brain cloud and a huge whirlwind of hormones and emotions. It’s amazing I survive that period without any noticable psycho/social/sexual scars.
    Eve, It’s funny that you watched MASH, I always watched Star Trek, the Next Generation, over my parents’ shoulders. Oh, and I used to dream of hair like Deanna Troy.
    I think you left out one thing, at least for me, was practicing flirting with my boy cousins. (gross, I know!) I just think the interaction there is so interesting to look back on, even though it’s nearly as embarassing as HS. There’s something to be said about the developing flirtation of youth, no direct target, it just spews everywhere unintentionally.
    (I think there’s a quote about that on Run-away Bride)
    Nice post, Eve. Thanks.

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    Jessawhy, I was also a TNG fan, but I have to say that I found Troi’s hair rather frightening. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Deep Space Nine was probably my favorite Star Trek, though, and in the spirit of Eve’s post, I’d add that one of the appeals of DS9 for me was the presence of Dr. Julian Bashir. I also used to watch Doctor Who on Saturday nights, and I was a bit in love with the quirky but compassionate fifth doctor played by Peter Davison.

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    I laughed out loud at the Peter Davison reference. I think he was my first crush too – but as Tristan Farnon on “All Creatures Great and Small” – the British TV show about James Herriott, the Yorkshire veteranarian. I loved that show. I tried to watch Tristan as Dr. Who, but it gave me nightmares, however, Tristan/Dr. Who/Peter was also on a childrens’ TV show in England – kind of a hip Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

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    ECS, that is too funny! I’ve rarely encountered anyone else who’s even heard of Peter Davison. You must have exquisite taste in men. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    I remember watching Dr. Who too, with you Lynnette, if I remember right. Didn’t one of the PBS stations used to show entire two-hour episodes Saturday nights? My impression is that they were originally broken up into much smaller bits but we were just lucky enough to get to see the bits all in a row.

    I was certainly clueless when I was young and dumb. While I am no longer young, I’m not sure I am any less dumb.

    Mark, this is perfect! I want it written on my gravestone. It stands to reason that if whole societies can decide later that what their predecessors did was hopelessly unenlightened (dumb) that we can each personally also understand our own dumbness best with the perspective that a little time offers. Therefore, I expect to fully comprehend the extent of my mortal dumbness about ten years after my death.

  10. 10

    Kaimi, great story. My husband and I have had very similar conversations. When we were engaged, we attended his mission reunion, and it was obvious to me that one of the former sister missionaries he’d served with had a crush on him. When we talked about it later, he said that he had never followed up on it by asking her out because he hadn’t dared believe it could be true. It sounds to me as if the risks involved in asking someone out can be so fearful that they cause us to pass up even the most obvious opportunities.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think teenage girls are any less clueless. (And, in the spirit of Ziff and Mark’s emendations, I can personally testify to the ongoing cluelessness of those in their twenties and thirties. It’s always a strange thing to realize how clueless I’m going to look to my later self, but not yet knowing the exact nature of my own cluelessness, how little there is I can do about it.)

    Mark–yep, that was me, sad to say. I’ve had exactly the same thoughts about my embarrassing dating history. Will there be scenes of reconciliation and forgiveness–or is it better that we just avoid one another for all eternity? Eeek.

    Another Anon, I’m really sorry this essay made you feel “defective and messed up.” Is it any comfort if I tell you that I’ve deleted all of the really defective and messed up parts of my own history from it in an attempt to make this a light-hearted, self-mocking post?

    Jessawhy, thanks for your comments. I can’t say I ever flirted with my boy cousins (all of our cousins lived far away, and we generally saw them only every few years), but I do remember that I was not good at flirting. There is basically nothing at all that I miss about dating. It was a horror.

    Jessawhy and ECS, I remember watching Star Trek and Deep Space Nine, but I missed Dr. Who. Maybe one of these days Lynnette can induct me into the ways of Peter Davison. (Or perhaps at some future Bloggersnacker…).

  11. 11

    Eve, I really enjoyed this piece. Re: some comments, I think we have to look back on our former selves with compassion. My awkward teenage girl self who sought approval in all sort of unhealthy ways was doing her very best.

    I remember feeling guilty about going on a single date for my 18th birthday. I had to convince myself that I really was old enough to go out with a boy alone. The idea of dating in order to find an actual boyfriend or husband (eek) was a huge adjustment for me. I am extremely grateful that those years are over. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. 12

    A wonderful little essay, Eve. Reminds me well of my own youthful cluelessness.

    ECS, I too loved All Creatures Great and Small. I recorded the whole series on VHS many years ago (although the tapes have probably been thrown out by now). I was just starting in the law at the time, and I really could relate to the tentative first steps in veterinary practice and figuring out how things really worked. I haven’t seen that show in ages, though; I wonder whether PBS will replay it at some point?

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    Am I the only one who read the books by James Herriott and didn’t see the shows? Since I was so young when I read the books, I don’t know, were the books fiction or non-fiction?

  15. 15

    I haven’t read Herriott’s books, but I’m pretty sure they’re nonfiction. At least that’s how I’ve seen them cataloged in libraries.

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    I know this is late to the discussion, but Herriott’s books are wonderful and charming. If he were half as good at being a vet as he was at writing about it, I wish I could have him take care of my pets.

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    You can rent the PBS All Creatures Great and Small series from Netflix if you don’t want to go to the expense of purchasing them.

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