Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Problem with Tank Tops

Growing up as a child of Mormon parents is a very unique experience that many people never escape from. Meaning that when you grow up in a Mormon household, chances are, you become a Mormon adult and never get the opportunity to take a step back and view the experience from a viewpoint other than one tinged in the noxious muck of it. It's tough, I know because I lived it.

One quirky aspect growing up was the issue of sleeveless clothing. This wasn't an issue of modesty. I was never ever under any circumstance able or allowed to wear a halter, tube, strapless or spaghetti strap top. That crossed over into being indecent and slutty.

For example, back in 1997, I was in the Miss Brea pageant. My Mormon grandmother bought me a strapless dress to wear for the gown portion of the pageant. It was a beautiful, floor length empire waist burgundy gown with boning and a shawl that matched. It was beaded and fit so wonderfully. I couldn't believe the amount of money my grandmother spent on it and I knew I could wear it to my next formal dance, so it wouldn't be wasted on just one event. I loved it.  I tried it on for my mother to see how beautiful it was and I will never forget the look of disgust on her face. I thought my mother was going to lose her shit over it. She was livid that my grandmother would purchase such a inappropriate dress for her 17 year old daughter.  I was heartbroken that the experience of choosing a dress with my grandmother and the excitement I had felt up to that point was ripped apart with one look from my mother.

It was my no means indecent. My back and shoulders were covered with the shawl. My cleavage was fully covered and the dress touched the floor. Even as a young daughter of god, I thought the dress was nothing short of epic and I couldn't believe that I driven to tears over something so simple. But with how my mother was, it had been a long time coming.

All my swim suits had been one pieces my entire life. Bikini's or even a tactful two piece were always out of the question.  Even some of the other Mormon girls or my quasi-Mormon cousins were able to wear bathing suits with push up bras or cut outs. Not me. At the time it wasn't a big deal. I wasn't much of an outdoorsy or beach type girl. I rarely found myself in a bathing suit anyway.

But the Miss Brea pageant mattered to me. It was important because I wanted to show my family, mostly my mother, that no matter what she found wrong with me, that I was pretty enough. Silly teenage thoughts, I know, but at the time it mattered.

Looking back, I realize now how silly it was. I know my mother didn't believe that wearing a strapless dress to a pageant would turn me into a slut. I think she was more concerned with what the other Mormon mothers would think of her letting me wear something that I couldn't wear with garments. That was the problem with tank tops, that I couldn't wear garments with them.

Now, for those not 'in the know' about garments, they are the items of clothing every Mormon who gets their temple endowment receives. They are to be worn against the skin, under your underpants and/or bra and some people outside of the religion refer to them 'magic underwear'. Mormon men, and sometimes women, usually get their garments when they go on a mission. (Mission = Garments) Mormon women, and non-missionary men, usually get theirs a little before marriage in the temple, which is usually called a temple sealing. I never received my endowment, so I never received garments.

Why wear tank tops if you couldn't always wear them? Why buy them as an adult if one day they wouldn't be usable in your wardrobe? Why get into the 'habit' of showing your shoulders if that wasn't decent enough for god?

So I wore a long, simple, dark blue gown with a velvet top and satin bottom. I didn't win the gown part of the pageant. Hell, I didn't place in the pageant, which was okay with me; I went up against some really smart, beautiful college girls. I did win the essay competition though, which for me, was enough.  I tried my hardest, was walked down the stage by a Marine, and won a massage. And I learned a very important lesson about my mother.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's the Little Things

When looking at my overall experience as a mother, and thinking about how my atheism has affected the way I raise my children, I am kinda surprised by my own established misconceptions. In the beginning, I felt that being an atheist would drastically change motherhood all together, but I can't help but notice how on a day to day basis, nothing really changed.

Granted, I became an atheist really early on in my children's lives. Little K was 3 and Little M had just turned 2. So I hadn't had much time to start to brainwash them into Mormonism. And I hadn't been very religious in over 8 years when my first little kumquat was born. So we never said prayers other than when we would go to my parent's house for dinner. I hadn't told them any Bible stories or really had gone to church more than a handful of times.

I honestly feel that with or without church, I would be raising my children, day by day, very similarly to the way I do now. 

We wake up around 7am every morning, the girls get dressed for school, watch a little tv, I make sure they are dressed for the weather and we head out to school. Warm days we walk, chilly days we take the car and they are at school on time every morning.  I am pretty sure that sounds like most mornings in most households with elementary school children.

If I was religious, maybe we would say a family prayer before leaving for school, but in my childhood home, we rarely said a morning prayer. It happened on occasion, but it was never a constant.

I work full time. My husband is a stay at home father. He loves his children and he picks them up from school each day. He sits and does their homework with them, then will play xbox games with them for little while. Viva Pinata is one of their favorites. When I get home from work, either my husband or myself make dinner. We watch The Simpsons, the girls hop in the bath and then it's time for bed. Maybe short of a prayer or two, I know it would be exactly the same with a religion to follow.

All the little things are the same; same day to day behavior and love. Maybe if I was still religious I would shove prayer in where ever I could, maybe a little Bible study too. Church would be a mandatory thing, instead of something we do when I have the energy, the gas and no other plans. (We sometimes go to our local UU church.)

But as much as the little things haven't changed, I know that there are a lot of little things that have changed drastically.

I know that if I was still religious, I wouldn't read the bedtime stories that I do.  My daughters love excerpts from The Magic of Reality by Dr. Richard Dawkins. I know that would not be a book on my shelf had I clung to the fleeting mesh of lies that is Mormonism. I would answer their questions differently. Instead of giving a basic brief explanation of where babies actually do come from, I know the words "Babies come from heaven" may have slipped past my lips.They wouldn't have a basic understanding of evolution or science. Maybe I would be a parent who spanks, maybe I would be a parent who would try to shove them into 'appropriate' gender stereotypes. I hope not, but that may just be the 'new' me talking.

So whether it be the little things that haven't changed, or the little things that have, when I take a step back and ponder my feelings about motherhood, I know that if it weren't for these two little critters that came into my life, nothing would have changed, and that's a really big thing.