Friday, October 23, 2015

The Kerfuffle Over a Cup of Coffee

This past Sunday a film student interviewed Mark and I for a documentary that he and an ex-Mormon classmate are making about people who've left the LDS Church. Since we've been out of the faith a couple of decades now, the return to the early steps in our exit process was an interesting emotional journey for us both. Suffice to say, we've come a long way since then.

One of the questions the young man asked was, "How did your Mormon friends react when you left the church?" As I wrote in my last post, most of my Mormon "friends" weren't actually friends but, rather, women I was assigned to work with.

I told him that my old LDS friends - people from high school and college with whom I'd cultivated genuine friendships - continued, for the most part, to be my friends. But the people I had been currently attending church with broke ties with me. Only not at first. At first, these assigned friends claimed they'd stick by my side "no matter what." Then, when reality seeped in and they finally acknowledged that I was never coming back to church, they unceremoniously dumped me.

This conjured a memory, one I hadn't thought of in years. Not long after I'd quit the church, I was in my local McDonald's buying coffee before work. One of my Mormon "friends" spied me from somewhere inside the restaurant, chased me out to my car, and then breathlessly confronted me with:
"I can accept that you no longer go to church. But I never thought you'd drink COFFEE!" 
For a few long seconds she leered at me in absolute revulsion, as if she'd just caught me exposing myself to a child or torturing a puppy with a lit cigar. Then she stormed off, never to see or speak to me again.

While amusing now, at the time this encounter was painful. It's tough to lose your friends, even tougher to acknowledge that they were never your friends in the first place. Since when does a friend dump you over a cup of coffee?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden:
"Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."
From where I sit today, the window is securely shut. I can laugh and roll my eyes over the absurd recollections from my Mormon past. But I will never forget the pain I felt back then.

When I meet people who've recently left Mormonism and are struggling to make peace with the believers in their lives, I can truly empathize. I can't reassure them that their LDS loved ones will support their new life choices, because, in all honesty, I know that's probably not going to happen.

But I can tell them about the bat-sh@#t crazy woman who flipped out when she saw me with a cup of coffee - and otherwise do my best to make them laugh. I can tell them that the cold wind will abate, the window will gradually close, and that, before long, they'll be laughing about a lot of things.

I also tell them that writing a funny blog really helps. Or producing a documentary. I hope those kids get an A+ on their assignment.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Real Friends in the Real World

As a Mormon I was taught to avoid The Real World. It was an evil, cold, miserable place. The Church, by contrast, was loving and gentle and good - a haven of camaraderie and friendship, the only destination where men and women could find true happiness.

Only, I wasn't happy. A lot of the things I heard in church weren't loving, gentle, or good. As for friendship, all those church assignments left little time for socializing. My only friends were a couple of women who were assigned to come around and "teach" me every month. Half the time they were women I had little in common with. On the occasions I was given somebody that might grow into a friend, she was shifted to a new assignment before anything developed. With the LDS Church arranging my social life, I felt as though I was constantly following a script. Like an actress in a cheesy sitcom or creepy promotional film.

For me, there was no happiness in that Fake World.

Thank heavens I'm now a member of the Real World!

I like to say that the best thing about being a Mormon is becoming an ExMormon. It's a great community of accepting free thinkers - a place where I've found lots of real friends, not fake ones. And we've plenty of time to socialize! Take the past few weeks, for example.

First Eric and Ali flew down from Oregon. We met them, along with Steve and Sarah, at the Barrel to Bottle event in Half Moon Bay.

BYOB - and they fill it!
Then back to our house for another mythic cooking session!
Food is serious business

Eric whipping eggs into a frenzy

Blackjack supervising
Caesar Salad!
Chocolate Souffle - yum!
Then last week Bill and Dana/Insana Dee dropped by our house as part of their West Coast road trip. How lucky are we?!
Dana and I at the Moraga Steps in SF
Of course Dana had to go to the Mission District and buy a Donald Trump piñata!
Dana's just mad about The Donald!
Of course Bill posed with him!
As did Don and Scott!
Then we hooked up with Jerry and Cheryl after the ExMormon gathering at the SF Ferry Building on Sunday. Sadly, our long time watering hole, Sinbad's, is closing down so the city can build another ferry landing.
Jerry and Cheryl with Sinbad
Owner Tom Stinson in a final duel

But we'll find a new watering hole. Because there are still plenty of fun times with good friends ahead. Life is good - when you don't have to fake it.