"Paper faces on parade/ Masquerade/ Hide your face so the world will never find you."
Last Saturday, my new friend Snake and I went to a masquerade. We got masks at the local costume shop, and I wore my camel-colored leisure suit and my Guido wig, as well. I don't think I knew anyone there besides Snake, but we just danced and pretended we were the most interesting people in the room, and we had a good time. It was a bit freaky, all the masks and color and movement. Like the masquerade on Labyrinth, except without David Bowie sexually singing to a 15-year old girl with sleeves on her princess dress that would prevent her from drowning should she fall unconscious into a lake.
Earlier that morning, Wiggle, Blueshorts, and I went to a different kind of... well, let me back up a bit:
My friend (we'll call him "Hamster" to protect his true identity) had just recently moved to Utah from back home. I knew him in my singles' ward there in California. I had recently learned from a mutual acquaintance that Hamster a) had moved to Provo and b) also deals with Same-Sex Attraction (i.e. he likes boys).
I thought this was pretty funny. I called him up and hung out with him a few times. We met up again at Evergreen, actually, and we played games and caught up and laughed about our mutual plights. During Christmas break, I went with Hamster to his roommate's parents' house in West Valley. Things were great. During our time there, Hamster announced that he was dating his roommate's old high school friend, whom we'll call Gladys because I feel like it. The roommate (Roo) was a bit disturbed by the situation, but seemed to be in good spirits. Indeed, they made an odd couple, as the lady was taller and of a much more substantial girth than the fellow. She pretty much equals three of him.
The following week was a momentous one. During the first few days of their boyfriend-girlfriendhood, Hamster and his roommate Roo got it on. Yes, friends, they crossed that bold line between "appropriate levels of physical attraction between roommates" and "sex."
This was most unfortunate and unsettling for me, because Hamster actually kinda resembles a rodent, and I was really grossed out by the notion. Hamster told Gladys immediately the next morning about what had happened between him and his roommate, and she was forgiving.
Later that week, Hamster reported to me that his girlfriend was feeling bad because he and she had "gone too far" the previous night. The next day they were engaged for this coming April.
A week or so later, the wedding was pushed up to last Saturday. I got my wedding invitation through Myspace: "Come if you want. If not, we're still doing it."
Doing what? one has to wonder....
Anyway, I rounded up the troops and Wiggle and Blushorts and I headed to the wedding. We were a bit curious as to whether the debacle would still be going on, since we hadn't actually heard anything since the Myspace invitation. But when we got to the Orem Institute of Religion, the ceremony was in full swing, and one of their mothers was up there saying how proud she was of the two.
Then the bishop got up and offered generic advice that I'd heard countless times in marriage prep at institute. Then they had the ceremony. The bride was dressed in cream. The bottom of the dress puffed way out, which made her torso look like the fake bride atop a huge delicious champagne-colored wedding cake. Also, I hadn't had breakfast before I went.
The bishop told them to take each other by the right hand, but I think the bride heard "Take his hand with your right hand," because she grabbed his left and pulled him over to where they were to stand.
The ceremony itself was interesting because we were all leaning forward in our pews, wondering whether anyone would object or whether we'd all have to forever hold our peace.
Well, they skipped that part of the ceremony, which is lucky, because I don't think I'd be allowed to rail on the wedding if they'd said it. We all tensed up again when it came time for them to say "I do," but I was pretty sure he wouldn't back out at the last second, because she could totally beat him up. They were pronounced mammal and wife, and the bride leaned all the way in and kissed him. That kiss, to me, was a foreshadow of the remainder of their marriage, with her constantly putting in the effort and keeping up appearances and strong-arming her way through dismal months or maybe even years until finally she realizes she is suffocating and pulls away.
After the ceremony, they were allowed to say words from the pulpit. Gladys went first, and announced that she was glad that her newly acquired husband didn't have car insurance. She explained in a forward and engaging way that shortly after Hamster had moved here, he had crashed his car into someone else's car. She told us that Hamster had needed a ride to court, and explicated the miracle that occurred when the judge gave him a lower fine than those which he'd given all the other violators present that morning. After that, they'd gone to Taco Bell, and that was their first date. The hand of the Lord, she said, had been in everything they'd done that led them to this point. Good thing Jesus took away that kid's insurance, huh? And I'm not even going to touch the fact that the bride wasn't in white. She ended by saying to the audience, "I love him more than I've ever loved anything else." It's really sad because when I look at this kid, I think, there's something not quite human about this kid. He really looks like someone took a man and started turning him into a naked mole rat and then just stopped part of the way through the transformation. And then she had to go and say "anyTHING." Not "anyONE."
So then the groom spoke. The little fellow looked so happy up there. There was more joy in him than his tiny frame could contain. He kept saying "these past few weeks," as an awkward reminder to everyone that the couple had only been dating for a month and engaged for a little under three weeks. When he was done speaking, there was another all-her kiss, and then there was a closing prayer and it was all over. All over.
We talked to some of the other guests at the wedding. Everyone was dressed in their best Sunday smiles. We were all very polite and very "supportive." I don't know what it really means to be "supportive," but I've decided that in the church it means to show up, smile, and not mention the fact that somebody is making a very stupid and huge mistake with his or her life.
Wiggle wondered aloud on the way home whether any of Gladys' friends had even once pulled her aside and said, "Look, I think what you are doing might be a Very Terrible Mistake."
At any rate, they are married now. May they find peace and happiness and monogamy.
I do realize that today's post is a tad more sardonic and potentially hurtful than my normal posts. But there's this phenomenon I've recognized here. I call it "the Provo Effect," and I used to think it was the greatest thing since Cap'n Crunch. But now I'm starting to wonder.
Here in Provo, you see, it doesn't matter what you do. As long as you act like you're supposed to be doing whatever it is you're doing, everyone else will act like that as well. If you just walk into a stranger's apartment, drink out of his milk carton, and change the channel on the TV, he will say "Hey, what's up?" and act as though he's the crazy one for either not remembering you or being offended by what you are doing. And seriously, you can get away with it. And yes, I do know this firsthand.
So naturally, when I moved to Provo, I took full advantage of this phenomenon. I would knock on random doors and ask the girls inside for dinner, and they would whip something up, or give me the leftover pie from last night. I came to realize that the film Ocean's 11 wasn't exaggerating when it had the Mormon Twins tell Saul, the old con artist, "I think you should try Provo. I think you could do very well there."
But soon I started to see the downside. Have you ever watched American Idol during the tryout phase, and been like, "Why on EARTH do these wretched people think they can sing?" Well, the answer is, the Provo effect. Nobody is going to be the one to tell you that you can't sing, especially if you always sing with "self confidence" (a subject for a different rant). If you're a terrible singer but you sing all the time, and then you go up to your boss and say, "I'm quitting my job and I'm going to go make a fortune on American Idol," your boss is going to say, "Oh! I think you'll do great!" because first, nobody, even bosses, likes to be the one to tell you that what you are doing is not okay with the rest of the world, and second, at least now the office will be quiet enough to hear the Muzak playing overhead.
The world hates Simon Cowell, but really it should hate all the Paula Abduls out there who only hinder people's progression by never giving them the feedback that they need. In the name of being "nice," we are being dishonest, and it has to stop.
One day Heather Angela Hicks (she was still heather Angela Hawks back then) got a pink mohawk and spiked it up all crazy for church. I had been telling Heather from the moment she got the mohawk that I thought it looked terrible and trashy. And it really did. But after church, she was pleased to report that several of the sisters in the relief society had complimented her on her nice new mohawk. That's when it hit me. The Provo Effect was exactly the same thing as the Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome. And we're letting our emperors parade around naked!
Maybe all the people who have a proper sense of decency assume that the rest of us do, too. Let me assure you, though, that there are plenty of us who check the propriety of our actions against the reactions of those around us, like a sort of prosthetic conscience. Your failure to react genuinely does us a great disservice. Not that I'm trying to lay the blame for my own misdeeds on someone else. It's just that I think people care about what everyone thinks a little more than any of us lets on, and so it's time for us all to feel responsible for the opinions we share.
Instead of, "Oh, I like your hair," you can say, "Oh, I notice you got a new mohawk. Not something I would ever wear to church, but if it helps your sense of self worth, then I suppose it's a good thing." That comment, after about fifty repetitions from various members of the relief society, is going to send a message about the ridiculousness of the stupid haircut.
Hamster's wedding was the nadir of this effect. The event was the real masquerade of the day, with all of the guests hiding their true faces and feelings and putting on a facade of grotesquely exaggerated smiles. As long as nobody at the party shows his true face, nobody can be held responsible for the resulting tragedy, right?
Now, Hamster's wedding scared me for another reason, as well. Here he seems to have found what we all seem to be looking for (on paper, at least): a girl who proclaims to believe in the gospel and forgiveness and repentance and who is willing to overlook our shortcomings and marry us anyway. But any closer look will reveal that that is merely the facade; it's the lie hamster is telling himself. These two young people are in absolute denial about their future. They seem to believe in an impossible life in which they can merely divorce themselves from their feelings and breezily forgive away any trespasses against them.
Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of gay-straight marriages fail. Psychologists maintain that the only chance such a relationship really stands is through an incredible amount of communication between husband and wife. Well, Hamster and Gladys do seem to be able to communicate with each other. She was well aware of his indiscretions when they united in matrimony. My fear is that neither is really communicating with himself. Hamster is a fool to think that marriage will be his Pool of Bethesda. An optimistic, pathetic fool, whom I pity and understand, but a fool nonetheless. And Gladys is likewise a fool to think she can strong-arm him from place to place in the marriage, just as she did at the wedding, for the rest of their lives. She is going to squish the li'l fellow.
I hope that the mere fact that I can recognize the flaws in their thinking will prevent my making a similar mistake. I hope that someday I will find a virtuous woman who does have the capacity to love me and forgive me through all of my shortcomings, but at the same time will have a sense of her own worth and who will hold me to a higher standard of behavior rather than just continue to increase her tolerance of my misdeeds.
I wish that were the end of the post, but there's always another chapter to my stories, as Pinetree can attest after his on-campus run-in with (and run-off without) the Latina chick whose roommate had tried to get me to set the two up.
All that aside, though, I got an e-mail from Rose today. You remember Rose, right? The transvestite from my ward who got baptized while I was at efy? Click here for the story. Click here for her Myspace, including more pics if you log in. Well, she's getting married in April. To the boy she was dating right after her baptism several months ago. And she says she's saving me a spot in the temple. Of course, this puts me in the rather uncomfortable position of possibly being the only one to attend the wedding who knows that she is, in actuality, a "he." So I have set another appointment with the Bishop and I will be taking him the evidence that Heather Angela Hicks was smart enough to photocopy, and I will ask him what he thinks I should do.
This could easily be another wedding where I sit there with my mouth shut and say nothing. Just watch the embers fall and sit there, smugly reassured that I'm not the one responsible for the fire. But maybe it's time to be Simon, not Paula, and to call the disaster where I see it.
Sharkbite asked why I even attended Hamster's wedding at all. I told him that if there's a train wreck on the side of the road, you can't just drive by and not turn your head to look. Then again, I'm starting to realize that sometimes an emperor can parade by naked, and you really can just clamp your mouth shut and pretend not to see. Not everyone in the crowd believed the tailors and their nonsense about not being fit for our station, I've learned. Half of us are just clenching our teeth, hoping some kid will say what we aren't willing to stick our necks out to say ourselves. Oh, well. The first resplendent ruler, in all his glorious déshabillé, is gone, the next approaches, and all I can do is hope that at the end of the parade, there is Santa, and he's throwing candy.