Do you ever think back to things you did or said or even generally the way you were—entire swaths of behavior, whole eras of time—five or ten years ago, and the memory makes you want to move to rural Manchuria to avoid contact with anyone from your former life? Me neither. Nothing to be ashamed of over here. Because I never tried any outlandish dance moves or jokes, and didn’t wear a flat top on a long skinny face for a year or two. Nope, I’m good.
Jk, jk. I have plenty of those memories. And many of times I read my scriptures, I am reminded of this past-self embarrassment phenomenon. My current scriptures are the same set I had on my mission. Remember how in seminary you were basically taught that if you weren’t taking notes with seven different colors in your scriptures you might as well just spend your time listening to Metallica and watching Friends, because you sure as heck weren’t learning or retaining anything (I think John Bytheway must have had a significant stake in a Utah colored pencil company)? So I’m always coming across all these notes in the margins and it’s clear I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I was just dutifully writing any deep thing that came to mind. I found one of these earnest, profound thoughts the other day with a line connecting it to a verse about a nation being in trouble when it picks wicked men to lead it. Here’s what the eleven year old note said:
“Like Pres. Clinton”
(This was post-Monica, of course)
I’m learning to accept this former-self loathing as a fact of my life. But I don’t think everyone experiences this. What explains that? Well we all know quite a few people who simply don’t seem very self aware. They might have permanent stank breath or think Wanda Sykes is hilarious but they can’t see the truth, not even ten years later. But then there is another group—probably a larger group—of people who don’t blush at things they did and said and were years ago because there isn’t much to blush about. They are just normal, steady people who aren’t genetically disposed to trying too hard or to seeing this torso staring back at them in the mirror, despite photographic evidence showing it to look more like this (guy on right). These steady types stay pretty close to the mean. There is safety on the balmy banks of the mean.
I don’t care what people think about me in many ways, and I do in others. A good example of the former happened after I had been exclusively dating my girlfriend “Ashley” for a few months. Although I was still a couple months from being ready to propose, I was confident we would end up getting married. But I had heard that the SLC temple was always booked out for many months. So like any normal person I called the temple and reserved a wedding date without telling Ashley or anyone else. Just in case. No harm done. If we got engaged we would have a date thanks to Mr. Anticipator and if we broke up, no one was any the wiser.
Until Ashley got a letter from the SLC temple the next week confirming our temple date. Then she was wiser.
I might have left the church over this. If the little old ladies in the temple reservation office can’t get the simplest thing right, what does that tell me about the big stuff? I broke up with Ashley a month or two later for unrelated reasons. Did I sell my reservation on Ebay to a wealthy, frazzled bride from Federal Heights? Sadly I didn’t know about Ebay back then. So the reservation stayed in my name (Hey, who knew if I would meet Mrs. Right that next month and still be able to use the date. No, the truth is I just forgot to cancel it). Which is why heartbroken Ashley got another call from those nasty old ladies months after we broke up to confirm they were looking forward to her special day next week.
Anyway, that story doesn’t embarrass me. I know you think I’m a freak and that you ladies who consider Davis creepy for saying Schmellisa Schmarrison are judging me in your blackened hearts right now, but I don’t mind. Of course it defied norms and I overlooked the contingency of them notifying the future bride. Twice. But I had a problem and I solved it, however creatively.
Now here’s an example of something that does cause me physical discomfort whenever I’m reminded of it, which Davis ensures is every couple months. When departing missionaries left, there was a plaque hung up on a wall in their home church for the two years they were gone. The plaque had a picture, the mission location and dates, and the favorite scripture of the missionary. Mine hung by ten or so other plaques of young men with scriptures about the Atonement or eternal life or the cause of saving souls. Many hundreds of people saw this plaque during those two years. I don’t remember choosing my particular scripture and don’t remember my motivation. I wasn’t renowned to be a rebel in the neighborhood, although I was never accused of being an angel either. I assume I was taking a parting shot at the network of tattle tale Mormon mother hens in the neighborhood whose existence seemed centered around trying to catch my group of friends in anything compromising and relaying the news on the wire:
No, this hasn’t been photo-shopped (unlike Davis entire story of prank calling Jeff, which we clearly saw once Jeff commented with his version). That really was the scripture I had put on my plaque. I don’t recall being that crazy or immature, but apparently I was. Maybe this scripture was meaningful to me for some pure reason I have forgotten (nope). Or maybe the person responsible for making the plaques wanted to get a jump on things and asked me for my scripture when I was 9 (possible). I really don’t know what to tell you.
So yes, kind of embarrassing. But you need to view this thing for what it was; suburban warfare. Were any of those preachy moms able to place a plaque with a belligerent scripture message on my apartment wall for the two years I was in North Carolina? A message I had to look at every Sunday that caused me to feel the deepest sort of shame? No, no they weren’t.
Kook 10, Compton Bench Judgers 0.