Friday, September 19, 2014

What Would Insana Dee Do? Come to ExMormon 2014 and Find Out!

This week I am proud to present an EXCLUSIVE with Insana Dee, the featured speaker at the 2014 ExMormon Foundation Conference, also known as the President of the Sisterhood of the Licked Cupcake Society and the Annie Oakley of ExMormonism!

Donna Banta:
Welcome to Ward Gossip, Insana Dee. I'm humbled that you agreed to visit my little blog.

Insana Dee:
Thanks Donna, I'm happy to be here.

Donna:
You're a speaker at next month's ExMormon Foundation Conference. Did you ever once in your devout LDS childhood imagine you would be speaking at an ExMormon conference?

Dee:
No, but I did figure out early in my upbringing that I was not Celestial Glory material.

Donna: 
Did this make you feel out of place?

Dee:
Actually, it freed me up to just have fun.

Donna:
Good for you. How did your family react to all the fun you were having?

Dee:
Back when I was about 12 or 13 years old my mom rented this run down, shabby old saddle shop in Fairview (Utah). We spent a summer fixing it up and found when we stripped some of the old cruddy plaster off the walls that they'd stuffed the chinks in the railroad ties with newspapers circa 1880. One featured an ad that offered, "Buy an Idaho bride!" and showed a drawing of these hefty, strong looking dark-haired women lined up in their nightgowns. The caption read, "These girls come from good Mormon homes and are obedient, fertile, and have strong bones and teeth." Since I was the only one of my siblings born in Idaho, my brothers threatened to trade me to an old plyg for water rights and property or cash. The going price in 1880 was $800, but they figured they'd have to discount me to $500 since I wasn't very obedient.

Donna:
Ha! Your brothers were willing to unload you for cheap?

Dee: They were hard up for cash. Also, I think some of them thought it would have been a good way to get me to comply and be more submissive, but what they didn't realize was that if I'd been put in such a situation I would have had the women collectively rebelling and giving some well earned retribution to their oppressors in no time flat. I'd have been the polygamists' nightmare.

Donna: 
Will your remarks at the ExMormon Foundation Conference include any criticism of the leaders of the mainstream LDS Church? For example, Elder Russell Ballard's recent suggestion encouraging Mormon women to speak up in meetings, so long as they don't say too much?

Dee:
I blame all this uppityness on women in flip-flops. If women would go back to hard uncomfortable shoes, yeast infection inducing pantyhose, gas building tight girdles, and complicated bras with bones built in the ribs and back and itchy lace sewn across the middle then we wouldn't have all this hoopla about women's equality.

Donna:
Do you think the Brethren will reintroduce such a dress code?

Dee:
I'm surprised they haven't already.

Donna:
As the President of the Sisterhood of the Licked Cupcake Society, would you advise faithful sisters to comply to such demands? What would Insana Dee do?

Dee:
Walk on the grass. Run with scissors. Laugh loudly with light mindedness. Roll up her garments so she could wear a mini-skirt.

Donna:
Screw the rules, then.

Dee:
Sin is its own reward, Donna.

Donna: 
Sounds like your speech at the ExMormon Conference may be the Brethren's nightmare.

Dee:
That's why I'm the Annie Oakley of ExMormonism. Only rather than shooting a gun from a galloping horse, I can shoot quips and smart-ass remarks like a gatling gun and hit the self-righteous right between the eyes.

Donna:
Indeed you can! Thanks so much for sharing a preview of those smart-ass remarks here on Ward Gossip, Dee.

Dee: Thank you for having me.

- Want to hear more of Insana Dee's wisdom? Don't miss this year's ExMormon Foundation Conference - October 10-12, The Double Tree Suites, Salt Lake City.

Click here to listen to Insana Dee's 2012 interview on Mormon Expression Voices.

Alternatively, there's always the Brethren…

Friday, September 12, 2014

ExMormon Etiquette - Lesson One

Last Sunday, at our monthly ExMormon gathering at the San Francisco Ferry Building, we welcomed some newcomers who had recently left the LDS Church. Like most emerging ExMormons, the first question on their lips was, "What should I tell my believing family?"

It's a common dilemma. So common that the better part of an excellent book about leaving Mormonism is devoted to the subject. But lucky for you, Gentle Readers, I happen to be an experienced expert on this and all subjects pertaining to ExMormon etiquette! In that spirit, I invite you to read my 2 SIMPLE RULES FOR DEALING WITH YOUR BELIEVING MORMON FAMILY:

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1: Don't Explain
I know it's counterintuitive. As a newly escaped Mormon, you've spent the better part of your life both privately and publicly explaining everything from your recent masturbation lapse to the mysterious tan line on your mid-thigh. But really, you don't owe anyone an explanation for why you decided to leave the one and only true church. Leveling with your mom, dad, siblings, etc. may seem like a satisfying means of closure, but all it usually does is open the door to further argument and more hard feelings. It's best to agree to disagree on matters of religion and stick to safe subjects.

EXCEPTIONS TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1:

Exception A: If your family/loved ones decide to change your mind by arguing their point, sending you pro-Mormon literature, quoting the Book of Mormon, etc.
- In this case, ignore SRN1 and say, "Here is my counterpoint - my favorite factual book about Mormonism - the Shakespearean play that is the source of that scripture." That usually shuts them up pretty quickly.

Exception B: If your family/loved ones decide to go behind your back and reconvert your young children by arguing their point,  sending them pro-Mormon literature, quoting the Book of Mormon, etc.
- Again, ignore SRN1 and say, "Here is my counterpoint - my favorite factual book about Mormonism - the Shakespearean play that is the source of that scripture." And if you ever approach my children with your bat s**t crazy a**ed propaganda again, I'll lurk outside church on Sunday, ambush your kids, bring them back to my place and force them to watch Cosmos." That usually sends them sprinting down the street screaming in terror.

Exception C: If you have teenaged children who still believe.
- Then it is your DUTY to ignore SRN1 and explain all of your misgivings about Mormonism. Sure, they'll resent you for leaving, for embarrassing them in front of their friends, and for not having a single brain cell left in your daft head. Face it, they're teenagers, you're a clueless adult, and it's going to be at least 10 years before you've learned anything. Given that by then they'll have swapped out a mission for study abroad or put off having kids for a career or tied the knot with their same sex partner, my guess is "I hate my parents for leaving the LDS Church" will no longer be among their common refrains.

Exception D: If you have adult children who still believe.
- In this unfortunate situation, my best advice is to fall back on that well-honed skill you acquired from Mormonism and LIE. Statements like, "even though it's not for me, I completely respect your dedication to and sacrifice for the one and only true church" may leave a bad taste in your mouth. But consider it a small price to pay. Otherwise be prepared for annual visits with the grandkids who will wretch when you kiss them because "Grammy and Grampy are a couple of perverted psychopaths but we love them anyway because we're Christians."

Do you see how simple this is?

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2: Don't Hide
Again, it's counterintuitive. After years of hiding your caffeine consumption, R-rated videos, and that mysterious tan line, it seems only natural to stash the beer and coffee pot when the TBM family drops by. But don't do it. The sooner your loved ones accept your decision as permanent, the sooner they can move on to Stage 1 (definitions below)

- Disclaimer: while the following course of events does not play out in every family scenario, after reviewing over 100 test cases, I have found their occurrence to be surprisingly typical. Because, let's face it, obedience to all of those heavenly rules doesn't commonly lead to earthly success, much less overall sanity. -

Stage 1: Your loved ones - let's say your parents - understand you're never coming back to church, write you off as losers, never talk about you to family and friends and spend the better part of your conversations extolling the accomplishments of their believing children and grandchildren. (Unless, of course, you experience some unfortunate luck. They'll be sure to bring that up.)

Stage 2: Your parents stop extolling the accomplishments of their believing children and grandchildren, opting for subjects like sports, the weather, and even an occasional query about your kids.

Stage 3: You discover that your parents' favorite believing child is getting a divorce/has been fired/is leading an expedition to Kolob next year. Or that their favorite believing grandchild is pregnant again at 15/has a sexually explicit tattoo on his face/is so self-righteous nobody can stand to be around her. Only you don't hear about this from your parents. The revelation comes via a mutual acquaintance, or because you see your nephew being arrested on reality TV, or because you pay a surprise visit home and discover that your brother-in-law is living in your old room.

Stage 4: You parents rarely talk about their favorite believing children and families and now spend their time boasting about you and yours to both family and friends - leaving out that tiny detail that you've left the church.

EXCEPTION TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2:

Exception A: SRN2 only works under normal LDS circumstances. If you grew up in a family of General Authorities, Mission Presidents, Temple Presidents, etc., if you're employed by the LDS Church or NuSkin, are a student at BYU or BYU-Idaho, or if you're a longtime resident of Utah County. . .
- I not only suggest you hide, I urge you to change your appearance and your identity and disappear under the cover of darkness.

More simple rules to follow.    

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Used to Dread the Weekend

I used to dread the weekend. It's one of my most cringe-worthy Mormon memories. Back when I was a young mom, my hands covered in eczema, on the last morning of the work week, I'd roll out of bed and think to myself, Oh shit, it's Friday. Or, according to the ExMormon Urban Dictionary, OSIF.

The reason being that after Friday comes Saturday. And everyone who has been a member of the one and only true church knows that Saturday is that special day when Mormons get ready for Sunday. Literally. There's even a song for kids.
Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won't have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes, and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work done day.
Then we trim our nails, and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday.
So while the other families in our neighborhood were off boating, camping, or lazing around the pool, the Bantas were making 8 a.m. runs to Target and the grocery store, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, preparing our church talks or lessons, and then maybe squeezing in a Little League game before we had to haul ourselves to some stupid but mandatory church activity. Because there's always an activity, a truth we are reminded of even now, when Mark and I happen to drive by the LDS Church on Saturday - perhaps on our way to the beach - and see the parking lot packed.

Then comes the dreaded Sunday. I don't think I need to go into too much detail here, especially when my friend over on Thoughts Per Coffee has written her own brilliant take on the Mormon version of the holy Sabbath.

I was between a rock and a hard place - miserable and demoralized when I attended church, miserable and guilt-ridden when I skipped out. After all, who wouldn't want to go to the one and only true church?

Me, that's who.

I made all the excuses; I faked illness (although a stress-induced migraine coupled with eczema-inflamed hands wasn't exactly fake); I skipped out after Sacrament Meeting (it's partaking of the sacrament that's most important, right?) Finally, I declared myself a failure and just quit going.

And that was a good thing. Because then I started looking forward to the weekends - even Sundays.

For example, this past Sunday when some of my fellow heretics and I celebrated the Sabbath by cooking Zuni Cafe roasted chicken and bread salad.

I had been looking forward to this all week!
 
All prepared to partake of the sacrament.
Me and my friend, Don, who left the church at age 12 when he was kicked out of the "Tuesday afternoon thing."

A couple of Fridays ago I checked the calendar on my iPhone to see "Sacrament Meeting" appear on my upcoming Sunday schedule. A dear young woman I've known practically all of her life had recently returned from her mission and was scheduled to give a talk. I smiled and thought to myself, I'm looking forward to that!

After a fun, stress-free Saturday, Mark and I awoke Sunday morning, managed to find some reasonably well-brushed clothes and scuff-free shoes and headed for church. I didn't have a migraine and my hands didn't itch. The meeting was enjoyable because it featured our friend, and we had a rush of pleasant nostalgia while singing the hymns. Afterward we hugged our friend and her family, and then left without staying for Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society.

And I didn't feel guilty. Not even a little. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Actual Woman to Attend LDS Church Women's Meeting

LDS Church Leaders to Admit First Woman to Women's Meeting 
Salt Lake News -- published August 28, 2014

In yet another startling break from tradition, LDS leaders announced late Wednesday that an actual woman will be attending next month's church-wide Women's Meeting.

"The Brethren are nothing if not progressive," said church spokesperson Wilbur Burton. "They decided to test the waters. If this one behaves herself, there may be more next time."

The carefully selected candidate, Ginger Louise Bennion, is a sophomore at BYU-Idaho and serves in her ward nursery. 

"The Quorum of the Twelve sifted through thousands of resumes before settling on Sister Bennion," Burton said. "They were looking for a special kind of sister, one who possesses that delicate combination of tact, sweetness, and run-of-the-mill expectations."

While the Women's Meeting is scheduled to last 2 hours, Ms. Bennion will be excused after the first 30 minutes.

"The Brethren don't want to push it," explained Burton. "So much of what will be discussed in the Women's Meeting is too sacred to be shared with an actual sister. But she can at least hear our opening agenda."

When asked how she received this honor, Ms. Bennion replied, "I'm like, so thrilled. I mean, it's way cool to be the first and everything." And then she added archly, "This will once and for all demonstrate how much my church values women."

Friday, August 22, 2014

For the Young Mormon Feminists. From an Old Mormon Feminist.

Recently a brave BYU sophomore named Keli Byers challenged her school's ban on sex for unmarried students, and more specifically, berated the BYU administration for its bias against women. In an article published on August 13, 2014 in Cosmopolitan Byers described how, at age 15, she was assaulted by an LDS returned missionary and then blamed by her bishop for having invited the sexual violation. She then went on to explain:
"When I came to BYU last year I signed its honor code and promised to live a 'chaste life' — students who don't could get expelled. But my attitude changed after I joined the Young Mormon Feminists, a group that's not endorsed by the Church or BYU. We talk about how the Church doesn't see women as equal to men and how BYU is slut-shaming. The school's honor code forces women to dress modestly — no skirts above the knee — supposedly to help men control their thoughts. The group helped me reclaim my sexuality and realize my sexual assault wasn't my fault.”
Predictably, her opinion drew angry and defensive responses from believing Mormons. Read both the article and reader comments here.

As I pondered my own reaction to Keli's brave admission, I concluded that my opinion is probably best expressed in the Vagina Testimony I presented at the 2012 Sunstone Symposium, earlier only excerpted here on Ward Gossip.

So this week for Keli, the Young Mormon Feminists, and my Gentle Readers, I again present my Vagina Testimony, this time in full:

I have a vagina. I have a womb. I possess the procreative power, the fertile valley. I am the sacred feminine. My holy female cycle keeps me in tune with God by way of heavenly mood swings and hot flashes of inspiration. I am a member of the stronger sex.

We women did not choose this role. Rather, it was thrust upon us. And it is a heavy mantle to bear. Every day brings new challenges, especially in these troubled times, when increasing numbers seek to challenge our God-given authority. Even here, in the heart of Zion.

For example, yesterday I awoke, dressed, and came downstairs to take on the day. My helpmeet, Mark, served breakfast. Just the usual. Eggs, bacon, waffles, homemade banana muffins and orange juice for me. Half a grapefruit for him. – I appreciate that Mark works at keeping his figure. It’s important. Especially for men of a “certain age.”

I kissed him goodbye and rushed to an important leadership meeting on the BYU campus. Nine o’clock sharp. I was gathered around the well-lacquered conference table with my fellow sisters. As always, we grappled with the day’s tough issues.

n    First on the agenda: A sensitively worded statement to be read to all LDS wards and stakes. One that tactfully marginalizes all members who are not white, straight, married with at least five kids, living on one income, and fulfilling their gender-specific roles.
n    Second on the agenda: A hip LDS PR campaign that only features Mormons who do not fit the above profile.

Afterward, my colleagues and I headed across campus for some good old gal talk at the Sisterhood Bakery. On my way there I marveled at the many righteous young women I encountered who were striving to live the Gospel. But I had a growing unease about the young men, as some engaged in conduct that was unseemly at best, borderline “vagina envy” at worst.

First, outside the bookstore, I spotted a rather homely young man holding up a placard that read, “It’s My Sperm!” (I chalked this up to his obvious inability to get a date.) Then a few minutes later, as my sisters and I were approaching our destination, another woman-hater shouted, “No fair! Why can’t men eat at the Sisterhood Bakery?”

This insubordinate could not be excused. I drew a breath, mustered all of my patience, and said, “Young man, in the unlikely event that the Lord allows men to hold the keys to the Sisterhood Bakery, which cookie would you want?”

After lunch I headed to the library hoping to do some research. Unfortunately, I found it impossible to concentrate, thanks to a shockingly immodest young man in a pair of Levi 501 Shrink to Fit jeans.

Now, you may ask, “Don’t lots of boys at BYU wear 501 Shrink to Fits?” Yes they do, and for most it is an acceptable choice. But this particular young man had an especially curvy backside that strained the confines of his tightly shrunk pants and left nothing to the imagination. Hot, breathless, and teased out of my mind, I quit the building. Honestly, it’s a wonder that a BYU coed gets any work done in such an environment.

This is difficult to explain to somebody who only has a penis. Because, as we know, God designed the penis for a single purpose -- the impregnating of the holy female womb -- an act that is efficient, perfunctory, and complete inside of a minute.

The vagina, on the other hand, has that sacred spot that God created specifically for pleasure and nothing else. Men don’t have that. So by nature they are naïve and vulnerable to the dangerous power of the female orgasm.

The young men must realize that once aroused, a woman’s passion gathers, builds, swells with quivering anticipation, and finally peaks in hot, wet waves of erotic pleasure that drive the female into a prolonged climax of frenzied desire. Even then she is not sated, and may achieve orgasm again and again for hour upon hour with no end in sight.

That young man in the 501’s has no idea how lucky he was. If I hadn’t had the courage to leave when I did, anything could have happened. And it would have been entirely his fault.

I rushed home to find my helpmeet, Mark, at our kitchen table, hot gluing felt for an upcoming Elders’ Quorum lesson.

I ripped open his shirt. “I have to have you now!”
“Um, okay, but can I at least finish my felt . . .”
“Screw the felt.”
“Darling…please be gentle.”

Five hours later, I left Mark collapsed in a puddle of hot glue and headed to my office at the church. I had only one appointment that evening, but it was a lengthy one, as most confessions are. Sven, a young swimsuit model, had taken a job for a prescription drug company. – It was one of those ads promoting the custom fit vaginal vibrators that are covered by insurance. The commercial featured Sven in a swimming pool surrounded by a bunch of peri-menopausal hotties. When the shoot was over, the women—predictably—lost control and forced Sven to perform oral sex on all six of them.

Wait. Or was it seven? … Just to be safe, I made him repeat the whole story again. It was six women in the pool.

Or was it the hot tub? … I’d better have him back.

Finally I went home, retired to my bed, and drifted off to sleep thinking of all the other privileges I might be entitled to simply because of the anatomy inside of my underpants.

And more importantly, I wondered how much longer I would be able to get away with it.

--Those of you who use Goodreads may check out my new author page here and even friend me! Please be my friend. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

Rewind 30-some years ago. My girlfriend and I are sitting in my grandparents' den in Glendale, CA, drinking Cokes and watching Mork and Mindy. I can't find the transcript, but here's how I remember the scene. Mork is hanging with some cool earthling dudes, desperately trying to fit in.

Cool Earthling Dude: Hey guys, I need some new tips on how to attract foxes.
Mork: Why not leave out a little raw meat on your doorstep?

And so I was introduced to Robin Williams--spewing Coke onto my grandma's coffee table. His was a special kind of genius. Always outside of the box, he was the comedian who never needed a laugh track.

There are so many magically hilarious moments lodged in my memory.

His manic stream of consciousness performances on The Johnny Carson Show, one prompting Carson to exclaim, "When did I lose control of this show?"

As the D.J. in Good Morning Vietnam who slyly spliced his own questions into a press conference with Nixon.
Adrian Cronauer: "…Mr. President, how would you describe the Viet Cong your testicles?"
Nixon: "That they're soft, and they're very shallow and they serve no purpose."

As Mrs. Doubtfire igniting her fake breasts on the stovetop and then extinguishing them with a couple of pot covers. As the larger than life genie in Aladdin...

And then there were the casual lines he tossed out seemingly as afterthoughts. At the end of the George W. Bush presidency, "The Reign of Error is over"... or, upon learning that the Iraqis were trying to draft a constitution, "Well, why not take ours? We're not using it."

But he was equally capable of delving into his dark side in movies such as Insomnia, One Hour Photo, and Good Will Hunting. (The latter performance earned him an Oscar.) My favorite of his films, Dead Poets Society, debuted when I was on the cusp of leaving Mormonism. At the time I felt like I was a student in Mr. Keating's class, climbing atop my desk for the very first time and seeing the world from a fresh perspective.
Oh Captain, My Captain
For his fellow San Franciscans, the loss hit close to home. On Tuesday we awoke to see the sad news in a banner headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. Later that day, Mark and I were dining at an Italian restaurant in the Mission. "I feel like we've lost our neighbor," the waiter remarked as he served our lunch.

But then, the outpouring of grief across the globe demonstrates that people far and wide felt he was also their neighbor. For many of us, it was deeply personal. 

How important is art to life?

On Monday at 4:20 PST I was watching a segment about the ISIL on The Chris Matthews Show when a special report interrupted with the news of Robin Williams' death. From there, the show shifted to an interview with James Lipton and stayed with him for the remainder of the hour. So devastated by the news, the veteran host of Inside the Actors Studio continued to apologize to the MSNBC reporter. I'm sorry I'm not a good interview, Lipton continued to lament. I'm still in shock, etc.

In a statement, his daughter, Zelda Williams, said:
"To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too…"
From now on, when I think of Robin he will be laughing. Also I will be laughing.

How important is art to life?

For making us think: 1,000 times the cost of admission. 
For making us laugh: Priceless