The NYT‘s weekly Modern Love column could be very relateable. Love, the universal human emotion that brings us all together… the only thing there’s just too little of… no matter if you’re a king or pawn, noble or peasant, ugly duckling or beautiful swan, love is a humbling experience that makes fools of us all while giving us a tantalizing glimpse into the mysterious workings of the human heart. That sort of thing. Instead, it tends to be more like one of those shows on TLC about freaks and weirdos. “I’m Addicted to Sex“; “I’m Addicted to Candy“; “I Paid a Kabbalist to Find Me a Husband“; “I’m Jealous of My Grade-School Son’s Girlfriend“; “Reality TV Stole My Baby“; “My Wife Is in the Slammer“; “I Live With My Ex-Husband“; “Married to a Hoarder“; “78 and Still Doin’ It“; “Married… With Bedbugs!” It’s a parade of special-needs children, arranged marriages, reappearing birth mothers, and psychotic animals.
And so it is with the most recent column. In this personal essay, Nicole Hardy tells us what it’s like to be a 35-year-old Mormon virgin. Fascinating… lurid… like a Judd Apatow movie, combined with that one reality TV show about how crazy Mormons are! I can’t wait to learn more about the Mormon faith, so that hopefully I can let go of my simplistic stereotypes about it. What have you got for me?
“Of all the places I felt sure I’d never go, Planned Parenthood topped the list. Because, you know, they perform abortions and give condoms to kids, or so I’d been warned.” Okay, never mind.
As the story opens, Hardy magnanimously deigns to make use of PP’s low-cost, community-subsidized health services. She finds herself “in its waiting room next to a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle.” Teenagers are so stupid, what with being confused by bureaucratic paperwork! Not like the writer, who, as we will learn, spent 15 years figuring out that putting off sex for marriage often results in neither. Also, for all she knows, this teenage girl is about to have hours of mutually pleasurable sex with her adoring boyfriend on a bearskin rug. It’s like, I know you’re jealous, but wishing painful intercourse on a sexually empowered youth is Not A Good Look.
“But what did I know?” What, indeed. “I was a 35-year-old virgin.” You don’t say! How come? “I was not frigid, fearful or socially inept.” Well, you sound a little fearful, what with that crack about “uncomfortable and humiliating.” “I was not overweight or unattractive.” Pics, plz. “Didn’t suffer from halitosis or social anxiety disorder.” I was not celibate like a nun/I was not celibate just for fun/ I was not crippled in my bed/I was not crazy in the head/I was not smelly like a goat/ I was not fat with junk-food bloat/I would have, could have gotten laid!/ I would have, but the church forbade. That’s a poem I wrote.
The true reason, as the intelligent reader may have surmised (because it was in the headline) is that “I was a practicing Mormon, and Mormons ‘wait’ until marriage.” The result was an epic wait. “It felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely…. I felt trapped in adolescence.” That sounds awful. I think I know what she should do, though. She should get a makeover and go on a wacky, booze-fueled quest to get her cherry popped.*
*Ew, but that’s what the movie people would call it… Pop My Cherry, starring (probably) Katherine Heigl.
Instead, “my first act of open rebellion was to go see ‘Brokeback Mountain’… with a pair of lesbian friends. I was not ready to have an alcoholic beverage or a cup of coffee, to lie with a man or smoke a cigarette. But I could watch a movie, even if that movie was an obvious attack on the sanctity of hetero marriage.” Damn you, Hollywood! Stop attacking the sanctity of hetero marriage by occasionally acknowledging that gay people exist! You’re perverting people’s morals and tempting them to drink coffee!
“While I am also straight and believe in God, one thing became clear that day: I could empathize with those gay cowboys.” I got news for ya, honey: Every straight woman can emphathize with those gay cowboys. The blond guy, the brunet guy, both at once, other gay cowboys who wander by and decide to join in, whatever. So strongly can I emphathize with them, I would like to be pressed in between them, to feel what it’s truly like to be a gay cowboy. Just a big testosterone-fueled sandwich of clandestine lust, musky sweat, and mutual identification. I would do that for you, gay community. Because I care about CIVIL RIGHTS.
Hardy goes on to appropriate the characters’ experience. “I knew what it was to be
sodomized in a tent fundamentally bound to an ill-fitting life, to be the object of pity and judgment, to feel I had no choice but to be the thing that made me ‘other.'” Also like the characters, she risks being beaten up by rednecks and dragged behind a pickup truck if caught in bed with a man. Curse our intolerant, heterophobic society!
Wacky rom-com antics seem likely to ensue in next paragraph, in which she pursues “stage 2 of my rebellion” by going to a sex shop with her lesbian friends. The scene isn’t narrated in enough detail to make anyone laugh, though. If she wanted me to LOL, she should have made up a part where like, she runs into her boss while waving around a gigantic black dildo. Or maybe her chihuahau bites open a tube of strawberry-scented lube, and it squirts all over her silk scarf, and the clerk is like “since you damaged that, you have to buy it,” and then the next day she’s at Mormon church, and the lube falls out of her purse & into the collection plate… then an old lady sitting next to her says something incongruously risqué… this movie just writes itself!
She tries dating Mormon men and regular men, but gets nowhere. Finally, she has a has a conversation with some douchebag that reveals what she’s doing wrong. After getting her to admit that she has her own career and money & stuff, this dude concludes she’s “too independent” and that “If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”
She regards this as a moment of epiphany, but it is hard to see why. If all the men in one’s social circle were seeking out young, passive, helpless, mindlessly compliant women as life partners, one would think it would be the sort of thing one would notice. Nonetheless, “I tried for 15 years not to lose hope.” It’s not clear whether the 15 years happened before or after the conversation with the douchey guy. There’s some stuff about “the Gospel” that I sorta skimmed over. Then eventually, she did lose hope.
“Perhaps the failure was mine — I’m sure many church members see it that way. I was too weak to endure.” Or, perhaps the failure was that of the Mormon church, for demonizing homosexuality and female sexual desire, judging women’s worth based solely on their reproductive output, and telling people they will burn in hell for all eternity if they don’t follow a set of arbitrary rules of conduct? Nah, that’s too nitpicky. It’s probably all the author’s fault. What a slut!
“Oddly, my trip to Planned Parenthood provided much that the church had not in recent years. I was mystified by [the doctor’s] compassion.” Yes… that is odd. After all, it says right in their mission statement that “for more than 90 years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning,” so it’s hard to see how they could have dropped the ball in this one instance WAIT I THINK I’VE MIXED THINGS UP SOMEHOW.
The nice lady doctor touched her all compassionately, and she cried. The end, almost. There’s one more paragraph. So, is this going to be it, the thrilling conclusion, the sex scene? Will she finally live out her dream of ass-balling on a mountaintop with a Heath Ledger lookalike?
No. “I would have an IUD instead of children.” Congratulations on your spiky little bundle of joy! This isn’t a very good movie, after all.