I wish I were a Mormon.
That’s my dirty little secret.
I was first fascinated by Mormons when I was in high school. I was on the subway and I saw some in the station. I didn’t know what they were. In Pgh, there was a Mormon who lived in our building. He would happily tell me everything I wanted to know about Mormonism. When I moved out to the cold house in the forgotten neighborhood, some Mormon girls came to our door. I’d never seen a girl on mission before. I gave them hot chocolate (because Mormons don’t drink coffee or tea!) and we talked. In Mongolia, I tried to hang out with the Mormons, but they wanted nothing to do with me because I was some American kid and they were there on mission.
Last year, I discovered Mormon housewife blogs. Mormon housewife blogs are amazing. Mormonism has a strong tradition of archiving, recording, and journaling, so blogging seems like a fairly natural extension of this. The blogs I have read paint a very specific picture of what life is like as a Mormon. They range from Stacie Lang’s stories of being young, with a small child and a husband in Arizona, to Stephanie Nielson, who is a little bit older and survived a plane crash with her husband. Most of these Mormon women are young, look how I wish I looked and dress how I wish I dressed. I’ve never been inside of an Anthropologie, but they all seem to love it. They eat lots of chocolate and candy. Most of them can’t cook. They spend their days making adorable crafts, taking all the peperoni on a pizza and cutting them into heart shapes for Valentine’s Day.
These women are pretty, their husbands handsome, their children adorable, their families close, and their lives, from a domestic perspective, seemingly perfect. They have community, culture, and a sense of purpose.
People like to point out to me that this is likely an act these women feel forced to put on. “They can’t really be that happy,” I’m told. “They’re just pretending because they think that’s how they’re supposed to be.” I like to think that, among the best of the Mormon housewife blogs, these women really are able to find some sense of joy from their lives and that this isn’t an act based on expectations. That’s what I want from them: some truth.
I don’t want the life they have. Yes, I want the community, culture, and sense of purpose that Mormons seem to have, but I know I can get that in other places where the fact I don’t believe in Jesus (as an idea) doesn’t matter. I like the escapism of it. Even though I want something different from them, I like the fantasy of it. The voyeuristic pleasure in knowing that there is this simple life that is what it is. That there can be joy in every day. The picture Mormons paint for us is not written by Arthur Miller: there is not some slow discovery of the discontent and horror underneath the seemingly happy exterior. The exterior is all there is.
I like looking at pictures of people being happy. I like hearing these simple stories about how it rained, so this woman took her daughter outside to play in it, and that that was enough.