Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Which Alice Is Mistaken For A Mormon

This last weekend we went to the wedding of Ryan's cousin. She is Mormon, as are her parents and most of her siblings.

It was a little strange and at times I felt like I had been time and location warped to some small town in Kansas in 1952. Complete with orange sherbet (non alcoholic) punch and things made with lots of food colouring.
I was asked over and over again the following questions:

"So....What do you do?" (Work for a publicist. No not admin, I write copy and edit and help build campaigns.)
"Where are you from?" (I was born in England. I lived in Syria, my father is Syrian, my mother is English. Then we moved to the Bay Area.)
"Oh...I can kind of hear your accent..." (Yes. You can.)
"How did you and Ryan meet?? (The Onion.)

It was a little tiresome...but they were all so welcoming and nice that I didn't really mind.

It started with family portraits in the morning (Which was fun as I am included when the word family is invoked!) and then we went to Ryan's aunt's house, ate sandwiches from "La Bou" (I hate it when companies try and sharpen their image by shortening their name to something entirely inane) and explained the theory of evolution by natural selection to Ryan's 12 year old cousin. It made me even more upset with the public school system - she asked her teacher the following question:

"If we came from monkeys then does that mean the monkeys will one day become us?"

Her teacher's response:


Which is worrisome. It's a perfectly reasonable question for a 12 year old, particularly if you come from a family that believes "What man is, God once was; What God is man will be" BUT to have a middle school science teacher not understand the theory of evolution by natural selection? And to spread this kind of misinformation? Worrisome.

Anyway. It was a fun afternoon, albeit a little long. It was nice to meet all these people who share genetic information with my (future) husband.

The reception was where things became a little eery, and more than a little of that was due to the fact that Summer leaned over towards the beginning of the evening and whispered:

"Everyone here is wearing secret underwear but us!"

I spent a good portion of the rest of the evening staring at men's necks and women's panty lines, trying to discern the silhouette of the "garment" that they were most assuredly wearing and also wondering how on earth they had managed that day in the blistering central valley heat. The two glimpses I got of actual garment (one when a cousin was adjusting her skirt and the other when another cousin leaned back in his chair while wearing shorts) made it seem to me that they were rather thick and made of some sort of ace bandage like material, although the pictures on this site make it look like they are of a lighter, more breathable material.

I was wearing a new dress from BCBG that I had bought because I thought it would be versatile, the kind of thing I could wear to a barbecue wearing flats or put on heels and wear it to a dinner... it also has short sleeves instead of spaghetti straps (or no sleeves) and as I realized later on, provided enough coverage that I could easily be concealing my own secret underwear.

At one point I was introduced to a man, who I later found out was the groom's father. He was all a twitter when he found out where I lived, as his other son was going to be moving there for an internship. He said, the first time we talked about it, that I would have to talk to his son about living in this area.

I thought this was an empty threat, the kind of thing that people say at cocktail parties, "Oh sure, we should totally go bike riding some time. I'll take you to this awesome place." or "Yeah, you should really talk to my friend's cousin, he's a doctor and he knows about that sort of thing." or "I'll get your email address and send you that link, it's so funny." So I nodded and agreed, "Yeah, I should talk to him. You know it's really expensive there..."

Little did I know that it wasn't an empty threat, that this strange man I'd never seen before (and will most likely never see again) actually did want me to talk to his son. Later on in the evening, he found me and ushered me over to a baby faced boy named Jessemiah or Macob or Dovid or Abrafrom or something (they all seemed to have vaguely biblical names that also sounded made up) and said, "Here's my son, he's a senior and he's going to be moving to your town soon." I assumed, by the guys appearance that he was implying that he was a senior in high school. I asked him if he knew where he was going to be living, thinking that I could direct him to interesting places near by. He said no, and then, gesturing to a very pregnant girl sitting on a chair nearby,
"We've been looking in Menlo Park, Palo Alto...honey, where else have we looked?"
The first thought in my head was, "I knew they got married young but this is ridiculous! She looks 7 months pregnant! Maybe those FLDS Mormons aren't as far removed from the mainstream religion as they all want us to think..."
Then I realized that he must just be getting ready to graduate college, not high school (which is still young, but not quite as scary).
His father stood next to me and I started feeling more and more awkward. Just what was I supposed to tell these people? Where the bars were? My favourite restaurants? At that moment Ryan walked up and the dad, seemingly somewhat relieved, grabbed him and introduced him to Jerub or Marshom or whatever his name was, and I watched Ryan fumble through exactly the same conversation. Thankfully he was interrupted by a skinny photographer, who whisked us away to have our picture taken. I avoided the groom's father for the rest of the evening.

In the car on the way home, I told the story to the rest of Ryan's immediate family.

"Just what did he expect me to say?" I added. "Was I supposed to invite his son over for dinner? Introduce his son to my friends?"

Ryan's mother said, "Ohhh. He thought you were Mormon. You were supposed to tell his son which ward to join and where the churches were."

That was when I realized that my dress could very well have been concealing secret underwear. Then I started to think about how strange that was because for me, it was like a complete stranger had walked up to me and asked me to discuss something intensely personal with another complete stranger and I thought it was rude. But it did not appear that way to him: it was matter of course. So I guess we were both offended.

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