04 July 2007

I'm a lover, not a luver

I was released from my calling in my ward's Young Women presidency a month-and-a-half ago, only to be called right back into the organization last week, this time as assistant camp director. Don't know why, but it seems this is where I belong, with the teenage girls. I wasn't the most successful one myself, so I wonder what these 'leventy-million opportunities to work with kids have been about, lo, these past thirteen years. 13! One of my lucky numbers!

Tonight, at least, I am persuaded that this latest opportunity to serve came in small part so that I could introduce the concept of sexism to one of my Laurels, our sweet self-appointed sophisticate, our diva-in-process. She recently loaned me two books (for which just a tad of sleuthing around on this page will produce the twin titles). I spent the next few days in a heavy bipolar funk and these fat best-sellers supplied me with enough low-investment busywork to keep me somewhat distracted till I made it out of that dark place. About all I did during that time was read. Did I enjoy them? In a way. I certainly got through them in a hurry—over 1000 pages in far less than 72 hours. But I had many residual beefs, and tonight, when my beloved Opera Miss finally quizzed me about my take on the books, I gave it to her gently and broadly, but straight. Judging from her reaction, I think that she isn't fully aware of the meaning of "sexist," but I'm pretty sure the word lodged neatly in her brain and will stick there till her understanding grows. She did, however, seem to get it when I said that the books' heroine was weak because she allowed, and even relied upon, another person—a boy, of course—to call the shots, set the standards, draw the limits, etc., and that she was willing to trade everything—her family, her life, her future, her ability to contribute to her world, ad nauesum—for love, or rather, for LUV. I took issue with the points that nothing is more important than LUV and that LUV conquers all. Of course, love is at the heart of everything good, but it ain't necessarily at the heart of LUV. I told her that this wasn't my idea of true romance, or a great character, or real sacrifice. I did say I often thought as I read the books how glad I was that "our girls" are making better choices. (What I didn't say was that I am concerned that this may not continue to be the case for some of them.) I did smile a wry inward smile when, in the middle of my requested book report, which was received in a feeling-after-adulthood quasi-knowing style, lovely Opera Miss interrupted me and girlishly asked:

"So, who do you like better? Edward or Joseph?"

Um . . . the vampire? or the werewolf? Hard choice. How about no more steady boyfriends till you figure out "sexist"?

I didn't enumerate my more minute criticisms, which include but are far from limited to:

•Don't lie to your family.
•Don't use people.
•Learn to be secure in yourself—without a boyfriend, already!
•Don't have your boyfriend stay with you at night on the sly or otherwise, and especially not in your bed.
•When you get a bad feeling about something, trust it instead of fighting against it.
•How come a homegirl from BYU isn't writing more moral strength into her female character?

I swear, I didn't get up on my soapbox. I just answered my young friend's question because she wanted to hear what I thought. But I do know when to quit. When I did we went cheerfully back to our ongoing hammock-making project with the rest of the Tuesday evening group: ripping old bedsheets into strips, sewing the pieces together, and winding them up into fat fabric yarn balls. Teamwork. In two weeks I'll bring the wood supports and introduce the girls to power tools.

Nicely, my Opera Miss and I discovered that we both adore Cyrano de Bergerac, and twittered on about that a while, in a totally different, giddy, gushy tone. You see? I do loves me a good love story.


Chemical Billy said...

I think she's lucky to have someone like you in her life. Don't underestimate how powerful a figure you can be for someone at that age.

My Laurels teacher had a profound affect on me. And although I had to make my own mistakes and go through some stupid things, her gentle influence did make a real difference in the long run.

Jory Dayne said...

OHHHHHHH GEO. You have so eloquently put into words what I have only been fuming about from that book.

Fuming in the sense that there was just this nebulous haze about what I didn't like about it, but had gotten enough of a whiff of it to know that I didn't.

Geo said...

That's kind of you, darling Billy. Lately I am feeling a not unwelcome but pretty intense weight of responsibility to attempt modelling wholeness for my girlies, which is interesting, because I'm, uh, not exactly the most whole or balanced person by nature. But I don't subscribe to "Do as I say, not as I do," so I'm having to work like never before to bail out the water, stop up the leaks in my emotional/spiritual boat, and get my sea legs.

By the by, it strikes me that you and I came out alright in the love vs. LUV debate. We both eventually kissed our various vampires and winsome werewolves goodbye and made off with a Rob and a Tony. Some influence or other certainly paid off.

Jory, it's interesting to get a man's take on the series. So far, I have only heard umpteen girls and women say they've read, and without exception, they ooze excitment about it. I get the reasons, but I don't want to.

I have committed to reading #3 when it comes out, but I bet nobody but yourself is going to agree with my review. Not that I'm going into the book with preconceived notions or anything . . . of course not! Hey, maybe Stephenie is planning to redeem herself with the next one.

I like your b&w picture. Got a big one anywhere? It wants further study.

P.S. I subscribed to your blog today, and learned from you a new vocabulary word: polymathic.

Melody said...

I just love and LUV the way you write. Great stuff, the stuff of life. Keep up the good works, faith, choice and accountability and all that...

Geo said...

Thanks, Melody! I miss you!

Lucky Red Hen said...

Funny thing that I knew exactly the books to which you refer way before you spilled the beans.

Although I don't abhor the book(s) as you do (I'm actually a staunch luver of them) I can see the point you make as a legitimate reflection.

Luckily, there is no such thing as vampires (except the people who believe they are but instead they're just misfits with sharp teeth - apologies if you're one but I stand by my words) or werewolves nor are there Harry Potter's or Transformers but we can be entertained by the idea of them in a fantasy sort of way.

I can see how your radar is extra sensitive to things like this and you're able to look at it objectively. What you're getting out of it can be used as a teaching tool for these young, impressionable girls so that they can see the error of the main characters ways.

However, I must say that she has truth to her in that when we fall in LUV we fall really hard and don't pay any attention to what our brain is telling us because our heart (or hearth, if you know what I mean) is beating so loud that we can't hear anything else.

As a young girl (and not so young) I fell hard for many a' vampire-type (would've been better that they be the werewolf type) and chalk it up to experience that taught me what NOT to look for in a companion.

I love and luv you ;o)

compulsive writer said...

I would send my darling daughter to camp with you. In a heartbeat.

And thanks for the heads up about the books. My L~ practically consumed them. She has been anxious for me to read them and now I will bump them up on my reading list in hopes I can have at least a halfway intelligent discussion about them with her.

Love you.

Elizabeth said...

I loved your last line ("I DO loves me a good story). :)

liz said...

your ability to put words together with a sensitive nature (awareness of your audience and your honesty) is probably a huge reason they need to be learning from you. they are so lucky.

I would be personally terrified of YW! I couldn't stand my peers when I was that age, it would be like living it all over again. gack.

b. said...

My adult onset of ADD caused me to lose interest halfway through.
It was a'ight for me. I have many women telling me to "Go baaaack, read it, you'll luuuuuuuuv it!"

I like reading you instead.

Geo said...

Hey, Lucky, I appreciate your comments.

I didn't totally abhor those books. I was reading partly for Opera Miss, but they were entertaining. I don't rule out fantasy as a genre that is fun to explore.

I guess the watchdog/avenging angel in me has taken front and center since I've been working with the girls. There are some pretty strong individuals in our group (okay, two . . . possibly three) and some others who are extremely vulnerable because of all sorts of problems and difficult backgrounds. If I didn't have a huge protective feeling going on inside about Opera Miss right now, for instance, I might not have given these books a second thought. I find myself weighing and analyzing everything these days. Keep this? Don't keep this? How can I use this? Does it fit? Will it help? etc.

As for your last two paragraphs, I totally hear you. I spent some years there too and feel much the same way as you in retrospect.

Why don't YOU write a book? I'm serious. I wish there were more books that romanticized moving beyond the toothsome trap. I would cheer for a book like that.

Geo said...

c-dub: Send her on over! We need some new blood! Ar ar ar!

I say read 'em. You'll want to discuss these with your own miss.

elizabeth: And I do! I do!

liz: I am terrified and cry almost every time I'm called, and then I cry harder when I'm released.

b: You are sweet. But hey, if you change your mind about bloodsuckers, check out the classic old silent film Nosferatu! And call me—I'll watch it with you!

b. said...

Is that anything like Bram Stoker? Because I think maybe we should watch up wind, eh?

Geo said...

Somebody's been reading the archives! I could smell it a mile away!

Rachel B. said...

I agree totally! I brought up all those same points at Book Club and all the ladies stared at me like I was pulling a fish out of my ear. As I was reading the book, I kept yelling "Just die already!" I couldn't stand the main character. I was also bothered by a 200-year-old vampire being in love with a 17-year-old girl. I just found that to be really creepy.

Geo said...

rachel b.: Maybe we should start our own book club.