Thursday, January 26, 2006

Nu, ou pas nu?

After injuring my knee in the dead of a Montreal winter, I questioned whether I should remain a missionary. Uncertain how long my recovery would take, I felt that there wasn't much I could contribute to the work. What I didn't know, however, was that there was something very special in store for me. For although I couldn't participate in most normal missionary activities, I could appear on a live talk show to discuss nudity.

Allow me to explain.

After my injury I was given a new companion who was also dealing with some health problems, and we were assigned to work in the mission office. As office sisters, our job was a little tricky. There were two office elders, and the office couple was often called away on various and sundry errands. The tricky part? According to mission rules, two elders can't be alone with two sisters. Our office elders took this rule VERY SERIOUSLY. As soon as the office couple even hinted at their preparations for departure, the elders would suddenly bolt out of their chairs, and flee from our presence as fast as their Mr. Mac legs could carry them.

Often abandoned in the office, it became my job to answer all French-speaking calls whilst my companion worked on the mission newsletter. And so it was one fateful afternoon that a caller announced:

"I am calling to discuss with you your church's position on nudity."

"Our position?"

"Well, I've heard that Mormons don't believe in nudity. You guys are very modest."

"Yes, we do believe in modesty. Let me tell you why . . ."

I went on to explain to her our beliefs about the sacred nature of our bodies, the law of chastity, etc., etc..

And then she said:

"I find your point of view very interesting. Would you be willing to appear on a talk show to discuss your beliefs?"

I told her I didn't think I could, but she insisted I take her name and number. Laughing with my companion afterwards, I wondered if I should tell the mission president about the offer, certain that he'd say no. So I did. And he didn't.

In fact, he thought it was a great idea. President Hinkley had recently been interviewed on national television, and that had gone swimmingly! He was all for it.

And so, a week later, my comp and I found ourselves in the waiting room of a television studio in downtown Montreal. The male host of the program, sporting what to the best of my recollection was a lime green, satiny suit, platform shoes, gold hoop earrings, and a smartly trimmed goatee, spoke to me in rapid-fire French, telling me there was nothing to be nervous about. He said that there would be four people on the show besides himself: two opposed to nudity, and two pro. I say pro because I was told a few minutes later that the man and woman sitting opposite me were not merely "pro-nudity", but were in fact the FOUNDERS OF THE MONTREAL NUDIST SOCIETY. And the woman was about as close to naked as one could get without removing all of one's clothing. As her male counterpart smiled smugly at me from across the room, I, clad in a dress my grandmother had made for me (I believe there was rick rack involved), was introduced to my anti-nudity partner. She, a formidable woman who looked to be in her early 80s, took one look at my name tag and said:

"You're a Mormon? I hate Mormons."

And with that, we were lead into the studio. At this point I was fairly certain that this was not the type of program my mission president had pictured when he agreed to my participation, and I silently prayed that he would forget which channel I'd told him to watch. We were seated, the lights came up, and our host announced:


There's not much more to tell, really. My companion, who watched the show on a monitor in the other room, said that the camera focused mainly on me, and that my expression varied from looking vaguely horrified to looking like I was going to burst into tears at any moment. The host and the pro-nudes referred to me as a nun throughout the entire program, even after I explained (several times) that I wasn't. My anti-nude partner told everyone she hated Mormons, and then she fell asleep.

The next day my mission president told me he hadn't been able to find the right channel. I was immensely relieved until a shifty man at church told me he'd seen me on TV.

And taped it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Open Letters From The Couch

Dear Lifetime: Television For Women,
Why do you put colons in so many of your movie titles? Don't try to deny it: you know you do. Sometimes you don't, but then you use commas and give away the whole plot instead. I was going to watch "Wife, Mother, Murderer", but why bother?

P.S. Please tell Judith Light that I loved her in "Against Their Will: Women In Prison."

Dear Dr. Phil,
Let me just start out by saying that I've been a moderate fan of yours since you broke away from Oprah and started your own show, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I like it when you say "How's that working for you?", and "This relationship needs a hero." When you started promoting your first book, I wasn't tempted to buy it, but I didn't doubt that "Relationship Rescue" could help that man who yells at his kids, and that mom whose daughter thinks she dresses too sexy. But Dr. Phil, you had Star Jones Reynolds on your show to promote her new book and talk about how she learned to love herself, and I just can't get past that. I'm not saying it's totally over between us, but I need some time to think.

Dear Sci Fi Channel,
You make so much more sense on Vicodin.

Dear Spanish Channel,
I don't speak Spanish. If I did, would I think that chubby man who wears shorts with suspenders and has painted freckles and a beanie and that other guy who hits him over the head are funny?

P.S. My husband doesn't speak Spanish, and he thinks they're funny.

Dear Discovery Health Channel,
Please don't show someone getting a large tumor removed from his leg less than 24 hours after I've had knee surgery. Thanks!

P.S. You are gross.

Dear Books On The Coffee Table,
Please don't take it personally that I'm not hanging out with you guys right now. I think you are awesome! It's because you are so great that I'm not reading you. No, I'm serious. I want to be able to understand you, and I don't think I'm capable of that right now. Talk to me next week, after the narcotics are out of my system.

Dear Home Ice Therapy Unit,
You are cold and full of ice. You would still be nice at twice the price!

Dear Vicodin,
What was with that ice therapy rhyme?

Dear Steve,
Thank you for getting me my favorite soup 10 times even though the restaurant is several miles away. I love you. Now please go get me some more soup.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Adventures in Arthroscopy or The Vicodin Made Me Do It

In honor of my knee surgery tomorrow (for an old injury, quick recovery time, if all goes well it will give me a whole new lease on life), I would like to share a little story with you.

When I was coming home from my mission (the origin of my tricky knee), I was on crutches, and flying home alone. I had a short layover in the huge Chicago airport, and got the wrong directions to my gate. With only five minutes before my plane was to depart, I found myself at the opposite end of the airport. I was panicked - I was in pain, I knew my friends and family were all planning on meeting my plane in Salt Lake, and I had no idea how long I'd have to stay at the airport if I missed my flight. Crutching up to the first official-looking woman I could find, I tearfully explained my situation to her. She glanced at my missionary badge, and told me she'd try to help. She pulled out her walkie-talkie thingy, got ahold of the right boarding gate, and said:

"Hi, I have a crippled nun here, and we need you to hold the plane for her."

Did I correct her? Did I say: "I'm not a nun, I'm a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Would you like to know more about our church?"

No. No, I did not. Because I knew, brothers and sisters, that while they may not hold the plane for a hobbled Mormon missionary, by golly they would hold it for a crippled nun.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

For Auld Lang Syne

Have you ever spent a New Year's Eve when everything went precisely as you had hoped? When something wonderfully, gloriously surprising happened that seemed a good omen of the year to come? When the man you loved finally realized he loved you, too, and ran across the city of New York, finding you on the dance floor moments before midnight to tell you he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? (If you've experienced that last scenario, you really should watch When Harry Met Sally, because, hello! Story of your life!)

In years past, I've always wanted something Significant to happen as the countdown transpired. Most of the time I just threw back my Martinelli's and called it a night, mapping out half-(and sometimes whole-) hearted resolutions, and wondering where the next New Year's Eve would find me, but . . .

In high school, my friends and I planned a fabulous New Year's Eve bash. We ate Twizzlers and watched Wait Until Dark, sneaking behind the couch and grabbing our uninitiated friends at just the right terrifying moment. We unleashed huge bags of confetti at midnight, and wondered if the 2.5 seconds of fun had been worth it when we were still vacuuming at 4am. And when our hostess's mom found confetti in her couch in July.

I spent the final night of 1999 at a dinner party in Philadelphia, sitting at a beautifully decorated table with Martha Stewart-worthy party favors and fascinating company, none of whom I'd known for more than a few days. My fiancé and I were the recipients of numerous comments along the lines of: "How romantic to be celebrating the turn of the century together!" No one at that table knew that our relationship was falling apart, and that we were absolutely miserable. As the year 2000 arrived and my soon-to-be former fiancé gave me a quick peck on the lips, I felt weighed down by sorrow, and didn't want to think about what the new year would bring.

I rang in 2001 standing on a rooftop with a great view of the fireworks over Brooklyn Bridge. Our arms wrapped around one another for warmth as we shivered in the wind, my friends and I called out a "Happy New Year!" to the streets below. I felt peaceful and safe, and as I thought back on the events of the past year, I marveled at how much I'd been blessed, and how full of joy and promise my life had become.

Two years later, our far-too-ambitious plans having fallen through, my classmate and I wandered the streets of Dublin, wondering why a city so famous for drinking was so quiet at 10:30pm on New Year's Eve. We stopped several people on the street to ask if it really was December 31st, and eventually found ourselves in a crowded pub with ear-splitting karaoke. My friend sipped her Guinness, I sipped my ginger ale, and we both wished for the company of the young, handsome Irish men we'd felt certain we'd find instead of the strange, portly German man who kept telling us how much he liked American girls.

And so at last I found myself on the final eve of 2005, standing with Steve (he looks quite Irish) and watching fireworks over the ocean on the Isle of Kauai. Palm trees, crashing surf, and December 31st seem incongruous to me, but hey, you won't hear me complain. Neither am I complaining about even the most painful moments of years past. I have an amazing family, remarkable friends, and the knowledge that no matter what life throws at you, there is always, always joy to be found on this journey.