I am a white mormon girl in Utah who loves babies. I am keenly aware of my un-diverseness. In fact, let's complete the cliche by stating that I buy too many shoes, I sing lots of songs and have a particular affection for musical theatre. I come from a large family, and I have pictures of my neices and nephews to prove it. I graduated from BYU, I served a mission, and I resent relief society just enough to make blue-hair jokes about it. I can mix up a batch of cookie dough in under 5 minutes without a recipe. I eat lots of chocolate, know John Bytheway, and babysit for extra cash. I read Harry Potter and believe that Dumbledore taught truth the same way C.S. Lewis did. I think conference weekend is better than Christmas. I wear a CTR ring (well, sometimes, if it matches my shoes...).
I bet we could sit here all day listing the ways I fit a certain cliche.
But then, you had better not judge me by those things, because as soon as you buy into the cliche, you will find yourself mistaken. Like this kid in my classes. Actually, a couple of them. One who thought it was a compliment when he told me "I thought I had you all figured out, but you are much smarter than I expected you to be." And another who suggested, as we were creating a format for a group therapy session, that I could just take care of the clients children. She was surprised when I told her "I am not a babysitter, I am a counselor with the same credentials as you."
"Oh! I'm sorry, I thought you would like taking care of children."
I love taking care of children, and if you really think its efficient for you to pay a babysitter the same amount as you would a liscenced therapist, then you are welcome to rotate the babysitting duties with me.
The thing is, I've never met an individual who fits any cliche entirely, and the only people I have met who believe in the cliches generally prove themselves to be either racist or unintelligent or both before long. And somehow, they fit a certain cliche better than the people they are judging.
Like the kid who is surprised that a girl can like babies and be smart all at the same time. Who graduated from BYU, just like me, but denounces it now because it didn't produce the magical happiness for him that he expected it to. And he follows the same pattern with the church, when he didn't get the callings and "promotions" he felt he deserved, he walked away from the whole thing and embraced a pop culture version of Buddhism that involves raving about meditation and yoga and wearing linens and wooden beads and pretending to know lots about Jung and Freud and intellectualizing only where it suits him and spiritualizing where intelligence fails him. The Buddhas and Lao Tzes and Confucius' of Easter Philosophy would never recognize this guy's brand of "enlightenment" that includes vocal racisim against Koreans justified by the fact that he "lived there and knows them well enough to hate them. Especially the women."
Sigh. He makes me tired. The thing is, he has rejected religion and faith because it didn't serve him, and in rejecting it labels everyone who follows what he has rejected as being "stupid".
And then he claims to be the most "diverse" and "sensitive to multicultural issues". Why? Based solely on the fact that he no longer fits the cliche he was raised in? Because now he fits the cliche of those who reject what they were raised in.
Meanwhile, when I suggest that some cultural understanding would be in order when approaching a difficult professor (who happens to be a Korean woman) he goes nuts, calling her an idiot and worse.
The thing is , I was raised by hippies, and not the pretend kind who sit in coffee shops planning protests in the fashion of the latest fad. I was raised by the kind of hippies who thought, listened, and did what what they thought was right regardless of how it looked to those around them.
There is some marvelous family lore about my mom's involvement in Vietnam war protests in the late 60's-early 70's at UC Davis. There were lots of protests going on in California at the time, and law students at UC Davis organized some where they would sit on train tracks to stop the 'munitions trains. My mom did not sit on the train tracks, but she was baking brownies for her roommate and friends who were out sitting on the tracks when word came that then governor Ronald Regan ordered the engineer to simply run over the protesters. The story that I've been told goes that my mom called her roommate's boyfriend, a police officer, who then proceeded to board the moving train and stop the engineer (at gunpoint? I don't know). I can find references to the protests and I can find references to Gov. Reagan's thoughts on Vietnam protests, but I can't verify the rest of the details. But the pride in my dad's voice when he tells the story proves a couple of things to me. 1. He thinks she is a bonafide hippie and 2. He likes her even more for being one, which leads me to 3. He is a bonafide hippie too.
I can also remember a time my dad and I ran into a couple of kids from my high school who were smoking home-grown weed and claiming to be oh so high. My dad schooled them hippie-style. "First off, that's not how you hold a joint. This is how you hold a joint. Secondly, you aren't that high unless its laced with something else, smoking something you grew in your garden has minimal effects." Now I won't believe that my dad has ever once smoked a joint, but you can bet that a guy who grew up in Northern CA in the 60s and 70s and chilled with friends at UC Berkeley probably saw a few joints being smoked. He took us to the campus once when we were kids, and introduced us to old high school buddies who now work there. He showed us where the national guard stood when that famous picture with the daisies in the gun barrels was taken, and the delight in his eyes when we found a hole-in-the-wall bar where pizza was served by an over-pierced man with a blue mowhawk was unmistakeable. He wasn't teaching his kids to fit in boxes, he was teaching us to see the whole world.
That's right, friends. Now if you know my parents, you probably see the Mormon cliche, mostly ecause that's what they want you to see. And they might not be thrilled with me calling out their hippie-ness in public. (So maybe don't mention it to them, ok?) But I just want you and everyone else to understand that the cliches stop somewhere, and sometimes they stop immediately below the surface.
Because hey, this white mormon girl in Utah loves babies and usually votes democrat (although, not straight ticket. I like to mix things up.) I swear like a sailor (well, almost like a sailor. Maybe like a mormon sailor. I've cut out the big bads) and prefers Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper over Diet Coke. (I'm living on the edge, aren't I!) I have read the Old Testament, and I don't think its over anyone's head, its actually just awesome, even the Songs of Solomon. And sure I love to sing, I particularly love to sing Karaoke. Badly. In a bar after everyone else has had their bucket of beer (did you know that in most bars the designated driver gets free sodas?) I attend the most liberal university I could find in Utah in order to balance out getting a bachelors from the most conservative university in the nation (world?). And I love them both. I think Taoist philosophy got a lot of truths right, I believe in meditation and kharma (hey, kharma is actually in the Book of Mormon-Alma 41:3), and I get irritated with people who don't recycle. I like to think that every culture has great truths to offer and that acceptance is the very least we can offer those around us. I believe that love and kindness are two different things, and some people live dangerously by always being "nice" but never actually loving people. I believe that love is love and all the other classifications (romance, friendship, family) only serve to exclude people. My favorite Mormon doctrine is the idea that God loves everyone, and that everyone has something to offer. My second favorite doctrine is that we seek all truth, as well as things that are beautiful, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. I believe that if you find some truth to involve excluding anyone then you don't understand that truth. Go back and study and pray some more.
The thing is, people will tell you that stereotypes exist for a reason. And maybe they do. But that doesn't give you permission to put anyone in the box. What it does is give you the opportunity to find out just where the stereotype stops and the real person begins. I'm the first to admit, I get tired of fighting it. And if you aren't interested in learning more, then I am happy to let you think that I am just the cliche. But don't you dare act surprised when it turns out I'm smarter than you thought I would be.
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