10 years ago, I sat down for Thanksgiving dinner with a family who was in my parent’s church. They’d never taken any interest in before this day. They’d never invited me over before this day.
But I was the source of the gossip that was spreading like wildfire. They wanted direct access to me, to see if I would slip up and admit my sins, to see if I would give them a new piece of information that they could then exclaim in hushed tones. I was unwed, pregnant, and of course, the very root of all things scandalous. In the Mormon church, gossip about the sins of others is almost as important as their doctrine.
I had naively believed they were trying to be nice at first. But as the thanksgiving dinner wore on, I realized I was their entertainment. I was there because they wanted me to perform. They wanted the inside scoop on the baby within my belly, they wanted to turn the dinner into a confessional. I’d already dealt with my share of harsh gossip in the short few days since finding out I was pregnant. I was quickly honing my bullshit radar.
I remember thinking I needed to leave. I remember eating my food and trying to figure out how soon I could get out of the dinner. I remember coming up with an excuse to leave, I think I had a headache. I remember feeling like I was going to cry. I remember stumbling over my words when they asked me what I was grateful for. And I remember the gossip that spread about how rude I was for leaving directly after dinner. At least that was all they got from me, a story about my lack of manners.
There would be more rumors, there would be more nasty conversations about me, and The Kiddo. There would be more name calling, and more people breathing a sigh of relief that at least their children weren’t as bad as I was. I was the example to be made when they talked about the law of chastity. I was the gossip that would be ironically sympathized and condescended at Sunday dinners as my belly grew.
But this Thanksgiving dinner. It showed me the real world. The one that was out there for anyone who chose to step away from the doctrine of the Mormon church. It showed me that there were going to be very few people I could trust, it introduced me to the role of learning to be defensive without showing it. I was introduced to a side of other people that bared their ugly intentions, and comforted me that some of these people were just as ugly as my own family.
Every October, I remember that dinner. I remember the tears I cried as I drove my beater car away from their beautiful house.I remember my mother rolling my eyes, and calling me names when I went home for comfort. I stayed for 10 minutes, before sobbing over her telling me I should have thought of all this before I decided to be a slut.
I remember just wanting to have everything go back to the way it used to be.
It’s been 10 years, and I’m still waiting for things to go back to the way they used to be. Even when I know they won’t. I’m grateful I know it won’t ever be the same again, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing it would be.