Book Review: The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

ny regional mormon singlesI found this book immediately after listening to author Elna Baker on a podcast (episode #589) from This American Life called “Tell Me I’m Fat.” (Link here.) I have many, many conflicting thoughts about this podcast episode, and I’m currently working on a blog post about it.

The second segment was Elna’s story. She grew up overweight, became clinically obese as a young adult, lost 100 lbs. with a weight-loss program similar to fen-phen, became addicted to the speed-like drug, underwent cosmetic surgery to remove loose skin from her body, and still wrestles with the mental gymnastics of living with body dysmorphia. She is/was/still sorta Mormon, a comedian, and a writer.

Her story on the podcast struck me at the core. I could relate so closely to her experience (hence the forthcoming blog post – perhaps with pictures of myself 60 pounds heavier) that I wanted to know more about her. So I grabbed her book. It is a series of essays and sketches that cover her experiences from age 18 to 27.

First, Elna is fantastically clever. This book was a delightful read.

Second, her journey as a young Mormon in New York City (modern-day Babylon?) was no cake walk. Each year she attended the Mormon Singles Halloween Dance hosted by the singles ward in hopes that her Prince Charming (the man she’d marry for all time and eternity) would be there. And yet, through a series of unique jobs (FAO Schwartz, The David Letterman Show), learning how to kiss with a mixed-bag of boys (were they ALL heterosexual? hmm…), and falling in love with an Athiest, Elna goes beyond the search for a husband to discover that there is so much more to learn about herself.

Third, and more randomly, I have a strange and vibrant interest in Mormonism and the people who choose it as their faith. I don’t know why this is exactly, but if there is Mormonism in a book, I’ll at least pick it up and read the synopsis. (Interestingly, the other book I’m reading is also connected to Mormonism – Cage of Stars.)

Between kissing and praying for a sign from God, there is the weight loss and Elna’s desperate desire to be desired. Oh, how I understand her. When you do not feel at peace in your own skin, there is so much internal conflict to overcome on a daily, hourly basis. My hope is that she’ll write a second book to tackle these issues with even more honesty, particularly now that she is married. (That’s not a spoiler. She talks about her husband in the podcast.)

So yeah. I enjoyed this book tremendously, but I acknowledge that my affinity is not just for her writing. Reading Elna’s story left me with the same feeling I had after reading about Dolores in She’s Come Undone, one of my favorites books of all time. It feels like I know her, like we’ve been cut from the same miserable piece of torn cloth that never gets mended. And yet, we live with the hope that one day our brains and bodies will sync with one another and the anxiety of body image and self-loathing will melt away forever.

Buy The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance here.

Chiropractor to the Rescue

Thanks to the skiing debacle and over-Kinecting my back is jacked. My past three run attempts have ended with a raging headache, which is my body’s way of screaming, “SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT HERE!” After a pitiful run yesterday, I popped two Excedrin Migraine pills and called my chiropractor. They had nothing available yesterday but instead had a 10:15 appointment free today. Thank goodness, because I woke up with a stiff neck and a throbbing skull. I blame the five falls in Santa Fe as well as competing to keep the upper hand in Kinect Adventures. Combined with traveling and poor sleeping, it all adds up to a bad back.

Naturally, the boys protested my needing to get adjusted (they wanted to stay home in their pajamas), and I responded sternly with, “Trust me. You WANT me to feel better.”

And feel better, I do. I’m actually about to get on the treadmill for an uphill brisk walk (gonna take a day off from running) and hope I don’t undo what was magically done this morning. After he adjusted me, I could turn my head to the left without wincing. That’s progress. I’ll probably go back again this week for another fix.

I will also get back to work on the book after more than a week off. The encouraging part is that we’re three chapters away from being done with the content. What’s left is the mechanics – the table of contents, the index, the dust cover, the foreward… Still, the finish line is nearly in sight. If I were to compare this to a marathon, I’d say we’re at mile 21. We’ve hit the wall and are hurdling through the temptation to quit. Jim, especially. He’s expressed how tired he is of it all and that it’s sucked the life out of him for the past year (though he’s been working on it steadily for five years altogether).

Recently I emailed him that we needed to nail down a title, and he responded with a list:  “The Title Sucks, but the Book is Sure Good,” “My Family Comes Second,” and “Jim’s Desperate Attempt to Find Significance in his Life.” I got a chuckle out of that. I certainly empathize.


Girls Weekend, December 2010

Susan and Lesli left last night, ending our last Girls Weekend of 2010 and hopefully the last one we’ll celebrate in Amarillo. The irony is that they were here last November and all I could say is, “Next time I host, it should be in Knoxville.” Hmm.

We did all of our usual things: talk, eat, talk, sleep, talk and laugh. And eat. And see the new Harry Potter flick. (Yes! Loved it! So stressful!) Normally we get dolled up and grab a long dinner out, but with no childcare available at nighttime, I treated my friends to Pei Wei takeout on Saturday and a home-cooked meal on Sunday. Low key and totally economical, considering we’ve been known to drop serious cash for fancy food and drinks.

We’ll head north of Nashville in the spring and D.C. next summer, and when it’s my turn again to host in the fall or winter, who the heck knows where it will be.

Today begins my last two weeks at the magazine and I’ll spend that time training my replacement. That means that the February magazine is completely out of my hands. It’s going to take a little time to process that.

However, on a positive note, yesterday I spoke with the author of the book I’m designing/editing and it looks like he may increase my workload a bit, which means it is to my benefit to have more time to work on it. I’ve barely touched it since Thanksgiving, so I’m already devising a daily schedule in my mind of dropping kids at school, running, and working on the book during the day – something I’ve not been able to do since I started it. The notion of “working from home” has lessened the blow of leaving my job. It’s funny – my reaction when people ask, “How’ve you done it all? I can’t imagine how much you’ve had on your plate.”

My answer is simply, “I have no idea.”