He Knows

Marriage is really hard. 

Everybody deals with the hard stuff in their own way. Extracurricular activities, “extracurricular activities” (you know, the bad sad kind), knitting, sports, long walks, rigid silences, loose laughter, chocolate. Sometimes, when life is just what you hoped it would be, people are even able to be complete adults and talk things out until everything is the right shape again. 

We’ve gotten to the point where we nearly always talk it out. We’re very gentle with one another - mostly, we’re very generous with one another - mostly, we’re very understanding of one another - mostly. Admittedly, our mostly doesn’t always work. When “doesn’t always work” is doing its work, I shove my laptop into my backpack and head to a coffee shop to write. Or at least sip on some chamomile while The National hums through my earbuds. Which, let’s be honest, might be more productive than actually writing.

I’m at the coffee shop now, laptop open, backpack crunched into my side. Absolutely “I Should Live in Salt” is cranking loud enough to drown out the hipster debate two chairs down. (Something about small batch marijuana. I’m definitely not joking.)

I like to think that in our weakest points we are all of us just one brush stroke away from a full-color fulfillment of complete cliche….but maybe it’s just me. 

These moments used to scare me. The ones where I am happy alone. Where I can think clearly alone. Where alone seems just exactly what I’ve been missing all day, all week, all month. 

I used to think these moments were maybe the crack in the foundation. Not the fight that led me here, but the fact that here - by myself, away - is where I am often led. 

It’s not really fair to the man I married that I come to breathe alone before we breathe together again. I know, because he’s not like me. He’s better together - always. Angry, sad, happy, confused, fighting, loving, quiet, loud - he’d rather do it by my side. So when I leave, I’m hurting him. I know I am. But still…sometimes…I leave. It's not very gentle of me. It's not very generous of me. It's not very understanding of me.

And yet, here I am.

Again. 

But I’m not scared. I haven't been for a long time.

I know it’s not kind that I sometimes leave when he needs me. He knows this too. I know I’ve got to breathe alone before I can breathe with him. He knows this too. I know tonight we’ll both say sorry and my head will lean against his shoulder while his arms cross against my back. He knows this too. I know we build more than we burst. He knows this too. I know we’ve got a few thousand more edges to break off against each other until we’re smooth. He knows this too. I know we’ve become something elemental together - something both simpler and more complex than the two of us apart. He knows this too. I know I’ll always need a backpack big enough for a laptop. He knows this too. I know I’ll never go further than the coffee shop on the corner. 

He knows this too.

I, a Mormon Woman, Hate this Anti-Trump Ad Made for Mormon Women

I'm a Mormon. I'm a woman. I'm a feminist. I'm a libertarian. 

And yeah, sometimes a few of those things go to war with one another and other times they fit together like Laverne and Shirley. (Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!) Mostly, they just look at one another, laugh and go get drinks.

It's complicated. Except for when it's not.

This campaign season has been one in which the sometimes fragmented parts of myself are in simpatico. I may not know who I whole-heartedly want to win the 2016 election (I mean, unless the Kaling/Poehler ticket becomes a thing, because then I for sure know). But I am very, very certain about who I do not want as the next President of the United States of America. 

Yeah, that Trump guy.

I'm not going to run through all the reasons why I think The Donald is bad for my country...from immigration to women's issues to international policy, wiser heads than mine have picked him apart pretty thoroughly. #NeverTrump foreva, you know?

I'm not the only Mormon that feels this way. 

While many have different political leanings than me, overwhelmingly Mormons are voting against Trump. They don't like his attitudes toward women, they don't like his anti-immigration stance, and they don't like his anti-Muslim rhetoric. They probably also don't like his lying-liar face. But I don't really have the data to back that assumption up. 

Heavily LDS Utah is holding their party-run caucuses this week. Listen, Trump will lose in Utah. That's not really in question. Cruz will win. That's not really being contested, either. However, with every delegate as precious as my kid's nap time (Go to sleep. Mommy needs to drink coke while watching Jessica Jones ALONE. NOW. RIGHT NOW), the margin by which Cruz wins is hugely important to those who, you know, care about that sort of thing. 

I'm not a Cruz supporter, but I get it. To trump the Trump you have to make the math work. 

So what are the powers that be in the Grand Ole Party doing to get us Mormons to rally around Cruz? Appealing to us ideologically? Pragmatically? Spiritually? (Okay. Actually, Glenn Beck might be trying to get the corner on that last one. Bless his heart.) Maybe. I mean, it's possible that's happening. But it's hard to hear any of that very relative sanity over the roar of crazy coming from the latest attempt to reach the Mormon voters. 

Make America Awesome started a Facebook campaign directly marketed to LDS Facebook users. Created under the direction of Liz "has Mormon family members" Mair, a few of the ads are exactly what you'd expect including the inevitable Romney shout out. (Who is going to tell all these political strategists that Mormons had political convictions before Mitt? Should I hold a press conference about it? Would it get media coverage if I invited Mitt to come up on stage with me? Wait.) Mostly, they seem like poorly written memes with emotional calls to action. You know, political business as usual. There is, however, one image that stands out from the solemn Mitts and smiling pro-life babies. 

Enter the Melania anti-Trump ad. 

Per Mckay Coppins piece on the ads, "Mair said [the Melania ad] is being promoted on Instagram as well, but only to LDS women." 

Ah, an old naked photo of a candidate's wife! How did Liz Mair know what to get us? But seriously. Why is she showing us this? According to Mair, "the Cruz campaign has turned the evangelical outreach into something of a fine art. We're not so sure he has LDS outreach locked down, though and this this is an area where we have a little bit of experience..."

Hey Liz!

You know who has a little bit of experience with the Mormon Utah Woman? Me! I was one for a full decade! I hate to blow up the focus group testing you did with your Mormon family members but, pardon my french here, this kind of shit does not play with my kind. 

We've got plenty of issues as a faith tradition when it comes to women and their roles. My time in Provo, Utah was not without conflict and I can't say prevailing Utah culture and I agree on everything. But, and here's the Mormon God Has a Literal Body truth, there is not one woman out of the hundreds I got to know during my sojourn in Utah that would look at your Melania ad and think, 

"You know, this picture of Melania has changed everything! I was thinking about going Kasich but the thought of Melania's perfectly pert ass in the White House is just the last straw. This cannot stand! VOTE! CRUZ!"

You know what Mormons like me will think?

They'll think you think slut-shaming motivates them. They'll think it motivates you, too. They'll think the GOP is happy to embrace misogyny if it means a win for "right" guy. They'll think you think Mormon women aren't smart enough to understand the nuances of delegate math, policy positions or even basic political processes. They'll think you think the only way to appeal to religious women is by manipulating visceral reactions. They'll think you think context doesn't matter. (Is the implication that Melania is going to perform all her First Lady duties naked on a bed sheet?) They'll think the GOP believes converting the self-righteous is more important than actually being good. They'll think you're only against the commodification of women if she's your woman. And Melania, you've made clear, is not one of your women. (You're using a woman's body to sell your cause...you get that, right?) They'll think you think women who are overtly sexual are somehow threatening. They'll think you think Melania is just another one of Donald's bad attributes, not a flesh and blood person who belongs to herself. They'll think you think it's alright to shame a woman for her body as long as she sleeps next to a man you don't like.

At least Trump is honest about his misogyny. You? You're a woman trying to convert women to your man by tearing down another woman. I can't decide whether that's masochism, sadism or a hearty serving of both. Those Utah Mormon women I spent a decade communing with and clashing against? They're going to think you aren't really any better than the guy you're asking them to help you defeat.

And you know what? 

I think they might be right.

By the time I'd finished writing this piece, Liz Mair had responded on twitter to some of my tweets that were critical of the ad. She cares about effective. I hope we remember to care about a little bit more than that, amen. (Also...did we ever doubt the effectiveness of a picture of a naked woman when it comes to getting clicks on the internet? Is that the data?)