Tonight I told Tom a story that I have told him many times, it turns out.
When I was twelve, a new Beehive, our weekly activity for church was a panel question and answer with the full-time male missionaries in our area. I raised my hand (I want to say I was the first to volunteer to ask a question, but only because I have always had questions and no problem with the asking). I asked about the priesthood, why do girls not get it? why only boys? And my leader, our bishop’s wife, dismissed my words with her hand, waving them out of the air between us, apologizing to the nineteen-year-old boys, “Don’t mind her, we’re still trying to get her to let the men wear the pants.”
Eighteen months later we moved to another small town in Utah, a town people moved to on purpose, instead of a town of the children of coal miners and cowboys. Young Women groups got better, my memories get better, but what was her motive, when the whole purpose of the evening was for us to ask questions, is my question now.
This week Tom has been uncomfortable about the Singing Time(s) wholly devoted to the boys preparing their Superman Priesthood number for the program, he is aghast that the boys for scouts get money and time and purposeful adventures unheard of for the girls, and when I point out how endemic these things are, that women aren’t even allowed to pray in general conference, he is quiet for a moment and then admits he’s never noticed that women are silent at the endings and beginnings of our sessions.
I listened to his plans for how to approach our lovely primary president on these issues, the boys flying to Kolob/Krypton while the girls sit by and the scouts/activity days disparity on the way home from third Sunday dinner at my parents. I listened, and listened, and then I got distracted by a post on my phone, a post unread as I had righteously left my phone in the car as we ate and visited and strained the morning’s teachings through the colanders of our experience.
What did you say? I asked, surfacing from my bright little screen. My not hearing exasperated him, I apologized, he started again at the beginning and I said of course I heard that part, skip to the ‘what are you going to do about it part’ please.
But no, wait. How did you not hear me? I told you years and years ago about the sisters not praying in conference and the activity days of frosting sugar cookies and wrapping chocolates for primary prizes. I told you, and told you, and you never heard me.
And then I told him that story, my first and worst memory of when I was old enough to realize that the boys my age were not only getting cuter and smelling better, they were passing the sacrament and becoming the experts to answer our questions.
Last night Tom attended a Mormon Women Project salon with me, a Women in the Scriptures event that gave me a great quote from a colorful apostle character, about our Mother in Heaven — “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mother in our affection,”
But also a lot of disappointment about the timidity we embrace and the “if only you look through the right lens, you’d see, and you’d know and not need to ask that question any more.”
And maybe my question, all of my questions, are one-issue voter questions and I need to pray and read my scriptures more, dedicate myself to the spiritual as I do the soul in my yoga hour that is so sacredly-guarded from outside encroachments.
Yes, I need to do that, of course I do, I’m not asking for the oil in your lamp, and frankly none of us are virgins waiting virginally here, are we? I’ll fill my own lamp in between caring for the one I gave that virginity to and the four who could not be here if that impediment had not been surrendered. (Why all the female body imagery and false conflation of virginity with virtue when motherhood is so proclamationally virtuous?)
I will do my part to see and hear and ask well.
But I need you to hear me. I need Him to hear me.