My Meeting with Captain Curtis Hooley Regarding My Complaint Against Officer Nelson of the Logan City Police Department
This saga of my police conduct complaint has now become a trilogy. I think trilogies are overrated. Let something be a standalone work for a change, or just give it a number of works that best serve the needs of the story instead of being dictated by the need to make it a trilogy, that's what I say. I will, at least, probably have a postscript in the near future, because the police department is still required by state law to give me written documentation of the investigation.
I misheard the police captain's last name over the phone and consequently misreported it in last week's post. It's not Hill, it's Hooley, as in "Hooley dooley, they've come a gutser." I apologize for the misinformation.
Captain Curtis Hooley had to reschedule our meeting to attend a funeral, so I went on Thursday at 10:30, accompanied by my emotional supporter Kylie. As a classmate, she had read my essay about Calise, Talease and the police, and I feel closest to her out of all my graduate instructor colleagues because we shared an office last year and have had deep discussions about spirituality and faith crisis on social media. She left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but wishes she could have stayed, and I'm the opposite, so that gave us a lot to talk about. She rearranged her busy schedule to be there for me and I am most grateful. It was nice, too, that I had a woman with me to send the message "Look, I have friends who are women who don't think I'm a creep."
I know that mentioning Calise and Talease by name after going to the trouble of blotting out their names when I posted my complaint a couple weeks ago makes no sense. Here's the thing. On the one hand, I have no desire to embarrass them or appear vindictive, but on the other hand, I really believe that if they ever happened to stumble upon any of these accounts and read about themselves, they'd realize how badly they ----ed up and feel remorse and want to make it right. Unless and until that happens, the closure I got this week is probably the most I'm going to get. So I go back and forth on the name thing to get the best of both worlds and probably accomplish nothing at all.
Captain Hooley had a nice little office with some toy police cars and fire trucks and a poster that said "I don't need anger management, I need people to stop pissing me off!" That's funny and I personally can relate to it very much, but I'm not sure it's something I want to hear from somebody with a gun and qualified immunity. Likewise, before the police station parking lot was fenced off to be annoying, I used to shortcut through it after jaywalking across Main Street as a preferable alternative to walking an additional block and waiting five minutes at the crosswalk to get to the library, and one of the police cars had a bumper sticker that said "Nobody cares about your stick figure family" and showed a car plowing through somebody's stick figure family, and I found that funnier at the time than I would now. But it appears that Captain Hooley just has a desk job and isn't out killing people anyway. He was nice, asked me about myself and stuff. I wanted to trust him and believe it wasn't a façade. Having Kylie at my side made that a lot easier.
He asked me to explain what happened before Officer Nelson showed up - the pre-incident incident, as it were - and I did my best, though I stressed that I don't know what exactly I did that bothered Calise and Talease so much since neither they nor Officer Nelson ever bothered to tell me. Captain Hooley then made it sound like this is not an altogether uncommon situation - boy likes girl, girl decides she doesn't like boy, girl calls police on boy. That simultaneously made me feel better about myself and made me want this whole planet to burn.
We didn't return to the pre-incident incident a lot because Captain Hooley wasn't there to investigate it or take sides, but this was the first time anyone in authority bothered to ask me about it or listen to me. Officer Nelson didn't care, the staff at Logan Regional Hospital didn't care, my bishop didn't care. Officer Nelson should have asked me about my side of the story in the first place even if it didn't make a difference to what he had to do. He should have been smarter than to take my neighbors' false witness against me as the final word. I'm still kind of frustrated that they've faced no repercussions for bearing false witness against me. I don't want them to be in trouble, I just want them to be told off for it. Part of me wishes they'd pressed charges, because I would have immediately fought them in court instead of just marinating in trauma for the next year and a half.
My frustration increased a little today when Captain Hooley mentioned a detail I wasn't previously aware of. Not taking sides, not saying it was true or not, he said that Calise said I had "jumped out at her in the dark". I did no such thing at any time. I believe she was referring to the time a week or so before Officer Nelson yelled at me, when she left their little dog Paisley tied up in the snow and forgot about her, then came outside and saw me playing with her. Calise was startled to see me, and I was in turn startled by her yelp, and I later heard from a thirdhand source that she and Talease were ridiculously upset about it, but I did not jump out at her by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn't even standing up. I was sitting cross-legged in the snow on the opposite side of the decorative iron fence around the lower level of our apartment complex. Officer Nelson never even mentioned this particular falsehood to me, even though it sounds worse than any of the falsehoods and distorted truths he actually yelled at me about, but what do I know about police work?
I have only jumped out at a woman in the dark once in my entire life. Ten years ago, still naïve to the ways of the horrible adult world, I was in the campus cemetery at night when I saw two women coming up the path and thought it would be funny to jump out from behind a large tombstone and scare them. I picked up this sense of humor from my dad, but didn't grasp at the time that it was entirely inappropriate in this context. Now it's just one of hundreds of things I've done that I feel really bad about. I'm glad they didn't shoot me. Even back then, though, I wouldn't have considered jumping out at a woman in the dark to be a viable method of making her want to date me, so I don't know why Calise would have thought I'd try it on her and then go on like nothing had happened.
As requested, I brought a printout of the email that the police department never responded to. Captain Hooley was very bothered that nobody ever responded. I had assumed it was intentional. Being ignored is a constant fact of life for me, and I assumed that whoever read the email just thought "Oh, Stalky McStalkerton is mad at us for telling him not to stalk his neighbors" and deleted it. I still wouldn't be surprised if that happened. But Captain Hooley looked at the address and he said that while the address I contacted is legit, he didn't recognize it, and he wasn't sure if anybody at the department was even checking it. The address, firstname.lastname@example.org, was the address that I saw the police department telling negative Google Reviewers to contact when I tried to leave a negative Google Review last year but couldn't because the pandemic somehow prevented Google employees from working online. If someone had taken my email seriously at that time, they could have checked Officer Nelson's body camera footage, but by now it's been deleted. So that's nice.
Captain Hooley agreed that Officer Nelson had erred in not telling me which of my neighbors I wasn't allowed to text, call, or talk to. After being harangued about "Your neighbors" this and "your neighbors" that, I thought it was all five of them when it was only two. Kristina said "Hi" to me one evening and I thought maybe she was trying to get me in trouble. So that was kind of a crappy thing for Officer Nelson to do to me.
As far as looking into Officer Nelson's unwarranted choice to intimidate, threaten and yell at me, it would have been really helpful to have the body camera footage, so that's nice. He won't likely face any consequences but Captain Hooley asked me what I think he should have done differently (besides everything) and promised to bring that up with him. At the time, Captain Hooley said, Officer Nelson had been a cop for about a year, and now he's not the same cop he was a year and a half ago. I don't find it reassuring at all that the trauma I've lived with for the last year and a half was contingent on how much experience the cop had, or in other words on bad luck, but at least he's probably not still doing that to people? Captain Hooley said the cops are busy going to one call after another after another, and dealing with suicidal people literally every day, and sometimes they forget to slow down and listen and focus less on the authoritarian side of things. Yeah, any cop who depends on their authority to demand respect is only proving that they deserve none.
But he was glad Officer Nelson had made me go to the hospital. Hopefully that helped, at least. No, I explained, they also treated me like garbage and made everything worse. Captain Hooley said that the hospital is also very busy with mentally ill and suicidal people, which is consistent with my experience of them treating me like an assembly line product they wanted to finish with as fast as possible.
Kylie wasn't there to testify on my behalf or anything, but she chimed in a little and I really appreciated it. I had been talking the whole time about mental illness. There shouldn't be a stigma attached to mental illness, so I'd been openly saying that I'm mentally ill, that Officer Nelson was well aware of that fact and should have acted accordingly instead of proceeding from the incorrect assumption that I acted out of conscious malicious intent; that Talease is mentally ill, that Officer Nelson should have been well aware of that fact just like everyone else except me and Calise was, and should have adjusted his perspective accordingly instead of employing Calise's double standard where the weird things I said made me a villain while the weird things Talease said were just delightfully eccentric. But Kylie used more enlightened terminology. She asked Captain Hooley what kind of policies or training the department has around neurodivergence. He admitted that he'd never even heard the term before.
She explained the term and pointed out that this incident involved three neurodivergent people. He explained what we already knew - that Utah is way behind in this area. Yes, we all remember how the Salt Lake Police Department dealt with 13-year-old Linden Cameron's mental health crisis by shooting him eleven times as he ran away from them. He said there's crisis intervention training, but not every officer has it, and it's hard to get every officer trained in it when they're so busy and there's such a high turnover. I don't know if there's always been a high turnover or if this is specifically because cops in the post-George Floyd era think being held accountable for their actions is persecution. This is why people say "Defund the Police" - because most police officers simply don't know what the hell they're doing around neurodivergent people, and have killed far too many of us. This should not be one of their responsibilities. Why the hell did we as a country decide that it is?
Afterward, Kylie asked how it went, and needlessly apologized for chiming in with her helpful remarks, and asked what my next step was in this process. I would like to sue Logan Regional Hospital for doing things to me without a consent form and then frantically calling me five times to get retroactive verbal consent after I'd already left, but I can't because they have a lot more money than I do. I would like to file a complaint against my ex-neighbors who got me into this by bearing false witness against me in the first place, but even if such a thing is possible, which I doubt, it would be too much work for too little payoff. So I guess I'm done for now. I'm not done speaking out against police brutality and incompetence, though.
A week of graduate school is past and I'm already very busy. More importantly, on Friday I heard back from someone at the police department about my complaint, so as far as bureaucracy goes that wasn't a bad turnaround time. I'm going in and talking to Captain Curtis Hill about it on Wednesday. On the advice of my friends, I hope to bring someone with me for emotional support and so he can't abuse me - I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and I don't have many reasons to trust cops - and one of my friends and colleagues from the English department has agreed to do it, but I can't get ahold of him and find out if that's allowed until Wednesday. I also hope he'll let me record the conversation so he can't lie about what either of us said. I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and cops lie literally all the time.
He also asked me to bring in a copy of the email I sent to the police department over a year ago, which I mentioned in my complaint just in case it would help with any statute of limitations they didn't bother to mention on their website. He said somebody dropped the ball by never responding to it. I mean, I'm pretty sure the lack of a response was very intentional, but either way, this is a great and unexpected bonus. First of all, someone else who treated me as less than human, albeit in a far less dramatic fashion than Officer Nelson, may also get in trouble. Second, I now get to share the mocking and sarcastic words of my email with this investigation even though I kept my formal complaint restrained and professional. I think I successfully conveyed my anger and contempt in both media, but the email has more raw emotion. And yet even that was restrained. Because it was written to be a Google Review, it has no swear words in it. I will put the email text in italics here to avoid confusion with the quote within the quote.
Because Google is apparently not publishing business reviews at this time, I decided to send this to you directly. I expect the only thing it will accomplish is to give me some small sliver of satisfaction from knowing that you know that one of your officers single-handedly erased all of my respect for law enforcement months before George Floyd's murder, but I'll take what I can get.
In January a couple of officers abruptly showed up at my apartment, responding to a complaint from my neighbors. I had no idea what was going on. These neighbors had never once said anything to me themselves about real or perceived problems. The police never explained to me in plain English why they had come. They never asked me one single question about my side of the story. Instead, one of them said nothing while the other immediately launched into throwing his weight around and trying to scare me into compliance even though I never showed one iota of resistance or disrespect. For at least ten minutes he was nothing but belligerent while I was nothing but cooperative. He never explained what exactly the problem was but from the details he dropped here and there made it obvious that either my neighbors had straight-up lied about some things or he just hadn't bothered to get them straight himself. He told me to stop doing things that I had never done.
He told me not to talk to, call, or text my neighbors ever again. He said, "Consider this a warning." I would have complied with this "warning" if my neighbors had been adults and made this request themselves instead of pretending to be my friends for months, and I would have complied if the officer had just explained it to me without turning it into a threat. Despite this being my first time hearing any of this, he chose to assume from the moment I let him into my apartment that I knew exactly what I'd done wrong, wouldn't cooperate, and needed to be taught a lesson. And he knew that his uniform gave him impunity to treat me in a manner that would have gotten him fired from any other job.
When this officer was done verbally abusing me, he switched tactics and started pretending to be concerned about my emotional health and asking if I felt suicidal. Yes, he literally tried to play "bad cop good cop" by himself even though he had another cop with him. If he was really so concerned he could have maybe, I don't know, not prefaced it by deliberately confusing and scaring the crap out of me? He made me go to the hospital despite me explaining that I had no health insurance. He knew this was part of his purpose for showing up in the first place and still chose to first treat me in a manner that anyone over the age of three could have told him would only make me more suicidal (which it did, very much).
I was not arrested or accused of anything illegal, but before driving me to the hospital they frisked me for anything I could use to hurt myself (even though the hospital rendered this precaution entirely superfluous by taking my clothes away). For no legitimate reason that I can discern, they chose to do this after we had left my apartment, on the sidewalk in front of their police cars and in full view of the entire block. After the abusive officer dropped me off he said I could call the station and ask to talk to him if I wanted, because he apparently thought I was the stupidest person on the planet and would see him as something remotely resembling a friend or ally. The only reason I would ever want to talk to him would be to say some things unfit for publication in this review.
I forgave my neighbors after about a month because one of them was brain-damaged and delusional in the most literal sense of the word. All of our mutual acquaintances including their own roommate felt that their reaction to me was stupid, immature and uncalled for. But at least it wasn't malicious. I can't say the same for the police. I don't fault them at all for taking the complaint seriously and looking into it - they would have been criminally negligent in their duties if they didn't - but the way they went about it was wrong, full stop. I would feel safer entrusting my mental health to the first person I see on the sidewalk than the Logan Police Department. Their gross incompetence has traumatized me since then and probably for a very long time to come.
It was a one-star review, of course, but only because zero-star reviews aren't an option for some reason.
- Christopher Nicholson
So yeah. Officer Nelson has undoubtedly read my complaint by now, and I hope he has a great Labor Day weekend experiencing a sliver of a fraction of the shock and bewilderment that he sprung on me out of nowhere. And by that I actually mean I hope he can't sleep or focus on anything. And after I submit a copy of this email to the investigation, really, it's only fair that he should get to read it too.
Well, I can't complain too much because many others have experienced far worse at the hands of the American legal system. Any victory for them is a victory for me regardless of how my own case turns out. I'm delighted that former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted the other day for stopping police officers from arresting the men who lynched Ahmaud Arbery because one of them used to be a cop who worked for her. She was voted out of office last year, but now she'll probably go to jail too. I'm delighted that Kim Potter's charge for not knowing the difference between a gun and a taser, something any toddler could figure out, has been upgraded to first-degree manslaughter. It should be murder, but whatever, we have to take baby steps in these matters.
And I'm delighted that the three police officers and two paramedics who murdered Elijah McClain have been indicted for manslaughter and reckless homicide, even though the police department's previous "investigation" of itself determined that they did nothing wrong when they stopped him for no ----ing reason and injected a fatal dose of ketamine into him for no ----ing reason. Once again his family can thank Derek Chauvin for this case being taken more seriously now than it was when it happened. To be frank, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema, Jeremy Cooper, and Peter Cichuniec should be publicly executed just like they publicly executed Elijah McClain, sorry not sorry. Oh, and let us never forget how three other police officers unrelated to the incident (Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jaron Jones) photographed themselves at Elijah McClain's memorial smiling and recreating the chokehold used on him. "A few bad apples" my ----ing ass.
This case hits close to home because he wasn't neurotypical, and I'm not neurotypical, and I've also had some anonymous asshat call police on me for "acting weird" while I was minding my own business and doing nothing wrong. I was even the same age. It was a Saturday afternoon in September 2016, I was swinging in a public park, and somebody decided my mannerisms looked odd enough that the police needed to get involved. When you're not neurotypical, you constantly have to justify your existence to the people who think they're the default humans and you're an unfortunate aberration. On that occasion the police just checked my ID and asked if I needed any help and then left me alone. It set my self-esteem back a few years, but it didn't traumatize the hell out of me like Officer Nelson did. I've also, subsequent to Officer Nelson traumatizing the hell out of me, been dismissed and dehumanized by so-called healthcare workers who were supposed to help me not kill myself but instead decided to make it as obvious as possible that they didn't give a rat's ass about me.
So Elijah McClain's case feels personal for me, but the obvious difference is that I've never been tackled to the ground and injected with drugs. White privilege is very real.
I've felt that if I could channel my anger constructively into advocating for police reform, what happened to me would be worth it. But that hasn't happened because I don't have much of a voice through my obscure little blog or my Facebook shares that the algorithms make sure are never seen by more than two people. I kind of just write about things, express outrage over injustices and happiness over indictments and reforms, creating for myself the illusion that my commentary has any impact on these impacts that go on in a sphere entirely separate from mine. Still, I guess it gives me a sense of purpose. I'd hate to get to the other side and try to explain to God why I was more upset about a black man kneeling during an old English drinking song than about men, women and children of various races, but disproportionately black, being abused and murdered by the men and women who took an oath to serve and protect them.
I'm very excited for school to start in a couple days - excited for my class on Monday, excited for my class on Tuesday, excited for the classes I'll teach on Tuesday even though I won't have Zoom as a crutch and wouldn't have chosen to start at 7:30 if it were up to me, excited for what feels like a five-day weekend every week but really isn't because it just means I need to be a very responsible adult and determine my own schedule for the many things I have to do outside of classroom time, excited for the vaccination mandate that USU is preparing to implement because asking nicely just isn't enough in Utah. The future is bright, up until the end of this year when I really need to start getting a handle on whether I'm going to get a PhD or just take a job somewhere and if so, where, and supposedly I'm going to get married at some point before I die and it would be really nice to have that at least underway by then so I could make these decisions with my wife or wife-to-be instead of us both charting our life paths separately and later struggling to mesh them together. But nobody asked me.
You know, my first first day of college was ten years ago. This may or may not be my last one. As a student, I mean. I should be waxing all nostalgic about that, as is my wont, but I don't feel articulate enough to do it justice right now.
Of course, the week or so leading up to school has its drawbacks, and my desire to just relax and savor it was somewhat thwarted. Logan Preferred Property Management sent the carpet cleaners to my apartment complex without telling anyone, sent the normal cleaner to my apartment complex without telling anyone, and sent roofers to replace the entire roof without telling anyone. All of us except my roommate who can sleep through anything were pretty pissed. When the roofers woke me up at 7 a.m. on Monday, I couldn't believe LPPM had the audacity to do that after I complained about the idiots with the chainsaw who had done the same thing despite being ordered not to start until 8. I complained again and got the same empty apology and reassurances. The next day the roofers started later, but on Wednesday they started banging away at 6:30, which is, as I understand it, illegal. So I complained to management for the third time, and apparently "illegal" was the magic word that got them to stop lying about addressing the problem and actually address the problem. I decided I'd file a noise complaint if it happened again, and then I decided I was pissed enough to file a noise complaint anyway.
I know what you may be thinking - Ah, Christopher, you fool, you complain about police all the time and now you suddenly need them. Why didn't you call a crackhead for help instead? Correction: I didn't "need" the police for anything. I could have dealt with the situation myself, but our society has arbitrarily decided that pushing people off of roofs is also illegal. So I looked online for some kind of form I could fill out instead of talking to a human, and stumbled instead on a different form entitled "Personnel Complaint". I got so excited about this that I considered the roofers a blessing in disguise.
As both of my long-time readers are aware, on January 14, 2020, aka the worst day of my life,
D'oh. Anyway, on that day I learned firsthand that police officers are the natural enemies of anyone with a mental illness, when Officer Nelson showed up to "help" me and instead did the opposite of that. I didn't do anything about it at the time. My first priority was to get out of the hospital before I got stuck with a buttload of medical debt (because 'Murica), and then my first priority was to live through the night despite the unbearable pain for my friend Katie's sake, and then I just kind of wandered through life as a shell of my former self for a couple months. I didn't know anything about formal complaint procedures and I feared the police retaliating against me if I did complain to them. You have to remember, this was before George Floyd became one police murder too many, and nobody was putting them in their place. As Officer Nelson was abusing me I knew that he knew he could do it because he had a blue uniform and de facto authority to kill anyone who didn't show him the respect he thought he deserved. If he hadn't been in a blue uniform, I would not have tolerated the way he spoke to me.
Largely thanks to the well-deserved anti-police backlash a few months later, I got over my fear enough that I started to hope he would see my blog posts or Facebook posts and comments where I told the world, usually in rather crude terms, exactly what I thought of him. And I knew I would not respond the same way if anything similar ever happened again. A while ago I had one of my occasional nightmares that the police were coming after me again, and I was terrified, but determined that despite my fear I was going to give them a piece of my mind. I woke up before that came to pass.
When I did briefly look into the possibility of a formal complaint, I read something about a six-month statute of limitations, and looked no further. I also knew that Derek Chauvin, in his nineteen-year career, had accumulated eighteen conduct complaints resulting in literally nothing but two letters from his boss asking him not to do it again. But this complaint form on Logan City Police Department's website said nothing at all about a time limit. And now the climate around policing is much different. I figure there's a very real chance of getting a tangible result. Even if I don't, I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that Officer Nelson has been blindsided by this coming back to bite him in the butt long after he'd forgotten about it, and by the realization that this doormat he trampled on actually has feelings and a brain. I wish I could see the look on his face when he reads my complaint. I'd like to think he already has, and that it ruined his weekend, but with bureaucracy being what it is I doubt it's moving that fast.
Another cop was there, but he said three sentences the entire time and wasn't a bully or a jackass, so I said little about him in my complaint but I did list him as my sole witness despite not knowing his name. I only know Officer Nelson's name because he told me. A few months ago when I was in a car crash and had to talk to a cop, he had his name printed on his uniform, but I'm pretty sure that was a post-George Floyd reform. Anyway, I'm sure they'll ask this cop to evaluate my account, and I can only hope that honesty is more important to him than backing the blue. On that note, the form claims that the investigation will be "objective", which is kind of a red flag whenever I see it because nobody on the planet is objective about things that matter to them at all. Even if they really are trying, police officers investigating another police officer are not going to be objective. They just aren't. They can, however, still do the right thing if they choose to be honest.
They'll surely consult with Brad Hansen, the USU police officer who first received my neighbors' complaint and delegated it to the city police. My neighbors went to him because he was in our bishopric. He never spoke to me again after that day, but I made a point of resting my hand on my face with the middle finger extended when he walked by, and I know he noticed. I'm excited for him to read my complaint too. And they really should ask my ex-neighbors about what they said and how they said it, because they more than likely were overdramatic and told some outright lies that influenced Officer Nelson's response to the situation. I didn't devote nearly as much space as I could have in my complaint to explaining why their complaint was wrong, because that's not really the point, but it is still relevant because Officer Nelson was an idiot to take it as gospel truth and never ask me about my side at all. I have let go of all malice toward my ex-neighbors because, as mentioned in my complaint, one was delusional and the other gullible. (And I was equally gullible, which is how the problem started.) It's the trained law enforcement personnel who should have known better.
I assumed that walking into the police station and handing my complaint to the woman at the desk - I visualized a woman at the desk with a few male cops nearby, and I told myself that was a sexist assumption to make, but of course that was exactly what I saw when I went - would be terrifying. I assumed that I would have to be courageous and push through the fear. But it wasn't and I didn't. It was no more stressful than going to the post office. Maybe God was with me. After the woman at the desk said "Hello" I felt a little bad at repaying her kindness with a personnel complaint form, but I wasn't about to back down at the last minute.
I made scans just in case she or someone else "misplaces" it. Here they are for posterity.
It was very difficult to want to go back to church after you-know-what restrictions eased. I liked having ten-minute sacrament meetings in people's homes. I didn't miss any of the extra stuff that, more often than not, I found less intellectually stimulating than an episode of Blue's Clues. And for a while I felt justified in not going to Sunday school or Elders' Quorum they were more confined and more crowded than sacrament meeting, and I knew everyone else there was regularly attending large social gatherings with no masks. But then I got fully vaccinated and went back to normal life in every way possible and didn't have that excuse anymore, so I went back to Elders' Quorum just in time to be punished with a lesson about marriage.
The teacher wrote "The Perfect Woman" on the board and solicited desirable traits to list under that heading. I take issue with his phrasing, but I'm sure he and everyone else there were aware that the perfect woman doesn't exist because perfect people don't exist and woman are a kind of people. I know what he meant was "The Ideal Woman". So people listed things and I just felt kind of defensive and prideful and thought, I'm not looking for a woman and you can't make me. But if I was, I'm sure I wouldn't want the same things y'all want, because Utah culture is a crap sandwich. You know the kind of women (and men, but that's irrelevant right now) who populate Deseret News comments sections? I'd want the opposite of that. I'm very picky. I never made a list as such, I just got crushes on a case-by-case basis and figured out what I like and what I don't like and got pickier every time my heart broke. The last one, the literal girl next door, set the bar so high that I haven't caught feelings since and doubt I ever will again. I can be as picky as I want because I'd much rather be alone than with someone who can't make me feel the way she did.
The one item I wanted to suggest for the list was talent and career ambition, but I didn't dare speak such heresy out loud. One guy said someone who thinks for herself and makes decisions without asking him about everything, and that was nice to hear and obviously made BYU professor Rodney Turner spin in his grave. The resident old guy said something about we have to remember "gender roles" even though "the world" talks about "equality". He stopped short of saying women shouldn't have careers, but he said there's just "something" they have men don't have that makes them better with children or whatever. He'd have to do better than that to convince me. He could have at least called the mysterious something a "je ne sais quois" and given it the illusion of greater sophistication. One guy agreed that even if his wife was making six or nine figures a year, he'd want her to stay at home at least part-time to raise their kids. If my wife was making six or nine figures a year, I wouldn't care what she did. I wouldn't ask and I wouldn't tell.
The last item on the list was "Beautiful", submitted by one of those brave people who points out that physical attractiveness is important even though we spend so much effort trying to convince ourselves that it isn't even though we all know that it is. That kind of honesty is refreshing, but people so often miss the follow-up: that beauty is a matter of perception, that it can and does change. If you love a woman's inside then her outside will also be beautiful to you. Simple. The first time I saw the literal girl next door, I thought she was plain, homely, awkward, and forgettable, and promptly forgot about her. A couple months later, she was still awkward but I had decided that she was God's greatest work of art and I was an idiot for ever having thought otherwise.
In conclusion, the teacher asked if we're deserving of this hypothetical perfect woman and if not, how to change that? I'm glad the lesson was actually going somewhere, because I had been thinking of a quote in the back of my mind: "As we visit with young adults all over the church often they will ask, 'Well what are the characteristics I should look for in a future spouse?' - As though they have some checklist of 'I need to find someone who has these three or four or five things.' And I rather forcefully say to them, 'You are so arrogant – to think that you are some catch and that you want someone else who has these five things for you. If you found somebody who had these three or four or five characteristics that you’re looking for what makes you think they’d want to marry you?'"
When I walked into the gym a couple weeks later for the combined fifth Sunday lesson and saw the word "FAMILY" written on the board, I knew the next hour would be less fun than a root canal, and almost walked right back out. But I thought, What kind of person will I be if I just avoid hearing anything that makes me uncomfortable? Maybe if I humble myself and suffer through it, God will teach me something.
The bishop started by telling us each to tell someone, preferably of the opposite sex, what the name of our first child will be. And he was, in fairness, being weird and awkward on purpose. But still, what kind of a question is that? How should I know what the name of my first child will be? Do I look like I've got a seer stone in my pocket? I've never given this subject a ton of thought and I've always assumed it's the sort of thing that will have to be discussed and negotiated when the time comes. I'm partial to Jessica, myself, but maybe my wife will be like, "Ew, no, a high school cheerleader named Jessica bullied me until I developed an eating disorder. I'd rather feed our daughter to a crocodile than name her Jessica." Also, my first child might not be a daughter. Also, it might be adopted and already have a name. So I thought that was a silly question.
His lesson had its positives. He acknowledged that "people experiencing same-sex attraction" exist and told people to chill out if they're in their late twenties and not married yet. Hooray. Much of it, though, took on a very us-vs-them tone, as if members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the only .02% of people on the planet who believe in family values. He went through parts of the Family Proclamation, a document that he stressed was DOCTRINE, was SCRIPTURE, was from A LIVING PROPHET. Actually, Gordon B. Hinckley is a dead prophet, although he was a living prophet when he gave it, but then so is every prophet when he gives something so I don't know why that distinction is necessary. He said it was prophetic because when it came out in 1995 its teachings were just common sense and he couldn't see the point of it, but now they've become controversial. It was actually written after five years of a court battle over same-sex marriage in Hawaii. The Church was involved in this court battle and had, in fact, been concerned about the prospect of same-sex marriage since the mid-to-late 1970s when that was one of its reasons for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
Anyway, I braced myself for some thoughtless remarks when he got to the part that says fathers are primarily responsible for providing and mothers are primarily responsible for nurturing, but the thoughtless remarks were worse than I would have ever anticipated. He was very blunt and adamant that God wants all women to be full-time homemakers with unpaid 96-hour work weeks. He straight-up told them to use their college education to be better mothers, not to have professional careers, full stop, no caveats, no nuance. He was also adamant that anyone who feels differently (like me) is following the "natural man" and the world's lies about women's equality. At least twice he referred to the people who feel differently "outside the Church", which came across to me as a conscious attempt to invalidate and put down the many people in the Church that he knows perfectly well also hold that view and constituted a sizable portion of his audience.
It pisses me off to think that my future wife may have been conditioned by lessons like this one to believe that her career ambitions are sinful, and to think that some women present for this lesson were thus conditioned. It's wrong and it's harmful. It will lead to depression, guilt, faith crises, and disaffection from the Church. Anecdotally, the twenty-something LDS women I know - not all of them raging liberals by any means - are far more open-minded on this topic. A majority of them see no reason why they shouldn't pursue careers and those who do want to be stay-at-home moms have no desire to force their preference on everyone else. Many of the latter will end up working anyway because modern economic realities have made it impossible for many families to survive on one income, the bishop's talk of sacrifice and frugality notwithstanding. I know for a fact that I wasn't the only person in the room who vigorously disagreed with what he said, and that his belittling of us did not persuade us to reorient our thinking. And women whose staying home is in the best interest of their particular families can make that decision for themselves without a man incorrectly insisting that it's the only option God will allow.
Since the bishop made it very clear that he wasn't open to discussion, and I wasn't in the mood to be called to repentance for not being sexist enough, I tattled on him instead of reaching out to him directly.
I'm sure the bishop is a wonderful man and that it's unfair to judge him by his most obvious shortcoming. Nonetheless, I am no longer capable of respecting or trusting him when I remember this lesson every time I see his face. (At least he's still better than my last bishop.) Will there be any sort of public retraction, correction, or apology? Of course not. That would shatter the illusion that our leaders are perfect, which we work hard to maintain even though we all claim to know that our leaders aren't perfect. I felt that my suffering through this lesson and being depressed for a few hours was worth it because I was able to speak out, to do something - but it would have been more worth it if I could know that I'd actually been able to help the women who also suffered through it. I wonder how many of them will leave the Church.
The Church posted this a few days later:
In essence, Dr. Erica Glenn explains that you can have a happy and fulfilling life even if you, like her, are not married. This should not be a controversial argument, but because Mormon culture is a crap sandwich, it was. On the one hand, people took issue with her not mentioning the Church's teachings on the importance of marriage that everyone in the Church has heard hundreds of times and that necessitated the existence of videos like this in the first place. On the other hand, people - specifically men - jumped to the conclusion that because Dr. Glenn is beautiful, the only possible reason for her not being married is that that she chose not to for selfish reasons, and therefore she's wrong. "She could get married tomorrow if she wanted to," said one sexist idiot who's never met her and apparently thinks she should settle for the first carbon-based life form that has a penis and thinks she's hot. Maybe, just maybe, the whole mindset of needing to get married for marriage's sake, and not because you've met someone you actually want to be with forever, is kind of toxic. But nobody asked me.
Latter-day Saint Charities recently donated $20 million to UNICEF's push for two billion vaccine doses in 196 countries by the end of the year. I applaud such an initiative. It is absolutely unacceptable for only wealthy countries to get the vaccine while the rest continue to suffer for God knows how long. Naturally, the anti-vaxxers whose existence blights this planet are confused and upset at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all over again, and I've had many opportunities to pass along my post "Follow the Prophet, Even When He Shills for Big Pharma", which has upset some of them even more. When I wrote it, I harbored no illusions that it would change anyone's mind. Trying to convince an anti-vaxxer of reality is like trying to convince a rock to do jumping jacks. I know that, and yet I've still wasted some time arguing with them, and I'm not proud of myself and I'm really trying to stop.
The best I could hope for was to cut through their mental gymnastics and rationalizations about the officiality and unambiguousness of the Church's position on vaccines, and expose them to the full force of the cognitive dissonance they warrant and deserve for knowing that it isn't run by delusional anti-science conspiracy theorists like them, and convince them to have some integrity and admit that they disagree with an official and unambiguous Church position. Even that was expecting too much of them, but I tried. At least when left-wing members disagree with the Church on something - always for reasons that are a lot less stupid - they have the cajones to say they disagree with the Church on something. They don't lie and pretend it's one guy's opinion that isn't binding on anything. Really, the logical leap from "The First Presidency ackowledged that vaccinations are a personal decision" (true) to "The First Presidency didn't endorse vaccines and encourage all members to get vaccinated" (bull) is so blatantly wrong that I'm sure even most of the anti-vaxxers making it know it's wrong. They're just trying to stave off the cognitive dissonance at all costs. And they hate me when I don't let them do that.
More than one person was upset with me for mocking the grieving parents of hundreds of thousands of children who have suffered from vaccine injuries. No, I'm mocking parents who are so stupid that if their kid gets vaccinated and then gets hit by a car two years later, they call it a vaccine injury. More than one person was upset with me for not showing Christlike love to people with a difference of opinion founded on lies that presents a constant direct threat to public health throughout the country, and especially to the lives and well-being of children whose only sin was being born to such idiots. Oh, isn't it funny how anti-vaxxers were always like "Why does my child need to get vaccinated to protect your child" but now they're pretending to know how herd immunity works? We don't need the vaccine, we need everyone in the world to get sick, several million people to die, and the healthcare system to collapse so we can achieve herd immunity. The virus has a 99.9% recovery rate with no long-term side effects or any negative outcomes besides death whatsoever, but the rate of abnormally serious side effects from the vaccine is - well, it's a lot lower than .01%, but that's still a lot because it just is! Or something. I'm only pretending to comprehend their thought process, if they have one.
Last week we workshopped the first thirteen pages of my essay "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", which maybe I'll post on this website and maybe I won't. And I just want to say that the workshop was a great experience for how it contrasted with my experience last time I had a class from Jennifer. Last time, as I've mentioned, I was not adapted to the flash non-fiction format she made us use where every detail has to have some deeper layer of meaning, and my classmates didn't understand when I was trying to make jokes in my writing and decided to assume I was stupid instead. I felt eaten alive. This time, everyone gushed about how great it was. I mean, workshops always start with saying what you think is working well in a piece anyway, but you can tell if everyone really liked a piece because they have so much to say. They thought it was funny and sweet and had all these brilliant things going on - some of them intentional on my part, some subconscious, and a few coincidental but I'll take them anyway. My one favorite line from all verbal and written feedback combined is: "I love the way you write about Calise, I feel like I'm falling in love with her with you."
Of course, as this is a little less than half of the current length of the essay, they couldn't see where I was going with it or which seemingly random details will turn out to be important - some even questioned whether Talease, interesting though she is, really matters to the story I'm telling, and oh how I wish I could answer that in the negative - so I'm impressed with the volume of useful feedback they were able to provide regardless. I felt bad having to split it up and make it less powerful, but I'd feel worse making them respond to 28 pages in one go. I was going to do this essay and another essay about something else, but this one will swell to fill as much space as I can give it, and it's what my heart needs me to write about. I've had to be very selective with details and try to choose representative ones that present a good picture and also take the time to dwell on key scenes and not just jump along from one point to another like "The Rise of Skywalker", and there's the whole show vs. tell balance and scene vs. summary balance and so on. My classmates are invested now and they're excited to read the second part and see how this adorable love story will play out.
Yeah... I feel bad about that.
I wish I could make up a different story, to satisfy them if not myself, but I can't because unlike anti-vaxxers, I have some integrity. So the second part is going to break their expectant, excited hearts. I feel like a box of puppies is looking up at me with such love and trust in their eyes as I'm about to shoot them all. I suppose this is a skill I can carry over to my preferred venue of fiction writing. I'll get people to love my characters and root for their success and read with baited breath to see what happens, and then I'll do terrible things to my characters, kill them off even, and my readers will cry and curse me and keep buying my books. I mean, I want my books to be funny, so I won't be too extreme with that direction. But it's a good skill to have and it looks like I have it. I feel so bad.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.