Some choice words of wisdom from Elder Dallin H. Oaks from his landmark 2005 devotional that I initially was going to append to Elder Hales' General Conference remarks in last week's post, but opted not to because it would have been too much of a tangent:
"The meaning and significance of a “date” has also changed in such a way as to price dating out of the market. I saw this trend beginning among our younger children. For whatever reason, high school boys felt they had to do something elaborate or bizarre to ask for a date, especially for an event like a prom, and girls felt they had to do likewise to accept. In addition, a date had to be something of an expensive production. I saw some of this on the BYU campus during the ’70s. I remember seeing one couple having a dinner catered by friends on the median strip between lanes of traffic just south of the BYU football stadium. All of this made dating more difficult. And the more elaborate and expensive the date, the fewer the dates. As dates become fewer and more elaborate, this seems to create an expectation that a date implies seriousness or continuing commitment. That expectation discourages dating even more."
(In fact, I suspect that this status quo has only continued to deteriorate, and that if you ask twelve Mormons what a "date" is, whether and how it differs from "hanging out", and what degree of romantic interest it implies, you will get twelve different answers. It's jaw-droppingly asinine.)
"If you don’t know what a date is, perhaps this definition will help. I heard it from my 18-year-old granddaughter. A 'date' must pass the test of three p’s: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, and (3) paired off."
(According to these criteria, I've been on more dates with guys.)
"And, young women, please make it easier for these shy males to ask for a simple, inexpensive date. Part of making it easier is to avoid implying that a date is something very serious. If we are to persuade young men to ask for dates more frequently, we must establish a mutual expectation that to go on a date is not to imply a continuing commitment. Finally, young women, if you turn down a date, be kind. Otherwise you may crush a nervous and shy questioner and destroy him as a potential dater, and that could hurt some other sister."
"Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are a young man feeling pressured by what I have said about the need to start a pattern of dating that can lead to marriage, or you are a young woman troubled by what we have said about needing to get on with your life. If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.
"I will explain why I can’t offer much comfort in response to that kind of letter by telling you an experience I had with another person who was troubled by a general rule. I gave a talk in which I mentioned the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' (Ex. 20:13). Afterward a man came up to me in tears saying that what I had said showed there was no hope for him. 'What do you mean?' I asked him. He explained that he had been a machine gunner during the Korean War. During a frontal assault, his machine gun mowed down scores of enemy infantry. Their bodies were piled so high in front of his gun that he and his men had to push them away in order to maintain their field of fire. He had killed a hundred, he said, and now he must be going to hell because I had spoken of the Lord’s commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.'
"The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. Thereare exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.' In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself."
(I love this quote because you probably think he's going to be like "There are no exceptions. Get over yourself." But then he's like, "PSYCH!" No wonder no one ever uses this quote.)
Just in case I end up talking about them a lot, the other members of my Poetry Writing Group shall hereafter be named "Bracelets", "Redhead", and "Glasses". Bracelets is the one who reads my blog so she's the only one who really matters, but I'll name them all just in case.
One night when I was busy filling my usual insomnia quota, I had an idea for a poem. By the time I got up the next day it didn't seem like a good idea anymore. But life got busy, and another poem was due, and I didn't have any other ideas, so I went for it - though with a bit of trepidation. My poetry professor has told us to be authentic and never hold back or censor ourselves, and her own poems cover some pretty dark themes, but I didn't know how she'd react to this. Maybe she would send me to a counselor. And then I'd say, "Why do I have to go to a counselor?" And she'd show me the petition. That was a real concern, but in the end I decided to go for it, if for no other reason than to tell society's taboo where it could go stick itself. (Annotated by professor)
So I talked to her, and she clearly felt very awkward and felt like she should do something but didn't know what, and on my next assignment she apologized for having been awkward, and I felt guilty for having made her worry. So no more of that, I guess. To be clear, this is not current and not something to be concerned about; if it was I never would have shared it in class, let alone here. But subject matter aside, I think it's a pretty awful poem. It's much too heavy-handed and blunt. I like bluntness, but poetry isn't really the place for it. (In case you were wondering, I put this kind of self-criticism and other commentary after the poems instead of before because we're not supposed to explain them before people read them. They're supposed to speak for themselves so that we can see if they come across the way we intended.)
I'd really hoped that my group members, for a change, wouldn't say they totally understood and identified with this poem because everyone feels this way sometimes. That would have been sad. Fortunately, they didn't. They also liked the use of parentheses, and so do I, though I can't explain why. It just has a nice tone to it. I used that much more extensively in my next poem. (Annotated by Bracelets)
This is literally just a true story about a dead grasshopper I came across on my way home from campus, but the nice thing about such a topic is that it will automatically convey a deeper meaning to people without me even trying to put one in. Don't we all feel like that grasshopper, sometimes? Bracelets also noted that although she detests grasshoppers, I had made her feel sorry for this one.
The next time, I decided to try writing something that wasn't dark, or at least mostly not. (Annotated by Redhead)
That was ridiculously hard to write, hence only half of the lines rhyme. Fitting the rhythm with the right number of syllables and placement of emphases was the worst. I felt that it was rushed and too short and that people would be confused about what exactly was going on, but they loved it, so I don't know what I'm talking about. Because we had extra time, I also shared it with my non-poetry group in the Fiction Writing class. "You're a really great writer, I hope you know that," said one of them. Oh, I definitely do, I thought, but I still love to hear you say it. I didn't say that out loud, of course, because I'm very modest.
In case you're curious what a splanch is, it's from Irregular Webcomic! (which actually has an exclamation point in its name, so that's not just me being excited about what a great webcomic it is!).
Rammstein - Amerika
I've been listening to this song a lot, like every day, because it never gets old. I wanted to share it with Bracelets, but then I figured why not just feature it on my blog so that not only she, but two other people can enjoy it.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
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.