(I should warn all of you readers in advance that this is a pretty light post. I’ve just been dying to ask someone this question all day and I couldn’t think of any better group of people to ask than the AMV readers!)
I was driving to the vacuum store today for a repair when I almost veered off the road because of a bumper sticker. Um, yeah, a bumper sticker. Caught completely off guard, I tailgated the dirty blue Plymouth for at least a block to make sure I was seeing things clearly. I was. There in rip-off bold, black lettering complete with the plump, red heart was, “I *heart* Nauvoo.” As in, “I *heart* NYC”, except, well, Mormon-ed.
Now,I’ve mentioned Mormon-ing before and how fun it is. For about as long as we’ve existed as a cultural group we’ve chosen to interpret things according to our particular belief system–whether it be a popular movie or a literary character or even political events and national disasters (any rumors of Last Days and food storage going around your ward right now?). I can’t think of any greater perk to being involved in Mormon arts than the enjoyment I get from Mormon-ing stuff.
But this bumper sticker struck me as different. Probably because I didn’t exactly recognize that couple driving the car (The husband had a long enough beard that he had tied it with multiple hair ties. I would’ve remembered seeing him at stake conference. The wife looked like someone I’d been introduced to, though.) and because it struck me as a complete rip-off. Maybe there were some sort of witty cultural undertones that I missed that would have legitimized it. Or maybe it’s that the “I *heart* fill-in-the-blank” is so cliche in American culture that it’s filtered into “txt spk” so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But this bumper sticker seemed cheap somehow. Too easy. Too much like the romance/suspense/chicklit novels that make up the bulk of the national market and the knockoffs that make up LDS market. Or the popular, EFY style music that sounds like so many innocuous pop on the radio.
(You’ve seen the missionary version of “Hey There Delilah” and it’s counterpart “Hey BYU Girl” right? The vocals are a little painful, but the lyrics are so stereotypical Mormon it’s worth a listen. And while you’re there check the comments; other Mormons loved these like they love case lot sales!)
The other thing that surprised me was how delighted I was to accidentally come across some other Mormons–even if I wasn’t sure I recognized them. It made me wonder how much time I subconsciously spend looking for signs that other Mormons are doing what I’m doing, reading what I’m reading, thinking what I’m thinking. How much I appreciate the knowing wink in my direction, even if it isn’t all that witty or cool.
I look for the usual tells: a CTR ring, BYU apparel, a “Mormon smile” garment line, or the signature pants-tug-upon-standing. There’s also the age of the mother and the number of kids she has. If a gal is in her twenties and has more than two–and she resembles the kids so I’m sure she’s not the nanny–I figure she’s Mormon and I start looking for other signs. There’s also the way Mormons talk: using expressions like “You have to be kidding me” or “Holy buckets!” (which happens to be my personal favorite) instead of “Oh my G–.” Cullen family apparel seems to be a reliable tell amongst twenty-something Mormon gals, too. Or, if it’s a man in question, the use of euphemisms like “frick” and a proclivity for pairing white button-down shirts with khaki pants at formal events. I’m surprised how much I appreciate these little quirks about our culture and, dorky as they may be, they always make me smile when I come across them.
So I want to know about you all. Do you look for Mormon tells? What signs give away the Mormons you run into? If you could coin a Mormon bumper sticker what would it say? And, perhaps most importantly, what have you Mormon-ed lately?