Eccentrics

March 21, 2005 | 110 comments
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There is a student on the Georgetown campus that makes me uneasy. He has glasses, a bushy beard, heavy features, long brown hair knotted in dreadlocks. I see him often, and he always seems to be wearing the same thing: a camouflage jacket, brown trousers, and a heavy backpack full, I’m convinced, of books on anarchy. He’s one of the other bike riders on campus, and sometimes we make brief eye-contact as we wheel past each other on crowded sidewalks. More often, though, I see him in Red Square, one of Georgetown’s busiest quads, with a group of friends, all sitting cross-legged and smoking cigarettes. I’ve gotten close enough to hear his voice–surprisingly high-pitched, with a nervous laugh. In my mind, he’s angry, anti-establishment, maybe a future Unabomber. But in actuality, he laughs a lot and seems to enjoy being in company.

Two particular close encounters with this nameless boy stand out as somehow representative. Last year when George Tenet, former director of the CIA, made his controversial statement about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I was sitting on the 10th row back from the front. The press briefing was held in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall, and there had been a buzz about the event for a week. Black SUVs and men in dark suits had staked out the building from the early morning; when I finally got through security and walked into the tranquil hall suffused with stained glass light, I felt like I’d penetrated President Bush’s War Cabinet. At the end of Tenet’s speech, Georgetown President DeGioia opened up the floor for questions, asking students and press representatives to line up in front of a microphone half-way down the central aisle. There was immediate bustle and movement. In the two seconds that I considered asking a question and decided I had nothing to say, a line of about 50 people had snaked down the aisle, up the stairs, and into the balcony. The boy with the brown hair and camouflage jacket was about 15 people deep. Tenet responded to questions on prewar intelligence, national intelligence agencies, his relationship with the White House, and this boy came closer and closer. Then, when there was only one person between him and the microphone, President DeGioia announced that this would be the last question. There was murmured protest, but the line dissipated after the lucky student asked his question (quite frivolous, if I remember rightly). But this boy just stood there as George Tenet disposed of the question and President DeGioia dismissed everyone. Finally, when it was clear that the meeting was over, he turned around and walked out. That would have been the first time I heard him make any sort of statement, and I have never found out what question he wanted to ask.

The second encounter was much shorter. I was entering one of the dorms on my way to tutor a Long Island socialite who hates writing papers. Janelle often feels out of her element at Georgetown because she struggles in school and gets confused about politics (like me). Just inside the dorm entryway, there is a desk where all visitors have to swipe their student IDs to gain access to the rest of the building. At that time of day (and I’d been there many times before), there was usually an Asian girl eating her lunch and talking on her cell phone. This time, though, it was the boy. Same jacket, same backpack. He glanced up at me from his book–just a glance, not even a gleam of recognition–glanced at the scanner as I swiped my card and a green light flashed, and then went back to his book. I was legit–I wasn’t going to rob students, tape obscene flyers to their doors, or leave a bomb in the trash room. In an incisive, summary glance, he had checked me out and let me go. The elevator in the dorm is notoriously slow; during the minute that I was waiting, I could easily have said something, struck up a brief conversation. But I just stood there, taking off my gloves, try ing to see unobtrusively what he was reading. Then I got on the elevator and he was gone when I came back.

Today, I know exactly where to find this boy. He is in a large white tent set up in Red Square, participating in a hunger strike to pressure the administration to pay the Georgetown custodial staff a living wage. You might have heard about it on NPR this morning. He and his friends have been out there since last Wednesday, and in the middle of class on Thursday evening, while we were discussing leftist reportage during the 1930s labor agitation, I could hear an amplified voice leading a rally in indistinct chants. Maybe it was him.

I will admit that I don’t know what to do about this boy. He is at once interesting, troubling, mysterious. I find him both repulsive and attractive. I am worried that I’ve somehow made him more of an object than a person in my mind, that I’ve exoticized him. I’ve felt this way about other people, too–a sad-faced woman who might still work in the Cougar Eat, making endless rounds of the tables with a rag and a bottle of Lysol, swiping lacklusterly and moving on to the next table; a lady in her 70s, painfully thin, almost always napping in the graduate reading room of the Georgetown library; a group of street kids sucking glue that my companion and I would pass every morning on our way to the Bucharest metro. These are people who make an impression on me. I remember them for years after, but I usually never talk to them. I feel that I somehow sin against them. What are their lives like, I wonder. Could I become like them? Am I already?

I last heard President Hinckley speak at a Christmas devotional in the Washington, D.C. temple. I was one of about 2,000 temple workers all dressed in white, and even though most of us didn’t know each other, we looked at one another excitedly, with good fellowship and a sense of unity and safety. President Hinckley spoke about the immortality of the soul and how temples were monuments to that deeply-held belief. I, too, deeply believe in the immortality of the soul. I believe that the worth of one soul is inestimable. I believe that my own life is made up of a gradual accretion of interactions, relationships, chance encounters; a sedimentation of the souls passing through, passing by, sometimes staying. I want to move beyond being uneasy, suspicious, and defensive; I want to move beyond the dialectic of repulsion and attraction. That dialectic seems unfitting for immortal souls.

It’s early afternoon in Georgetown, and in a little while I’ll be passing through Red Square on my way to tutor Janelle. I’ll probably be in a hurry because I’ll be late, and I’ll probably pedal as quickly as I can around the outer edge of the protesters, trying to avoid people’s backpacks and most likely feeling slightly resentful that they’re creating such an obstacle course. The protesters, wearing their “Living Wages Now” T-shirts, will shuffle aside to make way for me, and as we negotiate shared space, we’ll probably exchange a glance or two, a face to face look. They will see a 26-year-old graduate student with messy hair, little make-up, and an over-sized jacket riding a second-hand bike. They’ll wonder why she’s all bundled up when it’s so beautiful outside, and they’ll probably move aside a little faster when they see the poorly suppressed impatience in her eyes. But I don’t think I’ll know what I see when I look into their faces. A 20-something undergraduate whose parents are paying for his semester abroad in Florence next fall? A deeply committed activist who’s been hungry for three days? A Unabomber? A dorm security guard? They’ll make way for this bad-tempered graduate student and then turn back to their rally; I’ll avoid their backpacks and tables and signs and tents and go off to keep earning next month’s rent. And perhaps, if I’m lucky, we will meet again tomorrow.

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110 Responses to Eccentrics

  1. ronin on March 21, 2005 at 9:22 pm

    Yup, I too have thought similar things while walking through the main campus of the Univ of Michigan. There are the usual compliment of drunks and other street people at the Diag, but also students that are , shall I say, a bit different. And I too have thought about my own thoughts, the judgements I have made, probably i n error, and I dont quite know …………..

  2. Rosalynde Welch on March 21, 2005 at 11:21 pm

    What a lovely essay, Naomi. (So sorry we accidentally buried it with a controversial topic right above.)

    Of everybody that I know, you are the person who takes the most care with nurturing, prolonging, and preserving personal relationships–and I am one of those, shamefully, who takes the least care. I have so much to learn from you, and from all those like the boy at Georgetown.

  3. David Rodger on March 22, 2005 at 2:38 am

    There are the delightful eccentrics…and the others.

    No way to tell them apart with a cursory glance. The delightful ones are creative and offbeat, view the world through the freshest of lenses, open up vistas we did not know existed, puncture our self-satisfaction, raise our consciousness and make us care for ideas and people to which we would not have given a few seconds of attention.

    And then…..there are the others. Both kinds attract us, like a moth to a flame.

  4. Sarah on March 22, 2005 at 3:07 am

    I often wonder if I’m one of those people. At Ohio State people knew me as “the skirt girl” and/or “the girl who asks questions in history lecture.” People would come up to me and say that I hadn’t been in history that day — or they’d meet me in class one day and say “oh, wow, you’re the girl who always wears skirts!” It felt weird, like being a walking charicature…

  5. Lisa on March 22, 2005 at 3:18 am

    Lovely post.

  6. Matt Evans on March 22, 2005 at 8:12 am

    Thanks Naomi. As Rosalynde and Lisa said, Lovely.

  7. Brittany Spencer on March 22, 2005 at 10:00 am

    You’re not the only one.

    I also had a few eccentrics that I would see on a daily basis, create bios to explain their interesting personalities, and yet never talk to. One of my personal favorites was a man who I always say on the tube (usually the Circle line) in London. He always sat quietly on a bench waiting for the next train. Sometimes he was eating a hamburger or a candy bar. But he always wore a stocking cap with an index card stuck in the up-turned brim. His little avenue of protest was to write a message on the card, attracting stares from everyone who passed him on their way to Tragalgar Square or Notting Hill Gate. He never spoke or made any sudden movements. I never got up enough guts to actually go and talk to him about his political beliefs. But I could always count on him being there, silently protesting in his own little way.

  8. Naomi Frandsen on March 22, 2005 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for reading my post, everyone. I didn’t write it to elicit many comments, so Rosalynde, it’s probably a good companion piece to a post that is definitely designed to elicit comments :). But just in case any of you are checking back, here are my thoughts about your thoughts.

    Ronin, do you think there’s an over-representation of eccentrics on college campuses? I’ve been confined to college campuses for the past nine years (minus two years in Romania and nine months in an office), so that’s where I get all of my eccentrics. I wonder if they’ll disappear when I start frequenting other locations. I hope not.

    David, what is the different between delightful and just plain weird? Some grasp of social reality? Some ability to interact with people? Some self-awareness of oneself as an eccentric? Like Sarah, I think that I’m probably something of an eccentric in my department, if only because I’m one of the only ones who doesn’t drink. Perhaps eccentric is just a term specific to a certain social group–perhaps Brittany’s stocking-capped man has lunch at a cafe where other stocking-capped men all convene and eat. Perhaps he would make more sense in other contexts. But I want to avoid the somewhat voyeuristic tendency to peek deep enough in their lives to see what they’re like in home settings, etc.

    As for Sarah, what kinds of skirts are these? :) It takes a certain amount of bravery to be different–at BYU or other sorts of schools, I sure that skirts would be far less eccentric. But making the decision to go to a school where you are, in fact, something of an eccentric can give you (us, I should say, since I think I’ve had this experience as well at Georgetown) an invaluable experience of going against the grain.

    And finally, thanks for your eccentric story, Brittany. Transportation venues do seem to attract eccentrics–that’s one reason I love public transportation so much.

  9. cooper on March 22, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Naomi, great post. I am old now and have overcome my shyness. I too would spend time watching individuals on campus wondering why I noticed the same people and never noticed others. Until, one day I worked up the courage to say something to that oft noticed person. Amazingly I discovered that there are no accidents in life. People are placed in our paths for a reason. Sometimes the reason is immediately known, other times it can take years. What we all have to figure out is that it is okay to venture forth into strange territory and give of ourselves to others. Even if it is just a kind word falling on an empty heart. You meet the most amazing people that way.

  10. annegb on March 22, 2005 at 11:38 am

    When I went to college, I played a little mind game called “serial killer.” I would look at people and try to figure out if they could be a serial killer or not. My husband just shook his head and ignored me. Now we will be sitting in Wendy’s and I will say, “see that guy over there?” And he will look and say, “serial killer?” And I reply, “yup.” And he just smiles and eats his hamburger.

    Does it surprise anybody that I imagine situations where I would be tortured and fail to keep the secret? Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.

  11. Wilfried on March 22, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    Great post, Naomi, the kind I like.
    I was an eccentric during my college years in the mid-sixties. Clean shaven, properly dressed, wearing shoes and carrying copies of the Book of Mormon and Church brochures to pass out whenever I had the chance. Amidst fellow students with beards, long hair, protesters, anarchists, hippies. Looking back, I certainly was the most different… These were the sixties! I wish somebody had written a piece on me back then.

  12. Christian Cardall on March 22, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    This is great personal history, Naomi. The kind of stuff your descendants will love to read someday, a perfect trifecta: It (1) reveals the inner you, (2) connects that inner you to some mundane details of your times (which will be no less fascinating to future generations, for all their present banality)—personified in the nameless boy, and (3) connects you to great events of your times, though a quasi-personal ‘brush with greatness’ (the encounter with George Tenet).

    Of course, this reading completely misses the real point, which is that the nameless to us ought not be mundane to us.

    …nameless boy…this boy…this boy… I can’t help connecting this to your post on becoming an adult. As a college student I would have had a hard time calling female fellow-students anything but “girls.” But in some comment here about BYU experience I referred to “women” of college age. This is surely a sign of a psychological transition to adulthood!

  13. Adam L on March 22, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    I think every campus has one or two true eccentrics who nobody can quite put a finger on. There was a student in the philosophy department at UCSD when I was there known to everyone as “the Jolt Cola Guy.” He wore nothing but army fatigues, had huge mutton chop sideburns, and ALWAYS carred a six pack or a two-liter bottle of Jolt Cola (“all the sugar, twice the caffeine”) with him. I had two or three classes with him and never heard him say a word. I’m sure he must have been a decent guy who, for whatever reasons, just wasn’t free with his socialization. Still, his mysterious isolation left a bigger mark on that campus than most of we more “typical” students. To this day (almost 20 years later), you’ll see posts on the alumni board asking if people remember the Jolt Cola Guy. Frankly, I think eccentricity is simply a label for behavoir or outlooks we don’t understand. Had the Jolt Cola guy tried to connect with the rest of us–or we with him–I’m sure he wouldn’t have seemed so eccentric once we knew him. Then again, maybe I’m wrong.

    Naomi, as for your own sense of eccentricity, I don’t really think you are; nor, do I think you’re perceived that way here at Georgetown. Whatever social distance you might feel from others in the program could probably be overcome with more effort on both sides. I mean, really, only 85% of the extra curricular interaction involves drinking. You’ve got to grab that sober 15%!

  14. Naomi Frandsen on March 22, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    Cooper, I have secret plans to meet the protester in camouflage sometime before I graduate. I saw him just today in Red Square again–he was actually wearing jeans and a blue shirt! Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign that I should make my move… I think it is a little bit of shyness and a little bit of insecurity that holds me back at this point. I suspect that if he knew my own heart and mind, he might find it maddeningly bourgeois. But I guess those are the risks, and well worth them, of finding friends.

    annegb, I was just realizing last night–this is only tangentially related, and perhaps has more bearing on how I am an eccentric–that whenever I’m alone as I wait for my apartment building’s elevator, and especially if I’m getting home late at night, I have a secret suspicion that when the elevator door opens, I’ll see a dead body slumped over inside. I always have this moment of anticipation, part fear, part fascination, and then a little release when I realize that the elevator is empty. Now, I’ve never seen a dead body in an elevator, so I don’t know the psychological origins of this fantasy, but it’s funny how we’ll construct worlds of the world around us.

    Wilfried, perhaps someone did write about you! And you reiterate the point that eccentrics are a function of their contextualizing culture, not necessarily an absolute category. I am admiring and impressed that you were so animated by your conversion that you brought it into your appearance and actions even in the (for me) intimidating atmosphere of a college campus. I’m glad you liked my post. This is high praise from the author of “Sweet Spirit.”

    Finally, Christian, you are not the first to notice my propensity to see my peers–and hence myself–as boys and girls. One of my 35-year-old classmates was a little irked that he wasn’t a man. So I don’t know when this psychological transition will come. I don’t think it has yet.

  15. Naomi Frandsen on March 22, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Adam! I’m so glad you commented! And I also think I probably got your age wrong on my last comment, so please accept my apologies in advance. Jolt Cola, huh? And he still didn’t make comments in class?

  16. Sumana on March 22, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Thanks for your post, Ms. Frandsen. I really appreciated it. As Ursula Le Guin illustrated in “The Left Hand of Darkness”, we have so much separating us from each other and it is impossible and vital that we empathize.

  17. Adam L on March 22, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    You’ve got it right–35–at least for a few weeks. You really do need to see yourself, and those your age, as men and women. I guarantee that 10 year olds–genuine boys and girls–would classify you as such.

  18. Christian Cardall on March 22, 2005 at 2:28 pm

    Adam L, 20 years ago at UCSD? A 15-year-old prodigy? :)

    I am also 35 (but for a few more months), and was a graduate student at UCSD from ’93 to ’97.

  19. Matt 'woot' Bowman on March 22, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    This is really evocative, Naomi; I’m impressed. It’s interesting to think about the ways we structure our lives; perhaps these sorts of people are interesting because their lives only overlap our own at the fringes – enough to leave a mark on our memory and perception, but not enough to weave into our narratives. They’re the interesting background players (as we are to them) that remind us that the world is much deeper and more varied than our own experience. We all approach the world from a slightly different angle.

    I’ve actually encountered one of your eccentrics (and it’s interesting to note that I know who you’re talking about). The old lady of the library chastised me a couple months ago for poor posture as I sat in a cubicle near the graduate reading room. (She was right. I was sitting sideways in my chair). I was too bewildered to do anything but shift, but perhaps more because she spoke to me than by what she said; the part I had relegated her to in my life didn’t have any lines. You’ve reminded me of the openness with which we should approach our fellow travelers on Earth. We hear repeatedly that we never know what kind of impact we will have on people we never even speak to. I know I, at least, try to sit up straight more.

    In any case, like your sister, I’m impressed with your empathy.

  20. sFW on March 22, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Annegb: I thought yours was the most interesting post. I think there are many things I would wonder about you. However, I’ll just ask one question: What is the secret?

    This college campus stuff is all very fine — but what about those eccentrics (I guess that’s the word being used) in our wards? We know, or at least think we have a good idea about what they profess to believe, and yet, we wonder.

  21. Rosalynde Welch on March 22, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Adam or Christian, do either of you remember seeing a tall man, with curly gray hair, who *always always always* wore black soccer shorts, black tivos and a long sleeved black shirt, who apparently spent all day every day in the Price Center food court? He would read the newspaper, and, if I remember correctly, sometimes fiddle on a laptop. I often wondered about him, and about what he could possible be doing.

  22. Naomi Frandsen on March 22, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    Sumana–I have never read Ursula Le Guin, although I’ve heard alot about her. Thanks for the recommendation. I think literature is particularly suited to help us understand otherness, and maybe to help us empathize. That’s one of the reasons I have continued studying it. That and the high remuneration, of course :).

    Woot–I’m so glad you’ve talked to the library lady! I wonder what else moves and motivates her, besides encouraging the younger generation to better posture. I should start slouching a little more while I’m in there.

    sFW–I’m in a singles ward right now, and I think singles wards (at least the one I’m in) tends to discourage eccentrics. Conformity and image tends to be emphasized, which might explain it. Or am I just overlooking the secret worlds that are all around me?

  23. William Morris on March 22, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve been taking public transportation in the Bay Area for the past 13 years to three different colleges.

    I’ll just share one story:

    At Berkeley there was (is?) and older black man with a wonderful, booming voice who would stand somewhere in the vicinity of Sather Gate and preach. He had a small notebook that he would occassionally refer to. I use to love to listen to him. Much of what he said was about the wickedness of the world (I seem to recall a particularly long sermon on the evils of adulter), but one time as I was walking across campus he came in to hearing range and he was talking about the lion laying down with the lamb, etc. from Isaiah. As I walked away from where he was preaching his voice faded out, but I swear at one point it came back into range and he was talking about synchronized swimming. I was tempted to turn back but I needed to get to class. I sure wish I knew what the transition from the lion and the lamb to synchronized swimming was.

  24. Rachel on March 22, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    I’m going into the MTC in a few months. Any eccentrics there? I confess that if there aren’t any, I want to be one. I think everyone wants to secretly be an eccentric, to be thought of as uniquely odd, and therefore uniquely appreciated.

  25. Jordan Fowles on March 22, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    I’m very eccentric but in the most non-eccentric way imaginable.

  26. Rosalynde Welch on March 22, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    Rachel–

    Eccentricity and the conditions of the MTC are, I think, ontologically incompatible. I did get called “Elder Frandsen” among my district, which I guess made me different in a way–and I confess that I wasn’t entirely displeased.

    I expect that your short hair, your ravishing looks, and your smarts will make you stand out there.

    But if you want to make sure, pack a tube of electric blue hair dye and some violet fishnet stockings. That should do the trick.

  27. Adam L on March 22, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    Christian-

    ALMOST 20 years. I started there as an undergrad in 1987 at 18, and was decidedly not a prodigy.

    Rosalynde-

    Sorry. Must be after my time (I left in ’92), or maybe he was there and wasn’t yet grey. Actually, the Price Center didn’t open until my junior year.

    William-

    “I sure wish I knew what the transition from the lion and the lamb to synchronized swimming was.”

    Isn’t it obvious?

    Rachel-

    I think the reality for eccentrics is more often uniquely unappreciated.

  28. annegb on March 22, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    Well, the secret I would know if I was a spy for the allies during the Holocaust, like who the resistance leaders are, or the secret I would know if I was a CIA agent in Afganistan, like where are the Americans, or the secret I would know if I was a Navy flier shot down over Hanoi, or the secret I would know if we get invaded by China. I have a very rich fantasy life, but it doesn’t include successfully surviving torture.

    Naomi, sometimes I get up at night and look down the dark hallway, dimly lit by the night light in the bathroom and see Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

    I scare myself a lot. Too much Steven King.

    You know, John, that is my formula for serial killers, the most non-threatening person in the room, like the sort of feminine male checker at Wal-Mart, probably has somebody chained up in his basement and he apologizes before he kills them. The obvious eccentric like Rosalynde’s hairy guy is never the serial killer. It’s always the nice guy. Beware the non-eccentric with the gleam in his eye. Also Kathy Bates. :)

  29. Kaimi on March 22, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    Rachel,

    If you want to be unique in the MTC, you could always try this.

  30. Wilfried on March 22, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Naomi: “I’m in a singles ward right now, and I think singles wards (at least the one I’m in) tends to discourage eccentrics. Conformity and image tends to be emphasized, which might explain it. Or am I just overlooking the secret worlds that are all around me?”

    I have no doubt that’s the way it is in singles wards, which, I believe, can only exist in heavily Mormon area’s. To discover and to enjoy eccentrics in the Church, come to some of the smaller units in the mission field around the world. It reminds me of my Brother H. and so many others. These people often represent unique challenges to the local leadership, but are also a great source to teach us understanding, diplomacy and patience. That’s also, to me, the basic message of Naomi’s post.

  31. Kaimi on March 22, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    Naomi,

    I’m not much of an expert on singles wards, but I’ve observed some instances where singles wards are divided into under-30′s and over-30′s. Under-30′s wards tend to be high school all over again, with lots of flirting and chasing and girls and guys trying to look attractive — so yeah, it’s likely to be a group where eccenticities are downplayed.

    The over-30′s wards are colloquially known as the “unmarriageables” (not that it’s a particularly just label, but a common view is among LDS that if you’re not married by 30, you’re pretty hopeless, and quite possibly gay). And over-30′s wards tend to be eccentricity magnets.

  32. Jim F. on March 22, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    Rachel, no genuine eccentric stives to be one, for to do so is to be as enthralled to conformity as are the conformists. The word “eccentric” is provocative. It means, literally, “away from the center.” There are many ways in which it isn’t good to be away from the center, so eccentricity isn’t, in itself, a good idea.

    Taken to mean “non-conformist,” however, it is also problematic. Just as one can conform by merely being an anti-conformist–i.e., a conformist at heart, even if a non-conformist in appearance–one can do and wear what everyone else does and wears without being a conformist–i.e., you could be an eccentric who looks and sounds pretty much like everyone else.

    In other words, you can’t pick out the eccentrics or the conformists just by looking at them or hearing them talk.

  33. Kaimi on March 22, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Rosalynde writes,

    But if you want to make sure, pack a tube of electric blue hair dye and some violet fishnet stockings. That should do the trick.

    I knew I forgot something when I went to the MTC! Drat. Blame the mission president for not putting it in the welcome letter.

  34. William Morris on March 22, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    Another Berkeley story:

    I was walking to a bus stop in downtown Berkeley when I noticed a van parked across the street that was covered with signs. Upon further examination, it was more like one huge poster presentation. I can’t remember all the details, but the creator of the van-billboard had put together this complex diagram, timeline and series of news articles and other textual sources that proved that Stephen King, the writer, was actually the person who shot and killed John Lennon, the musician.

    That was the only time that I saw the van. I so wish that I had had a camera with me.

  35. Matt 'woot' Bowman on March 22, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    “Or am I just overlooking the secret worlds that are all around me? ”

    I think that’s it. People are strange. Really.

  36. Christian Y. Cardall on March 22, 2005 at 7:58 pm

    Rosalynde—er, “Elder Frandsen” (LOL!)—no, I don’t remember the guy you mention in the Price Center. Honestly, though… California seaside campus, warm weather… It may be that grey-haired men would not be the first thing to catch my eye.

    My main memories of the Price Center are (1) feeling guilt on encountering the Lust neon sign on the building with the seven deadly sins around the top, after being distracted as described above while walking through the Price Center; (2) buying a pair of Wendy’s $0.99 junior bacon cheeseburgers on rare occasions I didn’t bring a lunch from home; and (3) a free concert by They Might Be Giants (of “Don’t Let’s Start” fame, a song we’d performed in our band at BYU), in which the lead singer threatened the rowdy mosh pit that he would `crush them with his love’ if they didn’t settle down. It’s a phrase I still use on my kids from time to time.

    (A puerile imitation of Naomi’s personal history hat trick! I guess hat trick or Triple Crown would technically be more correct than trifecta.)

  37. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 22, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    Pretty essay.

  38. Rachel on March 22, 2005 at 11:18 pm

    Dr. Faulconer (#32),
    You are too right that many eccentrics are as ordinary and similar within themselves as any other group of happily anonymous faces. Probably a goodly number of these posturing eccentrics attend your philosophy classes (this eccentric hasn’t had that opportunity. Just kidding, I’m way too unorginal to classify myself as an eccentric. For heaven’s sake, I’m yet another Frandsen woman posting on Times and Seasons).

    I am sad to realize that when one tries very hard to be something, it is evidence that you are not it. What are we to do with all of our unfulfilled desires? I know why the eccentric (perhaps one like Naomi’s bearded friend) tries so hard.

    I see very many people with terribly noble souls trying as hard as they can to embody their nobility in innovative and meaningful ways, but in the end the only means available to them have already been sullied by the thousands of people trying to do the same thing. We struggle in anguish over the expression of our souls, because everyone feels acutely their own individuality, their own nobility unlike any other’s. To successfully express our original and noble souls would be a wonderful act of creation, and further more it would abolish our isolation from each other. That is why the eccentric tries so hard.

    I feel like the desire to create and the desire to genuinely communicate are two of the most godly desires we can have (they can also be twistedly selfish). So what do we do? Should we struggle on despite our hypocrisy? I often think that we mortals are incapable of originality. It takes tremendous imagination to be creative and original (is originality necessary for creativity?)

    Dr. Faulconer, I also liked your comments regarding the meaning of the word eccentricity. Geometrically, eccentricity is a measurement of deviation from a perfect circle. Our earth orbits along an eccentric path, an imperfect circle. In Copernicus’ world, eccentricity was aesthetically displeasing, a manifested imperfection in the universe. In Keppler’s world, eccentricity explained the inexplicable, and was simply a manifestation of the complicated relationships between heavenly bodies.

    Applying the world of physics to us, as many people are wont to do (I just got through reading a stack of papers defending Einstein’s special theory of relativity as a description of God’s being), I agree with Woot and say that we must all be eccentric. These eccentricities are simply the result of the push and pull we have on each other; some fly farther out than others, but hopefully we’ve all got the same center. I haven’t figured out what to do when a person is in a completely different orbit altogether.

    By the way, Dr. Faulconer, do you remember a certain honors student whose portfolio you evaluated a year ago named Sophie Hayes? She wrote a piece on the sensual hair of a cello player. An eccentric if I ever met one, and one of my good friends. She loved you, and called you an adorable old man (her words, not mine).

    Oh, and Rosalynde (if you’ve made it this far), why were you called Elder Frandsen?

  39. Rachel on March 22, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    p.s. – Kaimi and Rosalynde, I’ll consider both of your suggestions for the MTC. After reading your link, Kaimi, I begin to hope that originality is not impossible.

  40. Rosalynde Welch on March 22, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Rachel, I’m not sure why I was “Elder” (only the other elders called me that, by the way). I think it’s because I was assertive, outspoken and confident. There are plenty of female missionaries who fit this description–and plenty of elders who don’t!–but in my district, I was different in these regards from the three other sisters. Also, I was paired with an elder during the day to attend an advanced portuguese class.

    Thanks for your profound thoughts on identity and self-creation. I predict, my dear, dear little sister, that the MTC will be a challenging experience for you. (I feel a little like those women who regale their hugely pregnant sisters with horror stories about labor, so I will spare you the details unless you are interested.) Just know, and remind yourself often, that things will be different and better–though equally challenging–once you’re in the field.

  41. Rachel on March 22, 2005 at 11:55 pm

    Hmm. I’m expecting the MTC to be unimaginably hard (read frustrating, maddening, trying, etc.) But strangely, and here is the root of the reason I am not an eccentric, I like to have a perscribed role to play, clear-cut expectations, and rules to follow. Hopefully that will carry me through. And I think there might be room for little wobbles even within our very-close-to-circular orbit in the MTC. I was thinking of becoming the dreamy poet of my district – I could compose little haikus in French, comme ci:

    Tout ensemble, oui, (all together, yes,)
    Nous sommes les missionaires! (We are the missionaries!)
    La meme avec Dieu (the same with God)

  42. David Rodger on March 23, 2005 at 12:09 am

    I think any disciplined environment is hard, if what we are intent on doing is not in accordance with that discipline. However, I don’t know that the MTC is particularly the place to assert one’s individuality. There seems to be a certain air of hubris associated with that, and I am not sure that it is in accordance with “be thou humble, and the Lord will lead thee by the hand”.

    Having had the opportunity to observe many missionaries over the years, I see a continual temptation which affects all too many of them. The desire to be “cool”, or “different”. More often than not, in foreign countries, what they do may be “cool” by US high school or even college standards, but is fairly ridiculous and even mildly insulting to the countries where they are. Such as the desire to “dress down” and look sloppy, when the locals, who are desperately poor, take care to wear their best clothes, cleaned and pressed to their Sunday meetings.

  43. Rachel on March 23, 2005 at 1:19 am

    David, you are very right. Brazenly and loudly (or even quietly and subversively) proclaiming our individuality can be the mark of arrogance. Much better is to let God guide our unique set of strengths and weaknesses in the direction which will result in the refining of our individuality to a state of godly usefulness. Individuality can be a brutal tool when applied improperly.

    I do believe, however, that God WANTS us to be different from each other so that we can learn to work, build, and love TOGETHER. So, though there is a good deal of hubris in me, I think that God will lead my rendered soul in a direction that will make me a better me, not an abolished me (although I plan on doing a good deal of abolishing what I THINK is me in the MTC in favor of what God KNOWS is me).

    I could speak at length about what I feel is the importance of being different, but I think I’ll withhold for now. Of course God’s will is paramount to all else. I hope, however, He won’t mind a few harmless haikus.

    But don’t worry, if God likes, I’ll give up the haikus.

  44. Rachel on March 23, 2005 at 1:25 am

    p.s. David, I LOVE that scripture (and hymn). One of my very favorites. We should add humility to our triad of faith, hope, and charity, because I don’t think we can have any of those without it.

  45. Miranda H on March 23, 2005 at 7:27 am

    I agree that singles over 30 in the Church can be eccentric, but what else can one expect from enforced celibacy/asexuality? Where there is supression and ensuing depression, there is bound to be eccentricity. I went inactive seeing this bleak future and have no regrets.

  46. danithew on March 23, 2005 at 9:19 am

    Eccentricity is an interesting quality to have. Sometimes eccentricity is sort of a charming or endearing unique feature. And I guess sometimes it is alarming or off-putting. I can’t help but think of that Gary Larson Far-Side cartoon that shows a crazy person wearing all kinds of odd paraphernalia.

    I remember reading (I think in the Miracle of Forgiveness) a Spencer W. Kimball quote that encouraged the Saints to get rid of eccentric personality traits or idiosyncratic behaviors. I think he was making this point directly in the context of counsel on attracting a marriage partner. It’s a sort of gospel doctrine on how to be attractive to the opposite sex? I went googling and found the following:

    “You need to evaluate yourselves carefully. Take a careful inventory of your habits, your speech, your appearance, your weight, and your eccentricities, if you have any. Take each item and analyze it. Can you make some sacrifices to be acceptable? You must be the judge. Are you too talkative? Too withdrawn? Too quiet? If so, then school your thoughts and your expressions. Is your dress too old fashioned, or too revealing, or too extreme? Are you too demanding? Do you have any eccentricities in speech, in tone, in subject matter? Do you laugh too loudly? Are you too demonstrative? Do you overdo? Are you selfish? Are you honorable in all things? Have you made yourself attractive physically… well groomed, well dressed and attractive, mentally engaging, interesting? Are you well read? If not then change yourself. Continue to make yourself attractive physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.”

    In the link I found, the quote above was merely attributed to Spencer W. Kimball and a year (1974). Can anyone confirm whether this is the Miracle of Forgiveness or not? Maybe provide a page number? I don’t have this book in my shelf or I’d look it up myself.

  47. Ben S. on March 23, 2005 at 10:09 am

    Rachel: Are you headed for a French-speaking mission? If so, which one?

  48. Rachel on March 23, 2005 at 10:20 am

    Ben, I’m going to Paris on my mission.

  49. Shawn Bailey on March 23, 2005 at 10:28 am

    I agree with Jim (no. 32). My favorite meme in advertising (favorite to ridicule that is!) is: “Be an original! Be unique! Consume the same things as everyone else!” I doubt one can watch TV for fifteen minutes without seeing this one played out.

    Still, I do think outward appearances are interesting. Not because they say anything very significant about character, but because they say something about the image an individual wants to convey to strangers. I find it interesting to try to “read” people’s appearances, but doing so thoughtfully can only uncover a little. Someone may be making a statement about how clever they are—or they may simply not have any other clean clothes at the moment. Such attempts at reading generally leads me to reflect on how I should have charity and refuse to judge unwisely. Sometimes I offer a silent prayer for a person that does not look happy to me (that many piercings cannot be comfortable!)

    The discussion of being immortal—and being in the temple in white—is particularly appropriate. It is probably essential to get past or see through all the surface eccentricity we put on in the morning to understand one’s own or another’s character. This shedding of mundane “individuality” markers is a special part of dressing in white at the temple. Doing so helps us look forward to unity—to getting past inconsequential differences—in the worlds to come. And for me, that was a good thing about the MTC. Absent at the MTC are the usual media (clothes, music tastes, etc.) that people use to make statements about identity. For some, this is a temporary fast that must be broken as soon as possible. But it need not be. It may be a time to discover that surface eccentricity is artificial. That character is not something purchased and worn, but developed through faith and sincere effort. That truly meaningful originality (think of those who have truly done and said new things) is rare—and probably a gift from God meant to bless all people.

    Thinking of myself as a missionary and my mission companions, I think most missionaries are quite similar in a way. Most come with ideas about who they are based on activities they did, clothes they wore, tastes in music, or how they otherwise fit in socially in high school or college. But in a more significant sense, most are uncertain about their character—most are bundles of potential character that has only begun to be understood and developed. There is a strong temptation to hold tight to juvenile identity crutches. In my experience, the awards of resisting this temptation are sweet.

    By the way, Naomi, your unibomber references made me smile. On those Saturdays on which I appear for breakfast unshaven and dressed in my favorite ragged hooded sweatshirt, my wife likes to say: “so, I see you decided to go with unibomber chic today.”

  50. Ben S. on March 23, 2005 at 11:13 am

    Rachel: Great! My Dad, sister, and I all served in France, and my wife did a semester in Paris as part of her minor. She knows it quite well.

    If you have any cultural questions etc. drop us a line at spackman at uchicago dot edu

    [/ personal threadjack/]

  51. annegb on March 23, 2005 at 11:40 am

    You know, serial killers aside, there is another issue with this topic that I think is important. I think we try too hard, especially perhaps women, to not be eccentric, to be like the other hard-working moms, to fit in and do the right thing. That Molly Mormon issue.

    I spent a lot of time trying to force myself to conform to that picture and putting myself down big time because I always stick out like a sore thumb. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize there is a reason I am the way I am. God needs us to be who we are, that’s the way we compliment each other and lift each other.

    Now I sort of celebrate my individuality and try to encourage everyone around me to do the same. I think that’s what God wants us to do.

  52. Jack on March 23, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    I wonder if those who go through mid-life crises are really breaking away from those constraints which have bridled what might be their natural eccenticities.

  53. sFW on March 23, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    I really like that quote from Pres. Kimball.

    Rachel, best of luck in the Paris mission. That was my mission — and let’s just say it was a few years ago. I would love to go back and take my family.

    Annegb, I agree to a certain extent with your celebration of your own individuality because God needs us to be who we are(maybe that’s why I don’t repent and be a better person) but I think it should be tempered with the application of Pres. Kimball’s admonition.

    I know a man in his 50′s now who attended the “unmarriables” group, never married, and then just a few years ago met and married a beautiful lady in her 30′s with children in our ward. They met through that unmarriables. It’s unfortunate that inactivity is seen as a better alternative than the singles program, or activity simply as a member of a ward.

  54. Rachel on March 23, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Ben and sFW,
    It’s good to hear from fellow francophiles! Ben, I surely do have questions, so I’ll send you an email.

  55. Jack on March 23, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    SFW,

    How long ago is a few years ago? My brother served in Paris 1983 – 85.

  56. Naomi Frandsen on March 23, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    I’m so happy that you have continued to discuss on this thread! I haven’t checked back very often because I’d thought this post wouldn’t generate that much discussion. I’m glad it has, and I’m glad the exchanges have been so thoughtful (and useful–blue hair dye, violet fishnets…)

    Annegb, here’s a thought on your earlier post (#28) that the serial killers are the normal looking ones. I feel that there’s a suspicion–probably engendered by X-files and Law and Order–of people who seem too normal. In fact, I think that’s almost a trope in American sociology. I wonder if it exists elsewhere. But really, I am myself a little suspicious when I meet someone who is nice and smart and attractive and socially adjusted and successful and wears the right brands. This is not the best part of my character, but I find myself looking for the chink and finally concluding that they will undoubtedly experience terrible trials for which they will be woefully unprepared later on in life. If I get a chance to know them later on–which I often do–I will usually rebuke myself for those kinds of absolutely unwarrented thoughts. But it usually takes gaining the confidence of that person enough to hear about some of their struggles or insecurities–or their hard work, which has brought them their success–before I decide that they’re not serial killers in the making. Any thoughts on the suspicions of being a non-eccentric? The problems of being too normal? Margaret Blair Young published a collection of short stories, one of which is about 2 men in central america, one of whom lives with an interacts closely with the indiginous people and whom you think is normal and good, and the other one of which has set up this little model suburb complete with fast food and outdoor pools and whom you think is bad and corrupt. It turns out that my instincts were completely wrong–the “eccentric” was the bad guy, the fat American was the good guy. Or at least the decent guy.

    Wilfried–I loved your story of Brother H. I remember a similar investigator in Bucharest who would go up on fast sundays and testify about Ceasescu and meso-american history. When the elders went to teach him, they would share space with his rooster and dog (during one memorable prayer, the dog suddenly started manifesting the consequences of a long period of constipation…perhaps those elders were just saving the enema for later, Kaimi). I find branch eccentrics easier to love and easier to get to know than university eccentrics. I think it’s because I trust the church setting from the beginning, and maybe because I’m trying more consciously to follow Jesus Christ’s example. And I’m glad that you discerned such a good message from my essay. Thank you very much.

    William Morris, great stories. Feel free to add others.

    Christian Cardall, can’t give you any advice on how to achieve that nirvanic trifecta. But if you’re crushing your kids with love, maybe there won’t be any need for long-lasting family history :).

    Rachel, we have talked a little about imagination before. I was actually thinking specifically of imagination at the end of this little essay. That seemed to be the only way of extricating myself from pessimistic realism or self-deceived solipsism. It had seemed to me like imagination was one of the only ways of really connecting and communicating with the people that seem to be orbiting different centers. I think, too, that faith is necessary for jumping orbits, or for not allowing different centers to prevent connection. This is what I often lack–I lack faith that this other person will accept me; I lack faith that I can have a good, real, genuine interaction. Anyway, I would want to engage more completely in your discussion with Jim and Rosalynde and others who have chimed in about identity and originality, but… but why won’t I? Because I guess I’m still figuring that out. Your discussion was very satisfying, though.

    And to weigh in on the MTC. I liked the MTC. It was hard, though, and the plane ride from Utah to Romania felt very dark and alone. I had felt some deep misunderstandings with my companion, and I had also felt unaccepted and disliked by some members of my district. I had been so enthusiastic about the language and coming in and being a missionary that I think I came across as self=promoting. IN fact, I probably was self-promoting. In any event, it was a complete miracle to me that after a few months of being in the field, I saw all of these MTC missionaries again, and those feelings of conflict and competition had completely vanished. I was overjoyed to see them, I was so excited by their success, they were so excited by my success (okay, none of us had any success, and maybe that helped). So some of the hard parts about the MTC, for me, were made sweet in the mission field. But on the whole, I liked the MTC. I liked not having to cook my own food. I liked having roommates. I even liked the reversion to dorm life. The teachers put a lot of thought and energy into the classes, and I liked that. I think the MTC administrators put a lot of thought into varying the schedule and stimulating you in lots of different ways, and I liked that. But I’ll be honest–I like meetings, so this was probably well suited for me. And I personally didn’t have problems with conformity issues. I never had any sense of style anyway, so it was somewhat of a relief that finally all of the other, more savvy, girls were on somewhat of the same field as I was.

  57. sFW on March 23, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Hey Jack,
    83-85 would have overlapped my time in the Paris Mission, 82-84. Care to let me know his last name? Funny, I’m probably that companion or trainer he complained so much about.

  58. Naomi Frandsen on March 23, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Okay, part II. Clear evidence that I’m not working as much on my thesis as I should.
    Miranda (#45), I’m glad you keep commenting on my posts. This gladness is undoubtedly motivated by pride and self-satisfaction that I can lure readers in, but nevertheless, I’m glad you’ve found things to pique you about these discussions. I understand that they’ve recently done away with the over-30s singles wards. We call is “graduation” in my ward, and when you “graduate,” you enter the family ward you live in. I’m really looking forward to my graduation. I’ve enjoyed being in singles wards, and I think they’ve given me good experiences–including leadership, chances to have a totally fresh start when I move somewhere new, and maybe the most important, the chance to learn from people around me (I’m convinced that had I gotten married at the age of 20, say, I wouldn’t know how to dress, how to shop, how to put on make-up, why it’s important to eat more than cans of green beans, how to do my taxes, what you do with yourself on Friday night when you have no plans–these are all things that roommates and friends have taught me). However, I’m looking forward to being in a family ward, because I hold the personal opinion that family wards need us. We have resources of time and experience and in some cases material goods that can benefit over-extended wards. Furthermore, we offer an increasinly important subject position for young women. It’s unfair, I think, for young women to grow up with a bunch of married stay-at-home mothers in their Young WOmen’s programs and never know that there’s a very real possibility that they will not have that same experience. So anyway, I’m a big proponent of not ghettoizing older singles, because there is so much of value that need to be done and that only we (I like to think) can do. THis has little to do with eccentrics, except that perhaps being in a family ward can create a different type of “center” around which we can eccentrically orbit (did you follow the discussion between Jim, Rachel, and Rosalynde? I liked their thoughts). However, I think that I have felt on occasion the bleakness that you desribe. The blankness of feeling that you are becoming slowly diminished down to a point of possible nothingness. Those certainly aren’t the fruits of the gospel. I wish I understood more the mysterious ways in which God works so that I know what is Him and what is the telestial world we live in. I think that knowledge or understanding would offer us great comfort and greater endurance. Those are some of my thoughts.

    FInally, I’m taking the bait that danithew (#46) and annegb (#51) have offered. And I’ve got a question for sFW. When I read that President Kimball quote, I felt a constricting, a pressure, even a fight and flight type of response. I found myself projecting a life based on that quote, and I felt scared, insecure, constantly self-doubting (even more than I am already), increasingly calculating. I didn’t feel an expansion, a happiness, an area for better and more productive growth. I could see an iteration of myself sitting down with a pencil and paper, writing down those categories, and then going through systematically and noting all of the ways I needed to change (Okay, I talk too much about myself in groups, I need to lose 15 pounds, I am wearing clothes that are all at least 5 years old, I don’t ever make really substantive comments in Sunday School, I get too nervous around men). Then with that list in hand–or constantly hounding me in my mind–I can see myself entering a self-destructive spiral of constant self-criticism and ultimately damning self-absorption. What is the value of President Kimball’s counsel (I believe there is value) and how can a slightly OCD person like me avoid the pitfalls I’ve described? I feel a profound depression associated with the need to be consumable, acceptable, palatable. I feel a sense of inevitable failure, in fact, when I think about all of the ways in which I should change and which, if I did change, would bring a husband, kids, a mortgage, a responsible calling, and self-actualization. I don’t know that I’ve articulated this dilemma very well, and I realize that I’m describing it narratively, in terms of things I’ve felt and thought and experienced, as opposed to analytically. We might need Rachel for that. Annegb, I think that I would feel a great deal of freedom and even liberation from something more like your approach. Do you (both) see your approaches as mutually exclusive, or as compatible in some ways?

  59. Wilfried on March 23, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Naomi: “It’s unfair, I think, for young women to grow up with a bunch of married stay-at-home mothers in their Young Women’s programs…”

    Ah, Naomi, please write us a new post to have a thread on this theme. I have a 17-year old daughter who would love to read your ideas and suggestions.

  60. William Morris on March 23, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Naomi:

    Ah. There’s just too many Bucharest eccentric stories to tell here [plus I want to save some of them for the slim possibility that I'll write a pseudo-memoir in the future], but I will be annoying and tantalize you all with some brief mentions.

    I met:

    a) a man who spoke with a Jersey accent and claimed to be a former top concierge with Donald Trump
    b) a woman who claimed to be the ex-girlfriend of Nicu Ceausescu (the son of the late dictator) and at one point tried her hand at writing scripture
    c) a young man and his mother who I swear were Uriah Heep and his mom escaped from the pages of David Cooperfield [as an aside: any of you read Jasper Fforde's books? it was just like something from one of those novels]
    d) an old man who wrote a poem that extolled the virtues of the prophet of the LDS Church and how the movement of his dying dog led to a linguistic parallel with Salt Lake City that became part of his proof that the church was true — a poem that included my name in it and made it all the way to the church office building and then all the way back to my mission president

    etc. etc.

    I also saw the reputed King of the Gypsies — who didn’t look at all like the reputed King of Gypsies who cropped up in news reports a few years ago related to the marriage of his daughter [I'm working on a short story that has that whole thing as a backdrop].

  61. Naomi Frandsen on March 23, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    Wilfried– I just realized that I may have been dismissive of married, stay-at-home mothers in my comment. I certainly didn’t mean to be, especially since more than half of the women in my immediate family have chosen that and are serving much, much more valiantly in the church than I. And I should also add that I wouldn’t at all mind being one of that ilk and I hope I am in the future. But I think that being a single woman making decisions completely autonomously has been a very valuable experience for me. So I’m sure I’d have a lot to tell your daughter–probably more than she’d really want to hear :). On a related note, I was talking to some friends this afternoon, and I mentioned that I’ve been secretly hankering after writing a post entitled “First choice for a second wife.” I really think I would have been a very desireable marriage commodity in the times of polygamy.

    William–Abia astept sa citesc cartea ta. Cand se va apara? Daca iti trebuie un redactor sau un cititor in primele fase, te rog sa ma consideri. I’ve never read Jasper Fforde (sp?)–I will have to look for him. Along with Ursula Le Guin. Romania did things to my soul that I have never understood. ROmanians, I should say. Did you serve in Sibiu? That was my first city, and that’s where all the missionaries said the gypsy king lived.

  62. William Morris on March 23, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    Naomi:

    Cartea nu e scris inca. Am sa scris alte povestiri mai intai.

    And man has my Romanian faded.

    No, I didn’t serve in Sibiu. When I served only Bucharest and Ploiesti were open for missionary work. In fact, I was transferred to Ploiesti a month after it was opened so I was one of the first who got to serve outside the city. Other missionaries were jealous until they discovered that Ploiesti wasn’t very glamorous. We, of course, all wanted to open Sibiu or Cluj or Timisoara. But during the time I served the ‘centers of strength’ model was being used in newer missions.

    So, yeah. I’m probably one of those annoying missionaries who gets referenced by older members when they say “well, my Elders [Elderii mei] said/did/taught this.”

    The gypsy king you are referencing is the one in the news reports. The guy I saw in the Metro [that another elder said was the king -- I believe one of us elders in the city had actually met with him] was tall for a gypsy and quite striking looking with a shock of grey hair and an angular face with high cheekbones. He was impeccably dressed. He looked like a Hollywood bad guy.

  63. Wilfried on March 23, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Naomi, I certainly did not read your comment as dismissive of married, stay-at-home mothers. My wife is one and I wouldn’t dare to be dismissive of her contributions to our family life! But the topic is about YW-programs that could also offer more perspectives and ambitions to our Young Women, instead of a constant hammering on marriage ASAP and raising children.

  64. sFW on March 23, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Eccentrics in the Paris mission included a woman who bore her testimony on two separate occassions in fast meeting, once about artificial insemination, and another time about extraterrestrials/UFO’s. Of the eccentrics and down right strange birds we encountered in the field, who were not members, they were as the sands of the seashore (figuratively speaking of course). One, just for grins, was a Mr. Bell or Mr. Ball from Logan Utah. He was a former member, having become a buddhist. The other companionship was “teaching” him so I only met him once. He referred to a little cabinet that he opened and said prayers before as the “goinzon” and I never new whether that was a buddhist term or just his reference to the “goings on” as in the place where it happens. When he was a kid his father hung himself and it just went downhill from there for him. I think he had reached the stage where he was barely a step above a wino.

    On a completely different subject. I really am sympathetic to the situation of singles, especially single sisters in the church, and especially those over 30. Singles should be more involved and should receive meaningful callings and our ward has tried to extend such, but not with incredible success. Do single sisters have a place serving in YW — maybe, it depends upon the specific sister. I think the Lord can direct such a call. However, as a father I want my daughter to have an abundance of temple worthy, endowed and sealed married sisters who are mothers as leaders and role models. That is the role I want her to see and to be. It is the goal, even though it cannot be attained in this life by all.

  65. Jack on March 23, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    sFW,

    Elder Cobb.

  66. annegb on March 24, 2005 at 10:48 am

    Says a man who never looked into the eyes of a hungry two year old at noon, with two hours yet to go in the meeting, who is one second from a tiny little nervous breakdown because Mommy just plunked him down into a room with 10 other hungry little two year olds.

    I am feeding those little buggers olives, goldfish, and fruit loops. and cheese. And that is just this week.

  67. Justin on March 24, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Re #46 (Kimball quotation):

    The original talk was given by President Kimball in June 1974 to the youth.

    The quote above is taken (it’s been edited) from an adapted version of the talk printed in the September 1974 New Era.

    The quote above silently omits the following lines found in the New Era version:

    “Are you in the wrong location? Could a move to a new location open up a new world to you?”

    “Would you want a family? Would you be glad to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a good man every day? Would you keep your former friends close to you at the expense of your husband?”

    Versions of the talk also appear in the September 1974 Ensign and _Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball_ (TSWK).

    The TSWK version of the talk is quite a bit different from the others. An excerpt:

    You might take a careful inventory of your habits, your speech, your appearance, your weight, if it is heavier than most people appreciate, and your eccentricities, if you have them. Take each item and analyze it.

    What do you like in others? What personality traits please you in others? Are your dresses too short, too long, too revealing, too old-fashioned? Does your weight drive off possible suitors? Do you laugh raucously? Are you too selfish? Are you interested only in your own interests or do you project yourself into the lives of others? Do you have annoying mannerisms, such as “A penny for your thoughts”? Do you repeat old stories till they are threadbare? Are you too anxious or too disinterested? Can you make some sacrifices to be acceptable? Are you dull or are you too exuberant? Are you flashy or are you disinteresting? What do you do to make yourself desirable? Do you overdo or underdo? Too much makeup or too little? Scrupulously clean both physically and morally? Are you in the right place or have you pegged yourself? One young girl was getting into the twenties and without opportunity. I urged her to move from the home which she shared with several older girls, leave the office as steno, and go to college where she would meet people of the right age. Time passed. I happened one day to be on that campus sometime later and here she came to me, bubbling like a fresh new breeze, with a bright ribbon tying her hair and an optimistic and happy personality. A few months later I was invited to a temple marriage. It may not always work that well.

    What are your eccentricities, if any? I think nearly all people have some. If so, then go to work. Classify them, weigh them, corral them, and eliminate one at a time until you are a very normal person.

  68. Rosalynde Welch on March 24, 2005 at 11:17 am

    I love President Kimball! Such personality inhabits his prose. I also love that I’m not a 26-year-old reading his New Era talk in 1974. It’s interesting mentally to gauge the generational differences between Presidents Kimball and Hinckley (P. Kimball born in 1895, P. Hinckley in 1910) in their understandings of the social meaning of gender, and then extrapolate forward to, say, a future President Bednar (born 1952).

  69. sFW on March 24, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    Jack,

    Well, we weren’t comps or ever in the same apartment. I can’t put a face on him but the name is familiar.

  70. A. Greenwood on March 24, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    “It’s unfair, I think, for young women to grow up with a bunch of married stay-at-home mothers in their Young Women’s programs”

    Bunk (mostly). Any goal less than marriage and family is pottage. It’s worth some heartache and pain later on to get that message out as loud and clear as possible.

  71. Naomi Frandsen on March 24, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Okay, A. Greenwood and sFW, here’s my Apology for Unmarried Women. I see two things being debated: (1) the value of young women having older single women as leaders and possible role models, and (2) the value of older single women as leaders and possible role models to young women. Perhaps these are the same questions. I absolutely believe that the marriage covenant is the exalting ordinance. Just as baptism is a saving ordinance, sealing is the exalting ordinance, and it’s necessary for anyone with exaltation as a goal, which I hope all young women have. I also believe, although not from personal experience and not always from vicarious experience, that marriage makes life here much happier, and that in general people can live fuller, happier lives full of more progress and opportunities for transformation than one could living by oneself. Marriage is something I hope for all of my roommates, my friends, and my sisters, and it’s something I hope for myself. I loved and learned a lot from my Young Women’s leaders, all of whom were married mothers. Is there value in young women having role models other than married mothers? Yes. Absolutely. Especially if that woman also has a testimony of the importance of marriage and family and can testify of it to these girls. Isn’t that a powerful message to hear–even though I have never received this blessing, I believe with all of my heart that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and as a single woman, I can still honor and support the institution of marriage in whatever way is available to me. Are single women valuable role models for young women? I still say yes. When I graduated from BYU and matriculated in graduate school on the other side of the country, I was the first woman in my family to leave college unmarried. This was a hard and somewhat depressing time for me. I had the benefit of two older sisters who always set really wonderful examples of how to do things well, and all of the sudden I was doing something they had never done before. This was a very valuable experience for me, and I was lucky to have friends and cousins who had made some of the same decisions and were in some of the same situations that I was. I’ve had valuable life experiences that have strengthened my love for and dependence on the Savior, and I think my life experiences will allow me to, if nothing else, empathize with young women in the same situation as me. I don’t know if I’ll ever serve in a Young WOman’s organization; I don’t know if I’ll ever get married; and if I ever have the opportunity to serve in a teaching or leadership role in relation to your or anyone else’s daughters, I certainly won’t tell them that marriage is really optional, it’s a little outdated, and I’ve found complete fulfillment and happiness as a single woman. I’ll tell them what I believe about keeping the law of chastity and honoring the priesthood even when it’s not in your home and always hoping for and being worthy of marriage. I think there will be value in this message.

    This discussion started with the assertion that single men and women can be valuable members of family wards. And in the final analysis, the statement I’m the most willing to stand by in this debate is sFW’s–callings, ultimately, are a matter of inspiration, not social science.

  72. Kaimi on March 24, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    Naomi,

    It has doubtless occurred to you that the famous literary Rosalynde (Rosalind) gets married at the end of the play, while the famous literary Naomi is a stateless wanderer who we never really see in married form. Coincidence?

    (I can’t think of any literary or scriptural Gabrielles off the top of my head).

    But I’m glad that you are pressing forward, and I’m glad that you aren’t throwing your arms up in despair saying “woe is me! I am an unmarried woman!”

    I’ve seen the figure bandied about that 1/3 of LDS women don’t marry before the age of 30. That may or may not be correct. In any case, I know that it’s a real possibility that my own daughter will not marry prior to 30. And if that’s the case, I would want to be able to point out to her examples of unmarried, non-freaky women over 30. Church members often have such a negative image of unmarried women. It drives me nuts. We ought to be able to extol the role of marriage in achieving exaltation without demonizing unmarried women.

    But that’s enough of my rant for now — carry on.

  73. Naomi Frandsen on March 25, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks, Kaimi. Yes, I have often wondered why my parents named me after the meddling mother in law rather than the seductive Ruth, or–I’m not too picky here–even the tender-eyed Leah. My sister Rachel is perfectly suited to her beautiful 2nd wife counterpart, and as for Gabrielle, I wouldn’t mind hopping genders and saying that Gabriel, aka Noah, was also married. As for our brother, Brigham, he sensibly got married before becoming a menace to society, so there really is something to this theory of yours :). (notice the increasingly self-indulgent use of emoticons?) I’ve heard that statistic cited too–although it was 1 in 4 when I was at BYU. I remember looking around the room and thinking, “I’m a pretty strong person–I could handle being one of the ones.” And since I’m still just a girl, I’m not all that worried :).

  74. sFW on March 25, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    Naomi, #58

    Forget the session with the quote and the list. Just pick one thing from the talk and that’s what you’ll work on this year. Worry about something else next year. We can’t get there all at once, at least most of us can’t. If you do one improvement per year, that will put you one ahead of most of us.

    I certainly hope that you, Kaimi, or anyone else takes my comment as the demonization of single sisters over 30. Most of them are the sweetest and their successes are the sweetest as well.

  75. Edward on March 29, 2005 at 2:22 am

    It’s not just a LDS Church thing — the view that a woman who isn’t married by 30 is a hopeless neurotic. I have heard this bit of wisdom many times. I have heard men who wind up divorced in their 30s and 40s advised by friends and co-workers NOT to date a woman who has not been married or in a significant relationship and is now 30+.

    The Freudian catwoman image comes to mind for many (the woman who has not been able to place maternal instincts on a man or children so she projects these onto cats and creates a freakish substitute family out of these felines). Then of course there’s the Sex and the City image of over 30 desperate neurotics who can’t find a man to match some sort of impossible image of the ideal mate — therefore they mate over and over again and never find satisfaction.

    So there you have it — neurotic Ally McBeals with cats or Sex and the City tramps. Sorry, the LDS Church is not responsible for these images.

    And I will foster views in my three daughters that will hopefully insure that they will marry. I think parents can do a lot to encourage positive marriage attitudes.

  76. Unmarried Mary on March 29, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Wow, Edward.

    Most women (married before or not) would thing long and hard about marrying a divorced guy in his 30s and 40s too. I’d much rather trust and admire someone who never married and happend to be in his/her thirties than some thoughtless twit who married at 19 out of peer pressure, loneliness or 6ual frustration.

  77. Unmarried Mary on March 29, 2005 at 9:44 am

    …or was simply too much of a jerk to hold his marriage together.

  78. Jack on March 29, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Mary,

    A jerk who leaves his family doesn’t have the luxury of being eccentric–he’s just a jerk. A catwoman, however, is eccentric. But, eccentric or not, the two should be avoided when one is considering marraige.

  79. Unmarried Mary on March 29, 2005 at 11:29 am

    So, Jack–what’s the “ideal” unmarried woman over 30, or is there one? Should women marry before thirty at all costs–even to losers–to escape the “catwoman” stigma?

    The catwoman is a myth, as is the ravenous 6-crazed harpie.

    And to assert (as did Edward) that one’s daughters better be married off before thirty or else is well, pathetic.

  80. Jack on March 29, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    I think the best thing that unmarried women can do to escape the “catwoman” stigma is to not be catwomen–and it is not pure myth by the way. I think talking about it in stereotypical terms as we are has the tendency to add an unreal mythical wait to it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t women out there who don’t become loopy because of their failure to marry.

    I think the ideal unmarried woman over thirty is the one who can maintain her self-respect and move forward in life proactively without the prospect of marraige–all the while being open and prepared for the possibility. I think this is what real (unjerk-like) men want. Heck, they don’t even want Batman’s Catwoman. They may have a quick fling, but marraige? Nah ah, too eccentric.

  81. Minerva on March 29, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Jack said: “I think the ideal unmarried woman over thirty is the one who can maintain her self-respect and move forward in life proactively without the prospect of marraige–all the while being open and prepared for the possibility.”

    Ideal, indeed! Do you know how hard this is, Jack?

    You know what I think the ideal man is? One who is willing to take the time to learn about a woman and not judge her as unmarriageable without speaking to her or after just one date with her. Someone who does not expect perfection but who values potentials. Someone who is not in this world merely seeking his own pleasure.

    And, yes, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that I’m absolutely dreaming.

  82. Jack on March 29, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Minerva,

    Mary asked me what the “ideal unmarried women over thirty” should be like. We’re talking about an “ideal”. That’s why the response. Also, I think there are plenty of women around here who might agree that the most healthy thing for a 30+ year old unmarried female to do is to get on with her life in the ways that she can as a single. Because the last thing she should do is become so discouraged over the lack of marital prospects that she ultimately settles for a jerk.

  83. Kaimi on March 29, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    You are all clearly aiming too low. We’re talking about “ideal” here. The ideal woman (or man, for the women) is someone who is independently wealthy, great looking, brilliant, spectacularly talented (concert pianist, 5-star chef), widely read, highly educated, socially adept, has a great sense of humor and a strong testimony, and loves children, puppies, flowers, and ducklings.

    Of course, there are probably a limited number of people who fit that ideal. But hey, that’s why it’s an “ideal.”

  84. Elisabeth on March 29, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    It’s sad that women over a certain age who aren’t married are inevitably and very negatively linked to cats. I think if more people curled up with a good book and a warm, purring cat in front of the fireplace every night, the world would be a much better place. :)

    It’s also tragic that the church has encouraged women to put their lives on hold while they wait for a man to marry them, instead of living their lives to the fullest while they are single. I’ve seen many talented women give up potentially rewarding careers and other opportunities in anticipation of a marriage that never materializes. I think it’s time to stop teaching girls that their only calling in life is to get married and have a family, and instead encourage them to develop their talents and abilities no matter what their marital status may turn out to be.

  85. Minerva on March 29, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Elisabeth,

    The Church does encourage women to seek other opportunities. I have heard such things directly out of Pres. Hinckley’s mouth. The problem is the underlying culture, I think.

    I am a woman who is 26 and unmarried. I have hardly sat around waiting for a man to come and marry me. I’ve pursued a career, gone to school, etc. But I am still deeply unsatisfied and what I find lacking is marriage. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I feel that marriage is the only way for me to be fulfilled. I don’t think this came from direct teachings from the Church, but rather from assumptions and attitude in the culture I grew up in.

  86. Elisabeth on March 29, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Minerva-

    I probably should have mentioned in my last post that women have recently been encouraged by church leaders to seek out other opportunities (did you see the recent talk by Samuelson about women pursuing careers in the hard sciences?), but I think this is a fairly new phenomenon. I also think it would be interesting to draw this advice out to its natural conclusion – if women are encouraged to become nuclear physicists, will women be encouraged to use their training as a nuclear physicist in a career outside their homes after marriage? I think the encouragement to get as much education as possible contradicts the very strong discouragement of women working outside the home.

    To your basic point about being fulfilled in marriage, 26 years old is SO YOUNG!!! Sorry if that sounded condescending, and I have no idea what your personal circumstances are, but why don’t you move to Boston – there are loads of unmarried people around here older than you are (and some are even Mormon).

    I agree that it’s the underlying culture in the Church that is not very accepting of single men and women in the Church. Hopefully, this will change, especially since the Church leaders seem to be stepping away from the old stereotypes (aside from the “catwoman” stereotype, of course, since we all know that stereotype is actually true).

  87. Minerva on March 29, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Elisabeth,

    I live in New York. I know 26 is young, but there are a lot of circumstances in my life that indicate to me that marriage is not necessarily going to happen for me, so I’m probably a bit premature in my anxieties!

  88. Edward on March 30, 2005 at 3:29 am

    I am an instructor of psychology. None of my students are Mormon at this time and when I bring up the “catwoman” example to illustrate both the concepts of projection and displacement as ego defense mechanisms I always ask if students know someone who fits this category. Practically everyone raises their hands and describes (typically) a woman they are related to or live near who is somewhere between the late 30s and mid-50s who never married or had children who sees “family” in their cats. Many members of animal rights groups fall into this catogory as well as the financial backers of such movements are typically unmarried, middle-aged women (suppose defending animals takes the place of the role of defending your family).

    I will note that Freud and most of the founders of psychoanalytic theory were Jews (some like Freud only Jewish in the sense of heritage, not belief) and not a one of them were Mormons.

    I recently read an article in a psychology magazine that claimed that we were raising a generation of young people scared of commitment. One of the measures it used was to compare how many people were married by the age of 30 in 1960 and how many were married today by that age. While the majority of Americans marry before 30 the numbers of never-married have grown. Now this falls into pop psychology but has anyone looked up the term “Peter Pan Syndrome”? Interesting.

    The ideal should be to promote responsibility, mature attitudes and a sense of finding a person to share life with at a young age. The by the time someone is in their early 20s they will be better suited to settle down and marry. That’s what I hope for my children.

  89. Edward on March 30, 2005 at 3:51 am

    Unmarried Mary, I know a couple of guys who have never been married. One is now in his mid-40s, the other around 32. I also knew several guys in their mid 20s who, a few years ago, were unmarried. Then I have also known guys who were married but for one reason or another their marriages failed.

    Guess which ones the females in the various wards or social circles wanted to date and the ones which were avoided. That’s right, the guys never married always faced the underlying question “Why hasn’t anyone ever wanted this guy?” or “What is he lacking that has prevented him from marriage?”.

    The guys in their 20s seemed to complain that girls in their 20s preferred older, divorced guys to them. They eventually married, but not before the guys I knew who had been divorced. And it wasn’t due to financial superiority either. Maybe there is something to the sociobiology thing that younger women prefer older guys.

    Now I have known some perpetual single church women who avoid men who are older than them. Problem is, the available pool of available men when you reach, let’s say, 30, is limited. You get the Norman Bates momma’s boys who never marry due to nobody measuring up to mommy (Oedipal problems maybe), men afraid of committment or men who typically are closer to 40 (about the time church people tend to divorce) who have been married and tend to have children. The perpetual single women are the ones unwilling to give the latter category a chance, while others are perfectly willing to do so.

    I knew one guy who was in his mid-30s whose wife flaked out. He had four children and at first wanted only to date non-members (he got soured on Mormon women due to his bad experiences with just this one). He finally decided to try LDS women but he was too old for the university ward but way to young for the special interest crowd — and there was a limited LDS population in his area. He tried an LDS online dating thing and placed everything about himself in the profile. What kind of girls started writing him and expressed interest? Women ranging from 21 – 40 with the medial age being somewhere around 23 (hey, the guy is into athletics and other younger activities). He eventually married an LDS woman 7 years younger and has now started a new family.

    Lesson? I guess marry younger. Also, if you are single give older men a chance — other women certainly will. Hey, when my grandmother died my grandfather was 63 and married a woman much, much younger. They had three children together. Personally, I find 20 year differences a bit long but I know a woman 24 years younger than her husband and they have a wonderful family and relationship. Give it a shot is my advice.

  90. Unmarried Mary on March 30, 2005 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for the explanation, Edward.I think that whatever works for individuals is fine. What I object to is blanket pronouncements of “shoulds”–”marry before 30 or you’re an old maid catwoman”, etc.

    There are T&S readers/posters who are over 30 (over 40, even), never married, some straight, some gay, most active LDS and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met (I know many of them in person but wish to remain anonymous).

    Singlehood does not necessarily make someone more or less eccentric. I’d much rather remain single, be able to have rich social experiences, earn a high salary, etc., than be a stay-at-home mom wiping runny noses and runnier nether regions. This could change, but if that’s what makes me “eccentric”, c’est la vie.

    Oh, and if your daughters don’t marry before 30, it’s no biggie. Their lives won’t end. I promise!

  91. Edward on March 30, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Runny noses? Whatever! The Inca had two professions they revered the most because they were necessary to preserve their civilization — warriors and mothers. If you want to stay single, that’s your right. I personally know people for whatever reason are single, through no fault of their own, who at least have tried to find a worthy husband/wife. A friend of mine I have over and over again encouraged him to spend some time visiting wards in the Baltic (Scandinavian looks combined with old-world attitudes, a very good combination!). I hope he eventually takes my advice.

    Now what are the advantages to marriage and family?
    Let’s see, higher life expectancy, lower breast, uterine and cervical cancer for women, lower prostate cancer for men (if you have sex 3-5 times per week), lower depression, constant companionship from your spouce and later from your kids, more variety in life, more sex (did I mention that already?), less disease (married people have higher immuneological health), and…well, I could go on and on.

    And if any of my daughters don’t marry and they are still 30 I’ll get a marriage broker for them:).

  92. sFW on March 30, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Edward,

    Your last post reminds me of a sound bite (the source of which I forget):

    Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no joys.

  93. Unmarried Mary on March 30, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    There are advantages to being single, too. Many, many advantages. Single women may have greater risks in the areas you describe, but they often pay more attention to physical fitness, diet, etc. than their married counterparts. They do not experience the same kind of weight issues, fatigue, other other problems associated with childbirth and fertility. Single women often have more emotional, psychological and financial resources at their disposal, are often more educated, independent, not co-dependent upon spouses, children, inlaws, etc.

    When the marital advantages outweigh the single ones, many people *do* get married, before marriage or after. When you throw gotta-find-a-worthy-priesthood-holder in the mix, it’s difficult for single women to find a spouse.

    Only in the LDS Church do people get their undies in a bind over whether people are married by age 30 or not (i.e. speaking of Western religions).

    I’ve never understood the whole “marriage is a commandment” thing. You marry when you find the right person, no matter how long it takes. I know people whose eternal marriages lasted two to ten years, and still others who are on their upteenth “eternal marriage”. How is that more admirable than remaining single–with or without cats? I think those people are worthy of derision, moreso than “eccentric” single people with pets.

    Either it’s a commandment or not, and if singles are automatically “sinners” by sheer virtue of not marrying, perhaps that’s why you feel so strongly about your daughters’ marrying early.

    Let’s hope they marry as BYU freshmen, drop out of school, have seven kids *before 30* and fulfill all your parental dreams. Good luck with that.

  94. Unmarried Mary on March 30, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Correction to earlier paragraph:

    When the marital advantages outweigh the single ones, many people *do* get married, before THIRTY or after. When you throw gotta-find-a-worthy-priesthood-holder in the mix, it’s difficult for single LDS women to find a spouse.

  95. Edward on March 31, 2005 at 1:12 am

    The basic biological foundation of society is that people DO reproduce. Within the context of all the religions that have the Old Testament as their root it is also mandated that sex occurs within the marriage covenant.

    I really doubt one can be either psychologically happy or physically healthy if they are not able to have a sexual relationship. I also believe that the best way to have this relationship (for the same two reasons) is within marriage. This bond should also produce children.

    I believe much of the questioning of marriage by some, or the minimization of the role of stay-at-home mothers, may take us a step further than even a Freudian might go — namely, back to the theories of psychological pioneer Alfred Adler. Early on we create a “life goal” and incorporate it into our striving for perfection (a motivating part of the personality that, while never attainable, provides us with our life’s drive). When one is hampered in some way towards a life goal they may (instead of developing feelings of inferiority) may, as a defense mechanism, attack those who ARE engaged in the activity they actually strive for subconsciously(forming what is known as a superiority complex). Freud would call this reaction formation but I think Adler’s explaination which is also rooted in a basic denial presents a clearer picture.

    I once had a student who asked me to take a shot at analyzing one of her dreams. This gal is a very outspoken feminist/Atheist and never ceases to remind everyone of it. In her dream she takes a baby from neighbor and then takes refuge in her grandmother’s home. The dream is far more detailed but I asked her about the neighbor. This woman was a middle-aged lesbian who didn’t raise cats but instead had a house full of chinchillas. Obviously no kids but in my student’s dream she had a baby. The grandmother is a very traditional woman who is a far cry from this gal. I merely told her, as one of my collegues also stated, that in her core personality she desperately fears becomming a middle-aged catwoman without husband or children and that the baby represents her longings for children as well. The grandmother represents the values she actually is in denial about and that is why she takes refuge with the baby in her home. At the same time this gal ignores males who are more the “metrosexual” types (one would think a feminists would be attracted to a feminized shell of a man) and is attracted to jocks who like country music and are outspoken conservatives. I would not be half surprised that in ten years this gal is a stay-at-home mother and has joined a very conservative religion.

    As for single women taking better care of themselves or having more money the latter may be true but in my experience not the former. Yeah, when they are college age they may have a desire to keep in shape but I do not know any single women (and by single here I will define that as not being involved with a man in a long-term relationship at all at this time) who work out and keep themselves fit to the degree that most married women I know do. Perhaps this is the reason they are still single?

    Every index of physical health I have seen indicates that marriage enhances mental and physical health. Giving birth also decreases such illnesses as breast cancer and uterine cancer. And as for such things as depression it has been noted that even since the days of Dirkheim’s studies on suicide and the sense of community that larger families produce less suicide among the members. As one grows older the feelings of connection as well as family become very important and having children keeps you more psychologically healthy for this reason.

    I’m just throwing out my general observations on this topic and I am not trying to be judgemental towards any person on this board at all. Take care.

  96. Jack on March 31, 2005 at 1:32 am

    Edward,

    I can’t argue with you for two reasons: 1) I think overall what you say is true. 2) You can’t get around a psychoanalytical evaluation–unless of course you happen to be a shrink yourself. Heck, even Freud could write off Yung simply by accusing him of rebelling against him as a father-figure. (or, so I’ve been told)

  97. Jack on March 31, 2005 at 1:38 am

    Oops. That’s JUNG with a J not a Y.

  98. A Visitor on March 31, 2005 at 5:34 am

    Quote:

    “As for single women taking better care of themselves or having more money the latter may be true but in my experience not the former. Yeah, when they are college age they may have a desire to keep in shape but I do not know any single women (and by single here I will define that as not being involved with a man in a long-term relationship at all at this time) who work out and keep themselves fit to the degree that most married women I know do. Perhaps this is the reason they are still single?”

    Wow! Where the hell do you live? Utah? Wisconsin?

  99. A Visitor on March 31, 2005 at 5:53 am

    Quote:

    “I really doubt one can be either psychologically happy or physically healthy if they are not able to have a sexual relationship.”

    It would seem, then, that God is a ruthless sadist; relegating single people and gay people to a psychologically unhappy, physically unhealthy existence.

  100. Edward on March 31, 2005 at 6:44 am

    I would not place God into the context of the human definition of sadism. It’s just that single people do experience health problems, or should I say those without children. I was told in college that lesbians and nuns have the highest rate of breast cancer while nuns have the lowest rate of cervical cancer (cancer in this region is caused by a sexually transmitted virus).

    In the 1700s breast cancer was also called nun’s disease. It’s just plain biology.

    As for gay people, doesn’t the scriptures have something to say about this as well? And before we get into a discussion of that particular subject might it not be beneficial to actually define what “gay” actually is?

  101. Unmarried Mary on March 31, 2005 at 7:02 am

    This comment has been deleted by the editors. Premarital sex advocacy will not be tolerated on this forum.

  102. Edward on March 31, 2005 at 9:29 am

    I’ve known divorced men who have wonderful characteristics. I guess they ran into the problem of LDS women with the attitudes you express. Eventually they married attractive, younger non-LDS women who have been very good wives.

    To each their own. But if my wife were to die (I hope she outlives me because I do not deal with death too well) I would probably re-marry. And depending on my age at the time I might even start a new family (I really detest men who, maybe when they are in their late 40s or early 50s, marry someone 20 years younger and insist that the woman agree never to have any children). If I were 45 or 50 I’d certainly date younger women (late 20s or so). Like I said earlier my grandfather remarried at 63 and started a family. I’m sure his 3 children from that family and their grandkids are better off for his wife being open to marriage to a man considerably older than her.

    So you can have a bitter attitude, but you might wind up like one of my wife’s friends who has been on the search for a long time and now has passed 40 with no husband and no children. I set her up with a guy from one of my previous wards and they established a great on-line relationship (and she knew he was 15 years older). Problem was that when she met him he reminded her in looks and expressions of her father and because she has never resolved issues with her father that was the end of the relationship. Fine, her loss. She should realize that whether you are into Freud, or social learning theory, you develop your attitudes about your future mate based on your ideal of the opposite sex parent when you are younger. So on the emotional and intellectual level she was open to this guy, but when she met him the core conflicts left unresolved torpedoed the relationship.

    As for problems with health, don’t blame the messanger for the message. I am not responsible for how humans are designed.

  103. Unmarried Mary on March 31, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    This comment has been deleted by the editors. Premarital sex advocacy will not be tolerated on this forum.

  104. William Morris on May 10, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    So to get back to eccentrics….

    Read my comment #34 above and then come back here and read the rest of this comment.

    I saw the guy again! He was on campus with a microphone and small amplifier singing something about “sophia” — neither the tune nor the lyrics were familiar. At any rate, he also had a sign advertising his Web site. Now you too can learn the truth of how Stephen King killed John Lennon.

  105. mark. on August 14, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t tell this “eccentric” that he was “stupid”…=). Who defines what/who is eccentric anyway, Naomi? You? Me? Liberals? Conservatives? The young? The old? Men? Women? There’s no end to the possible groups/divisions that could list what their definition of “eccentric” is. Why start it? Why not focus on the fact that the issue is just difference, meaning different than you, and process/analyze why his difference bothers you instead of another’s difference. Is there something attractive/bizarre/frightening/alluring/self-revealing about this person that makes you point out his difference over another’s? All eccentrics to you are also normal to someone else.

  106. JKS on August 14, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    I think you and Naomi are on the same side.

  107. RoAnn on August 15, 2005 at 1:01 am

    I am reminded of the lines from the British TV series, “Yes, Minister:”
    “It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?
    I have an independant mind,
    you are eccentric,
    he is round the twist.” (U.K. equivalent of “off his rocker”)

  108. Soyde River on August 15, 2005 at 1:13 am

    Anyone who uses more than three slashes in one sentence has lost his marbles.

  109. annegb on August 15, 2005 at 11:51 am

    And marbles are over-rated. I lost all of mine a long time ago and haven’t missed them.

  110. Sixx2 on December 19, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Well, I wouldn’t count myself as eccentric. I’m afraid most people would see me as “just plain weird”: as in shy, socially awkward, and a loner. It wasn’t until my senior that I discovered I had Asperger’s, and my “weirdness” was a result of disability. Aspies are probably the most harmless, non-threatening people on Earth; and we really don’t appreciate being stared at, or referred to as “weird” and “repulsive.” If you meet someone “quiet and unsettling”, he’s probably one of us, and he just wants to be left alone =)

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