Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mating Rituals: One

Ah, the mating ritual of the religious and desperate. Observe, a young BYU couple at the bookstore. He stands as she approaches the table, smiling as she maneuvers her way through the crowded cafe floor. She returns his smile and nods vigorously as he asks if she would like anything to drink. He moves off to the counter to order their mostly caffeine-free hot chocolates while she arranges herself to the best advantage at their table.

Her appearance is deceptively casual; jeans, tee-shirt, and a puffy vest. At first glance her hair is just as casual, a messy ponytail high on her head, but closer inspection reveals the jeweled bobby pins holding the whole thing together and the subtle sheen of pricey hairspray. Her skin is nearly flawless and covered by a perceptible circle of deeper tan than her natural skin. The heavy eyeliner and three coats of mascara are designed to draw her potential mate's eyes to hers. She has left her lips daringly nude aside from the near constant application of fruit-flavored lip balm which encourages her tongue to slip between them and lap at its sweet waxiness.

The male also seems quite casual, though it is obvious that he has taken care with his appearance. His jeans are conspicuously stain and wrinkle free, as is his button up shirt beneath a carefully subtle sweater vest. His hair bears evidence of styling product, probably applied by the capable hands of his “just friends” female entourage. His glasses are faddish, though they miss the mark of true pretension, though he hits the perfect note with the small man-purse at his side. The entire effect is somewhat offset, however, by his obvious African descent. He must appear twice as proper as any of his Caucasian counterparts.

He returns to the table with two Talls. A first date, then. The female accepts her cup with a grimace, though the untrained eye may mistake it for a smile and takes a small sip. Though she murmurs appreciatively, the cup is relegated to the table, where it sits for the remainder of their meeting. A moment of awkward silence, and then the verbal dance begins.

“How are your classes going?” The male asks, leaning forward to show that he is interested in what she has to say.

This begins the standard litany of professors and classes. The obligatory comparison and sharing of anecdotes and sycophantic laughter follows for several minutes. He reveals that he is a Returned Missionary and the female's waning interest is once again captured. She lifts her cup, hesitates, then sets it back down untasted. Instead, she applies another layer of artificial fruit flavor and rests her chin on her hand. Conversation immediately turns to religion.

Though she does not begin with “I'd like to bear my testimony,” the female does essentially that, explaining first how her parents met and eventually converted. This is a lead in to her own crisis of faith, beginning before she was shipped off to BYU and ending with her subsequent return to an even stronger belief through the efforts of her enterprising roommates.

Meanwhile, the male's eyes have begun to glaze over, and for the last three minutes he has not even bothered to grunt a response. Realizing that her prey, er, date has begun to withdraw, the female suddenly switches tact. Without pause, she asks. “What about you?”

The male explains, briefly, that his parents converted when The Church revoked a previous policy that forbade African American's from holding the priesthood. The conversation that follows is too absurd to transcribe, though for the sake of science I will share the salient points.

“I think that what the church did was right,” the female states, twirling a piece of hair that has escaped from her messy bun around one finger. “I mean, if they had allowed black people into the church before then, it would have been an incredibly negative experience for everybody. There was so much prejudice and hatred before then and for their own good they needed to kept out. I mean, you. You know what I mean. Otherwise you guys would've been completely destroyed by it, you know? It was the righteous thing.”

The conversation circles around this point. The male offers no opinions, instead he allows her to continue talking. Those observing resist the urge to warn her of the danger and watch as the female continues her self destructive spiral.

“I'm just happy that the church is so much more tolerant now. I mean, that way if I have interracial children,” Here the female pauses and looks at him, allowing the significance of this statement to sink in, “I could raise them in the church and feel alright about it.”

The male smiles, though his eyes have gone fixed and wide. The conversation continues for just a few more minutes, in which he leans further and further back in his chair while the female leans forward, pressing what she believes to be her advantage. Finally she begins to run out of steam, and he asks politely if she's finished with her hot chocolate while rising to his feet.

The female blinks, confused, and responds that she is. He waits patiently for her to get to her feet, and shakes her hand. Her face falls as she realizes that there will be no second date, but manages to paste a smile before he notices. She asks if she can hug him and after the tiniest of pauses he agrees, offering her a one-armed-back-pat.

“See you in class,” the male calls over his shoulder as he strides out of the cafe.

The female stands alone for a moment, going over the date in her mind and wondering what she did wrong. Then, before she can draw any more attention to herself, her cellphone is out and pressed to her ear.

“Hey,” she says into the mouthpiece, her voice cracking. “I'm on my way home. Yeah, ice cream sounds good.”


  1. Amazing observation, I feel like I was in the bookstore with them. It sounds painful to watch.

  2. -cough- They were Ventis, I believe. I wish I was there long enough to watch the end of that date. Remind me to never start talking about church topics when I meet a guy. I guess that's Utah for ya...

  3. A very interesting read. I really felt like I was there, observing it myself. Wow, the things we see, hear and pick up on. It's a quirky and sometimes downright 'Wha-?' life out there and then some. You did a great job of capturing this.

  4. Wow, such an attention to detail. I admit to people watching occasionally, but even at full attention I couldn't spin a story like you've done here.

    It's sad that there's such ignorance in people. I feel bad for the girl, though - it's obvious she didn't mean to come off in the way she did. If I open my mind a bit, I can even see where she's coming from... just goes to show you that we need to think about what we're going to say before we say it, especially when it comes to such hot-button topics as race and religion.