The year is 2015, I’ve lived in New York City for less than two years and both of my best friends from high school are either 1. Married 2. About to be married. This was a confusing time in my journey as everyone in my close circle of friends was planning weddings and having their first sex encounter while I planned my week around how often I could get wine drunk and convince myself God didn’t hate me for having sex with my boss’s Irish nephew (his name was Niall. I was living my One Direction dreams).
After one of the weddings, I think it’s safe to say everyone in my bestie’s sorority thought I was a total sluuuuut simply because I did what you’re supposed to do at fun weddings --get drunk and hook up with another single person. I understand that in most parts of the country, weddings where you don’t get laid are lame weddings. But this is the conservative Midwest/South we are talking about. Where weddings are conducted to actually celebrate the life-long union of two virgins. And maybe alcohol if the husband isn’t in ministry.
Anyway, I was just tryna have fun. But left feeling like I’d never have the happy relationship young married couples have if I didn’t get my act together.
While slut shaming myself in the Dallas airport, the airline announced my flight had been cancelled. “Of course!” I audibly exclaimed, convinced the airline gods heard about my questionable behavior and fucked up my whole day as punishment.
As I’m purposefully jaunting to the airline kiosk to reschedule my flight, feeling deeply guilty for ruining everyone’s travel plans with my sex drive and 23 year old sense of adventure, this dude appears next to me:
“Hey were you on that flight to New York?”
“Yeah I was supposed to be. Were you?”
“Yeah...I need to be there by tomorrow morning. What are we supposed to do?”
“We should go to the kiosk furthest away from the gate. It’ll have a shorter line.”
And off we went. It took me a solid 5 minutes of conversation to calm down about the canceled flight to realize this dude was actually really cute. He asked about my life in New York and shared that he’s a seismologist from the University of Santa Cruz. He’d be attending a conference at Columbia about mapping-the-ocean-floor or whatever seismologists do. Anyway, the conference started the next day, and he’d be in the City for two weeks.
“Wow can’t say I’ve ever met a seismologist. In fact, I don’t even think I’ve heard that word since 7th grade Physical Science. But surprisingly, I know what it is.”
“Ha! It’s that Midwest education! I’m from Iowa.”
Ohhhh a Midwesterner!
So this dude is hella cute -- dark hair, beard, great smile, and style that says “I’m a little bit Sk8r boi/I’m a little bit very busy studying the core of the earth”-- a great conversationalist, and would be in the city for two whole weeks!
Damnit, Mattie Jo! No! Can you just NOT with the dudes for like A DAY. Mentally friend-zone the shit out of him now!
So naturally I agreed to be his travel buddy/New York tour guide. So we could hang out a bunch. As friends. Totally just friends.
When we got up to the kiosk they offered to get us hotel rooms overnight or put us on a suuuuuper late flight into NEWARK. “Oh Newark is a terrible idea. Especially at that time. It will take forever to get into the city on the airtran or like $1000 to take a cab.” #Iknowthingsnow
“Well, my plate tectonics grad degree is paying for this trip so I think I can swing the cab.”
Lol. Idk if he actually said that but I hope that’s what his grad degree reads: Plate Tectonics.
He did actually offer to pay for the $1000 cab though.
We spent the rest of the evening waiting for our flight, conversing over meal vouchers.
“So you’re in grad school now. Where did you do undergrad?”
“Brigham Young. BYU...do you know it?”
Oh no. OF COURSE HE’S MORMON. He’s super nice, smart, good-looking, and totally respectful. All in the name of Joseph fucking Smith. Why can’t guys just be all of those things simply BECAUSE? Why they always gotta be attached to some massive religious movement? STORY OF MY LIFE (see: this blog or this one ). Oh shit he’s waiting for me to say something.
“So you’re Mormon? I thought you said you grew up in Iowa?”
“Haha I did. There are Mormons everywhere! But...I’m in the process of leaving the church actually. You caught me at a really weird time.”
PHEW. That was a close one. This I can work with.
“Oh. Why are you leaving the church?”
“It’s just...It’s hard. I was so involved. My family is very very Mormon. I went to BYU, did the mission, the whole thing. It wasn’t until I left the Midwest for California, started studying science and meeting new people that I realized it’s just not true. So, I’m not like other people who leave because they resent the church/think it’s evil. I’m leaving because I just know...it’s not true. And I can’t commit my life to fiction.”
Damn. Dove right in, didn’t we Mormon? Lol like I didn’t love it though. Nothing says deep soul connection like discussing your religious beliefs/hangups on a first date/airport dinner with yours truly.
After our religious baggage heart-to-heart in the middle of the Dallas airport, we boarded the plane and headed back to NYC.
For the remainder of his two weeks in New York, we spent many nights together. We went to dinner and he had his first sip of alcohol. Yes, I took the alcohol virginity of an in-the-process-of-being-an-ex-Mormon. Something I still wish I could put on my resume. I made sure to order him the most sugary drink on the menu and he was still like “You really prefer to drink this? Like if you’re gunna drink a liquid you can honestly tell me you enjoy whiskey over, idk, chocolate milk?” And then I almost spat out my whiskey because lol so true. Alcohol does taste like nail polish remover.
I also helped him draft the letter he wrote to his parents about leaving the church. Which is crazy intimate for someone I met in an airport a week before, but he wanted my opinion so opinion I gave. He also met my friends! And I met his friends! It was like this weird official relationship but not actually (again #storyofmylife).
The two weeks passed, I saw him off to the airport, and remained completely confused by what had just happened in my life. Did I really meet a dude in line for a canceled flight, share a deep understanding for our wrestle with religion within an hour of meeting, sort of date him for two weeks, and then just say good-bye? What now? I need some chocolate milk…
Mormon is pretty off the grid, as you would expect most earth scientists to be. So I didn’t hear from him much after our little love affair. However, a month or two later, I came home to a package full of University of Santa Cruz gear. Sweats, a tank, a coffee mug, magnet, and post-card. Mormon remembered my affinity for collecting apparel from colleges I didn’t attend (I also have Harvard, Emerson, the University of Southern Mississippi…)!!! How did he remember that?? And with the sweetest note.
I’ve seen Mormon one other time since our serendipitous airport encounter and two weeks together. He was in New York back in March for another earth study conference. But this time he was completely Mormon-free for like three years so we had much to discuss over margs and brunch. “People don’t need religion, you know? Like we were always taught humans need religion to help us be good because we aren’t on our own. And that’s just not true. Humans don’t need religion.” I responded, "I think that's still my biggest hangup as I wrestle with this. I don't believe humans are inherently bad. And I actually think religion makes stuff worse." You know, super light catching up chat over a few ciders.
(Ex) Mormon is still the sweetest, handsome, genuinely good man I met three years ago. After he left New York for the second time I wondered about his role in my life. When I tell this story to my friends, they always try to convince me to marry him. Highly improbable outcome considering we lead completely dissimilar lifestyles on opposite sides of the country. Maybe we are simply cross-country friends who share a deep understanding of one another. And maybe that’s enough.
He sent me another Santa Cruz postcard a month ago. It’s the bookmark for my current Brene Brown read.
I guess my point is, I met Mormon at a time when I felt like I had little value because I was the “token single crazy city girl.” I know now, that’s total bullshit; my relationship status has nothing to do with my value/worth as a woman.
What it does mean, however, is while everyone else was thinking about how to pay for their honeymoon (on top of student loans), I was falling for a stranger in an airport over canceled flight meal vouchers, and religious baggage banter. Because what is your spectrum of life experience really if you never built an impromptu relationship with a Mormon seismologist from Iowa after a weekend of wedding mayhem, and use their postcards as bookmarks three years later? Make lemonade, you know?