I didn’t take my camera with me last night, the final night of my Europe trip. I’d had a long day of snapping pictures and sightseeing in Bruges, and I needed a change. I was also realizing how, sometimes, being behind the lens stops me from actually experiencing and feeling what’s happening around me. So I left the camera at home, put on a fancy dress and stockings, and headed to a gourmet restaurant for a few hours of food-gasm.
Everything tasted so good (artichokes, shrimp, Swiss beef…), the wine was smooth, the service impeccable. I sopped every last drip of sauce with slices of fresh bread. My face was flushed with much pleasure as I stepped out onto the breezy dark streets of Brussels, to join new friends at a local bar. They mostly asked me stories about my LDS upbringing–so curious about the Book of Mormon and ancient-modern prophets. And I told them how, when I was Mormon I never could’ve imagined that someday I would have professional and personal opportunities that would bring me to foreign cities, or that I would even have a paycheck of my own. Back then I couldn’t have comprehended a night that would include so much pleasure, so much culture, so much living.
I got teary-eyed several times yesterday, mostly because I wasn’t yet ready to go home. But also because of the intensity of change…I lack the words to describe how I’m feeling. Like now, having just arrived home and I’m here sitting in my living room and burying my face in the blue shawl that I wore throughout my trip…and am hoping that it will long retain the scent of last night.
I have enjoyed your travel posts very much. I miss France dearly, a country that has a deep claim on my heart, perhaps because I feel deeply in love there once may years ago, or perhaps because of the many different landscapes and the people and cultures that grow out of their soils, or perhaps just because of the language.
I watched Midnight in Paris last Saturday with old friends. It reminded of long, carefree, romantic evenings I had in Sacre Coeur, and the feeling of living in another time in Cours Damoye, suffused in the redolence of freshly roasted coffee beans and forgotten echoes of the storming of the Bastille.
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I hope that your re-entry is easy and smooth.
I found love over and over again on this trip. In small ways and large. Paris (and Europe) will never be quite the same for me again. So we share that now, along with so many other things…
Of course, very many Mormon women “have professional and personal opportunities that would bring [them] to foreign cities, or that [they] would even have a paycheck of [their] own.” I certainly hope you did not leave the impression that the difference in your experiences and personal expectations then and now were due to your religion rather than due to your own personal changes. That would be quite unfair.
ESO, it would also be candycoating Mormonism not to acknowledge that it plays an enormous role in creating such limited expectations for its female members. While it’s certainly true that not all Mormon women grow up with such limited expectations of what their lives will entail, it is every bit as true that many Mormon women do grow up with those limited expectations. And our church’s approach to gender absolutely contributes to that fact.
I get tired of Mormons trying to argue that the church is without any culpability at all in these things. It is certainly not the only contributing factor, but it is one contributing factor. And if one’s Mormon upbringing is like mine was, it’s probably the most important contributing factor. Like Jana, had you asked me 20 years ago what my life would look like I could not have imagined in my wildest fantasies that it would look like it currently does–a single, sophisticated, professional mid-30s woman with an amazing career developing, traveling to all kinds of wonderful cities, enjoying incredible food at small independent restaurants, well-versed in art and literature and culture and history. None of that would have figured even a little bit in my vision for myself 20 years ago. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to imagine such a future for myself. And that limited vision had everything to do with my Mormon upbringing and the church’s teachings about gender.
Maybe it seems unfair from your perspective, but it is my experience so it’s how I tell the story.
You know, Jana, this short comment of yours just gave me a very important insight: I don’t have the responsibility to “fairly” represent the church when telling my own story. When speaking more generally, I do try to be fair in that I attempt not to distort the reality of the church. And I try to give it credit for the good it does. But I don’t have to weigh every word and make sure I’m being “fair” when I’m telling my own story.
It doesn’t sound like such an amazing a ha moment, but it felt very liberating when it hit me.
Jana, this sounds like a magical evening. I’m so glad you enjoyed your European adventure this summer–glad and a little envious. :) I’m looking forward to exploring Montreal for the first time in a few weeks and I’m sure that at least a couple of my evenings will be very like this one–full of the pleasure of good food and drink combined with incredible conversation. I’m so looking forward to it.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip, Amelia :)
Hi Jana, I enjoyed your travel posts about Europe. It is a magical and diverse continent. If your travels ever bring you to Zurich, drop me a line and we can reconnect as adults. Thanks for being so open and honest with your posts.
I’m sure I’ll find myself in Zurich soon enough, and will look you up Tyler. :)