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Hi there! Welcome to my corner of the internets. I'm a 26 year old therapist, photographer, and shop owner currently living in Seattle, Washington. My online spaces are educational and lifestyle accounts dedicated to educating, engaging, and empowering women through digital art, home design, and travel.... with a touch of humor and personality sprinkled throughout. Stay a while!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ask A Mormon-ish Girl: Part 2 - The Garment Edition

 Good morning and happy Sunday! 

    We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on religion, being member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"), and reconciling all of this with democrat/liberal values. My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships, both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  

    (P.S. Check out the first post I did last week to read my answers to the questions: "What things do you struggle with in the church?", "What things keep you in the church?", and "Do you feel like you are welcome in the Mormon community?" And, please subscribe via email (on the right if you're on a desktop and on the bottom if you're on a phone) to be notified of future posts!)

    If you don't see your question answered this week, please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! Every Sunday I post a question box on my Instagram (@emmycoletti) and I will save it in the highlight "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl". If your question is too long (or you don't have Instagram), feel free to email me instead at emmycoletti@gmail.com

    Without further ado, let's get into this week's questions! And, as always, these are just my thoughts on various church topics. The official church policies may differ. I also reserve the right to change my mind on any of the following upon receiving new information. 

(If you are not familiar with what a "Mormon" is, please refer directly to the church's website here. There's lots of misinformation about us/what we practice and believe, so go to the right source to get your questions answered. And if you're really curious about Mormons, I'd suggest meeting with some of our missionaries. They are in most places in the world and are usually either a cute elderly couple or cute little 18 year old girls/boys. They spend 2 years studying these things, so the answers they can give you about Mormons are going to be a lot better than what I could. You literally just fill out this form and they will contact you! I think our missionaries are so cute haha but I'm biased.)

So, LOTS of questions this week about garments haha! 

"How do you feel about garments?" 

I, as you could guess, have a lot of feelings about garments. I will try to keep this organized.

It will come as little surprise to most of you that I have a certain... concerns with garments. Concisely:  

        1. The person who I have to discuss my garment wearing with is a man/member of the bishopric.

        2. The lack of comfortable female garment options.

        3.  Modesty policing.

        4. The changes in garment lengths over time.

        5. They are a symbol of a commitment, not the commitment itself. 

    1. Ok, let's start off with the bishop interview. No offense to men, but they have zero idea of what it's like to be a female who wears garments. First of all, I have seen both men and women's garments, and the comfort level between the two is NOT the same. Men's clothes are usually loose and their garments are pretty loose as well. Their garment waist line isn't that much higher than where normal underwear would hit them. However, even the new "low rise" garments hit me a good 4 inches higher than where a normal pair of underwear would. Which brings me to my main reason why it's hard to talk to men about garments: we have lady issues and they do not
    If you've had a period, you know about the bloating, the cramps, and the overall icks. The absolute LAST thing my bloated, crampy stomach needs is anything tight on it. Like I said, the new "lower" waistline hits my belly button, and the older waistline comes up to my boobs (no, seriously, it does lol). Not to mention the difficulties of wearing pads or pantyliners. These are intricate and intimate difficulties women experience, and maybe it's just me, but this level of detail with a member of my bishopric is not going to be a comfortable conversation for either of us lol. I will end this section by saying I have heard of many bishops being very understanding to women who experience yeast infections and not wearing garments (because it is a medical issue) and I appreciate that. I would love to see that same compassion and empathy extended to periods as well. (Granted I have never tried having this conversation with a bishopric member, so maybe the empathy is already there.)

    2. My second call for improvement would be on the comfort. I'm not even talking changing lengths here. Have any of you tried the "airism" shirts from Uniqlo? They are amazing. So light, so breathable. A fabric like this in a garment top would be so much easier to wear in the heat and increase women's comfort immensely. Similarly, a garment bottom made from an extremely stretchy, seamless option would also be so helpful. Us women have much variation in our bodies. The garment bottom right now covers our: thighs, hips, and stomach. That's a lot of areas that vary in size woman to woman! Victoria's Secret has many of these "seamless" and no show panty options. Ideally, the church could get their hands on a similar material and it would go miles for creating more comfortable garments. And, since I'm here, I would also suggest a lower waistline (although a stretchy, seamless option would make a high waistline a lot more bearable). Regular women's underwear comes *maybe* 3-4 inches above the crotch line and this lets our tummies breath, bloat, eat a good meal, etc, as compared to the not-as-stretchy and tight-waistband state of garments currently. I know there probably cost concerns with some of the above, but women's comfort should also be a concern. And if this many women are complaining about the same things, I feel we are deserving of the price tag. 

    3. Modesty policing. There's a few elements to this. 

    The first is the cultural taboo of having your garments show. I don't know if this was just a Utah thing or not, but the expectation seemed to be "Wear your garments, but don't let anyone see them." This is a really stressful thing to have to always be conscious of and can shake the confidence a bit. I eventually started wearing like a spandex/slipshort underneath all my dresses, but then we are back to the comfort issue of having two layers underneath a dress/skirt. 

    Second, it's interesting to me that garment lengths change with the mainstream fashion over the years. Imagine if we still had long sleeve, long leg, and one piece garments lol. So, I'm grateful they have been shortened, but I dislike that they are still partially "encouraging modesty". As women, we are constantly told out worth is determined by our looks. Modesty culture is tricky, because it can be very triggering to a lot of us who have had to overcome the feelings of shame with our bodies create by a sexist and patriarchal culture. Overcoming body image issues is a challenge, and one we are often working on our whole lives. Garments at their meaning aren't at all about modesty. They are a symbol of a commitment made with God. And it's sad to me that this symbol of a commitment has gotten intertwined to such a high degree with modest concerns, which in turn steers women away from wearing a garment they perhaps would have otherwise. 

    (Also, I just have to add this in here. Weddings rings are also a symbol of a commitment, right? I mean, you promise to stay faithful to your spouse and the ring is a symbol to communicate to you/the world that commitment you made. However, men have no problem taking their rings off in the name of "comfort". I realize that a marriage commitment and religious commitment have different levels of seriousness in some people's minds, but it's just a comparison I like to draw for any men criticizing women for not wearing garments due to comfort while sitting there ringless for the same concerns hahaha. Sexism is a system that allows men the same comforts it denies from women.) 

    Third, the amount of modesty policing with garments drives me insane. I say this having been on both sides. I have been the person who discussed whether or not someone was wearing their garments/still identified as Mormon, as well as been the person whose garment wearing was being discussed. And honestly, both sides are just icky. To have people judge you and passively criticize your choices is... unsavory, to say the least lol. And it says a lot more about the gossiper than the one not wearing their garments. 

    It's honestly just... so offensive haha. I don't know how else to say it. I've heard the term "salvation by surveillance" before and I have to giggle because that's exactly what it feels like. We watch members of our faith for any sign that they are doing "wrong" because it somehow makes us feel "holier than thou"... or... I mean I honestly don't know why we do it. But, we do. And mostly to women. What other people do is none of our business. Especially in this case. You can't assume someone left the church if they aren't wearing garments. You can't assume someone is a great member if they are wearing garments. So, it's just honestly none of our business and I hope we have all grown up enough that we are done discussing what underwear someone else is or isn't wearing. 

"Do you believe wearing garments is a commandment?" 

    I mean, it's not one of the 10 commandments lol. I did a quick search and couldn't find that language on the church website when it came to garments. I don't know what defines a commandment, but I do think we are asked to wear them and it is a part of the temple recommend questions. However, they have changed the wording from "do you wear them day and night" to "do you wear them as instructed in the temple" and to my knowledge/memory, the temple didn't provide a whole ton of detail. I am fuzzy on details and could be wrong about this! Feel free to drop resources in the comments if you have them. 

"Do we get punished or miss out on blessings for not wearing garments? I hate them." 

    Once again, I don't know what the official church policy is on this, so these are just my thoughts. I believe in a God that wants me to be happy and do good things for other people. I sometimes feel like religion is selfish. We get so caught up in the "checklist" to get into heaven and on what is going on with ourselves. Sure, these things are probably taken into consideration. However, I think a lot of others are as well. If I do get "punished" for not wearing garments, I hope I am also rewarded for all the things I do that aren't on the Mormon "checklist": Loving and being kind and inclusive to everyone, no matter their race or sexual or gender identity. Advocating for the marginalized and using my power and privilege to help create a more comfortable society for them. Donating my money to causes that further and equitable society for everyone.... etc. 

    I mean... you can *on paper* be an amazing member of the church: Read your scriptures, pray every night, wear your garments, go to the temple, have a church calling, etc... and still treat people like crap, elect racist leaders who are exclusive and demeaning, gossip about people and spread lies, not serve anyone in your neighborhood (and a religious "visit" doesn't count as service lol), etc. 

    Being religious is not synonymous with being a good person. And that's something that I always try to keep in mind. 

Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ask A Mormon-ish Girl: Part 1

    Good morning and happy Sunday! I'm so excited about this new series, because talking religion, politics and values is one of my favorite things! For those of you who may be newer here, I identify as a Mormon AND a democrat... I know. What a concept haha. 

    (If you are unfamiliar with what a "Mormon" is, it's a slang term for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sure a quick google search can tell you what our church believes. And if you're really curious to learn more, we have cute little missionaries who would probably love to come answer your questions/tell you more. These posts are going to be geared to people already familiar with the religion, as most of my questions come from members of the church who are struggling with their faith.)

    I call myself a "Fringe Mormon" or "Mormonish" (I've also heard the term "Mormon Adjacent"). What does this mean? Essentially, while I agree with a lot of the church teachings and still consider myself Mormon, there are also parts of the religion that bother me and I wish would change. "Mormonish" is my way of acknowledging that while I agree with and support many aspects of the religion, I do still push for it to become better in a lot of ways. It's the middle ground between being a solid "Molly Mormon" believer and leaving the church completely. 

    I post about a lot of these things on my Instagram account, but it's honestly just too much to talk about and I wanted my thoughts to live somewhere a bit more organized and permanent. So, I wanted to do this little Sunday series of "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" where I take questions I get about the church and tell you my thoughts! 

    The obvious disclaimer is these are just that: thoughts. I reserve the right to change my mind upon getting new information or retract something that I may have phrased badly. And ultimately, if these posts bother you... click away, dear friend! I'm allowed to post my belief systems and you're allowed to not like it... and I'm allowed to not respond/care that you don't like it. :)

    Without further ado, let's get into some of the questions I gathered this past week. I got too many questions to answer all in one post. So I will list the questions to come at the bottom of this post! 


What things do you struggle with?

    I picked this question first, because I figure it will give you a good intro into me and my beliefs. There are many things I struggle with:

  • The church culture and amount of "cultural" things that have been made to feel like they are doctrine.
  • The patriarchal structure of the church and feeling like I do not have any feminist icons whom I can look to for support.
  • The amount of variation in bishop interviews with what is "ok" and still gets a temple recommend and what is "not ok". 
  • The exclusion of certain groups of people and justification of judgmental attitudes. 
  • The focus on outward signs of faithfulness (garment wearing, church attendance, etc.).
  • Conservative belief systems when Jesus was the OG social worker and upheld many democratic values haha. 
  • The lack of respecting other people's boundaries and service culture/being shamed for saying "no".
  • The lack of transparency about where tithing funds go.
  • The lack of clearly outlined reporting systems for bishops who are bad eggs.
  • When church leaders get involve in politics (like the AZ leaders emailing people to vote against the marijuana bill haha).
  • The amount of things that have changed in the past 100 years, yet there is still a mentality that the church today is "perfect" and "how it is supposed to be".  

    I'm sure there are more things... but that's all the comes to mind. If you have any questions about any of those, please comment below or shoot me an email with your QUESTION. (Please, phrase a question I can answer and don't just tell me your opinion on my opinions haha.)

What keeps you in? (And I'm adding: What do I like?)

    This is obviously the perfect follow up question to the above haha. 
  • The entire church is service based and there is no paid clergy.
  • The strong sense of community and comfort in knowing wherever you go, you will be welcomed by the church members and have people who understand your values/culture. 
  • The kindness of the majority of people I've come into contact with in the church.
  • The amount of service/support we provide for active/inactive members. And just for the service the church provides the community in general.
  • The guidance to avoid drugs/alcohol. 
  • The focus on families being the most important thing. 
  • That we don't believe in a "hell" per say, or that too many people will actually go there.
  • Mormon culture overall is really funny to me. I like all those movies like "Singles Ward", "The RM" etc. and poking fun at our strange culture haha. 
  • Overall, I've been surprised at how when I am assertive about my boundaries AND respectful and involved in my own way, I have not had too much push back. (This may also be helped because I no longer live in Utah County, and I know the church dynamics in heavily populated Mormon areas can be a lot different than in more scarcely populated areas.)

Do you feel like you are welcome in the Mormon community?

    This is the last question I'm going to answer this week, so make sure you check back next Sunday for more! And ask any of your questions in a comment below, on my Instagram story (@emmycoletti), or email it to me (emmycoletti@gmail.com).

    This is an interesting and tricky question. I think my answer would be: yes, but it has depended on where I live. I know people get defensive about the whole "Utah Mormon" stereotype... but I will say my life in Utah County was A LOT harder than it was in New York City, Connecticut, Salt Lake City, or Seattle. I will also mentioned I did a lot of therapy after leaving Utah County, so who's to say what the real change came from.

    I grew up in Utah County and lived there for a couple years as an adult. I would say I felt welcome *most* of the time. I did find it harder for people to accept that I wasn't going to show up to church every Sunday, as well as all the activities throughout the week. I did once get chastised for not showing up to my calling in Young Women's, but to be fair, I probably shouldn't have accepted that calling in the first place hahaha. And I did immediately ask to be released after the conversation with that individual and all was well. BYU was tough for me and I'll get more into it later. But, it was harder to feel accepted/belonging there. My roommate eventually stopped asking if I wanted to go to church after she realized I wasn't going to go haha. And I stayed out all night and/or slept at home the bulk of that semester... so I wasn't really too "involved" in BYU single life. I also got married fairly quickly and started going to a student married ward, but ended up skipping a lot because I didn't love that vibe either haha. We moved back in with my mom in Utah County for 1-2 years, and there I went to my childhood ward, so that was a bit easier due to already having friends/people who knew me. Overall, I do think it felt harder for me to *Be MySeLf* in Utah County/Provo/BYU. I do think part of that was the intense/judgmental church culture around me... I'm not going to lie to you haha. However, I also think a part of that was me caring about people's opinions and being accepted by people who don't value what I value, so I didn't put myself out there as much. 

    After moving outside of Utah... OMG. I can't even explain to you. We lived in New York City for a few months and that ward was AMAZING. I think like our first or second Sunday, some other young couples reached out to us and asked if we wanted to eat Thai food on their roof and it was on a Sunday. I remember thinking, "They order out on Sunday?! And it's not a big deal?!" And just immediately felt like I could be myself, because there were people who weren't going to live by every single little suggestion/cultural law. We were only in this ward for a little while, but I had really great experiences. We were in primary the whole time, and I don't think I went to any of the activities, so I don't know how many opportunities I had to "speak my mind". But, I did have a lot of great chats with other members and realized a lot of them had similar viewpoints to myself. That was really the first time I realized not everyone who identifies as Mormon is a cookie cutter member and that maybe there was more of a place for my authentic self than I had previously thought.

    When we moved to Connecticut, I also had good experiences. A young family immediately started chatting with us and were super friendly. Other older women in the ward reached out to get to know me. I LOVED Relief Society in this ward because there was such diversity. There were mothers who worked full time, immigrants, stay-at-home moms, converts, etc. I thought it made for such great conversation! I definitely felt for some of the teachers hahaha, but I do think it was nice to hear the perspective from mothers who worked full time and/or women who were converts. They weren't afraid to challenge some of the more "traditional" suggestions/comments and I loved that open dialogue. Also, some women wore pants (or even sweat pants!) and no one cared or whispered about it. One lady would even eat a full sandwich haha and I didn't catch anyone giving her the side eye.

    After that we moved to Salt Lake, which was harder for me, just because I wasn't happy to be back in Utah in the first place. So, who knows how my bad attitude affected things. But, when the Relief Society said they hadn't seen me around lately and I said, "Yeah, sometimes I go and sometimes I don't." I feel like they handled it really well and we had a great subsequent (non-mega-religion filled) conversation and just bonded as humans. This was also one of the first wards where I specifically asked to not be put in a teaching calling or something that would make me HAVE to be to church on Sundays (lol). The bishopric were really cool about it and put me on an activities committee. I went to a few activities on my own and people were generally nice. I think in this ward they knew I was less active and I don't feel like anyone really tried to fellowship/reach out to me. They pretty much just left me alone, but were friendly when I showed up and I really liked that.

    And now we're in Seattle! I am pretty quiet in most of the classes, but honestly, the Relief Society I am in already has AMAZING feminist, progressive lessons, so there's not too much that bothers me anyway haha. People probably know I am less active and see my husband at church alone sometimes, but I also don't get grief about it or reached out to. I volunteer where I feel comfortable and feel like I contribute. Although, since writing the first draft of this post, J did tell me that someone from the ward reached out to him to check in on us, because we don't attend any of the online Zoom churches lol. (Oh, and side-note, I took my email and phone number off the church directory a LONG time ago and that was a goo decision.)

    So, all of that to say, I do feel welcome in *most* Mormon communities I have been in. I still hear whispers here and there about my lifestyle/opinions on stuff, but I just roll my eyes and move on. It's a "whatever" thing for me now. The biggest shift for me came when I stopped doing what I thought I "should" and started doing what I felt I could authentically show up for. Ex: I'm not going to show up to many activities or have the visiting sisters over, but I'll drive an hour on a Saturday to pick corn for a service project, or pick up and drop off 50+ loaves of bread for the congregation every few weeks. (Although with the pandemic and being out of town, we haven't been able to do this as much anymore.) One of my favorite things about boundaries: You can be so sweet and nice, and still say no to someone. I feel like being able to give respect while requesting respect in return has changed a lot of my perspectives. 


Wow! That was a lot, but that's ok. Overall, I feel in a really good place with the church lately... and maybe that's because I'm not going due to the pandemic hahahahha. No, but really, I don't think it's ever going to be my personal biggest support system. I don't think I'm ever going to be the most reliable member. BUT... as long as I'm upfront with people about what they can expect from me, I feel ok about where I'm at. 

If any of the above were your questions, I hope I answered them to your satisfaction! If not, please comment below any follow ups and I'll make sure to get to them. 


Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend

P.S. If you haven't already read the book Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks, I'd highly recommend it! It helped me on my *FaItH jOuRnEy* a lot haha. 

Questions to be answered in the future...

Thoughts on tattoos? Should Mormons be able to have them? How do you feel about garments? What do you drink on the pics with the mug if you can't have tea/coffee? How do you deal with super black and white thinking in the church and with family members? When did you start seeing some things differently than the church? How does your religion impact your political views? How did you handle BYU? Do you believe the Book of Mormon was translated or just 19th century text?