I was interested to read the letter from the young mother who found that the suburbs of Salt Lake City can be different than the city proper in their propensity to shun gentiles [“Shunning Happens,” Aug. 22, City Weekly]. She had moved from a walkable neighborhood in Sugar House to Sandy, and was upset that her children were not acceptable playmates for the Mormon kids next door. It also happens to empty-nesters.
We moved to a suburb north of Salt Lake City nearly eight years ago when our daughters were 18 and 20 and both attending universities in the Midwest. In an effort to engage people I would meet (neighbors, at the gym, etc.), I commonly would ask about family. Young people might tell me about their folks and siblings, people my age (then 45) would talk about their children and grandchildren.
When I would speak of my girls, almost inevitably the first question would be, “Are they married?” (Independent, educated, not-living at home … oh, no!) That’s when I discovered how the dominant culture does not celebrate their daughters or encourage their self-sufficiency.
I did meet some charming Mormon women and establish a sort of friendship group. The ladies were quite busy, but we would occasionally get together for lunch. I don’t happen to like coffee or drink soda, and I’m a nice person. That prompted one gal to say, “Well, you’re practically Mormon already.” I responded, “No, I like to sit on our deck and drink beer with my husband.” She said (putting her hand on my arm), “Oh, dear, you’ll give that up when you’re ready” (really!). We also made some Jack Mormon friends who would drink beer at dinner at our house, but it was unavailable at their dinner parties because they did not want their teenagers to know that they drank.
The rumor of a two- or three-year “effort” friendship seems to be pretty true as well. I did attend a couple of wedding receptions for cake and punch, but if you refuse enough mission-testimony invitations or church suppers, they do quit asking, so time moved on. Lunch dates stopped, too, but that was pretty mutual.
A couple of years ago, after not having seen one lady for some time, I ran into her and was talking about my (by that time) medical-school daughter, her live-in fiance and their wedding plans. The woman said, “Don’t you suppose [whisper] they might be having sex?” I responded that I expected they probably were, but my daughter was an adult and was capable of making her own decisions. Last time I ever spoke to that gal.
Long story short, we have enjoyed our time in Utah by seeking out opportunities to experience non-Mormon culture. We live for the Downtown Farmers Market and love to engage with people over recipes for the great produce or about their dogs. I enjoy City Weekly, so I can feel normal, and we never miss the Utah Arts Festival. We also really love Craft Lake City and the Urban Flea Market.
When I’m on a plane, and people ask me what I think of living in Utah, I always smile and mention the great weather. The sunshine here is life-giving. I don’t typically comment about the culture (if you can’t say anything nice …), but I won’t miss “this is the (holier than thou) place.”
Thankfully, we are in the process of moving back to the Midwest to be closer to our now-married—but independently successful—daughters and any future grandchildren. And we were able to attend both of their weddings, and drink champagne in celebration! Our friends will miss our home as a ski lodge, and I’ll miss the sunshine, but we have missed the Midwest more! Goodbye, Utah!