My most bizarre interfaith interaction

This is something that happened to me when I was about 11 years old, and it has stuck with me all these years because it was just so dang weird. As you can tell from the title, I do not mean to imply that this is at all typical of interactions between Mormons and (non-Mormon) Christians.

Back when I was 8 or 9, the movie Grease with Olivia Newton-John was the coolest thing! My favorite cousin — a devout Mormon about my age — loved the film. We all sang to the record together when our two families visited. I think that’s why my parents didn’t really have a problem with the film — it was a fave with other trusted Mormon family members. And — while we were very active Mormons, and pretty strict — we were far from the strictest Mormons in the ward. My parents were strict but flexible.

Anyway, when we moved to Minnesota, a Christian girl from my neighborhood quickly became my best friend. Her family was stricter than mine. She wore skirts to school and was forbidden from wearing jeans (specifically “double-seam pants”). I’ve never met anyone before or since who had that particular restriction.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before another Christian girl moved into the neighborhood. I’m not sure whether they went to the same church, but the new new girl was quickly BFF (to use an anachronism) with my best friend — whereas with me, we had kind of a tolerating-each-other standoff.

One day I had my two friends over for a slumber party. Yes, in those days, that was totally typical for Mormon kids. In those days, there wasn’t even a whisper of a hint that slumber parties were something good Mormon kids should avoid.

One of the components of an early-80’s slumber party was renting a VHS film. I don’t recall whether my friends came along with me to “Mr. Movies” where the film was selected, but the film for the evening was Grease. And we all watched it without the slightest indication that anything was amiss. We then spent the rest of the night playing board-games and dress-up, as was the custom of the time.

The next school day, my two friends walked up to me together during recess. They explained to me — with much gravity — that if ever I were to throw a party again where the film Grease would be shown, then I should tell them, so that their moms could come pick them up and take them home.

This was, sincerely, one of the weirdest things anyone has ever said to me in my life. Because of course I told them the film was Grease before I put it in and we all watched it. And how insulting of them to imply that — if they had objected to watching it (which they didn’t) — that I would have insisted on putting it in, and they would have had to call their respective mothers to be driven three blocks home, and I would have watched it alone.

But the coda of the story was even more bizarre!!

They then told me that next time I should show them a more wholesome movie, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This stuck with me because it was just so random. I mean, I had never seen this film (still haven’t), but I’d heard of it, and naturally I would have been fine with selecting that as the film of the evening — if they’d have suggested it.

It was very clear that they’d gone home and told their mothers that they’d watched Grease, and then they came to school and recited to me wholesale exactly whatever nonsense their mothers had said to them about it — without attempting to filter it through their own brains in the slightest.

Needless to say, one corner was soon cut from this friendship triangle. (I’ll give you one guess who it was…)

This whole story came back to me recently when I learned that — not only is the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a story of forcibly abducting women and holding them against their will — it actually has a catchy song about the joys of rape:

As questionable as the film Grease is, it absolutely floors me anew to realize that those strict Christian parents found the above to be more appropriate fare for their 11-year-old daughters!!!!

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

6 thoughts on “My most bizarre interfaith interaction

  1. The Seven Brides for Seven Brothers things is COMPLETELY bizarre.

    Mormons aren’t supposed to go to slumber parties? I thought they went out of style for everyone, because no one’s friends’ parents are beyond suspicion.

  2. @Holly — I know! That’s why it stuck with me all these years. It has remained my #1 mental association when anyone mentions that film.

    At the time, though, the specific choice of alternate film didn’t jump out at me as odd because I had no idea what it was about. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was simply a film I was vaguely aware of as a wholesome musical. It’s kind of amazing what was considered wholesome fare in the olden days…

    At the time, it sounded like probably one of them had mentioned to her mom that she’d watched Grease at the slumber party, and then the mom’s reaction went something like this:

    What?! You shouldn’t be watching films like that! The next time you’re at a party and the kids are watching a bad film like that, you just call me, and I’ll pick you up and bring you straight home! You kids should be watching wholesome films! Like… (thinks back and picks whatever random musical they’d watched recently) like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

    At least that’s an exchange that makes some sort of sense (though a bit nutty) — and I could picture my friend’s strict mom saying that. But then to pass it along to me in the context of a party where those two girls made up 100% of the guest list (hence were at liberty to select the activities) made it a total non-sequitur.

    Anyway, I think the new girl was just looking for any excuse to push me out of their friendship circle.

    As far as slumber parties are concerned, from following the online LDS-interest discussion, I’ve definitely heard it as a new item on the list of stuff Mormons aren’t allowed to do. But maybe you’re right that it’s also a general trend…?

    My kids have had a friend sleep over, and my son spent two nights at his friend’s home a few weeks ago. But maybe things are different here in Europe.

  3. Ah, yes, the “Sobbin’ Women” song. Such an example to generations of youth: “They acted angry and annoyed when secretly they was overjoyed.” –

    Hmmm…I admit, the tunes are catchy.

    I didn’t know that slumber parties are now taboo for Mormon youth either. But one thing that hasn’t changed for Mormons or other fundies is the infantilization of the culture. The Christian girls’ rejection of Grease in favor of the older musical – one that most 11 year-olds of that day would find corny (not to mention bizarre) – invites a rush of memory.

    For example: it’s freshman year at BYU and the hottest guy in my history class invites me to go see “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes!” And I’m thrilled!!

  4. Donna — do you remember “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” from your childhood? Was it considered wholesome? It just seems astonishing to me that this shamelessly pro-rape musical was embraced by Christians and Mormons….

  5. Absolutely. It was considered very wholesome amongst my Mormon and non-Mormon friends. Just a fun romp. I probably watched it at a sleepover myself as a kid.

    I remember seeing it at the dollar show at the JSB. When Adam proposed to Millie 30 minutes after meeting her, and she responded with, “I’ll have to finish my chores first,” the entire auditorium burst out laughing. Because – you know – that’s just how it happened at BYU. I don’t recall any whoops and applause during the abduction scene, but neither do I recall seeing anyone walk out in protest. – Like many in that same crowd might have done during a screening of some filthy vehicle such as “All the President’s Men” or “The Elephant Man.”

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