I don’t watch a lot of t.v. When I do watch t.v., I don’t watch a lot of reality shows. In fact, the only one I watch with any regularity is The Biggest Loser on NBC. American Idol, Survivor, Big Brother–can’t stomach any of those.
Lately, though, I’ve started watching snippets of Dancing with the Stars. This season especially so because Marie Osmond is one of the stars.
Growing up in Provo and Orem, Utah, the Osmonds were huge for so many of us. They added a level of glamour to Mormon culture that otherwise didn’t exist, unless you thought the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was glamorous and glitzy. Before there were gated communities, the Osmonds were a gated community. They lived in a lovely mansion on a mountain bench above Provo on a street called Osmond Lane and, I’m not ashamed to admit, we drove past it to stare. It was like our own little version of the Hollywood Homes of the Stars tour, only ours was just Home of the Stars, singular. Still, it was pretty heady for us.
My senior year in high school, I worked for Albertson’s as a courtesy clerk. One day, one of my fellow baggers came running up to me and said, “Hey, guess who’s in the store?” Having not a clue, I said, “I haven’t a clue.” Breathlessly and conspiratorially, he replied, “Marie Osmond.”
Prior to my days at Albertson’s, the closest I ever came to Marie Osmond was several years before when I attended a taping of the Donny & Marie Show at their studios in Orem. It was a Christmas special and my aunt, who is a friend and colleague of their former art director, had wrangled us tickets as part of the live studio audience. Additionally, I had a drum I had received when I was five right after I had my tonsils taken out. The studio did a “prop call” for drums for this particular show and my aunt volunteered mine. It wasn’t used in the sketch, but Donny and Marie both signed it for me. I still have that drum with their faded autographs.
But getting back to Albertson’s and Marie… She shopped at our store location quite a bit and one of the times she came in, I was her courtesy clerk and helped her to her car with her groceries. This was during a rather sad period in her life. She was an American darling and Mormon royalty and she was going through a very public divorce. It seemed especially poignant for her because, in Mormonism, divorce is not looked upon favorably and was considered scandalous. Not only was Marie going through the pain of divorce, but she was being watched by her adoring fans and fellow Mormons. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for her.
In helping her with her purchases, I spent only as long as it took to get from the store to her car, but in that short time, I met a woman who’s humanity was abundantly apparent. You could see the vulnerability in her eyes and I remember thinking how sad she looked then. As the years have progressed, I’m still of the impression that life has not been easy for her, but she has approached it with all the grace she can muster. Which is why I’m watching Dancing with the Stars and cheering for her.
I may not participate in the faith of my upbringing anymore, but I’m still Mormon enough to cheer for members of my tribe. It’s an oddity, I’ll admit. But I also know how odd Mormons look to so many people. And while I may not agree with all of their doctrines or sociology and while some of the misconceptions about Mormons are nothing but their own doing while others are just bad information, I also know there are a lot of genuinely good Mormons out there trying to do what the rest of so many of us are trying to do: lead good, productive, successful, honest lives.
That’s why I’m cheering for Marie. Because deep down, despite all the sadness and challenges she’s publicly faced, I know she’s a good person and I want her to succeed. And she’s one of my tribe and that makes her family. For that alone, I’ll cheer.