December 19, 2006

Honor at BYU? Are you kidding me?

I was young and innocent (for the most part) when I stepped foot on the BYU campus for the first time as a freshman in 1991. Little did I know that all that was about to change.

When you attend BYU, you are informed the first day that there is a certain standard that all students are expected to live by, whether you live in dorm housing or off campus. This standard is published and given to you at your new student orientation. It is called the Honor Code. This Honor Code may have even been part of the registration/application to BYU...I had to look it up to refresh my memory.

The first thing you read when you go to the BYU Honor Code website is this quote:

Stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I'd die first! -Karl G. Maeser

Um, well, ahem, apparently I forgot about my little chalk circle, because BOY, DID I CROSS IT! This is what the Honor Code consists of:

As a matter of personal commitment, students, faculty, and staff of [all LDS Church-owned schools] seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will

1) Be honest
2) Observe Dress and Grooming Standards
3) Obey the law and all campus policies
4) Participate regularly in church services (except non-LDS students/faculty)
5) Live a chaste and virtuous life
6) Use clean language
7) Respect others
8) Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
9) Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
(numbers added by me for reference)

For me, it was a no-brainer. This would be easy. I walked into my apartment just off campus, and met my five roommates, all from Utah. Three were returned missionaries, and two were freshmen like me. I was born in Utah, but moved to Montana when I was six, so I consider myself a Montanan. There are a few obvious differences you notice when you are the only non-Utah person living in a household for the first time.

We were all standing in the kitchen that first evening, getting to know each other a little through conversation.

One girl said, "I get up at 5 a.m. so I can be to my early class on time."

My non-Utah upbringing reared its ugly head with no warning at all. "No way! That's the butt crack of dawn, for hell's sake!"

Suddenly the room was so quiet I could actually hear the breeze produced by five sets of eyelids blinking at me in shock and horror. I didn't even realize what was wrong -- I repeated what was said in my mind at lightning speed. It occurred to me these women were seriously offended that I had used the word HELL. Or butt crack. In Montana, hell isn't even considered a swear word. It's a place that you encounter at times much like I was experiencing RIGHT THEN.

"Oh, sorry. Did I swear?" They still just stared at me. I kind of laughed to cover the silence. I broke #6 of the Honor Code my first day at BYU. The shame. But hey, at least I gave my roommates their first chance to do #9 -- "Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code." Wasn't that nice of me? But I quickly realized that I was consistently breaking #7 every time I'd hear my roommate Heather say "Holy Hannah!" or "Gracious Sakes!" during times I would have said, "Holy Shit!" or "What the Hell?"

In very little time I had become comfortable with college life. I dated more in the first two weeks of college than I did in all of high school and my year in Austria combined. What an experience! It was crazy. Everyone lusted after the son of Jack Weyland (an LDS novelist) who lived 3 doors down, but he never looked twice at me. But that didn't matter. I was learning fast the ways of my new world at BYU.

NCMO. The famous term (pronounced Nick-Mo) that stands for Non Committal Make Out. That awesomely pleasurable call of the wild we all answered while at BYU. The pheromones were virtually visible in the air. It was understood that a date meant automatic NCMO. I remember one such date with a Californian guy I knew from Vienna the year before when he was in the BYU Study Abroad program and I was an exchange student.

He had taken me on one date with a bunch of his classmates in Austria, and had chivalrously taken the train back to my home a half hour away, and even walked me to my house, only to find out that the train didn't run regularly on the outskirts of Vienna like it did in town. He had a two hour wait for the next train. So I walked him back to the train station and we sat there holding hands and talking. I was so inexperienced at dating that I just sat there chatting away, when all he wanted was NCMO, I'm sure. I think back and recognize the signs that I was oblivious to then. He never asked me out in Vienna again, since they went home to the states shortly thereafter.

Back at BYU, I ran into him again. We chatted, and I agreed to go on a group date with him and his friends to a hot springs he knew of in the mountains that would require a hike to get to. I went with him and this was the first really vivid NCMO I remember engaging in, probably my first little step off the edge into Breaking Honor Code #5 Territory. I had no swimsuit that fit (you may know of my aversion to shopping for swimsuits) so I wore a pair of short jean cut-offs and a big t-shirt. We hiked a half hour in the dark to the hot springs, and the smell of sulfur was horrendous.

But it was just like a hot tub, and I discovered within seconds that the water was intended for the sole purpose of engaging in NCMO as close to the real thing as it gets. I remember thinking that swimsuits leave nothing to the imagination, and how glad I was that I had jean shorts on, and a t-shirt on over my bra, not really conducive to good rubbing. We managed, however, to make out for hours (and rub too, I'll admit). It was what the whole date was for. There was no talking, just murmurs in the distance, and the darkness surrounded my date and me like we were alone. It was very seductive.

Of course the hike back was bad, because it felt so cold, and I was in those stinking jean shorts and big t-shirt, and I hated the stench. But I had with me after that a healthy knowledge of what was fun and nice about the body, and a very good idea of how nice the forbidden fruit might be to partake of. Apparently the temptation this knowledge brought me was too much for me to withstand for long.

The next guy I dated seriously was also from Montana, and we got along fairly well. I discovered quickly that once you pass a certain point physically in a relationship, it's impossible to revert back and not go as far. So our dating quickly became physical to the point of heavy petting, rubbing, and even some nudity. He was a returned missionary, and we both felt terribly guilty for what we were doing (all the time). Eventually he went to his bishop and I went to mine, to repent, and we decided that in order to stay good, we'd need to break up. Our relationship was mostly physical anyway. We didn't actually go all the way, but we were damn close, and we knew it. The breakup was easy because we weren't emotionally attached as much as we could have been.

Interjecting one particular memory of my dating the Montana guy...He and I went on a date, and when I got back, it was just after midnight (curfew was midnight according to the Honor Code, even for off-campus students) and I realized I had forgotten my key. I banged on the door over and over again. Then I went to a neighbor's (male) apartment and called. No answer. I was livid. I must have kicked that door and called them at least 10 times. There was no way they didn't hear me. In retrospect, I realize my sweet Utah sisters were trying to teach naughty Lisa a lesson. "You shouldn't be out with a BOY late at night, see what can happen??" I ended up walking to my boyfriend's apartment to tell him what had happened, and that I needed a place to stay. His roommates were very leery of this, since they knew the rules and were hesitant to break them. I finally convinced them that letting me crash on their couch was really preferable to turning a woman out on the streets late at night, and I promised I'd be good. My boyfriend even stayed away from me, probably since his roommates were up all night, watching him. A GIRL was out there. TEMPTATION!

Anyway, back to my Honor. I was sitting in my apartment one day doing homework, and I was enjoying the music someone was playing out into the courtyard. Our apartment complex was jokingly called The Fishbowl, because it was U shaped with three levels, and I was in the middle apartment on one side of the U on the third floor, and could see across at any apartment except those directly below mine. Everyone could see everyone. And our phone numbers were all the same, with the last two numbers being our apartment number. So I was sitting there, listening to Chicago singing their greatest hits, when suddenly I heard the music stop mid-song.

I jumped up just in time to see someone down in the middle apartment on the first floor pulling his big stereo speaker back in from his doorway. I ran to my phone and dialed his number. Some guy answered.

I said, "Put the speaker back in the doorway, and turn the music back on."

He said, "What did you say?!"

I repeated, "Put the speaker back in the doorway, and turn the music back on!"

I had never been so audacious or bold in all my life. I walked with the 20 foot phone cord to my open doorway, and there he was, standing in his open doorway, looking up, phone to his ear. Black hair, Hispanic, handsome as sin. He asked me "Why should I?"

"Because I love that song, and I'm not ready to stop listening to it yet."

He grinned, shook his head, and disappeared back into his apartment. Soon I saw a big, black speaker being pushed back out into the doorway. Sweet music filled the courtyard once again. He looked up at me and grinned. I grinned back, and went back to doing my homework, only this time I sat out on the bench beside my front door where I could keep an eye on this handsome stranger who did my bidding without a second thought. He came up to visit a little while later, and we talked for an hour. We had our first date the next night.

Whether it was the fact that I knew he was graduating college and headed back to Chile forever in a month, or the fact that I'd already gone as far as one can go before going all the way, and couldn't resist trying the same stuff with him, I'm not sure. I think I convinced myself I'd sin on a temporary basis with this non-LDS man, and then repent once he left -- it was probably a combination of all those ideas -- but I ended up losing my Sister Mary Lisa Purity with him, and it was difficult to feel guilty about something so grand. Besides, I was in love.

Rule #5 of the Honor Code had officially been broken all the way.

Then one day he was gone for good, first on a one-month tour of Europe, and then back to Chile, his home country. I had been devastated and listless and depressed ever since he left. It was hard to find the desire or energy to do anything meaningful. I didn't date anyone, I just worked and slept.

I was working at the Albertson's deli in Orem one day about a month after he left, and I opened the oven that was filled with sausages cooking in barbecue sauce. The fans blew the overpowering smell straight at me, and I was hit by a wave of nausea so hard that I ran to the back room and threw up.

That was the moment I realized I was pregnant.

Honor Code Rule #1 was necessary to break after that. There was no way in HELL I was going to explain the real reason for leaving to my holier-than-thou roommates, or to the school either. I told them I was leaving for medical reasons (which is in essence the truth, kind of) and moved back home to Montana.

The rest, as they say, is history.

There, Pete, my thoughts on the BYU Honor Code, per your request. Any questions?


Bishop Rick said...

hmmm, should I make up a stupid question or ask what I reall want to ask?

Bishop Rick said...

hmmm, should I make up a stupid question or ask what I reall want to ask?

SumWun said...

I was really drawn in by your writing. It helps that I have lived in Utah and know the culture and setting, but your engaging style and talent didn't hurt. I am left wanting the next chapter. Also, the love scene, while romantic was a little glossed over hahah j/k

Freckle Face Girl said...

What a tough tag, but you pulled it off & made it more interesting than I expected. :) --By the way, we must be the same age.

Anonymous said...

SML- wow, this is an amazing story! Like sumwun, I'm left wanting more.


Pretty Please??

montchan said...

Oh man!!! that was awesome!
WANT to hear more!!! Demand to hear more!!!

I lasted exactly 10 days at the Y, 2 weeks including Sundays.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ha, I'm dying over here..
I want to be there with you in the kitchen when it goes all silent. And with your laugh to smooth things over, ha ha, you're killing me!

Sister Mary Lisa, I know that before I go to my grave I will have to have met you. I'm just gonna sit in your kitchen and stare at you!

On the serious side: what happened to the baby? Have you raised one child on your own before meeting your husband?

Holly said...

This was an awesome post.

I never went to BYU, and I've always been glad. But I love "the butt crack of dawn"--never heard that before--and it might have been worth it to attend the Y if I got to hear really colorful phrases like that.

MikeP said...

Wow, sister ML:

I think this is the 1st time I ready your blog. Love your writing style and yes, can't help but join the other readers:

Tell us more! tell us more!

Anonymous said...

I was soooo close to going to BYU Idaho when I graduated High School or as they called it back then Rick's Junior College.
I was really wild back then and would have totally gotten kicked out if I had to try and abide by the honor code.
I can't wait for you to tell us the next chapter.
I am a single mom. I had my son when I was 24 and never married. He is 9 now.

Anonymous said...

That was really good SML. You must tell us the rest of the story!

Pete Dunn said...

Yeah, what Danny said... the details were a little glossed over. Maybe some illustrated pictures with a bus and a stone gate would help make your point a little better :)

Sofi said...

You lived in the same dorm as Jack Weyland's son? I am so jealous. I lived for Charly & Sam.

This is a fantastic post!

Cele said...

Lisa, great post. It sounds like you went to a college full of minister's sons. I see an overwhelming demand for the next installment. I want to know how your parents dealth with it. I know how mine did, and I was married, they weren't Mormon, and I didn't listen. Thank heavens.

Sideon said...

"Butt crack of dawn" - understand that since my middle name is Don, that the phrase has always made me chuckle :)

Incredible post, SML. You went above and beyond Fiddley's tag. As the others mentioned - more More MORE!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

BR, ask what you really want to ask. Obviously I'm not shy.

Sumwun, welcome! I'll be checking out your blog as soon as I can. You should know I left out juicy details because Mr. SML reads my blog, and my son knows of my blog too (the product of my relationship w/ the Speaker Guy). I'm becoming proficient at hints and gloss-overs.

FFG, hi! Thanks for the compliment...I thought about the subject Pete assigned for a whole day before I was ready to dive in. Yeah, it's fun to be 34 I guess. Right?

Christy, I don't know about "amazing," but maybe I'll give more. I'll have to think about it.

Montchan, I need to hear about your 2 weeks. I DEMAND to hear more! Oh, wait, you already said that! he he he

Genilimaa, too funny. I'm glad you liked that part of my story too. You could have cut the air with a knife when I let fly with my swear word. It was priceless. And about watching me in my kitchen...sounds great. Although I'm much more fun anywhere but in a kitchen.

As for the baby, he's now taller than me, and he knows about this blog, therefore TMI details will never be forthcoming here. I'll save those for when we're sitting in my kitchen! :) He was 8 months old when I married Mr. SML.

Holly, welcome! You will want to try using "the butt crack of dawn" soon. It's always gotten me great reactions.

Mike P, Good to see you here! I'm glad you like my writing, feel free to stop by often. I'll check your blog out asap too. And I may post a continuing story soon....

Rachel, welcome! Your story sounds highly intersting too. I'm going to have to check out your blog too. Why don't I have more time?!?! I admire you for raising your kid alone. Not an easy decision to make, is it?

Simeon, I love your stories as well, so glad I could return the favor!

Pete, a word of advice: Don't call on me to write about a subject OF YOUR CHOICE and then tell me how I could've done it better. Sheesh! :) And now you know why I don't do details, even if I want to.

Sofi, I loved those books too. His son was an arrogant prick. He was riding his dad's fame like an ass. Thank GAWD he didn't go for me, who knows what might've happened?? And thanks for the compliment.

Cele, if I do a follow up post, I'll explain about my parents too. It took me a couple months just to tell them I was pregnant.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Sideon, I never thought of it that way! I can imagine that would "crack you up!"

I don't know about above and beyond, but I've been thinking of doing some better posts lately and just haven't had the time. Pete gave me the impetus to raise the bar a little. And now the cries for MORE have me drafting another in my mind even as we speak....:)

Sideon said...

More is better, unless we're talking about porn stars - and then the reality of too much of a good thing is potentially a bad thing.

Jer said...

You certainly hit on something with this post, SML.

Christy had mentioned what it was about earlier today and it sounded great but the emotion your writing evoked in everyone is pretty amazing.

Great job, you work as well with words as you do pencils and paint.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Jer, thanks so much. Praise coming from another artist is heady stuff for me, indeed.

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Excellent! Loved this post! Having grown up in the shadow of BYU, I saw lots and lots of Honor Code violations in my day. What amazes me is how Orwellian Utah County is. Your story about swearing in the kitchen and the stunned, tense silence was classic! Classic!

I grew up around a grandfather who swore like a sailor, so cursing wasn't out of the norm for me. Of course, as a kid, we weren't allowed to swear, but we used all the slang swear words (heck, dang, shoot, fetch, etc.) One day, I was babysitting for a family down the street and I said something like, "Dang, I need to change the baby." The oldest child--may 9 at the time--gasped and said, "You just SWORE! I'm going to tell my mommy when she gets home." I was astonished! I remember thinking "What the fetch?!" I don't think I ever babysat for them again.

Anonymous said...

And you call yourself Sister Mary Lisa? I am shocked, I tell you! Shocked! ;)

Great story and great writing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and this: " I discovered quickly that once you pass a certain point physically in a relationship, it's impossible to revert back and not go as far. So our dating quickly became physical to the point of heavy petting, rubbing, and even some nudity. He was a returned missionary, and we both felt terribly guilty for what we were doing (all the time). Eventually he went to his bishop ... to repent," sounds really familiar. But we didn't break up...ever. That's the "worst" thing I ever did at BYU.

And happy holidays to you too.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Although I knew most details of this story, I can't help but feel like I was reading one of the books you or Mom used as an "escape" prior to you taking up art once again! My Pavlovian instinct was to speed to the "good parts" until I remembered I was reading about my little sister!! SHUDDER!!! HaHa!

As for your potty mouth. I believe it was your Utah County assimilation that helped you break your little news to me:
Lisa: "oh my HECK eric! you are a crack up!"
Eric: "Wow! Did you just say OH-MY-HECK! Utah has made you so Molly!"
Lisa: "What do you mean by that?"
Eric: "NO ONE says oh my heck unless you are totally Molly! You're just so - GOOD!"
Lisa: "You don't know me that well"
Eric: "Pshaaaa, NO ONE knows you better than me."
Lisa voice starting to shake: "Eric, I'm not THAT good."
Eric, confused by the sudden change of tone: "Whatever Lisa, you're the most Molly - EVER!" Desperately trying to lighten the mood.
Lisa: "No Eric, you don't know but I'm not good like you think."
Eric: "Why? What makes you not good?"
Lisa: "I've done things?"
Eric: "Ummm, WHAT kind of things?"
Lisa: "The WORST thing you CAN do Bwwwaaaah!" "And I think I'm pregnant."
Eric: "Ohh, Lisa. It's going to be alright."

Anonymous said...

PS. It was alright. See, big brothers always know best. :)

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Damn, Eric. Now I'll have to cut and paste our conversation from your comment when I write my continuing saga here!

You crack me up so hard. And yes, it did turn out all right.

For the record, I always let you think you always know best. It's why you love me.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Janet, your story is hilarious. I love it when kids try to tell me today that I've said a naughty word, like when I tell my kid "Shut UP! They said that???" and I hear my nephew say, "We don't say that.. It's a bad word."


From the Ashes, I'm glad your fun from BYU continues! Good for you. I wasn't completely forthcoming, either. Nudity included some other stuff that was totally repent-worthy, but I don't really want to write that stuff in detail for Mr. SML or my teenaged son to read, you know??

aerin said...

Thanks for sharing SML.

We had an honor code at my college as well - but this had much more to do with cheating on tests or using someone else's work.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Yep -i'll be 34 next month. :)

Anonymous said...

That was incredible SML, in fact it was so good I thought for a moment I was in the hot springs with you. And your description of your first experience was perfect.

It seems 34 is a popular age in Outer Blogness as I am 34 for two more months. Conincidence? I think not...

Anonymous said...

The part about you "swearing" in front of the new "sisters" had me cracking up. I can just see that look -- I get it all the time from my wife. :P

When they basically locked you out of your apt, though, that seriously made me wish for them to be bitch-slapped, HARD. I mean, who does that?! Ok, SML's breaking curfew -- letter of the law. Ok, fine, rat her out, whatever. But leave her outside, in the middle of the night, where it's dark, without shelter or security from anyone who might want to do a lot more that a bit of NCMO? That just burns me. What kind of a person does that?!

Molly The Mormon said...

Shame on you. Your roommates had every right to leave you out there to teach you a valuable lesson. The honor code is not something to be trifled with. You should have lost your life before venturing outside that chalk circle. You would be far better off in the hereafter with Joseph Smith, having saved your chastity, than here on earth for a few tainted moments of artificial bliss.

You owe your roommates a debt of gratitude for holding to the rod.

No Sunbeam points for you !!


Molly the Mormon

Sister Mary Lisa said...

aerin, welcome. Honor codes at BYU are meant to help everyone live up to their standard. Sucks.

AZ Ex, I'm glad you enjoyed the hot springs part too. It was pretty fun. Remind us when your birthday rolls around, we'll have a blog party for you.

Mattman, you are a knight in shining armor! Trust me, though, these girls just weren't worth it. If they had been, I'd have kicked ass myself. As it was, they all denied hearing any phone or kicking down of the door. Bitches.

Molly, you need to get yourself a few tainted moments of artificial bliss! It will change your life, trust me. Holding to the rod is an excellent start. Just don't hold too hard. That can cause injury to your beloved.

C.L. Hanson said...

Well, I mostly kept #7, but I can't promise anything for the others...

This isn't exactly the list they had when I was there -- they keep changing the rules!!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, for those delusional days at the Y.

The Honor Code was great for other things than promoting unprotected sex -- like making me go and buy a razor at the book store to shave my shadow before I could register for classes.

I can't tell you the nostalgia it created in me to have you recount my favorite break up strategy while at the Y -- make out like crazy and as soon as the girl got clingy, pretend guilt and inability to control my testosterone and the repentance driven necessity that we break up. It was almost as effective as the end of semester.

Liseysmom said...

Hey, we were at BYU at the same time. Sheesh I wish I'd known you then. I spent most of my time feeling totally alone and outcast from my uber-TBM roomies (with a few exceptions that I remain friends with to this day.)

Anyway, I understood so much of this. I LIVED so much of this.

Anonymous said...

This was great. I want to hear more. I also spent a few semesters at BYU... I skipped the "honor code" sermon because I was so shy. But I realized very quickly that BYU had a real gestapo program going. Did your roommates tell on you? In the 1980's, roommates were encouraged to tell their roommates violations.

Anonymous said...

Hey SML, it took me a while to read this, but good work! Of course, I knew a bit of the story already.

After I converted, I applied to BYU. I am SO glad they rejected me so I could go somewhere else. I did get a taste of uber-prissy Mormon young adulthood, though, when LB and I were at the Boise State U Institute. I remember vividly how much I had to keep myself from despising the prudish little self-absorbed brats surrounding me. Ugh.

At least you had better taste.

kitten said...

My goodness gracious what an awesome story! I can barely remember what some things were like then much less remember the stank of sulfer on my clothes! How do you recall all of that? Hrmmm perhaps being (nearly) 38 I have passed that age where it's important to remember every detail of my terribly angst filled teenage life? Or maybe I never gave a shit? Anywho, I applaud your literary skills! You need to put this stuff in a book. Seriously!

Anonymous said...

Guy from Chile?


What is it with american women and latin men? Good story though.
By the way, those roommates of yours really needed another large latin man to chill out a bit!


Karma said...

I love this post, the whole thing is great... I really could imagine the whole scenario! woosh!

Wish I knew then what I know now said...

I am not surprised that you did the deed with a non-Mormon. Non-Mormon guys in Utah get all of the action they want from Mormon girls. Not all Mormon girls, mind you, but more than enough to keep them busy.

Since going on a mission is mandatory for active LDS men and since having (too much) sex can reduce the chance of a young man getting a mission call, Mormon men/boys have more pressure to abstain from sex than LDS women/girls do.

As a result, the supply of Mormon women/girls wanting sex exceeds the demand of Mormon men/boys wanting sex. Non-Mormon guys step in to balance supply and demand.