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(numbers added by me for reference)
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
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?