Saturday, November 22, 2014

no life in Idaho, which lends itself to bizarre rumors

This is a reasonable representation of an Idaho couple. I had to search hard to find the male half of the couple without a moustache, as Mormons, which many Idahoans consider themselves,  don't look favorably upon facial hair.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this except that I'm having a little trouble sleeping. We're getting the week off, so matthew and I are driving home tomorrow. Since it's just for a week, I'll let Matthew drive and I'll share my parents' cars when I need transportation. For Christmas, Matthew and I will each take out own cars home because we'll want the freedom of coming and going as we please.

Anyway, the story I'm sharing is about my Aunt Colleen. She's my mom's oldest sister. She is, paradoxically enough, a Mormon. She's the only Mormon on my mom's side of the family. Aunt Colleen converted after she married  my Uncle Douglas, whose family had converted just before he was born.  the two of the were married for about thirteen years before my Aunt joined the LDS church, primarily because my aunt wouldn't even consider converting until the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood of the church was lifted in 1978.

Aunt Colleen and Uncle Douglas are roughly as liberal as true-believing Mormons go. They've never tried to convert my mom, to reconvert my dad, or have never taken subversive steps to indoctrinate Matthew or me. I believe they're still registered democrats, which is an anomaly in and of itself. They're not liberal to the extent that they grow their own (of anything in the backyard, or that they travel in a fried out combie, and they more or less look like mormons, although Aunt colleen lost the0 bullet-proof-hair look shortly after her senior pictuire was taken in 1963.

During the year when my mom was the most ill with leukemia, Aunt Colleen took care of Matthew and me for the summer. She wanted to keep us there for the fall. In restrospect, my parents should have accepted the hospitality on our behalf, because that fall was the time we had the infamous relative-of-a-relative babysitter who practically allowed me to starve myself to death (I was, under this babysitter's lack of supervision, as an almost-six-year-old, conducting my own scientific study concerning whether or not the human body could sustain itself on candy alone, with the primary flaw to the study being that eventually even candy lost its appeal to me;  since no meals were neing prepared,  for all intents and purposes, stopped eating)and wh sent Matthew and me to school most days wearing the clothing we had slept in. the babysitter spent a lot of time sleeping, watching soap operas, and speaking by long distance (before cell phones were quite so ubiquitous) with her boyyyfriend who was serving on an lDS mission For the record, LDS missionaries are not supposed to speak via telephone to their girlfriends, but there are ways around every rule and individuals who are willing to resort to those ways in order to break  said rules.

Aunt Colleen was a voice major in college.  She continued her studies while traching snd, once she was married, while her children (of which she has four) were young in order to eventually end up with a doctorate in vocal performance from Northwestern. She now is a music professor at a unioversity in Idaho. for her level of talent and qualifications, she would probably be considered underemployed, but her work opportunities are limited geographically by her husband's medical practice.Hence she's stuck teaching voice at a university in Idaho though her talent and qualifications would allow her to teach amost anywhere.

At the university in Idaho at which she is a professor of music, not much hapens by way if student social life. I'm sure the usual conjugations and occasional drinking and recreational drug use happen despite the dominant religion of the region being pervasive, but as university life goes, students peesumably spend a great deal of time involved in such activities as waiting for the UPS truck to arrive and watching the grass grow. I'm speaking of literal grass -- the kind that most of us use to create lawns -- but the students
there may own ultraviolet lights so that they may watch another kind of grass grow as well for all I know, but I'm only surmising. An environment so lacking in stimulation or legitimate culture  (culture in this ) meaning availability of art, music, theatre, etc., as opposed to a local way of life is only a few very short steps from siblings  breeding with one another and the like.
Anyway, daily activity is so lacking in ordinary stimulation that the student body takes a keen interest in the lives of faculty members. First of all, the lives of these faculty members are not the stuff with which tabloids are filled. 
This is Idaho.  I doubt that there is as much as a single faculty member with a hot tub who uses it au naturale.
People there in general, and university faculty in particular, do not, as far as anyone actually knows, engage in activities that any sane individual would care enough about what these people are doing even to give thought to it, much less to exchange gossip about it.  The place is dull, and the people populating the place are even less exciting.

Imagine, then, the surprise that faced my aunt when she received an anonymous letter, presumably from a student, advising my aunt that it had become known among students that she, my aunt, had suffered a case of AIDS at the age of seventeen.

My aunt is sixty-three, which would have placed her, depending upon the time of the year,  at the age of seventeen or so in 1968.  Retroactive research indicates that the very first case of AIDS appeared in the United States in 1968, and was traced to a particular individual, who was not my Aunt Colleen.

Furthermore, had my aunt contracted AIDS in 1968, the diagnosis would have amounted to a death sentence. Short of divine intervention, my aunt wouldn't be teaching vocal performance or anything else, or at least not in Idaho or anywhere else on Earth.

This story might have been newsworthy had there been the slightest truth to it if only because my aunt would have been the first known individual to have survived Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. How my aunt might have acquired this virus would, one would presume, be somewhere between boring and irrelevant. It probably would have required immaculate conception, except that I don't think you actually call something conception when it's a virus being transmitted as opposed to a child being conceived. I can't know for certain if she had sex before she was married, and I don't really care, but neither should any of the students at her university, and furthermore, the word on the street was that she lived the life of a nun before she was married.

The saddest thing about this is that the university in question isn't even BYU. It's a poublicly owned school, where any sex that is legal by government standards, as in presumably anything between consenting adults (she lived in New York at the time, where the age of consent was seventeen, if that matters) is of no consequence in regard to university staff members or to anyone else past the age of consent. 

Why would any college student care who or what his or her sixty-three year-old professor slept with, and what were the consequences of said conjugal incident? 

For the record, my aunt thinks it's hysterically funny. She thinks her bishop will probablty eventually get wind of the story and will call her in for questioning, at which point she plans to laugh in his face.  My uncle was upset about the rumor until he found out that it didn't upset my aunt, so he doesn't care anymore, either.

What is it with students in Idaho? Do they have potatoes inside their heads in the spaces ordinarily occupied by brains, or is it mere cultural ignorance causing such idiocy ?
Is it genetic, or does it just happen to anyone who lives there for long enough.

I'm beginning to believe that Napoleon Dynamite -- set in Idaho, in case you'd either forgotten or had never known in the first place  -- had its roots in reality.

that uniquely Idaho look


  1. This reminds me of a story a Mormon told once about his friend who left the LDS Church and ended up OD-ing on marijuana. The naiveté is staggering. I'm glad your aunt thinks it's funny because it IS funny!