Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Oh, Utah! How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. 

by Aaron B
My wife and I are about to celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary. We wanted to go out of town to celebrate, but we've been invited to a wedding in Salt Lake City the weekend before the big day. Thus, we've decided to attend the wedding and celebrate our anniversary during the same weekend, effectively killing two birds with one stone. But what this means is we'll be celebrating our anniversary .... in Utah! Ugh! We don't really have any immediate family there, so it isn't an obvious destination for us. We haven't been back in years (O.K., we drove through once two years ago). We pride ourselves on not ever setting foot in that "cultural wasteland." Our sense of identity and self-worth is largely a product of our being able to make snide remarks about that place. How will we answer the question "What did you do for your 5-year Anniversary?" without hanging our heads in shame?

I jest, of course, but not completely. The truth is, my wife and I have been making jokes about this all week, and this has got me wondering: Why do I hate Utah so much? Or perhaps an even better question: Do I really hate Utah at all, or is it just something I've become so used to saying that I don't even think about it anymore? Is my Utah-bashing just a knee-jerk habit formed during my BYU sojourn all those years ago? Is it the product of any legitimate gripes, or is it just a tired, trendy "issue" that I have? (Remember in highschool when the only thing "trendier" than listening to Top 40 music was ... NOT listening to Top 40 music? Same kind of thing, perhaps?) Let's brainstorm together, folks:

1. Utah is very beautiful in parts, at least outdoors. I do have fond memories of camping at Arches and other assorted places. Nothing to hate about that.

2. Back when I pretended I could snow-ski, I couldn't get enough of Alta and Sundance. Fond memories for sure. I don't ski anymore, and while that's partially because I was never any good, it surely has something to do with the relative let-down that Snow Summit or even Mammoth would be. You gotta love Utah for its snow sports.

3. On the other hand, the urban landscape in virtually all of Utah is a boil on the face of God's green earth. Flying into Salt Lake City, I used to think "this is what Mel Gibson's "Road Warrior" world would have looked like from the air, if it were a bit more populated." O.K., some of the temples are nice architectural specimens, but let's not pretend they make up for the rest of the urban blight.

4. Despite all my bitching and moaning about various aspects of BYU, it's not like I had a bad time of it there in general. Day to day, I actually enjoyed myself most of the time. Do I just like to dwell on the negative?

5. The "people." Ahh, now maybe I'm on to something. Are they really just a bunch of close-minded, insulated, naive simpletons who pronounce "wards" funny and who need to get out of town more often? Does every other Mormon housewife really look and act like an extra from "The Stepford Wives"? Or is this a problem everywhere in the American Church, and it just seems worse in Utah because of the heavier concentration of Mormons there? (Or is the real problem that I'm just a pompous, pretentious, self-righteous pseudo-intellectual with a faux-culturally snobby affectation?)

6. I am a Southern California Mormon from a wealthy L.A. suburb who was raised in a culture that took for granted our "cultural superiority" to those not living on the coasts. (You know the type). So maybe I'm the close-minded one?

7. In all seriousness, is there something about being a member of a majority religion that makes one insensitive, ignorant or just plain "weird" when it comes to one's religious views and interactions with outsiders?

A few days ago, I spoke with a cousin's husband in Provo and let him know that we'd be passing through. I casually made reference to the horror of spending my anniversary there, and then promptly realized that I was talking to a Utah native and resident. He graciously acknowledged that "Utah is for some people and not for others," and I fumbled a "clarification" of my views so as to pull my foot out of my mouth (I don't think it worked). Perhaps I just need some free therapy from all you readers to help me get over my bigotry and appreciate Utah in all its splendor.

Aaron B

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