Two years ago, I packed up and left my home state of Utah for the city of angels. My Mormonism has astounded and confused people since the day I got here.
On the outside, I am a typical career woman working in Los Angeles. Blonde hair. Brown eyes. Average height. Love handles.
On the inside I am an alcohol-void, prayer-minded Mormon girl who loves what she does but would secretly maybe rather settle down with a handsome man and have babies.
While I’ve met some good friends here, it’s tough to ever feel like I completely click with anyone outside my Mormon circle. People are cool to me. They like me. But I’m never just Rebbie. I’m Rebbie, the Mormon. It’s like there’s an asterisk floating perpetually above my head.
As a copywriter at an advertising agency, I work in a partnership with an Art Director (If you watch Mad Men, you get what I’m talking about). You spend all day every day with your partner. You go to lunch and brainstorm. You spend hours waiting for feedback. You spend nights iChatting from home about ideas that are due the next morning. Love or hate each other, you will be spending every waking hour together.
In March, I got assigned a new partner. My new partner is a lesbian.
Nine words I never thought I’d say: I’m a Mormon. And I have a lesbian partner.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? If you know much of anything about the Mormon Church and the gay community, let’s just say we have a bit of a history—one that’s unfortunately been a little rough for both parties. When Kim told me she was gay, I geared up for the worst. I pictured my asterisk swelling to death star proportions. It’s not that I’m homophobic. It’s just that when my religion had sometimes felt like a bit of a barrier between me and my other co-workers, I could only imagine that it would be the Berlin Wall between she and I.
Happily, I was dead wrong. Kim and I clicked better and more instantly than any partner I’ve worked with. After three days of working together, we sold a campaign for a TV commercial to a new client. Three weeks later we were in Austin on a shoot.
At the end of ten 15-hour shoot days we discovered the reason why two women with seemingly opposing lifestyles had developed such an effortless friendship: We both have big asterisks.
We both have to deal with “coming out” to everyone we meet.
We both have awkwardly small dating pools.
We both have had to get used to the fact that some people will never understand or accept us.
I won’t pretend we don’t sometimes wish our asterisks were a little smaller. Neither of us could tell you it isn’t frustrating to have to earn your way out from underneath a label. But it also makes it easier to not care about stuff that doesn’t matter. Because when “fitting in” isn’t an option, you quit wasting your effort trying to.
I think people often assume that my religion will make me closed minded or unable to relate to people who are different than me. But as a Mormon you constantly feel different. Different is all we know. I see no reason why your different and my different should mean we can’t get along. And the fact that Kim has become one of my most trusted friends is proof.
We help each other survive the rollercoaster that is our job. We text each other pictures from the Target dressing room seeking fashion advice. We may or may not have written a jingle for ourselves. We’re like a modern remake of the Fox and the Hound, only with a happier ending.
Kim and I have different beliefs, and we live different lifestyles. Lifestyles neither of us plan on changing. But our experience of being “different” has been the same. It’s allowed us the ability to overlook any judgment or assumptions we might have had, and to treat each other as what we really are—two women who are passionate about what we do, care deeply about being forces for good, and believe we can change the world, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
The truth is, everyone has an asterisk. Some of ours are just a little bigger than others. It took me a while to learn that while mine sticks out like a sore thumb, it makes me uniquely able to empathize with all the asterisks around me. It also took me a few tries to learn that saying the words “my partner is a lesbian” will confuse your friends and scare your mother.
Yes, my asterisk has cost me lots of cool factor. (Something you can only understand if you’ve said the words, “I’ll take a Shirley Temple” at age 25.) But it’s also allowed a friendship that has made the last ten months the absolute best of my very illustrious, two-and-a-half year career. It’s reminded me why I’m happy with me. I don’t care to be anyone’s version of cool but my own. And for that, I love my big asterisk.