tithing ring


The time has come for me to do some prophylactic damage control on this blog: namely, I think it’s only a matter of time before my extended Mormon family finds out about it and starts to read, to their unthinkable horror. For all I know, many of them have already been reading for some time (or dropped out after the fifteenth “f-word,” swearing never to return).

I haven’t read the details, but apparently dooce’s Mormon family happened to find her blog and caused all kinds of problems. It’s worse for her because she actually still lives in Utah and thus deals with her family on a daily basis, but the thought of some of my blog entries getting to my 86-year-old Auntie Donna fills me with a peculiar sort of dread.

This summer, my entire nuclear family will be attending our first family reunion in almost 20 years, involving my 41 first cousins, myriads of aunts and uncles, and exactly 100 offspring of my grandma Klea (Lucy is #100). Instead of a wily family member doing some Googling and discovering my thoughts on Christianity and thus spreading the rumor that I am carrying the torch for Lucifer, I just want to get this out of the way right now.

I absolutely adore my extended family. Yes, I find their politics reprehensible and potentially scary. Yes, I don’t like how they perceive homosexuals, and yes, I have deep, deep reservations about their religion. But when I was friendless, alone and borderline-suicidal as a pre-adolescent, the only thing keeping me going was the eventual trip to California to see my cousins Mark, Doug, Jana, Vince, Julie, Michelle and all the rest.


me, my cousin Mark, Sean, 1974

Mark introduced me to O.P. shorts and taught me that scoop move in basketball. Michelle was my partner in crime throughout the crazy mid-80s. My Uncle Steve taught me how to kill flies in one stroke, and how to give a firm handshake. My Aunt Cheryl taught me the ways of absurd humor, while Doug instructed me in fart jokes. His father, my Uncle Chris, is the Buddha of the entire family, the emotional core around which the whole business revolves. And my Auntie Donna is such a wonderful matriarch that she should be a face card in poker.

As I’ve said before, if journalism if the “first draft of history,” blogs are the first draft of your own emotions. The character I play in here is much more angry and profane than anything my extended family has ever seen, and the truth lies somewhere in-between. I have profound respect for the Mormons in my family – but I will probably always use the Lord’s name in vain, traffic in several high-octane swear words, and have some knee-jerk issues with Christianity.

This has always been true, but a blog publishes those thoughts – even the ones I don’t think are accurate fourteen hours later – and makes them infinitely searchable and set in digital stone. This is something I decided to accept when I started this thing, but it will occasionally get me in trouble. I feel as though that trouble might be just around the corner with my extended family. So I hope, no matter what they’ve read, they find their way to this entry.

As such, I am going to do the following: I’m going to try to not make as many blanket statements about people of faith. That blog where I said I flushed pages of the Bible down the toilet? I’m not going to do that sort of thing ever again, and if I do, I won’t tell you about it.

Secondly, my interactions with my greater family will not be used as cute, disdainful blog fodder. I’ve done it a couple of times before (including treatises on Mormon Jello Dessert) but I want them to rest assured that I don’t consider them fools to be ridiculed. They have meant – and still mean – so much more to me than that. They saved my life when I was at my lowest, saved my Mom’s sanity when she had nearly given up, and deserve better.

Thirdly, I will only blog the high points of the family reunion with their permission. The one thing that has always set my family apart from some of the more depressing elements of your average Utah conclave is that they’ve always had an unbelievably good sense of humor. They’re actually funny. I hope when – or if – they come across a particularly alkaline blog entry in these pages, they retain some of that humor and remember that deep inside, there is still a twisted little kid destroying his tennis racquet.

7 thoughts on “tithing ring

  1. Avid Reader

    It’s kind of nice to see the trajectory of someone’s personal growth on a blog, or maybe just of someone’s understanding of the affect he has on others. Well done.

  2. Brigham Young

    Don’t worry Ian, you’ll still get your own planet in the afterlife.
    And I approve of your recent procreation. Lucy is a wonderful girl.

  3. eric g.

    Ian, I share your concern about family/blog fallout. I reached my own private resolution of the issue by granting my mother’s side of the family access, but not my father’s. And when there’s a particularly harrowing topic to be discussed, I start with a disclaimer to my family that it might be a nice day to do that web-based shopping they’ve been putting off instead of reading my blog that day. Gosh, I feel cheated that we don’t get Swingline’s thoughts on all of this. I’m sure they’d be balanced and well-reasoned.

  4. Anne D.

    Yes: the moment of reckoning with the power and reach of the Internet. BTDT…. Almost lost my relationship with my only sibling because of something I’d written some years back and that will float in cyberspace forever.
    I’ve been writing for a living since my early 20s, and it took a dozen years or so for me to get the guts to use the first-person pronoun in anything I published. I came face to face with the agony of needing to write what *I* thought, felt, and remembered, at the risk of offending or hurting people close to me.
    Is there really any way to get the balance right? I doubt it. What we do inherently puts our relationships at risk. I applaud you for trying to walk this tightrope between personal integrity and familial connectivity, Ian, and I hope your voice remains pure and true … if a bit less provocative. :-)

  5. Annie

    I, too, wish we could know more about Swingline’s cyber-relationships with his family members. I bet they really popped some buttons when they saw what he/she wrote about politics!

  6. KTS

    I hope you’re not wimping out because of a family guilt trip.
    “Knee-jerk issues with Christianity?” Knee-jerk? What the fuck? If you think “people of faith” who believe in a “Higher Power” are full of shit, even if they are you’re closest friends and extended relatives, you’d be dishonest if you didn’t say that, at least on your own blog.
    Blanket statements? Everyone uses them all the time!
    What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t say what you really think? And if you use dramatic images to illustrate those thoughts – Holy Floating Jesus, Batman, Straight Down Toilet! – what’s wrong with that?
    OK, so you want to tone it down.
    Many a potential revolutionary/artist has been stopped dead in his tracks, or at least slowed to a miserable crawl, by the fear of horrifying his relatives.

  7. michelle

    I sort of see both KTS’ and Ian’s view on this. I have this feeling that if people don’t want to read my blog, they certainly don’t have to, and if it pains them for whatever reason, they shouldn’t come back. But Ian once asked me if something I was feeling for fifteen seconds (or even, fifteen weeks) is worth hurting someone else, and I see his point.
    I don’t have dooce’s guts- sometimes I read her blog with one hand over my mouth, aghast that her dad might be reading it, too- but there is something cathartic about admitting to your hemorrhoids, your failed love life, your recent conquests, etc. that make blogging worthwhile. It’s a hard line to toe.


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