Mario Stories

The Mormon Dance Card

THE REQUEST: Write about an important lesson you once learned

One of my favorite stories about my teen years came when I was seventeen years old, and I got invited to my very first Mormon Dance. Because that was the night that I learned a very valuable lesson about life. And that very valuable lesson was...

Oh, wait a minute.

Before I get to this one, I guess I should give you a little backstory first. Because with this story, the punchline definitely requires the setup.

My gateway to the Holy Land

So it's the winter of 1992 here, and I'm seventeen years old. And one of the things you need to know about me at seventeen years old was that I was really, really, REALLY close to being a Mormon kid. Like, if you looked up "Seems Like a Mormon Kid" in the encyclopedia back in 1992, you would have seen a picture of me, and I would have been drinking a tall glass of one percent white milk. And I would have for damn heck sure been watching a PG-rated Jim Varney comedy with all of the swear words edited out. THAT'S how straight and narrow and just sort of innocent I was back when I was a teenager.

In fact, let me put it this way for you. When I was seventeen, even Mormon kids would have looked at me and said dang, that kid really needs to let loose. EVEN MORMON KIDS THOUGHT I WAS A LITTLE TOO SQUARE FOR THEM!

Me in my 99.2% Mormon glory

So yeah, in 1992, I was really really close to being a Mormon kid. But the problem was that I actually wasn't even Mormon at all. Everyone just THOUGHT I was.

And this leads us into our story.

When I was a teenager, I played on all the local Mormon sports teams. Baseball, basketball, flag football, you name it. If there was ever a Mormon stake center in the area, and they needed an extra player for a game, they would always call me up and invite me. Well, actually, that's not true. They would actually call up both my brother and me. Dom and I were both pretty good at most sports, so that helped. But what was even MORE important than being good at sports was the fact that neither one of us were known for being big troublemakers. So we weren't going to do anything dumb like start a fight in the middle of a game, or get called for a technical foul. Or (this was always the big one) say a swear word inside of a church. THAT was the real reason why we always got invited.

Basically, we got invited because you could pass both Dom and me off as Mormons, and no one would know. We were essentially just LDS sports ringers.

Here we are pretending to be Mormon before a big regional basketball game

And I bet you're sitting there now wondering, hey, if this is a story about sports, how is this going to turn into a lesson that you learned at a dance? Where are you going with this one?

Well here's where the story is about to get fun. :)

So Dom and I played on Mormon sports teams all the time when we were teenagers. And I mean ALL. THE. TIME. We were ALWAYS the big ringers. To the extent that, eventually, the head LDS Bishop came over to us one day, and he tried to convert us. He pointed out, "Hey guys, if you're playing on our teams every week, you should really start coming to services every once in a while. It would only be fair." He basically tried to talk us into joining the church.

Side note: To be honest, I didn't have a problem with becoming a Mormon. If push came to shove, I probably would have gone along with the idea. I probably would have gone to church every once in a while, just so I could keep playing on their teams. I mean, hell heck, it didn't matter to me what religion I was when I was seventeen. I just liked having kids in the area to play sports with.

So no, I didn't have a problem with becoming a Mormon.

But my mom...

Well, uh... let's just say... she DID have a problem with it.

And you know, I guess I should have mentioned this fact a little earlier in the story. My mom was very very protective of her sons. And she was also very very VERY VERY VERY old school and Lutheran. To the extent that her father (my grandfather) had once been the President of the Lutheran Church. And when you're the daughter of the President of the Lutheran Church, lemme just say this. That makes you pretty darn Lutheran yourself. So when my mom heard that an LDS bishop was out there talking to her sons, and he was trying to convert us, um, let's just say she was NOT happy.

In fact, I believe my mom's exact words were "Tell him to come over to our house and try that, so I can shove my foot up his ass. He needs to stay the hell away from my kids."

So anyway, no. I was not going to attend Mormon church.

My mom. Nicest person in the world.
But you also didn't want to fuck heck with her.

BUT! There's a silver lining here. Because this is where we get into this being a story about a dance.

The bishop, god bless him, he didn't give up on us. Because he REALLY wanted Dom and me to be a part of his church. I mean, after all, that's sort of what missionaries do, right? They are always out there passively recruiting. And this is where he found a cute little workaround to go over the head of my mom. And I have to say that... looking back at it now, in retrospect, thirty years later... this was actually a pretty slick little move.

What he did was he lured us in with a chance to meet girls. He invited us to an upcoming Mormon Dance.

And so yes, here comes one of my greatest stories of all time.


Not my actual Mormon Dance Card, but close

Now, I don't know if this is standard for Mormon churches in every area, but the way it worked in Bellevue in 1992 was, if you wanted to attend a Mormon dance, and you were a boy, and you wanted to be within touching proximity of cute innocent Mormon girls, the church leaders had to sit down and interview you first. They basically wanted to meet you ahead of time, and talk to you, and size you up, and get to know who you were. And basically... you know... make sure you weren't going to walk into that dance, and the minute you got in there, you weren't going to just whip it out, and turn the whole thing into a big giant fuck heck orgy.

Basically, they wanted to make sure you were an upstanding young man, and that you weren't going to get all grindy and handsy.

Side note: For years, I believed that Dom and I had been selected for these interviews because we were the only two boys at the dance who weren't going to be Mormon. So I assumed these interviews were the leaders just sort of singling us out. But about fifteen years later, I found out that EVERYONE at that dance had to be interviewed first, whether they were actually Mormon or not. I know this because I was friends with the bishop's daughter, Colleen, and she explained to me once how it worked. She told me, "I mean, even I had to go through an interview, and the guy who was interviewing me was my DAD! It was a new process they had just introduced for dances, and I just thought the whole thing was so dumb. I'd been going to dances for years, why do I suddenly have to be interviewed?"

Side note #2: I once asked Colleen if she was surprised that I had passed my Mormon purity interview with her dad. And she just laughed at me. "Oh no, I knew you at seventeen, I had no doubt you would pass." P.S. One day I'd like that sentence engraved on my tombstone.

So anyway...

One night, my brother and I had to go in and do an interview with the Bishop of the Mormon church. And, if I recall correctly, also a couple of his sidekicks. To see if we were worthy of being allowed within five feet of their most precious commodity in the world, cute blonde teenage unmarried Mormon girls. I remember my interview was first, and then Dom's was right afterwards. And if you're curious, here's how a Mormon dance interview goes.

No one expects the Mormon Inquisition

I don't remember the questions they asked me, specifically, but I'll give you the Cliff's notes version of how I vaguely remember it going.

Do you believe in premarital sex? No.
Are you sexually active now? lol
Do you drink alcohol? No.
Never? No, not even once.
Would you drink alcohol if it were offered to you? No, I don't want it.
Why not? Because drinking is stupid.
Would you have sex if a girl asked you to? No.
Why not? Because a girl wouldn't ask me to.
What if she did? I would worry about her tastes in men.
Are you religious? Yes.
What church do you belong to? A couple of them.
Would you be interested in coming to Mormon services? Clear it with my mom first, and then maybe we'll talk.
Can you be trusted around girls? Of course.
Can WE trust you around girls? Yes, of course.
Have you ever been to a dance before? Yes, twice, but I sort of just sat there.
Have you ever broken the law? No.

I remember there were three guys conducting the interview (the Bishop and then also his two sidekicks.) And they just kept hammering away at me, trying to figure out if I could be trusted around girls. And what I thought about marriage. And if my parents were married. And what I thought about sex. And if Dale Murphy really was the greatest MLB player of the eighties. I basically got hit with everything. And at the end of the interview, they were just sort of dumbfounded. Because it was clear as day that I was as Mormon as any of the actual Mormon kids. Try as they might, they couldn't find a single thing wrong with me.

"Well I guess that's that," said the bishop, looking surprised. "I have to say, young man, I am very impressed." He stood up to shake my hand. "Your parents must be very proud of you."

"They are, sir," I said, in my best Eddie Haskell impression. "And I have to say I'm impressed with this process, too. I think it's good that you know who is coming to your dance."

And anyway, that's how I got my hands on an elusive and coveted MORMON DANCE CARD. I was now fully approved (literally by the church!) to get within five feet of Mormon girls, and actually slow dance with them. I felt like I was a god.

I was now an honorary Mormon!

Important Side note: That Mormon Dance Card was the greatest conversation piece. I kept it in my wallet for YEARS. And people ALWAYS wanted to see it. The minute I told them this story, they always had me whip it out to prove the story was real. So I did, and they were always just as impressed as the bishop had been. Holy shit, Mario really DOES hold a Mormon Dance Card. He really IS pure enough to be allowed to slow dance with Mormons.

Important Side note #2: Although sadly, the card was lost at some point in the early 2000s. I don't remember where or when it got lost, but I assume it was when we were moving from Seattle down to Southern California. At some point during the move, some of my personal items got lost in the shipping. And sadly, my beloved Mormon Dance Card was one of the casualties. :(

"Or maybe I just threw it out. Who knows? Be a real shame if that thing disappeared."

And with that, we can now wrap up this story, and get to the final punchline. Because remember, this is supposed to be a story of an important lesson that I once learned about girls.

So my brother and I both got our Mormon Dance Cards. And we both attended our very first Mormon dance, in the winter of 1992. And going into the dance, I was SURE that we were going to be overrun by this incredible nonstop onslaught of female attention all night. I mean, not to be blunt, but even at that age, I knew enough about the LDS church to know that... if you're a seventeen year old Mormon girl, and you're not married yet... you're already sort of in a race against time. I mean, you see two new guys at a dance who you have never actually noticed before, and you're seventeen years old, you're definitely going to be curious about them. So I had EVERY expectation that my brother and I were just going to be surrounded all night by all these beautiful girls.

And you know what? That's not the way that it played out at ALL.

Here is EVERY interaction I had with a girl the night of my very first Mormon dance.

[Some girl sees me, and is curious about me, so she walks over to talk to me.]

Girl: Hi! I'm Hope/Faith/Chastity! Want to dance?
Me: Hi, I'm Mario. Sure!
[We start dancing]
Girl: So what stake do you belong to?
Me: Oh, I'm not Mormon.
[She immediately ends the dance, and walks away]
Hope/Faith/Chastity: Bye!

And again, here's the important lesson that I learned that night. Keep this in mind, because this is a good thing to know if you're a young man. Unless you're a Mormon boy, don't even THINK you're ever gonna hook up with a Mormon girl. It's just not gonna happen. They don't want shit-all heck-all to do with you unless you're also a Mormon.

And that's why this was not only my first Mormon dance, it was also my LAST Mormon dance.

My beloved Mormon Dance Card only got one use out of it. :(

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