Valentine's Shmalentine's.

Mrs G told us to split up into three groups.  "You guys have one hour," she said.  "In your group, come up with a creative way to present the idea of Valentine's Day to the rest of us."

I was group up with Kam, Rika, and Amanda.  As the lone male in our group, Kam instantly came up with an idea.

"Let's have a foursome."


"Not like a real foursome.  Like, a foursome of rhetoric."

He grabbed a pen and started jotting down notes while the other girls and I read over his shoulder.  "It's Valentine's, and as you see, the thing these ladies love is me..." it began.  What formed over the next twenty minutes was basically an ode to Kam's own awesome masculinity.  The other girls and I were each given a couple of lines to recite, and with a half-hour left to go we finished planning our presentation and just started chatting.

The clock ticked by, and eventually Mrs G asked another group to start.  I'm sure they did something amusing, but I can't remember what it is.  The second group was likewise forgettable.  As they were finishing up, though, I looked around and realized Kam wasn't in the room.

Mrs G called our group up.  "We need just a minute, I think Kam's in the bathroom," I said.

"No, I'm here, go ahead and start," came a muffled voice.  All eyes turned toward a large orange cabinet in the back of the room, one that normally housed textbooks but was presently empty except, apparently, for Kam.

"Kam, what are you doing?"

"Trust me, just go up front and I'll join you.  It'll be awesome."

With confused looks at each other, the other girls and I took our places at the front of the classroom.  Everyone else looked just as perplexed as I felt as I said my first line.  "What's the matter, Amanda?"

"Oh, it's Valentine's Day," she moaned.  "I hate Valentine's Day."

"Me, too," chimed in Rika.  "If only I had the perfect boyfriend."

*Dramatic collective sigh.*

"It's Valentine's, and as you see," came Kam's muffled voice from the cabinet, "the thing these ladies love-"

The cabinet door swung open and Kam stepped out, looking quite dashing in a red tie.

Also his tighty-whities.

Also one sock.

Three guesses where the other sock was.

"- is me."

He sashayed up to the front of the room, whipped around, and just took a moment to let us all admire him and his near-nakedness.  Then we finished the poem, the three girls taking turns stroking various parts of Kam's body as he rhymed about how perfect he was.

We were Vanna White, and his body was covered in vowels.

This was hardly the first time Kam had stripped down during class, and it wouldn't be the last.  But it was by far the funniest.

A few years later, up at the U, I decided to pop into the food court between classes for quick bite.  It was lunchtime, and the room was crowded.  I finally spotted what appeared to be an empty table next to a pillar, but as I walked around to it I realized there was some guy sitting there.

Too tired and hungry to search for an alternative, I boldy (for me) asked if I could take the empty seat across from him.  He said sure.  He continued eating and reading his book, and I started on my sandwich.  About three minutes later we both realized that we were sitting across from someone we knew.


"I thought that was you, but I didn't think you recognized me!"

We got to chatting, catching up on the highlights of each other's lives since we parted in high school.  We shared a few laughs, reminisced a bit, had some fun.  He flattered me by saying he still occasionally thought about some story I had written back in our LitMag days, and I told him that every now and then a poem he wrote called "Chair" would pop into my head and make me chuckle.

It was a good time, and highly unfortunate that we each had to rush out to our respective classes after only about a half-hour.  We said good-bye without making false promises that we would get together soon, because I think we both knew our impromptu lunch date was a chance encounter that wasn't likely to repeat.

It wasn't until I was walking to class later that I realized it was Valentine's Day.



My dad is a notorious teaser.  In my younger days, he would spin yarns to wrap around my siblings and I, and would never back down when we insisted that he was lying.  It seemed like he simply derived great pleasure out of tormenting his children, seeing us squirm uncomfortably as we tried to reconcile our my-dad-is-a-superhero instincts with our my-dad-is-a-liar reality.

"See this scar?" he'd say, pointing to a thick strip of shiny pink on his chest.  "That's from when I was out in the woods with my dad and I got attacked by a werewolf.  I used to have an 'outie' belly button, too, but the werewolf bit it off."

"Nu-uh, Dad!  Quit teasing!"

"I'm McGyver," he'd insist every week as my family gathered around the TV.  "It's based on my life.  Back before I met your mom I was a secret agent."

"Nu-uh!  You were not!  Mom, make Dad stop teasing!"

No matter how much we protested, no matter how loudly we groaned, he never changed his stories.  He got such a kick out of us becoming frustrated or angry with him.  When we would admonish him for lying, his response was always the same.  "I'm bigger than you, I'm stronger than you, and goshdarn it, I'm better-looking than you, too."

When I was a teenager, I loathed my father for being a self-described Jack-Mormon.  I was trying so hard to believe in the church myself, and I was certain he was feeding me doubts just to torment me.

One morning before church, he pulled out a little laminated card from his scripture case and showed it to me.  It was a chart documenting all the discrepencies between his pre-1981 edition of the Book of Mormon and my own set.  He had made it himself.

Another time he tried to explain the Adam-God doctrine to me.  "Brigham Young taught it," he told me.


"He did," he insisted.  "Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but the church doesn't teach it anymore.  Now they say that he never taught that at all."

"Yeah, sure Dad, and you're McGyver."

For many years beyond teenagerhood, when I was still trying so hard to become someone I wasn't, I carried resentment for my dad.  All those times I read the Book of Mormon and felt nothing, all those times I prayed and felt nothing, all those times I listened to other people gush about how they could "feel the spirit" in the room with us and I felt nothing, a part of me blamed Dad for planting those seeds of doubt.  If he wasn't so stubborn, if he would just be a good card-carrying priesthood holder like he was supposed to be, then I would surely have a testimony!  I would surely stop feeling so worthless and guilty and evil for not having enough faith.

I would see the relationships my friends had with their fathers, and compared to my own it seemed like something straight out of Full House.  Their dads were so protective of them, their dads doted on them, their dads were like knights in shining armor who wanting nothing more than to pamper their little princesses.

My dad, on the other hand, was not what I would call doting.  He would never dream of letting me win if we played a game together.  He didn't believe in letting me have my own way just because I'd pout at him.  He'd rarely ask me questions about my feelings, and opted instead to spend dinnertimes handing out 'quizzes', drilling me with math and physics and logic questions until I refused to play anymore.

For years I harbored the thought that my dad didn't really care about me.  It seemed so unfair to me that he would purposely feed me 'anti-Mormon' thoughts when I was trying so hard to develop a testimony.  I wanted to believe that he was just falling back on his habits of feeding me little lies until I snapped and got angry.  I wanted to believe that he was just argumentative by nature, and wanted to get me riled up so he could have someone to fight with.

When I was young, it simply seemed like he just enjoyed seeing his children suffer.  Looking back now, I know that what he was really doing was teaching us to think for ourselves, to look at things objectively, to not just accept anything one-sided without examining the other possibilities.  He was teaching me to be skeptical and critical and to make informed decisions.  He was teaching me to use my brain.

Maybe not during the "I was attacked by a werewolf" game.  That one was just mean.

My dad and I have never really sat down and talked about my leaving the church.  He's made a couple of comments, asked a couple of questions ("So what do you do on Sundays now?"), but hasn't ever questioned my motives for leaving.  So I can't really say for sure that I think he's proud of me for apostasizing.

But I do think that he would be proud of me for not accepting the church at face value.  I'd like to think he's proud of me for taking the time to look at both sides of the church, and deciding for myself whether or not I think it's true.  If I had stayed in the church, I think he'd feel better knowing that I was doing so because I'd investigated it thoroughly and decided that I did in fact believe in it.

My dad taught me that what I think and how I feel matters more than how everyone else is telling me to think and feel.  He taught me that my doubts, my fears, and my insecurities matter, and that they shouldn't just be brushed under the rug.  In a church that commands uniformity of thoughts, morals, and beliefs, he taught me that my own opinions were just as valuable as anything an "inspired leader" told me.

And I'll take that over him letting me win a game of Crazy 8s any day.