So a lot of you guys have been asking if that's me in the preview for TLC's upcoming special that's going to air tomorrow night. Aaaaannndddd... yeah, it's me. :). I've gotten some questions, so I thought I'd answer all of them here.
Can we just talk for a second about how weird it is to see your face on national television? Bizarro. Literally.
Intro: So, this shot was taken from part of the show where Tom (one of the featured cast members) goes on a blind date. And I'm the blind date. It was filmed about a year ago, in March. I haven't really thought about it a lot since then-- until I found out it in December that it would be airing in January. Here are some of your questions.
Are you a practicing Mormon?
You betcha, baby. :)
Were you hired for this "role"?
No. It never even occurred to me to ask about payment. And there was no "role"-- it was just me going on a date.
Did you know the premise of the show before you went on it?
Nope. All I knew was that it was going to be a reality show focused on Mormon dating, marriage, and relationships. They didn't tell me anything else. Now, I don't know much about marriage, but dating is vexing no matter who you are. Throw being a Mormon into the mix? Well, I thought, that's both more interesting and less interesting since we don't live together or sleep together before marriage... I mean, Mormons aren't exactly a "sexy" group of people, lol.
I also knew that the show would be produced by the same company that produced Long Island Medium (which I'd only heard about, never seen), and that some of the producers had historically held very vocal stances on opposite side of the fence from the Mormon church. I realized this wasn't going to be a "by Mormons, to Mormons" kind of thing-- this was the big leagues of reality TV... which we all know to be a paragon of both truth and accuracy ;).
Still, I figured that Mormon dating and mating habits alone wouldn't be enough fodder for a reality television show. There was going to be a spin. There's always a spin. I just didn't know what it would be.
And all of this made me think more about going on the show. Our Mormon culture, especially as the rest of the world perceives it, is far from perfect. Our members are far from perfect. Very few people I know are oblivious to that. I was aware that reality TV would probably distort those imperfections even more. But we're real people, you know? Mormons are real people. I'm a real, imperfect person, but I also feel like I'm a pretty typical, cultured, balanced twentysomething chick who's trying to do the right thing, make some kind of difference while I'm here, and enjoy life. So I was like-- yeah, I never thought I'dbe on reality TV, but I think I've gotta do this. Stand as a witness, ya know? Even in this strange way.
Plus, I've never been one to turn down a blind date. :) You really never know what could happen.
That's why I decided to go on the show.
What did you know about the Tom before filming?
I was told that Tom was a great person, very funny, in his thirties, and a high school basketball coach. He is, in fact, all of those things.
Was the date even fun, or were you uncomfortable the whole time?
Surprisingly, yes, the date was fun. Weird, but fun. Tom is really smart and has a dry sense of humor. Bantering with him came naturally. You know that the editors are going to crop and decontextualize what you say to fit the story, but I didn't feel too weird about any conversations except when they asked to me to repeat what I had said or interrupt us to adjust us for camera angles. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was definitely one of the strangest dates I've ever been on, but not because of the company.
While we were eating, there were crew members lying on the ground behind couches and cameras just hovering around (but you couldn't look at them). They asked us to repeat conversations a couple of times, and then asked us to stop talking and shove food around on our plates in silence for a minute. That was probably the most awkward and part. I had to work really hard then to suppress my laughter-- and the silence just made it worse. Also getting flowers was a little weird. I've never gotten flowers on a blind first date. Holding the flowers later was even more awkward. (see picture)
Do you like watching reality TV? Is that why you went on the show?
No. I don't really ever watch TV in general...except for this season of The Bachelor, because it's a social tradition and I've got a fantasy team I'm rooting for.
Were you mad that you didn't know the premise of the show before you went on it?
No. If nothing else, my not knowing probably was more true to life than anything else about the special-- we don't reveal the deepest parts of ourselves to other people upfront, you know? So no, I didn't feel tricked.
What was your reaction when Tom told you he was attracted to other men?
Probably not the one you'll see stitched on the show. They had us do that take a couple of times. I mean, you have to remember that during the entire date, I was trying to figure out what could justify a reality TV show about these three seemingly normal LDS couples and their single friend.
So when Tom said he was SSA (same-sex attracted), I think it was more like "aha," than "gasp! I can't believe it." I was a little surprised, but I never thought anything akin to "how dare you?" or "I've been tricked."
I had also recently become friends with several other guys in the same boat as Tom, as well as the girls who were dating/marrying them, so it wasn't as much of a novelty to me as I think the producers might have hoped it would be.
Have you seen Tom since the show was taped?
Yeah, Tom and I have stayed in touch since the date was filmed. We also went out to lunch last summer before I moved away from SLC. I have a lot of admiration and respect for him, especially after he called post-date to (unnecessarily) apologize for anything that might have upset me during the date. He is a classy guy, with a lot of integrity, insight, and courage.
What do you think about all of the hullabaloo going on in the media?
It's a little more crazy than I thought it would be. Maybe I'm just naive. For what it's worth, though, I admire the cast members of the show, for doing what they're doing. It's ballsy. Yeah, I just said that-- but tell me, is there a better word? They're individuals representing a minority on two fronts-- religious and cultural-- and they've decided to put their lives under national scrutiny so their story, and the lifestyle they believe to be possible despite critical skepticism, will be more accessible to others.
Honestly, I don't think anyone should reduce or oversimplify the experiences another person or group has with their own sexuality or spirituality (religion). Especially if those choices and experiences bring them happiness. Our inner lives are much more complicated and nuanced than that. We all feel and process our lives in a deeply personal, unique, and individual way. The choices that others make as a result of their experiences should be always be approached with an intent to learn and understand, not censure. That's true of almost any situation. For that reason, I like a lot of the points made regarding the show here.
Have you seen the special yet?
Are you nervous about it?
Yeah. I'm really nervous about what this could do to my national reputation. Ha.
No, I'm not really that nervous. I think everyone who goes on TV worries a bit. You just hope that you don't get portrayed as something other than what you are, or have a chive stuck in your teeth.
I mean, in all reality, guys, I'm just a girl who went out on a date. That being said, I'm grateful for the opportunity to have met Tom and the other couples. They were so kind, gracious, and genuine towards me, even though I only was with them for an evening. I'm excited and hopeful for them and the impact that the special will have on larger discussions, especially in LDS culture.