Sitting in my grey 1990 suburban outside the Robert E. Lee High School gymnasium, I had no idea if her pirouettes had been perfect or not, but when she spun on the stage her ass sure was. Maybe asses had never interested me before because downloading porn on a dial-up connection hardly gave you enough time to load the image down to the ass. If you continue to view pornography, your spirit will become desensitized, and your conscience will erode (11). But Anna Babenberch’s ass in her ballet costume or in jeans or out of them caught my eye. And hands.
She was the first girl I had ever taken to prom. But she wasn’t the first girl that I ever took into the open space in the back of my suburban. The tinted windows were to keep my amps and speakers from getting stolen. They were also great at hiding teenage make out sessions. The sleeping bag and blanket neatly folded in the back of the suburban were for Boy Scouts, of course. They also kept knees and elbows from rubbing on the rough carpeting. Begin to prepare now for a temple marriage. Proper dating is part of that preparation (7).
Did you like how I looked on stage, Anna asked me, did my butt look good? You should dress in such a way as to bring out the best in yourself and those around you (8). I didn’t care much for ballet but I liked her dexterity. I liked the way she held up her own weight on the point of a single toe, and the extension of her leg at a 90-degree angle, and the tight curve this produced of her ass. Her movements in a formfitting leotard were food for sinful thoughts.
At this point she had changed into her prom dress and sat close to me on the suburban’s bench seat. I looked over her neck, bare shoulders, collarbone, and the slight movement of her breasts in her immodest prom dress. Young women should refrain from wearing off-the-shoulder, low-cut, or revealing clothes (8). Her mom wasn’t pleased with her choice of dress, nor was mine, but at least we were both Mormon. Dating in the Church. You marry who you date. You date who you marry.
Anna triangulated the placement of my eyes on her and blurted, I know modest is the hottest but this dress was just too cute! And when you’re dating someone in the Church you don’t have to worry about them having impure thoughts about you. You look very nice, I said in an attempt to compensate for the lust tightening inside me. Downplay my attraction. Act like I don’t have bad thoughts. If I thought like that, how would the Spirit be with us? I like your car. Why do you drive something so big, Anna inquired while turning back to look over the backseat and farther into the expansive trunk-space of my suburban. The darkness back there was like a bad metaphor in a church video for the sins that I’d committed by climbing over the backseat. I move around the amps and speakers and drums for my band. What’s it called? We don’t really have an official name, I like Sapphire Blue and Green, but the bassist likes Opal Scandal. There’s a lot of room back there. I’ve taken a nap back there. Isn’t it uncomfortable? She was falling for it every step of the way. I told myself this was an innocent conversation. Matter of fact stuff. Just telling her about my car and band. I knew where I wanted this to go, while I kept telling myself I was better than that. I had learned to tell myself I wasn’t doing what I was actually doing so I could feel less guilty about the slip ups, the mistakes, and I could cry and repent later because I didn’t intend for this or that to happen. Some people knowingly break God’s commandments. They plan to repent before they go on a mission or receive the sacred covenants and ordinances of the temple. Repentance for such behavior is difficult and painful and may take a long time (17).
Anna was older than me, but she had been keeping the commandments. She never took off her CTR ring, she lived by Choose The Right. Her second mistake was choosing me. I’m pretty sure I was against her better judgment. Her first mistake was pride. She was proud of her butt. She even liked to say ass when were alone! We met at a multi-stake dance in Shreveport. The dimly lit basketball court that doubled as the dance floor was where TJ introduced me to his cousin Anna. I had known TJ and his brothers for years. Sometimes their dad beat them, and the first time I ever watched porn was at their house. This resulted in TJ’s brother Jason being chased around the house with a belt for showing everyone pornography on the satellite TV in the middle of the night. The movie had some kind of clown or jester sneaking up behind a renaissance girl who was watching another couple bang through a keyhole in a door. The jester exclaimed, give yourself to me! And took the renaissance maid from behind. I didn’t know what I was seeing or what was happening exactly, but I never forgot.
She’s visiting from Tyler, Texas, TJ explained to me over the NSYNC song playing in the gym. The polite thing was to ask her to dance, like a gentleman. I felt the physical pull towards her in the pit of my stomach. By the time a slow song came around, Sister Grant tapped me on the shoulder and said, leave some room for the Holy Ghost, loud enough to be embarrassing as she glared at the lack of space between our hips. When you are dancing avoid full body contact or intimate positions with your partner (14). We stepped back from each other, but a few songs later the Bishop came by and told me there should be enough room for a Book of Mormon to fit between our bodies. Not vertically, but horizontally. He motioned this with his hands by pretending to hold a Book of Mormon upright and then slowly turning his wrist so the imaginary book of scripture was horizontal and thus took up more space between our teenage stomachs. Eventually I would confess far graver sins to Bishop Barnwell than that of dancing too close to Anna. Where choices have already led to sexual impurity, repentance is the way back. Talk to your parents and your bishop (17-18). I had already managed to get her to break a rule, to bring her body too close to mine at a Church dance.
TJ told me Anna was staying the night at his house and driving back to Tyler later the next afternoon. I showed up the next morning in my freshly washed grey suburban, and with TJ’s parents at work I could sit with Anna in the beanbag chair as close as we wanted. No room for the Book of Mormon, no space for the Holy Ghost, that’s how we had our first kiss. Certain sins are of such gravity that they can put your membership in the Church and your eternal life at risk. Sexual sins are among those of such seriousness (17). Then we made out in her cousin’s bed. She never told me as much, but I’m almost certain it was her first kiss. She told me she never imagined she’d like a guy like me. She signaled to my necklaces, my studded leather cuffs, the chain on my wallet. I never thought I’d like a skater boy. He was a punk, she did ballet, what more can I say? She actually quoted the damn song. Before she left, she made me take a last look at her butt and tell her how good it looked. Maybe she was playing me. A few days after she returned to Texas she called and asked me to her prom.
Before introducing me to her friends from Robert E. Lee High, I helped Anna hike up her prom dress and crawl over the front seat and then the back seat of the suburban. It had seen this routine play out before. We went all the way to the back, but only made it to second base. There’s so much room. I can fit all the band’s equipment back here. One time, at a party, I fit like eleven people back here. Again, this is normal. It’s casual and informative. Her form fitting dress was still hiked up while she settled onto her knees to keep her head from bumping the roof. Have you ever been back here alone with a girl, she asked. No, I lied. I wasn’t back here with a girl. I was with Stacey or Elizabeth or Melody or any of the other individuals whose names I kept listed on the last page of my journal. They weren’t just girls, they were people.
I spread out the green sleeping bag that had never seen a night of Boy Scout camping. Get on here, it’s much more comfortable than the carpet. The tension was building in the back of the suburban. I kissed her. I put my hand on her back. Slid it down to her waist and then to her weakness, to her pride. She would fall for me. She would fall for her own hubris. I wanted something and I told myself I didn’t even know what it was. She wanted to be admired. She asked me, do you want me to show you how good it looks in this dress? Like a goddamned professional I moved my hand to the zipper between her shoulder blades and responded, I want you to show me how good it looks out of this dress. Never treat your date as an object to be used for your own lustful desires or ego (15).
I saw how good it looked, how it felt. I appreciated her ass and when we were overcome with guilt we stopped and shamefully climbed out the back doors of my suburban. I helped her step down off the chrome bumper. Her hair was messed up and her corsage was half crushed, like her spirit. Inside she paraded me in front of her friends as her skater boy with spiky hair, rings, and studded bracelets. Her ballet friends were slightly amused but mostly disapproving. This seemed to be how Anna herself was feeling about me after our time in the suburban. We didn’t dance much. She looked at the floor a lot while trying to fluff her white corsage back up. Later she’d tell me she had been thinking about her future eternal companion and husband. Apparently, it wasn’t me in her imaginary future. She figured that out sometime between me zipping her dress back up and when I dropped her off at home after prom. Because dating is preparation for marriage, date only those who have high standards, who respect your standards, and in whose company you can maintain the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ (7).
That night I didn’t drive back to Shreveport. I spent the night in a hotel with my mom who insisted that it was inappropriate for me to stay in a hotel alone in the same town as a girl I was dating. Too much temptation for a horny young man, she explained. My mom went home early the next morning and I drove the suburban of Anna’s shame to her house to have breakfast with her parents. Her parents were cousins. They explained that family reunions were small. After breakfast Anna showed me her room. It was like an eight-year-old girl’s room in a movie where the eight-year-old dies and the mom refuses to change a thing about it for the next ten years. White wicker and pink floral bedspread, the works. It felt pure and clean, like Anna had been before last night. I sat on the edge of her bed. I want to read something to you. I made this list of things I expect from my future husband last summer at girls’ camp. Why has the Lord given standards? He wants all His children to return to live with Him one day (6). There are forty things I want for my eternal companion to be. Anna was nineteen and thinking of marriage, of BYU. I still had a few years before I could submit my mission papers and ‘returned missionary’ was high up on her list. She read through each entry on her list and I had to respond. This was how she was getting to know me. I fit only two of her requirements. In truth, I only fit one, but when it came to ‘completely faithful to me and our family’ I couldn’t tell her that I had been making out with the bassist’s girlfriend between that first kiss I’d had with Anna and prom. Dishonesty hurts you and usually hurts other people as well (10). At the end of the list she held the folded paper in her hands and stared at it with disappointment. I think she was disappointed in both of us.
Anna handed me a mixed CD as I swung the suburban’s heavy door open. For your drive home. There is only one song from that CD that I can remember, but it said enough for all the rest. It was Pearl Jam’s “Better Man.” Anna’s forty item husband list and “She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man. She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man” ate at us both for a few months and then, like responsible and sensible young people, we schedule the date of our break-up over the phone.
At the end of our last date in Shreveport we said our good-byes. She had been accepted to BYU. She’d be married before the year was up. A forty-out-of-forty husband was in her future, for time and all eternity. She was leaning against the side of the suburban and even though it was time to go, she lingered closer to me than she had since prom night. We kissed. I used my body to slowly press her against the side of my suburban, its chrome trim almost bending to her proud ass. I kissed her hard. I put my hands on her waist and slid my body to her right side, making room for me to put my hand down the front of her jeans. She let me. Maybe because she knew she’d never have to see me again. Like a respectable young man, I didn’t put my fingers beneath her pastel blue panties, but I found the warmest spot and coiled my fingers. She let me. Maybe because she wanted to get stuck with me for time and all eternity. The suburban rocked slightly. She clumsily groped for my penis, found it, and simply held it rigidly through my corduroy pants. Part of me thinks I was trying to save our relationship. Either that or I was making sure it would be over. Giving it the deathblow. There was no climax to this scene. She got into her car while I continued to lean against the warm spot we had made on the cool metal of my suburban.
After a few weeks of no phone calls and no IMs, I received a letter in the mail with Anna’s curly handwriting on it. My mom passive-aggressively handed it to me while I was sitting on the living room couch playing acoustic guitar for Tina. It’s from your girlfriend in Tyler or maybe the one from Longview, my mom added matter-of-factly. She never really approved of anyone I dated after Anna. Later, when I opened the letter, I found Anna’s admonition that I confess what had happened between us in the back of my suburban to my bishop, like she had done. She was moving to Provo, Utah. The land of time and all eternity.
The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted by the Lord. Full repentance of some sins requires that we not only confess and resolve them with the Lord but that we also do so with the Church. The bishop and stake president have been appointed by revelation as judges in these cases (18). After reading Anna’s letter I slid it between the pages of my journal and added her name to the list of girls at the back. Since it was all over Bishop Barnwell would never need to hear about it. It could never happen again. As I recounted the list of names, my older brother came into my room and asked to borrow my suburban. He was going with the Elders’ Quorum to help Brother and Sister Harley move.
My brother was back less than five minutes later. Someone ran a stop sign just a block from our house and totaled the grey 1990 suburban. I walked the long block to the site of the wreck to recover the green sleeping bag and blanket.