Monday, November 7, 2011


I finally did it. Boiled Utah County down to one word--a feat I've been working on for the past two plus years since I moved here from Hawaii.

I got the idea from Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert is sitting in an outdoor cafe in Rome with a guy named Giulio. He asks her how she likes the city, and she tells him she likes it fine, but she can tell she doesn't belong. When she explains why he says, "Maybe you and Rome just have different words."

According to Giulio, every city has a different word that defines it and identifies most of the people living there. Says he, "If you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought." Whatever the majority thinks is the word of the city.

New York's word is ACHIEVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Naples is FIGHT.

Now cover your ears because Rome's word is SEX. Every person in Rome is thinking about sex, all day, every day (except at the Vatican where the word is POWER). This is why Gilbert doesn't feel comfortable there, because sex is not her word. If your own personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don't really belong there.

When Gilbert tries to define herself with one word, she realizes that our personal words shift and change as we shift and change.

I think she might be on to something. When I was a poor black child growing up in the ghettos of Provo, where we had to walk to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, my word was POWERLESS. I couldn't control my father's drug addiction or his endless battle with Hemophilia, or the fact that I got dropped off at school every day in a station wagon held together with duct tape. But then I went away and growed up and now I am back in Utah after 20 years with a different word. I would like to say that word is EMPOWERED, but life don't shake down that tidy. And anyway, my word is one step beyond EMPOWERED.

My word is WHATEVAH.

This is probably why I felt so at home in Hawaii. You might think everyone in Hawaii is walking around thinking ALOHA, but actually they're thinking WHATEVAH.

This is also probably why, although I love living in Utah, and I know this is the place, I don't feel like this is my place. Maybe because we have different words. The collective word for Utah County is IMPROVE. Everyone is walking around thinking IMPROVE, IMPROVE, IMPROVE, and not just their shining moments, if you get my drift.

Some of you might have thought the word would be STRESS since Utah got voted the most stressed state in the union last year. It makes sense if you think about it because it's stressful to constantly IMPROVE, especially when you are trying to IMPROVE faster than your neighbor. You try topping yourself every year, not to mention everybody else around you. In Utah last years good, better and best is this years gooder, betterer and bester.

If you think about it, the word STRESS is a natural by-product of the word IMPROVE. You get me?

And the people aren't the only ones thinking about improvement. Right now the word on the streets is UNDER-CONSTRUCTION, which is another natural by-product of IMPROVE. Nearly every street and freeway in Utah County is getting a face lift. It's like all of Utah County is a character in a Judy Blume book. The whole county is thinking, "We must, we must, we must increase our bust. And our trust. But not our lust. Or our dust. We must decrease our lust and our dust."

Once again, if you think about it, the desire to increase your bust and your trust, and decrease your lust and your dust is also a natural by-product of IMPROVE.

I have to admit that after hearing that church lady tell my former young woman that her voice wasn't appropriate for church I was tempted to change the collective word to CENSOR. Maybe everyone is walking around thinking CENSOR, CENSOR, CENSOR. If so, it's working. When that girl opened her mouth again, she was suddenly restrained and contained, as if she was trying to stay within the lines of her chalk body outline.

But then if you think about it, the word CENSOR is also a by-product of the word IMPROVE . .

But whatevah.


Susan said...

I love Utah, but this is why I don't live there. I don't care if my house, yard, kids, hair, or butt are better than my neighbors. I'd never make it there.

Then again, maybe I'm exactly the kind of person they need.

That's why Utah's the right place for you, Crash. They need you to teach them to just toss their chin and say Whatevah.

2busy said...

I would take whatevah any day. I think Hawaii is the promised land. ESPECIALLY in the winter.

Martha said...

I thought for sure the song I would hear for this post would be "Tonight, Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae like in Sean and Josh's rope swing video.

I love the "whatever, it doesn't matter, and oh well" in this song. Tommy goes around singing this song all day.

Josh has an appointment with Alan next week. He says his face is looking better all ready!

Martha said...

Oh at the end of the song it says "even the white kids" my kids love that part too.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Oh my gosh, I didn't even remember that song. I'm going to add it to my playlist right now!

I didn't know about Joshies appt. with Alan. Did he see him already? Rest assured my hub keeps things confidential.

Jenny P. said...

Okay, so I grew up on the east coast and have only lived in Utah for brief educational periods of time. When ever people ask me how I liked it, my response is always that I really loved going to school in Utah, and I love visiting, but I'm not sure I'd want to live there full time. And I can never really explain why. Except I think maybe your post just did explain why. I don't know. Maybe since I don't live there it isn't fair to me to say, but I get a little stressed just thinking about it... It's much easier to live here in a small town where everyone is slower, easier and three years behind when it comes to fashion.

Kalli said...

I LOVE your word. A lot. Thats that CA central coast word too. And I used to live in Utah... it's INSANE. That is totally their word.

Stephen said...

You can't IMPROVE if you are already #1
#1 in anti depressants
#1 in Porno
#1 in modesty
#1 driest state(alcohol)
#1 birthrate

I think I am going with CONFORMITY as my word, or SANCTIMONIOUS,or SPECIAL.

But I would choose to live here over almost any other place. I have been to rome. Humid, gaudy.

Stephen said...

The people in Utah are nice and it is a safe place to live compared to other places. Your neighbors will "Love bomb" you with kindness and cookies until they realize you are not going to church with them and then they avoid you.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Ha ha Stephen. I totally agree. I actually LOVE living here now that my word is WHATEVAH! And my neighbors ROCK! (Thanks for saving us this morning next door neighbors!)

Stephen, you forgot a few other #1's

#1 bankruptcy
#1 prescription meds
#1 sparkly superlatives.

I KID! I seriously love it here. Fer reals!

Martha said...

Love this song!!!

Donna said...

This the best thing you have written. And it is going to be hard for some of your neighbors to read.
I grew up in Las Vegas, going to school in Utah was so hard, I felt so outside my realm. My children are going to school in Utah and are experiencing the same thing. Utah is beautiful, but it never spoke to me. I am so happy that you gave me words to understand.
this will go many people feel exactly the same way.
Her voice isn't appropriate? She is not appropriate!
Thank you for putting some sense into my thinking!

DeNae said...

I wonder what my word is. I think maybe it's PROVE. Which is weird because I thought I gave up trying to prove anything to anyone a long time ago. I had 2 members of our RS presidency in my home yesterday, at different times, and they both confided they felt judged and marginalized. I was shocked. I think it's the Utah legacy, that "deep bench" that says "hey, if you can't do this perfectly we've got 20 women right behind you who can." I envy Jenny and her beautiful mountain home and her tiny branch 2,000 miles and a universe of attitude differences away from the Mother Ship.

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Yes very wise words from the dummy once again. I just visit Utah all the time and that is a good thing for me.

wendy said...

Oh my oh my oh my...I loved this post
I have felt deeply alI these things "words" you said.
The words that define us
the words that make us feel a Part Of
I still don't feel like I belong here yet.
Let's see...the word is "po-dunk" (tee,ee)
I am not sure what word I am looking for
but definitly MPROVE would be a hard one
and haveing lived un Uath for 28 years, it gets tiring feeling like you have to "fit into" that mold

can't we just love each other, and survive with "screwed-up"????

wendy said...

on another note'
it is a year now since my son passed away
and I met you at the viewing
I did a post about that on my blog

Donna said...

I put your blog on my facebook page and lots of people, both Mormon and not, got something from it....

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Oh my, I have been away for a few days. I'm in Monterey! Woohooo. Donna I just added you as a Facebook friend. Girlfriend, you look nothing like the Queen of England. You're blond and bee-U-tiful. Was it a big controversy on FB? I do hate controversy. ;)

Wendy, hugs. Has it been a year? Oh this is a painful time, I'm sure of it. Ouchie, ouchie, ouchie! Big HuGE hugs. LY

I like the idea of being happy with screwed up. ha ha ha ha

My verifier says rocali. That's how we roll in Cali, I guess. Funny how my verifier always knows where in the world I am--both physically and mentally.

IWA (e - va) said...

I have been away too long, and I heart this post...and all of the comments, Stephen is too funny!

When I think about Utah and why I couldn't handle living there, all I can say to this is, Amen!

In AmSam, the word was Sacrifice!