|from Houston Chronicle|
When high school came along, things quickly began to change. I started to realize that many of the students there were Mormon. This is not bad by all means, but I was never religious and if you left me alone about my beliefs, I'd leave you alone. What got to me was the fact that many of these Mormon students began to realize their faith and tried to force it on me because I was a "struggling soul." In the middle of my freshman year, I began to listen to metal music, slowly gravitating towards the hardcore scene where all the bands would play so fast and so hard their fingers looked like they were about to fall off, and the frontmen would be yelling and screaming so much that you could see his neck veins bulging. Despite this seemingly terrifying facade of the hardcore scene, I had finally found a place where I could get my aggression and emotions out and no one would judge me for it. Everyone in the audience was doing exactly what I was doing.
Naturally as I immersed myself in the hardcore scene, I began to
|Junior, post Machine Head and Suicide Silence|
concert in San Francisco, 2012
Now, just because I looked like an obvious deviant from the general Pinewood population and listened to metal and hardcore music does not automatically deem me a Satanist (many of the hardcore bands are religious, believe it or not); with that said, I believe that this Satan-worshipping image that I put off terrified some of the students. Why else would I be the target of an insane amount of harsh criticism?
Mormons have very specific and detailed beliefs that seem taboo to most people on this planet. They come off not just as a religious group, but as a tribe, and when an outsider doesn't believe what the tribe believes, they often feel threatened and become defensive, fighting for what they believe (sounds like the Crusades all over again). The
|Second from left, senior Marine Biology class, 2012|
To the Mormons at my high school, I was the alien. They felt threatened because there was a "dark" presence in such close proximity and they were afraid I was a virus who would infect others. I didn't believe what they believed. I understand when someone is sitting directly in front of you telling you your faith is B.S., you can't help but feel as if you're being attacked. I can see how the Mormon students would perceive me as a threat, but the fact that I was constantly a target for conversion made me push back even harder and become even more threatening in their eyes. I can't recall the number of times students have tried to convert me just in those last three years of high school. Even when I was a freshman in college, a student that graduated one year before me sent me a Facebook message with the intention of ensuring I live a "fuller, more complete life." It was almost like I was a Boss in a video game: whoever could convert Melissa to Mormonism would gain so many points with God that they would automatically have a seat waiting for them on the highest cloud in heaven when it was their time to pass.
|Myself stage diving at The Ghost Inside show in|
Oakland, CA, 2013
- Melissa -
Editorial Note: This article has been retitled and a new thumbnail photo inserted to better reflect the content of this article - a personal coming of age story set in Pinewood High School.