Baxlala’s #CBR4 Review #19: The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
I don’t know a lot about Mormons that I didn’t learn from Dooce archives, South Park, and The Book of Mormon (the musical), which, you know, might not give me a completely accurate depiction of Mormon life. I learned a bit more about Mormons and Mormonism after reading The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (LONGEST TITLE EVER), but not a lot more. It did, however, give me a new respect for those Mormons who live in a world of temptation (in this case, NYC) and stick to their religious beliefs (for the chief purposes of this book, not drinking and not having the sex before marriage). In the end, it’s completely fine that, despite having Mormon in the title, this book didn’t teach me a whole lot about Mormonism.
Elna Baker, our host for the evening, is a Mormon. It’s a huge part of her but it’s not all of her. She’s also a former “big girl,” a writer, an actress, a comedian, a sister, a daughter, and, I’m pretty sure, a love scientist. She approaches love with a curious enthusiasm, often experimenting with different kinds of men (even one famous older gentleman, “Warren Beatty” (NOT the actual Warren Beatty, also: double parenthesis WHAT WHAT) whose identity she hides so she doesn’t get sued) and at one point, changing herself and how she reacts to situations to see if it yields positive results from a handsome, single Mormon guy from church. She says yes often, but not the biggest yes, the one that will allow her to lose her virginity, though she does come close at several points.
Even without the Mormon part of this book which, don’t get me wrong, is an extremely important aspect, this is just a funny memoir. Baker tells her love stories with great humor and complete, brave honesty. There were several cringeworthy moments, one of which caused me to put the book down for a moment and say, “Oh, Elna, noooooooo.” I give her a lot of credit for not hiding the gritty details. It’s one thing to tell these stories to your closest friends, but to put it in print for all to see…that takes balls. Big, giant, hairy balls.
Aside from the love angle, but also deeply tied into how Baker approaches men and relationships, is her struggle with weight. She drops 80 pounds at one point and becomes, in her words, beautiful. She struggles with her identity once she loses the weight, wondering if she’ll still be the “funny” sister that she’s always been in her family (short answer: yes). I found her description of how she lost the weight intriguing, though worrisome, and wish there’d been a bit more about it.
My husband bought me this book for my birthday because he’d heard about it on NPR. I was intrigued mainly because of the title but also because there was an endorsement from Ira Glass on the cover. I ended up thoroughly enjoying it and was even a bit sad when it ended. Does Elna Baker have a blog? I want to read more. Some quick Googling reveals that Baker is no longer a virgin and, if Wikipedia can be believed, has also since left the Mormon church, but I want MORE because I’m greedy.
I also really want to know who “Warren Beatty” was. Those of you who’ve read this, please feel free to join me in my speculation. If you’ll excuse me, I think I have some internet research to do. Someone on this series of tubes has to have figured out who the mystery actor is by now.