I was 16 years old before my mom allowed me to buy any makeup that didn’t include eyeliner and I was 17 before my mom would stop cringing at the sight of me with anything north of my knee caps. Of course, at this age, every girl in New York City wishes to have that Carrie Bradshaw wardrobe and the ability to walk down Fifth Avenue feeling like Adriana Lima, so imagine my torture when I couldn’t buy the necessities to at least look like a 13 year-old Hilary Duff.
You guessed it. It felt like the end of the world to me. My mom wasn’t religious, just traditional, but what happens when you do place a conservatively religious girl in the city? Better yet away from her parents and in the middle of New York and all its pressures?
You get a must-read book by Elna Baker. The New York University graduate, comic, story teller, and now author, introduces Mormonism and her life in her memoir The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance. Waking up one morning 80 pounds lighter and “sexy,” Elna makes her way through the city in search of true love.
The catch? She is a 20-something year-old virgin and Mormon who has to remind men that her goods are off the table until marriage, even if she does fall in love.
Elna is a breath of fresh air. Painfully and blazingly honest, she confesses that she did not know how to kiss until her 20s, something that even a 15 year-old girl would dare not admit.
Her candid descriptions of her attempts to get her first real kiss— with chapter names like “ Kissing, Take Six: Christian,” and “Kissing, Take Five: Shannon”—makes you eager to keep turning the pages. Whatever happens next is unusual, honest and took guts to admit.
With a touch of humor, Baker also continues to feed our curiosity about Mormonism, a preoccupation that has been heightened through the success of such projects as The Book of Mormon and the presidential candidacy of a Mormon man. Baker gives us a fresh reminder that Mormonism is indeed just another religion, as strange as it might seem to most Americans, while at the same time covering bits of Mormon traditions like “magic undergarments” that will have traditional Christian Americans raising an eyebrow.
Born in America and raised in Europe, Baker opens the doors of this exacting life. She is a Mormon dealing with weight issues, career obstacles, family pressures and city life Baker. A self-proclaimed “ugly sister,” Baker’s memoir picks up the struggle women have with weight and sexuality in a way that has you wondering if you should hit the treadmill or start protesting the media. Her account goes further than just another female looking for love.
With her narration, Baker places us in the middle, between her religious beliefs and modern life, a place she has constantly found herself in and has you swaying between both. Pulling at your heart strings, throughout the entire book, she has the reader hoping that she will find that happy medium, find the perfect guy and not fall into pressures, while at the same time making ribs hurt from all the laughter.
Grown Elna is not the only one to narrate the memoir. With a new twist on things “12 year-old Elna”, the giddy girl that never had the opportunity be just another teenager, also has a few words to say about her new life here and there. Needless to say both go at it and only one could survive within the new sexy Elna.
The young woman who has written for Glamour, Elle and the Onion, tackles life head on and holds on to an optimism that only a truly religious person is known to have (well, sometimes). From constantly attending single Mormon Halloween parties every year, to falling in love with an atheist, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance covers the themes of love, sex and gender inequality through the rare perspective of a Mormon female.
“…it’s why I love saying yes. When you say yes you can start and end the day in two totally different places. Yes takes that space between unlimited possibilities and reality, and stretches it out so that anything can happen.” That attitude sets Baker’s book apart from other religiously centered memoirs and takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. Baker’s journey through a series of bad dates and odd jobs, Baker will search to discover whether she can hold onto her morals while also find true love. Most women, no matter their relligion or background, will relate to her quest.