Tina Fey is an example of a bright, self-confident woman succeeding in a male-dominated field. For me, the most intriguing thing about Fey is that she seems like a genuinely nice person. She’s stayed married to the same guy and loves her kids. Except for her potty mouth, Fey, if we can believe her memoir, grew up with two of the values most prized in Mormon child-rearing culture: “Don’t drink” and “Keep your virginity.”
So, how does a girl preserve her chastity through her teens and college without the benefit of YW object lessons featuring a shopworn cupcake or a dusty rose by the side of the road? Fey claims her mother could never bring herself to tell her the facts of life—let alone tell her the advantages of saving herself for marriage. Fey jokes about her parents’ foibles, but credits them with always loving her. Her authoritarian dad, whose vocabulary could earn Eddie Murphy’s respect, set strict rules. Fey obeyed a rigid curfew throughout high school.
Besides providing love and rules, Fey’s parents didn’t appear to micromanage. In high school, she pursued her interest in theater and hung out with gay and Lesbian friends, some much older than herself. Many of her friends drank, but young Tina did not risk bringing the wrath of Dad upon herself by coming home with alcohol on her breath.
Maybe instead of yammering about the power of Satan and the dangers of bad language, immodesty, and immorality, Mormon parents would do better to set rules for the biggies, such as “No premarital sex,” and “No drugs or alcohol,” and eliminate the guilt-tripping. Plenty of non-Church-related reasons exist for teens to not become sexually active. Unfortunately, Mormon morality lessons often contain an implicit message—if you transgress, you are of less value—like a chewed up piece of gum.
Guilt instills fear, and fear erodes confidence. Self-confidence, not fear, is the strongest tool a person has in meeting the challenges of an often difficult world. From what I’ve seen, girls who feel loved and accepted at home have less need to use their bodies to gain approval from boyfriends.
Besides unconditional love, encouraging young people to think for themselves rather than to blindly accept information—even from trusted sources— seems like the best way to give them the confidence that comes from respecting one’s own mind and body. Maybe this is what Joseph Smith meant when he said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”