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4. Wrong Side of Heaven

This is part 4 of my Confessions of a Menace to Society. I strongly suggest reading parts one, two, and three before reading this one, as it won’t make sense otherwise.

This is a long post. By the end of it, you will understand why my issues have proven notoriously difficult to treat, why I may not have dated you even if I thought you were attractive (along with other weird behaviors), and the long-term consequences of substituting gospel doctrine for professional therapy.

I’m going to do this by showing you how I tried to reconcile my abandonment issues, self-loathing, and the beliefs I picked up from childhood with the gospel of Jesus Christ; weaving them into a twisted tapestry of false doctrine and self-hatred that would guide my dating behavior and lead to incredibly damaging situations for myself, and in some cases, others.

To understand the significance of my doing this, you first need to understand the role the gospel has played in my life thus far.

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3. Girls are Better than Boys

“I sent you the results of the test,” I said as I walked into the office, “you get ’em?”

My therapist nodded as I took my customary seat, “Yes, I got them. Thanks for doing your homework, let’s take a look at the results.”

The purpose of the examination was to identify the severity of emotional traps in my thinking to help guide our discussions. Basically, what my issues are, and how heavily they affect my life.

Patient: Greg Vandagriff, 30M

  • Emotional Inhibition: STRONG
  • Social Isolation: STRONG
  • Failure: STRONG
  • Abandonment: STRONG
  • Defectiveness: STRONG
  • Pessimism: STRONG
  • Abuse: STRONG
  • Emotional Deprivation: STRONG
  • Insufficient Self-Control: STRONG
  • Vulnerability: STRONG
  • Unrelenting Standards: MEDIUM
  • Punitiveness: MEDIUM
  • Dependence: MEDIUM
  • Self-Sacrifice: MEDIUM
  • Subjugation: WEAK
  • Enmeshment: WEAK
  • Approval seeking: WEAK
  • Entitlement: WEAK

“Oh, is that all?” I said jokingly as he read through the results.

At least I don’t have entitlement issues.

He immediately fixated on the first result, “It’s interesting that you would score so strongly on emotional inhibition and vulnerability. You’ve been very open with me about your emotions.”

Well, doc, that’s because I’m paying you $200 an hour to pretend to care about me.

I stared out the window. “I’m not like that with most people.”

The moment I am, they leave me. Dang, I should put that on tumblr.

“Well Greg, why do you think that is?” he asked, stowing the laptop away.

Here we go.

“I’m afraid if I talk about my feelings, they’ll lock me up again.”

He furrowed his brow. “Afraid that who’ll lock you up?”

“My family,” I replied, “… I don’t really talk to them about my problems anymore.”

Or anyone, for that matter.

Which is why I blog.

Readers may wonder why on earth I disclose so much of my personal life in a public place, and the short answer is that it helps me a great deal. It’s important for me to internalize that most people won’t think less of me for having problems. Most importantly, writing helps me to identify underlying issues and resolve problematic behaviors. It worked for my spending habits, after all.

Why don’t I just privately talk to people about my problems like how, you know, normal people deal with things? That’s a good question.

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think it’s an unintended byproduct of how I was raised. I learned a lot of things growing up, most of them were really helpful, others, less so.

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Confessions of a Menace to Society: Part 2

“Why?” I asked.

She wouldn’t give me a straight answer, I was both heartbroken and confused, yet still in that… adorably naïve phase when I thought I had a chance of reconciling.

We can figure this out.

After five months, Katie* had dumped me. She told me there was “nothing wrong with me”, that I was “amazing”, and “great”. I was told I’d been the best boyfriend she had, but that I just “wasn’t for her”. Until now, she refused to talk specifics of what the problem was.

“It’s because you viewed pornography” she replied.

My blood went cold. A month earlier, she asked me the pornography question. I answered it truthfully: after going through the twelve-step program, therapy, and working with my Bishop, I had finally broken that addiction eight months prior—doing so changed my entire life. Until this point, I was actually proud of how long I had gone without relapsing.

“… but, I repented. I’m… supposed to be clean…” I responded, feeling my heart coming apart as my brain struggled to process what was happening.

“I know, but my patriarchal blessing says my husband ‘will be pure of heart and mind, having never viewed pornography’ ” she said matter of factly.

What… on earth?

I first saw pornography in the back of a school bus when I was seven years old. My addiction began when I was twelve, after my friends and I stumbled across it on their father’s computer.

“… but.. the atonement… I repented… I’m clean.. I’m… I’m supposed to be clean.. through Jesus Christ” I insisted, desperation creeping into every word.

That night, I broke down in tears in front of my roommates, my parents, my bishop. Everyone. After five months of dating, this is how it ended: with her calling me out for being the shitty, filthy person I always knew I was; that I would always be.

She confirmed my worst fear—that I was quite literally unworthy of love.

So ended my first, last, and only relationship in 2011. Two months later, she was official with her ex, fresh off his mission; a guy she was frequently alone with while we dated, claiming he was “just a friend”.

And that, boys and girls, is how a self-loathing “menace to society” was born.

A little context: In late 2010, I was 25, having recently returned to full activity after finally dealing with the fallout of what had happened on my mission. Fully repentant and reborn through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I was on fire, spiritually, professionally, academically, and socially. My confidence was restored, I felt cleansed through the gospel, and I started dating Katie.

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Confessions of a Menace to Society

“So tell me about your dating life, are you seeing anyone?”

I shook my head, shifting eye contact away from the bishop, the latest in a long line of well-meaning ecclesiastical leaders who were eager to help me graduate from the LDS singles ward.

“That’s okay. Are you going on dates, at least?”

I tried to muster a smile; it died halfway to a grin.

“… Trying to.” I said weakly as I fiddled with my cufflink.

I don’t really remember what he said next.

In my defense, he was going to be my 11th singles ward bishop; eventually you get to a point where all their dating advice sort of blends together.

I had a couple of options: 1) have a frank, detailed discussion about my struggles with dating, or 2) smile and nod in an attempt to end the conversation quickly.

Keep in mind, I’m a single, 31 year-old LDS male in Provo, Utah—the so-called marriage capital of the world. Based on that fact alone, if you think I have either the time or inclination for option 1, you are hilariously mistaken.

I smile and nod.

The thing I’ve found with blogging about dating is that sometimes it’s pretty obvious to readers why the author remains single (case in point, Confessions of a Ward Hopper). I’ve long considered “writes online about their dating life” to be a potential red flag in a romantic partner, particularly if their posts are mostly about the faults of those they’ve previously dated.

“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.

–Raylan Givens, Justified

This is a major reason I’ve held off from writing much about the topic for so long. I’m self-aware enough to recognize that I have my own faults which are contributory to my long-standing LDS bachelorhood. I know the moment I start discussing my “love life” at any length, some of these faults and insecurities will creep into my writing where they’ll be very obvious to my readers. Read more

An Interview for the Friend Zone

I rarely write about dating. This has been a conscious choice for a few reasons, foremost of which is that I don’t consider myself a subject matter expert on the topic of romance, dating, or courtship; quite the opposite, in fact.

Not Pictured: dating, parallel parking
Not Pictured: dating, parallel parking

However, today I’m going to deviate from that editorial practice in order to tackle a very specific, frequently controversial, and much-derided element of dating: the friend zone

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Why I Love My Job Part 1: The Work Itself

Five years ago, if you told me I’d be lucky to work for Vivint someday, I’d probably have taken it as an insult.

It physically pains me how unfunny this post is. Also it’s in the third person. The retrospective cringe is real.

Like many in Utah Valley, I was too busy making low-effort jokes at the expense of door-to-door sales reps to recognize the opportunity next door.

So when I was first contacted by a Vivint recruiter to work in a marketing role at their office in Lehi, I was skeptical. A day later, I was sold. A week later I was hired. Three months later?

I absolutely love it. It’s completely changed my definition of what a “great job” is.

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3 Ways to Stop Worrying About Your Student Loans

Three quarters of 2015 college graduates will leave school with debt, owing an average of $35,000 in student loans and, based on my highly scientific gut instinct, like 90% of these graduates are flipping out and need to calm right down.

I don’t care how many news stories you see about recent grads defaulting or becoming delinquent on their student loans like, a year after graduating or dropping out, that’s not going to happen to you because of what I’m going to briefly cover in this post – stuff that should have been covered in financial aid counseling, but is apparently easy to miss or forget, otherwise people wouldn’t be defaulting so quickly. If you read this post and do as I suggest, I promise you will never become delinquent or default on your student loans.

Or tweet (admittedly hilarious) things like:

If you’re a recent graduate that’s freaking out about how much you owe in student loans and have no idea where to start, this post is for you.

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Taxes, Tablets, and Rewards

Earlier this evening, I was finishing up my taxes and looking forward to processing my $2,200 federal refund when Turbotax threw a complete curve ball—I could get my refund deposited right into my bank account or I could use it to purchase an Amazon Gift card and get an extra 10% back.

In other words, instead of getting $2,200 in my bank account, I could get an Amazon gift card for $2,420—an extra $220 bucks!

And by curve ball I mean horrible temptation to overspend.
With all that money, I could buy several hundred different books about how to get out of debt!

I mean sure, I technically had that money earmarked to pay off the rest of my credit card debt and bolster my cash reserves, but the materialist in me was whispering sweet nothings to my better judgment.

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Learning to Punt with a Broken Hand

“Once I finish paying off this last credit card, I’m going to save up some more cash before I tackle my student loans.”
My father nodded from across the table as we ate our regular Saturday afternoon lunch.
“I mean, I have a thousand dollar emergency fund, but it’s going to take me years to pay back my student loans… what if some really big, expensive emergency comes up between now and then?

Within three hours of having that conversation, I fractured two bones in my hand during a stupid sledding accident. Realigning the bones would require plates, screws, and surgery costing $9,100.
Yeah. I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself.

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My Black Friday Prison Riot

It was Black Friday. And thanks to November’s unexpected third paycheck, I had an extra $753 to spend.

I’d been debating what to do with it for three hours

I’ve already paid off a ton of debt this month, and I could really use some more clothes and a new tablet… I should get them today, that way I’ll save a lot of money, right? It’s not like I’d be going into debt for this stuff, I have the money. Plus, I’ve been working hard, right? I deserve this. Who could possibly judge me for treating myself a little?

Of all the days in the year, why did the extra money have to come in on Black Friday?

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