Dancing With Crazy


          Emily Pearson’s memoir Dancing With Crazy is the true story of her personal derailment, both horrifically and humorously demonstrating what happens when mindless obedience to religious authority supersedes plain old common sense. As a young Mormon girl Emily gave up her own personal power, relinquished the ability to think for herself and allowed herself to blow with a wind that carried her from studying scriptures in the Sunday School classes of correctly clothed, righteous descendants of Mormon pioneers, to studying porn on San Francisco’s Castro Street with her gay father and half naked drag queens, to drowning in depression in a stinky apartment in Hollywood, to puking in the toilet of a courting polygamist, to marrying her very own gay man in a Mormon Temple. After nearly losing her mind several times over, Emily disentangled herself from toxic and narcissistic personalities, walked away from a crippling religion and finally learned to think, act and live for herself.
          Dancing With Crazy is both heartbreaking and heart warming – an inspiring story filled with religious fundamentalists, transvestites, AIDS, love, abuse, obsession, visions, sex, Satan and salvation.


          Oh God, please don’t let me throw up all over my wedding dress.
          I wanted to run. I wanted to scream. But all I could do was stare at myself in the mirror of an elegantly marbled bathroom in the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In twenty minutes I’d be married. To a gay man. In the exact same temple and by the exact same individual that married my mother to my gay father nearly twenty seven years earlier.
          Holy shit.
          Even now I am baffled as to how I got there. I mean, I am more than painfully aware of the long list of events in my life that led me to that moment, and every other horrifyingly bizarre situation in which I had allowed myself to be tossed to and fro, but none of it added up. Nothing made sense. How and when had I so willingly and completely abdicated the throne of my own life? And much more importantly why? When had I vanished into thin air?
          It hadn’t always been that way. When I was eleven years old a neighbor boy stole the Christmas lights off our house and, when I found out who had done it, I marched right up to his front door, pounded loudly, and yelled at his mother, “Your son stole the Christmas lights off of our house and I want them back. Right now!”
          Where had that girl, the one with the fire in her gut and the world at her fingertips, gone? Someone had stolen my light, my courage, my soul, and I desperately needed that fearless girl to pound on the door of whoever was holding it hostage. I wanted her to scream to the heavens, to the father, to the loves, to the pedophiles and to the Church for me. I wanted her to demand that they return what was rightfully mine. But she couldn’t. She was lost, asleep, or maybe dead. All I knew was that she was gone, nowhere to be found, when I needed her the most.
          I once heard someone say that the trouble with real life is that there’s no danger music. I couldn’t possibly agree more. This is exactly the trouble with real life— its glaring lack of danger music. Where is the underscoring, the laugh tracks, boos, and wild applause that would be phenomenally helpful as I stumble through this maze called life? Maybe actually hearing those two notes that undeniably scream “The giant shark is directly behind you!” as I was about to be married might actually have knocked some sense into me. Instead I just stood there, gripping the cold porcelain sink, hearing nothing but reverential silence interrupted occasionally by the terrified beating of my own heart. Seriously, would a little danger music have hurt anyone?
          Somehow my body found its way out of the bathroom and back to the side of my soon-to-be husband. We knelt across the altar in that flawlessly ornate sealing room with enormous gilded mirrors on either side, reflecting one another endlessly—a dramatic representation of eternity. Mirrors can do that. They can create magic and they can reflect truth. They can also warp your sense of reality if stared at long enough.
          My sense of reality had been warped for so long that I’m not sure I could even tell the difference anymore. For as long as I could remember I had been spinning around in one of those dance marathons of the 1920’s, condemned by Crazy, my ruthless dance partner, to dance with him until I dropped dead. Year after year I begged for mercy, cried that my bones were broken beyond repair, but Crazy didn’t care. He loved the dance. He loved the game. He loved my confusion when he tapped himself in and out, masquerading as different partners. He loved slowing down just long enough create the illusion of reprieve and then, as I was about to collapse in a heap on the sidelines, jerking me back up with his relentless insistence that the dance continue. My misery was his delight. He demanded my submission. He thrived on my diminishment. He lived for my utter annihilation.
          Honestly, had I known how closely my life would resemble a carnival fun house with its shifting floors, distorting mirrors, and no clear way of distinguishing normal from crazy, not to mention that it would take me well over thirty years to get off that freaking dance floor, find solid ground and to reclaim and adorn myself head to toe with my own personal Christmas lights, I would have braced my feet, locked my knees, and refused to leave the womb.
          I think I did.
          My foot must have slipped.
          I decided years ago that there was not a chance in hell I would ever write this book. That peeling the skin off of my shins with a carrot peeler would be more pleasant than sharing my guts with Geraldo and Regis again. That I would rather eat my own head than have my pain, once again, lit up and splayed on a public marquee or on the cover of the Weekly World News—– as truly awesome as that was.
          But, in the summer of 2002, as I stood in my former bedroom that, much like my life, had been completely stripped of every last hint of the girl that had grown up in it, reading a review in the San Francisco Examiner, I felt the earth shift. Seismically. Not physically, not like the earthquakes I remembered rocking my room as a child, but psychically— which was far bigger. Far more life altering.
          I found myself reading the words, “As important as his relationship with his wife is to his story —and as much as his desire to respect her privacy may be commendable—it’s disconcerting how completely she disappears between courtship and divorce.” That was me. I was “the wife.” The review was of a play written and performed by the man I had married nine years earlier. I stood, frozen, reading those words over and over. That theater critic had, in one sentence, summed up my entire marriage. I had completely disappeared between courtship and divorce.
          But what that critic didn’t know, what only a handful of people knew, was that I had actually disappeared long before that. By the time I was married, at the age of 25, I had already been a missing person for years.