Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Formerly" Sweet Spirit

"She's a sweet spirit" or "She has a sweet spirit" is usually something an RM says about the girl he's known for all of 4 weeks when he believes he's received "personal revelation" that he should marry her.  Alternatively, this may be something said about just about any nice, single Mormon girl by just about any other Mormon.

I think "Sweet Spirit" is just code for a girl/young woman who is submissive, malleable, perpetually and impossibly agreeable, and really spiritual.  Am I right? Well, those are the connotations it has for me. It wasn't exactly something I aspired to.  But, I was "accused" of having a sweet spirit on more than one occasion.  (I put up with a lot of shit when I was younger.)

A few months ago, I got into it with someone, let's call her Jen.  During the argument (which took place on FB of course), she said "you used to be so sweet."  Hot-doggity if you want to piss me off, accuse me of being formerly sweet.  It's a double insult! It implies I was sweet at one point, which is not something I ever desired to be, AND it further implies that I'm now...well...what?  Bitchy? Assertive? Opinionated?  Apt to argue with you or tell you when I think you're wrong or just being an asshat?  I don't know.  In the case of Jen, I know exactly why she'd had the impression that I was sweet at one point.  I was terrified of her and most of her family and I didn't feel like I was "allowed" to speak up to them.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I didn't feel like it was my responsibility to stand up to them.  So, I let a lot of things slide - like gossip, misogyny, lies, back-handed "compliments" to name a few.  But, at some point, I got FED UP and I started calling them out when I disagreed with them or when I felt they had wronged or insulted me.  So, now I'm not sweet in their eyes and I prefer it that way.

"Sweet" seems so hard to define when applied to a girl/woman.  After all, we females are not literally made of sugar, spice, and everything nice. And, no one has ever licked me before declaring me sweet.  Certainly, no one has ever licked my spirit before declaring me to have a sweet one.  It's weird, this term of endearment/disparagement.

If you have another take on the term "Sweet Spirit" or if it has other or different connotations for you, I'd love to hear all about it.


  1. When I hear the term "sweet spirit," it brings to mind the Mo version of Mrs. June Cleaver. It means compliant, no backbone, submissive, etc. Not a complement.

    Even before I transitioned out of Mormondum, I learned to take "You bitch!" as a complement. It just meant I wasn't taking anybody's shit. I'm with you -- I get offended if anyone tells me I used to be a sweet spirit. They may as well tell me I used to be a moron.

  2. I had never heard the term "sweet spirit" until my third year at school. It was used to describe a roommate (via another roommate) that I hadn't yet met.

    I think I must have demonstrated some lack of understanding (followed by a shocked "Come on. You have to know what it means.") and it was explained to me that this new roommate was certainly a very nice girl, but that was all she had to recommend her. She was very plain and overweight. She was a "sweet spirit."

    Hearing your definition of the word, I prefer it. I don't really like either usage, but when I met this roommate later, having that term in my head, I couldn't help but feel I had been set up to think badly of her. She was quiet, shy, kept to herself, and was somewhat plain (and overweight), but she was also nice and followed her own interests and did her own thing. I felt like I had judged her based on this stupid term.

    There are people I might describe as "sweet spirits" but they're people who I really feel deserve the title, not nice girls who aren't the center of attention.

  3. Yeah, I guess I've heard it used that way too. Kinda how the rest of the world might say "he/she's really funny/has a great personality" as code for, "kinda blah looking." Maybe Mormons use this because they don't really value humor or personality in women. Oh, that's just overly snarky, sorry. But, not sorry enough to delete it.

  4. I've heard it used both ways.

    I always hated being called "sweet" by women in church, too. It made me feel like i was supposed to be living up to some weird and completely off-base expectations they had of me (and of course they did!). I may be caring and compassionate, but sweet i am not.

  5. I was under the impression that "sweet spirit" was code for a very nice but not very cute girl.

    And yeah, I rarely ever got accused of being sweet. Nice? Sure. But not sweet.

  6. Yep, I've also always heard 'sweet spirit' as code for the ugly girls. As in, there are some pretty girls and some sweet spirits...

  7. Yeah - when I was at BYU, sweet spirit was code for a girl considered not worthy of dating, but good enough to be a friend. I was such a girl. I so hated it there.

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