Oh, have things changed since Nicole Hardy and I first met at Freshy’s Coffee in West Seattle.
It was 2011, and Hardy was surrounded by buzz, having just published a New York Times “Modern Love” column, in which she told of being a 30-something Mormon virgin.
It was a smirk-worthy confession, until you read further.
Hardy described her struggle with being a young woman devoted to the Mormon church, but not to the idea of having children. And since the church ordered that she “wait until marriage” to sleep with anyone, she was sexually sidelined, left to watch her fellow young Mormons follow tradition by marrying and multiplying.
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Not only did her choice drain her pool of potential Mormon mates, Hardy wrote, it made her feel “fundamentally bound to an ill-fitting life.”
But there was a silver lining: The essay got the attention of a literary agent (as many “Modern Love” pieces do) and within days, Hardy had a six-figure book deal.
The resulting book, “Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin: A Memoir,” is set for release Aug. 20. A free launch party featuring live music, a photo booth and a raffle will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle (www.hugohouse.org).
“My story was not one I had read before,” Hardy told me, explaining the response. “It’s new. A Mormon woman who didn’t want children? Anyone in my position hadn’t been willing to tell it in a public community.”
And with good reason, she said.
“Anything that is not directly in support of the church can be seen as bashing,” she went on. “If you disagree, you’re supposed to pray and wait for a change of heart. Because we can be wrong. But the church can’t be.”
Hardy, now 41, is a little nervous about the book’s release. Her parents haven’t read it, and she is afraid of hurting people — especially the church.
At the same time, she believes that people in the Mormon church need to read “Confessions.”
“The experiences of single people in the church are not highly regarded,” Hardy said. “So I wanted it to be a book that Mormons could read so they could try to understand.
“It’s so personal. But my story includes a lot of other people’s stories.”
It took her a year to come up with “a bad first draft,” not only because she hadn’t written a book before, but because of what she was unearthing, and putting on paper.
“There was a lot of weeping,” she remembered. “I have put all these stories and feelings aside. Opening that Pandora’s box was intense and awful. It was really hard. But you have to give yourself that lecture and remind yourself that you have the right to say these things out loud.”
Once she got through that, well, Hardy had to write her first sex scene, about her first time. No pressure there.
“The verbs were excruciating,” she said. “And the adverbs were worse. That part, just in terms of making it not read like a Fabio romance … I wanted it to be real and emotional. I wanted people to feel something.”
After she sent the book off, Hardy went to Michigan to record the audiobook version of “Confessions,” another very emotional experience.
There were parts when she started to cry, and had to do a few takes. When that happened, the sound engineer found the image of Jack Nicholson’s maniacallygrinning face from the poster for “The Shining” on his iPad, and held it up.
“You can’t be sad when you’re looking at Jack Nicholson being intense and crazy,” she said with a smile. “It’s hard on your heart, and hard on your voice, but you can’t imagine anyone other than yourself doing it.”
She has since returned to her waitressing job at Circa in West Seattle. She also just finished writing a children’s book, illustrated by co-worker Willow Scrivner, whose artistic passion is her band, Willow & The Embers.
The book is called “Average Willow,” about a girl “who thinks she is average, but has special talents.”
One of Hardy’s new talents, since drifting from the Mormon church (“I don’t crave fellowship in that way”), has been maintaining a spiritual life. She finds it through art and literature and nature. Wherever she feels it.
“I don’t need to be told when and where to go to have a spiritual experience,” she said.
As for a romantic one? For now, Hardy is single and open to a relationship, but it isn’t a priority anymore.
“I want to say, without being an angry, militant feminist, that there are worse things than not being married and being on your own.”
I couldn’t disagree. There is freedom to be had. Self-awareness. Solitude. And who knows what else?
“I love the idea that anything could happen,” Hardy said. “It makes me feel happy and hopeful.”
Nicole Brodeur: firstname.lastname@example.org.