Tuesday, January 11, 2011

old married lady rant

 The "old married lady" the title I'm referring to is moi. Recently I've been following blogs on Mormon thought, including one Feminist Mormon Housewives. I also like reading my friend Jendar's blog quite a bit: she's always fresh, lovely and fun. Both of these blogs posted an article in the NY Times about a single Mormon woman's love life! How exciting! Link is below:

Single, Female, Mormon, Alone

Many people have many things to say on this article. It's about a Mormon woman who is single, and has remained a virgin until her mid-30s when she goes into Planned Parenthood for the check up for her first time. I'm guessing she's writing this essay because she was a single lady when she was getting ready for doing the deed, as a single lady. I myself have many thoughts on the article.

I’m glad forums like this exist because it helps members of the Church understand each other better. It helps nonmembers understand what goes in Mormons' heads when we make complicated choices like staying celibate for over 30 years. And we really need understanding when there is so much pain going around.

I felt for this woman because being single in the Church was so difficult for me. I had many a night where I cried to my parents: “I don’t think I can handle being single in the Church much longer!" I had a night on the eve of my 23rd birthday where I had a crying meltdown in my car. I called a hotline to talk to someone because I was in so much pain. I was about to turn 23, which just seemed so damn old to be without a ring in Utah. The pretty 22-and-under girls at work were married. I felt like a pariah to my religion because I was "old", alone, and my old boyfriend had gone on to seriously date a 19 year old girl.

However, I stuck it out and found a lovable, scruffy, happy, energetic Mormon man. We were married and sealed in Seattle temple. I was 25, he 26. I'm very grateful that we decided to wait for physical intimacy for many reasons. The first I'm going to say isn't because our temple sealing is such a wonderful blessing, though it is.

What I want to point out first is that sex is awkward the first goes around. I'm really glad that I was with my husband and we had already signed the deal to stick it out together before we had that experience. It's emotional and you are vulnerable. Plus, I'm more emotional and vulnerable than your average bear. When I broke up with my old boyfriend, I think I mentioned how devastated I was. I learned later that your brain gets chemically wired to be emotionally dependent on the person you're sleeping with. Sex produces such chemicals and emotions. I'm glad I waited for the right person for those chemical bonds to take place in me, because it helped keep me more level-headed about subsequent breakups until I started dating my husband.

I'm also glad I waited for Cole because it's really great to share your spiritual side with someone. Though Cole and I aren't the most orthodox Mormons out there, we can share our spiritual ride together and understand each other. It feels like being in the same cart on a roller coaster. And I'm appreciative to our temple sealing because though I don't understand everything about eternal life, I like feeling that Cole and I have a shot at staying married in the next life. That's why my plan worked for me.

That being said, I also want to say that Mormon men experience a lot of confusion and difficulty as well during their bachelor years. I think the statistic is 90% of single LDS men leave the church after age 30 because they’re frustrated and disillusioned. That number is powerful. And there seems to be a vilification of LDS men who aren't dating. That's not helpful either.

I think Mormons need to have a revolution on how we socialize and talk to each other. We don’t talk to each other in our church meetings at a heart-to-heart level like that personal NYT essay. Ever. Mormon socializing is so difficult because we have such high expectations of ourselves, and of others.

We need to figure out how to deal with differences in personality and religious observance with more elegance and nuance instead of writing each other off as “not spiritual enough” or “too church-y for me.” How many people have heard the story of the young man who stopped dating his girlfriend because she didn’t take out her second earring during his prescribed timetable for her? We’ve got to stop talking like that and start sharing stories about how we GRACEFULLY handle socializing, dating, compromising, and living together in this life with harmony.

I'm married, so for the sake of being graceful, I'm not going to rant about what people need to do in order to get married because I know that's annoying. And not everyone wants to spend the same amount of energy on dating that I did when I was single.

But when I think about how nonmembers meet each other, or get to know each other, it's usually through casual things. Conversations over drinks, or coffee. Mormons don't drink those things, but how hard is it to invite someone for a hot chocolate, or dessert, or a boba tea and a chat? Mormons relax through doing things like service projects or games. We need to start sharing things  about ourselves as well: start listening, and stop judging so harshly.


Linds said...

Missy, I saw your intro on fMh, and clicked on your link.

I love your response to this article! I read it last week and found it to be refreshingly honest. I wish more people were open about the very real difficulty they experience in the church. Those experiences don't have to exclude the positive, but acknowledging that there are doctrines and practices that contribute heavily to painful experiences would go a long way to easing people's burdens. I'm glad you wrote about it.

jendar said...

whoa! this is such a great post! i wish i'd read it before. like you, i believe there needs to be more conversations in church. i feel like people at church are usually so scared to open up and discuss certain feelings because they may think it's wrong to have those feelings. i am hoping that things will start changing soon and that we can have more conversations at church other than the typical seminary stuff. we are living in hard times and it's not easy to be a member of the church, and even less to be a single member of the church. i've been having a very hard time spiritually because of this but I am trying to stay strong and not get discouraged. somedays i just feel like i can't handle to be single anymore and all the pressure that itentails. anyway, i really liked this article. and yes, some people may totally think she is crazy for having sex, but in all honesty i appreciate her honesty. and i hope that she can be happy.

Heidi L. (Affair with Color) said...

Good post, I found you through FMH as well. I agree we need to talk more but face to face with strict LDS relatives can be really tough if not just intimidating. I plan on teaching my kids and siblings that sex is a choice and there is a reason why we wait not just because it's what God wants us to do- because like it or not that isn't a strong motive when you are in love. I got married at 30 and it did feel like forever- I get what that girl feels and how single adults turn away from the church- not because they don't believe but because they don't fit in and it hurts and it's hard. It does change you when life doesn't go the "cookie cutter Mormon path" and you question and find answers that many people don't seek out because they weren't put in that same situation. The most important thing I've learned through it all is that everyone is different so they need different things than what I do. I've had many a (extended)family member tell me I'm doing things wrong so as a result I don't share my life with them. I love God and I do the best with what I have and I only answer to Him, but I wish they would try to see where I'm coming from and love me just the same- even though I don't do it "their" right way.