Quote of the Week

"I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you."
President Ezra T. Benson, To the Single Adult Sisters of the Church, 1988.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Single Woman's Liberation

     I apologize in advance to any non-Mormon readers as this entry contains several Mormon culture references which I'll try and explain as I go along. I'm in one of my moods tonight and I need to vent. Thank you for your patience.
    In 2008, Kristen M. Oaks published A Single Voice, an entire book dedicated to faith and importance of our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and not necessarily to being single. What a shame, I feel more books need to be written for us single Mormon women on how to deal with loneliness. It seems we've been banned to a life denied the blessings of temple marriage, having a worthy priesthood holder nearby, and devoid of children-for reasons God only knows.

    I'm not excluding other women out there. My rant includes anyone suffering from this loneliness disease. You can be in a lonely marriage (or lonely relationship since cohabitation is the new marriage) or feel isolated while living at home with parents or siblings who don't communicate or whatever and still feel the pain. How do you deal with it, how do you manage it? Sure, you can go see a psychiatrist, but prescription medications are a poor substitute for a relationship with a real human being. It can be really frustrating sometimes, no matter what your religion or lifestyle. I should probably include gay people in my list, not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's a delicate subject for another blog.
    Most single Mormons (female especially) attend sabbath day meetings, take the sacrament (communion-partaking of the symbolic flesh and blood of Christ) and serve in callings just like married ones. Callings are part of your service in the Mormon church as we have no paid clergy, everyone volunteers to teach Sunday School and other jobs which are determined by a Bishop.

    Yet underneath it all is a subtle reminder to those of us who don't quite fit in-yet oftimes a secret something whispered, "You're a stranger here". How to deal with that? Remember in school there was the "dumb group" that everyone else patronized, including the teachers? Who didn't do as well academically or socially just because of the label they'd been given? Everyone else breathed a sigh of relief that they were "normal". There was always that unspoken rule that you'd never be caught dead being friends with "those kids". That's how I feel sometimes.

 Anyone who's phased out of their local singles ward into a family ward knows exactly what I'm talking about. (In the Mormon chruch, every city, down to the most obscure village in every country in the world has been divided into wards and branches which all members attend-those married or divorced with kids attend family wards, those 30 and under who haven't had the opportinity yet are encouraged to attend singles wards in hopes you might meet someone to marry and procreate with. If you reach age thirty without having reached this rite of passage you are condemned to observing from the sidelines of a family ward.) For a woman this is especially frustrating as our only important self-identifying  title in the Mormon church is Mother which I'm not belittling, on the contrary, I want it and I want it NOW!
    Years ago I gave up trying to follow the advice in books like Sister Oaks and there are times I want to scream "F-you!" to our beloved well-meaning leaders who continue to send these mixed messages to Mormon single adults. Us single women are expected to be chaste and virtuous yet these are not attractive qualities to single Mormon males who say they're waiting for us to make the first move and dress and act more provocatively to show we're interested in them while they don't have to do anything. When was the last time you saw a scantily dressed woman without a date? Yeah, I thought so. When was the last time my modest dress and manner landed me a date? I'm 36 and I'm still waiting!
   Take those articles in the Ensign (a Mormon church magazie) that don't even mention dating or courtship among single members. Instead it pushes us female single members to take the initiative, get out there, make an effort, ask your Bishop to give you a calling and all that crap. Reminded me too much of those dating articles in the New Era (the one for Mormon teens) where the young men whine, "Why can't the girls ask US out on dates? Why are WE always expected to take the traditional route, what if they reject us?" Hey, guys, I'm 36, I can tell you a few things about rejection. This wasn't my choice and I'm sick of being told that as a single woman in the church, I'm the one with the problem. 
    In full rebellion, I let my temple recommend expire (it's OK, Mom, I 'm not sleeping with anyone, I still know the church is true, I'm just so TIRED of it all! Why go when I have no one to share the experience with?) I'm still waiting for the lightning to strike. I haven't had a calling in years and I don't plan on asking my current bishop for one either. He seems relieved. He doesn't bother me and I don't bother him. I don't do visiting teaching and I have no idea who mine are but you know what? That's OK, I don't mind, because it's just as uncomfortable for me hearing a message about strengthening marriage, family and home as it is for the sweet Molly Mormon sisters condescending upon the "dumb" single, never married woman who lives alone in her one bedroom apartment. I only attend sacrament meeting (Mormon worship service with talks and sermons presented by fellow members-lay clergy) when I feel like it and suffer no guilt over missing my Relief Society meetings (A Mormon Sabbath meeting is divided into three: men and women meet seperate with children and teens also meeting seperate, Sunday School for adults and kids, everyone attends worship service together).

    So I had this epiphany: if those young men floating adrift in the world can slack off in settling down, getting a college degree and a job and mooch off Mom and Dad or their current girlfriend for the rest of their Peter Pan lives, well, why can't I do the same by slacking off in my own religious duties? If attending church surrounded by eternal families while denied my own is so painful for me, why not skip a Sunday or two? It's not like anyone will miss me. It's not like I have any children or a partner to be setting a good example for.
     I will continue to blog about this subject until something earth shattering occurs one of these days in my life giving me a change of heart. In the meantime, Mom wants me to attend the BYU Education Week next month in August. So, I went online for more information about how much a one day pass costs and what kinds of classes I might be interested in attending. What I found only proves my point-are you divorced? They have a class (several actually) for that! Are you the parents of rebellious teenagers, older single adults, have a blended family, or worried about raising righteous children? Yep, they have classes for that too! Are you infertile and can't have kids? There's a class for that. Want to strengthen your marriage? There's a class for that, too.

   On the other hand, want tips on how to survive a Telestial world as a single adult without drowning in the depths of despair and lonliness? Sorry, BYU Education Week does NOT have a class for that. Cost of ticket for one day, $64. Guess what the co-payment for my last filling at the dentist cost me, $64. Sorry, Mom, I think I'd prefer getting my teeth drilled than spending an entire day attending classes and workshops I can't relate to.

    Ah, the joy of a single women's liberation!

1 comment:

  1. I guess the real question for ALL of us to figure out is "what is happiness?" Where can you find your own source of happiness? I got married at 38. Miracles can happen and sometimes they don't. But in the mean time you have to do what you have to do to be happy. And I've found that EVERYONE in every category in the church has reasons to feel lonely. I think you even made that point in the first part of the post.