Saturday, October 13, 2012
"I was going to serve a mission, but I got married instead."
These were the words spoken to me ten years ago as I sat chatting with a woman my age one Sunday at church. I'd starting attending a family ward and I was all alone. Having a bachelors degree, wearing my "badge of honor" that came with being an RM, looking forward to starting a career, suddenly it all seemed very mediocre compared to what SHE had managed to "catch".
So, for those who haven't heard the news, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just announced a change in the age in which young people can now be recommended to serve missions. It comes as no surprise to this old maid that while 18 year old boys recieved this news with nary a shrug before returning to their iPhones, the young women went nuts beating a pathway to the bishop's office and completing the required paperwork before the weekend was over. I'm all for girl power but I can't get my cynical side to shut up.
After some pondering and reading through my old Journals when I was 19 and 20 recalling my frustration at the lack of boyfriend and dating opportunites even at that early age in the mid 90's, struggling what I should do with my life, if the time had come for me to move out of my parent's house yet and the pathways I should take, I can't say I blame these brave young girls. If I'd had the opportunity to serve at 19 would I have gone? The answer is a resounding YES. Yet, I feel someone has to ask the question:
Is the dating pool really that bad?
It will be exciting watching the drama unfold: the inundation of sister missionaries who will rush to the temple to take out their endowments, come home after 18 months to graduate and launch themselves into successful careers. As the years pass, I foresee these noble women making the best out of celibate living despite the pressure the world puts upon them to cohabitate and "settle". I hope the temple experience, while beautiful, won't turn sour for them as it has for me over the years with no one to share it with.
I wonder how many will come flocking to my blog, looking for support and encouragement to stay chaste while breaking the old stereotype that missions are merely "a fallback for the wallflower". Will single sisters in the church start thinking of themselves at age 19 as the new old maid? I hope not. Will the church lower the dating age from 16 to 14? As Elder Holland said, "One miracle at a time!" Instead, I anticipate we will all have a good laugh as the brethern of the church continue to beg and plead for the young men to get up and not be intimidated by what I forsee as the rising of the "New Mormon Woman". Young men will continue to hear the old lecture to put down the video game controller, serve a mission, get a degree, date, court, marry and GET A LIFE! Yes, some things will never change.
While the influx of righteous young women in the mission field is a good thing, the down side to all this, my cynical side continues to scream, is the fact that single young men, both Mormon and Non aren't looking for potential mothers to future children, women who are intelligent, strong and chaste. In today's 21st century dating and hanging-out culture, all that matters, all that will continue to matter is
HOW SEXY ARE YOU?
Therin lies the rub. If I could trade all my talents (music, cooking, reading and writing) all my wholesomeness for the opportunity to be sexually attractive and have a date every weekend I would say no thanks. I'm tired of being objectified. But the sad truth is, in the eyes of single men in today's culture, there is NOTHING sexy about being a returned sister missionary.
Kudos to all my companions who somehow managed to find eternal companions and start creating families of their own after they got home. I'm not saying you'll be an automatic loser for the rest of your life as a young woman who chooses to serve a mission. But, as many married women in the church will validate for you, as my opening statements support, it sure seems that way sometimes.
The purpose of this blog is to reach out to all the others, like me, for whom serving a mission was not an automatic, Get Out of Single Ward/Jail Free Card. Sometimes a mission is just a mission. God is good but too many nights I've laid awake wondering what I might have done different to prevent this tragedy of sleeping alone for the rest of my life from occuring.
Serving a mission can be both traumatic-filled with rejection on all sides by those who perceive all virtuous unmarried women as a threat-and it can also be profoundly beneficial in the many opportuinites it provides for service and bearing testimony of the restored gospel. It is my sincere hope that all these gung-ho sisters will have better experiences than some of the ones I had in Atlanta, Georgia. I couldn't get over all the cohabitation and divorce. The poverty and self incurring debt that was making life miserable for so many innocent children. I came home feeling like I'd just fought a terrible war and my side had lost! I came home discuraged hoping better days were ahead. Those Southern Baptists will kill you, if the humidity doesn't get you first! But I came home stronger for the experience.
I recently celebrated my 38th birthday. My favorite brother, Mike, is on my right, my favorite nephew Calvin in orange, my favorite little sister Mary holding my second favorite nephew Charlie and Calvin's cousin Frankie is there at the end. I hope this picture serves to shut up my cynical side because life isn't all self-pity, even when you're an old maid.
The boys in this photo will one day take their place in the mission field, serve honarably and return ready to launch into life as good family men like their dads. Not all young men are hopeless addicts, drifting along in the sea of life. Some do grow up to serve missions, marry in the temple and become positive role models for other young men their age. How blessed I am to be part of such a family!