My Brief, Hideous Encounter with Mormon Single Life

A couple of months ago I was in the throes of a personal bread-making craze which has since spent itself, partly because the bread I made wasn’t very good. (I really need to get some pointers from those domestic goddesses over at FMH.) One bread-baking afternoon I took my wedding ring off to knead the dough, and I neglected to put it on again before attending a church meeting that evening.

Most of the people at the meeting were in my ward and of course know I’m married, but there were also people from other wards I didn’t know well, including one young man who was at least ten years my junior and evidently single. I found myself walking out of the meeting at the same time he was, and so just to make conversation, I turned to him and started mouthing polite inanities about the weather. (I’m not very good at small talk, and I don’t think well on my feet, but I did want to be friendly.) This young man, who had seemed perfectly nice in the meeting, looked back at me in a terror so evident one would have thought I had rent my clothing and flashed him. He didn’t say a word in response to my pleasantries. He didn’t even say good-bye. He all but ran for the safety of his car.

I went home and contemplated supergluing my wedding ring to my finger.

Now, I don’t think I have an inflated sense of my own physical attractiveness. I’m chubby, I don’t always get around to dying my gray hair, I rarely bother with makeup, and my sense of fashion leans heavily toward the comfort of T-shirts and jeans.  And while I couldn’t begin to claim a peaceful relationship with my body, I also find it an unspeakable relief to be sliding into middle age and away from the anorexic beauty wars. I gleefully anticipate being a fat wrinkly old woman in an ugly purple polyester pantsuit speaking my cantankerous mind in Relief Society.

So I wasn’t exactly startled that this young man didn’t respond to what he clearly perceived as my romantic overture. But I was startled–amazed!–that he thought I was making a romantic overture. I mean, really, talk about the weather? I haven’t been single since 1996, so I’m way, way out of practice at what constitutes flirting, but one of the things I remember liking about the singles’ ward where I met my husband was that I could talk to a male member of the ward without his concluding that I was hitting on him and without the entire ward gossiping about it. (Was my ward unusual in that respect, I wonder now?)

I guess I’ve really taken for granted the social freedom accorded me by my wedding ring. I can’t begin to express how much I love being off the market, unavailable, out of consideration. (I’m currently thinking that if my husband predeceases me I’ll just invest in a few nun costumes, for Sunday and daily wear.) Being visibly married makes all of my social interactions with men so easy, so casual, so comfortable. I evidently hadn’t realize just how easy, casual, and comfortable.

What have your experiences been with romantic overtures made, not made, understood and misunderstood?

36 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Yes, Eve, your singles ward was unusual in that respect. (heh)

    As a married man, my interactions with Mormon women are free and easy. I have many good female friends, both LDS and non. Taking potential romance off the table is a marvellous tonic allowing such relationships to flower.

    But if I were single, I’m sure I wouldn’t be *quite* the good friend I am now. I’m sure I would have a tendency not just to talk to women, but while I was at it to try to gauge whether any romantic possibilities might come to exist between us. I would be trying extra hard to make a good impression. I would be less secure in my interactions.

    (But I should hope nothing like that kid in the OP; he was quite beyond the pale.)

  2. Eve, perhaps your ward was only unusual in how circumspect they were about their gossiping. 🙂

    I really liked what Cynthia L. (a.k.a. sister blah 2) had to say about being in singles wards in a discussion last year at BCC, including this comment:

    I remember feeling like I wanted to hurry up and get married because I was just completely exhausted with being looked at (with more of a leered-at slant), chatted-up, and all the rest of it. I just wanted men to leave me the he** alone, frankly.

    Sorry–I don’t have any good experiences of my own to share. I was never really pursued so I didn’t have Cynthia’s problem. And I wasn’t really ever any good at pursuing either, so I didn’t really do it. (I suspect I was only able to get married because of the Mormon man shortage.)

    Like Kevin, I’m happy to be married and have that whole romantic undercurrent off the table so that it’s possible for me to talk to women at all.

  3. What a funny experience. I do think that we can all get away with a little more friendliness because we’re married.

    I noticed it in Kauai. I was with my two single cousins and they were not as friendly as I was to local people (especially guys). Part of it may be personality, but part of it is the sexual tension. I don’t know how to act around single people anymore either, so I could have been crossing the invisible boundaries and not realizing it.

    For those single people reading this post, I wonder if anyone has tried the reverse of Eve’s situation. Have you ever pretended to be married for a while to see how people treat you differently? I guess you’d have to do this on vacation or a place you don’t go very often.

  4. I don’t have anything to add on the single-Mormon side (it’s been a lot of years since I’ve been there), but can comment on the bread-making craze. The New York Times has two of the best bread recipes I’ve ever tasted or made, and they’re practically foolproof. Seriously, I brought a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich I made with slices of this loaf to work today, and it was far better than the leftover pizza that was available.

    And if you’re able to wait 18 to 24 hours for your bread to be ready, make this. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

  5. I should add, you don’t have to knead either dough, so you don’t have to worry about some single guy at church thinking you’re hitting on him ever again, even when you’re making bread.

  6. i plan on wearing my wedding ring if and when i’m widowed, just to avoid such a future…
    for me the weirdest male/female interactions of late have been on facebook, where ward members and neighbors and old high school friends have been more flirty with other married people (not just with me, but i’ve noticed on comments on other people’s photos, updates, etc) than i think they would be in person and in real life.

  7. Have you ever pretended to be married for a while to see how people treat you differently?

    Good question, Jessawhy. I have a friend from school who I believe routinely wore a wedding ring on airplane flights to avoid having men chat her up.

  8. Ziff’s comment #7 reminded me of an experience…

    I was on a cross country flight in January. The weather had caused many flight delays the day before, but my flight was fine. I was sitting next to a young woman, and we were chatting about travel woes, etc. I asked her where she was going, and she replied, “On my honeymoon.” I was surprised by this… She explained that their wedding had been two days before, they were supposed to fly out the day before our flight, but weather had delayed their departure and they spent the night in the airport.

    Where is your husband?

    “About ten rows up front.”

    Do you want me to swap seats with him so you can be together?

    “Oh, no… I think a little time spent apart will be just fine…”

  9. Oh, no… I think a little time spent apart will be just fine

    I’ll take “lines that you never hope to hear on your honeymoon” for $500 please, Alex!

  10. Just an odd note on wedding rings – I once knew a guy who said that when he would go to bars with his wedding ring on, some women would come right after him, because he was wearing a wedding ring. He said he actually would take the ring off so that women would leave him alone.

    Of course as Mormons we do not spend much time in bars – so we don’t have to worry about such things.

  11. Funny post. I can relate to all of the above. A few years back, I was 29ish and still in my singles ward when some young boy I didin’t recognize in the pew in front of me, turned around and asked me if I was nervous about finals. I had graduated from BYU what felt to be eons prior and made up my mind in that instant that I couldn’t take it anymore and was going to a ‘family’ ward again. Then, I went to family wards and was treated like a pariah by women (it seems like many think single women are out to steal their husbands); and also was treated weirdly/poorly by plenty of men who I can only surmise- must have been uncomfortable because of my single state as well. I promised myself that I would always be social with single people in the church (I find it easier to do in a work environment) when I was married, because its hard enough being single in the LDS church, let alone being treated like you’re a freak because you’re single. On the other hand, I actually have worn a fake wedding ring on flights to avoid the chatter as was shared above. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a friendship with someone — without any pressure and without them hitting on you. Quite the dichotomy eh.

  12. I wasn’t 18 when I went off to university, and was very lucky to meet my home teachers about a month before starting classes. They ran interference for me in the meat market that was the university Singles Ward (mostly populated by medical students.) My home teacher Bob stood near me that first Sunday, and I thought he was going to fall over laughing when one fellow introduced himself with “Hi, I’m Awesome Returned Missionary/Future Successful Specialty Doc! And you are?” and I responded cheerfully, “I’m Liz, and currently, I’m a felony, but in a few months, I’ll have a birthday, and then I’m only a misdemeanor!”

    I didn’t date in high school. Perhaps there’s a reason.

    The next year at the same university (not a church school), I mistakenly dated a girl for nearly an entire term. I just thought she was a really nice girl, and that it was great we enjoyed so many of the same things.

    So, obviously, I’d be right there with you wondering why on earth someone interpreted conversation as flirting. And someday, I’ll join you in relief society. I’ll be the lady wearing the shocking red velvet peasant skirt.

    Man, am I glad I married young, and don’t have to deal with any of that anymore. Now I’m re-thinking my conversational patterns–I tend to be the one who strikes up conversations with strangers while waiting in lines and airports, and perhaps I ought to not do that so freely. I might be mistakenly proposing marriage to all and sundry, and traumatizing nice young men.

  13. Had a friend in law school who inherited her grandmother’s wedding ring and took to wearing it (though on a different finger) and we then had a discussion about why guys quit paying attention to her.

    She didn’t realize that the guys would just see the ring and not pay attention to which finger it was on …

  14. Good point, Eve. There’s nothing wrong with talking about the weather. Sometimes the weather is pretty interesting. For instance, around here it’s finally cooling down, after all of these annoying hot and humid days, which is perfect because —

    Hey, come back here! 😛

  15. I find this interesting because I go out without my wedding ring all the time, and haven’t noticed any differences between when I wear it and when I don’t. Then again, I almost never go out without chasing/being climbed all over by three crazy little boys, so that might have something to do with it…

    Also, while I would love to have single friends, and always said I would even when I was married, and when I had kids (and that I would be friends with those who were married without kids even when I had kids, etc), I’m finding the practice much harder than the theory. It’s not that I don’t want to be friends with these people, it’s just that I’m so overwhelmed chasing my kids that I don’t get a chance to talk to them. So my advice is that if you want to be friends with anyone with little kids is to go a little out of your way to talk to them rather than waiting for them to talk to you (I know, I’m sure there are many other circumstances that make talking to new people hard as well) — I’m pretty sure they’ll be grateful you did.

  16. a fat wrinkly old woman in an ugly purple polyester pantsuit speaking my cantankerous mind in Relief Society

    Pictures, please. And audio, too.

    Eve, I totally relate to this post. I simply cannot tell you how exhausting it is to have attractive women constantly throwing themselves at me.

  17. I think that these days a honeymoon is more like a 5–7 year anniversary trip (for most nonMormons). There’s no urgency. There’s no need to spend all this time together to learn about each other. Rather than needing to learn how to start a relationship, you need tips on how to keep the fires burning and how to keep romance alive in the marriage.

  18. I am allergic to the metals in my wedding ring and have not worn it in 15 years. Most of time I have not noticed any difference, except three times when “old” men hit on me. One time with all my kids, another with one kid and another time alone. All three times it took me awhile to realize what was happening.

  19. When I was single and the choir president, a guy showed up at church who sat a few rows in front of me and sang tenor. Tenor! My main job as choir president was recruiting, so I went up to him after sacrament meeting and asked, “So, you sing. Are you moving here? We can sure use a tenor.” This guys starts in about how his WIFE isn’t with him on this trip and his WIFE is the one with the great voice and he likes to sing but his WIFE just loves to sing and so he stays home with the kids so his WIFE can go to choir.

    Dude, you’re short, balding and have a weak chin. I am not hitting on you. Eww. Get over yourself.

  20. Left Field and I met when we were in our late 30’s and never once were at an old single adult activity together that I can remember. Nevertheless, this post seems to have inspired last night’s nightmare.

    In this dream Left Field, who hates dances, wanted to trip down memory lane by going to a singles dance. I picked him up and he had a bunch of people he wanted to bring along – all single; three women and a guy, with two children in there, too. Somehow I was supposed to cram these people into my very old Dodge Spirit. There was an accident. Then a golf tournament. OK, it was a dream and got weird. But I do distinctly remember saying to Left Field, “You know, if you have such happy memories of your time in single adults, it’s just a few phone calls and legal fees for you to be single again.”

  21. She didn’t realize that the guys would just see the ring and not pay attention to which finger it was on …

    Hmmm. I wore a ring on that finger for about ten years. Didn’t look a bit like a wedding ring — it was my mother’s World War II service ring — but … hmmm … is *that* why I’m single? Probably not, but then again I wouldn’t be much attracted to a guy whose idea of a wedding ring was a gold oval with a Roman warrior’s head on it, with lots of fancy doodads on the sides that made it look like a high school class ring.

    I have no funny stories about misdirected romantic overtures, alas. But I recognize what moksha said. A single woman can’t talk to any married man in a church setting, no matter what the age differential or how unattractive either or both are, on any subject, without the man’s wife running over to monitor the contact. What’s with that?

  22. A single woman can’t talk to any married man in a church setting, no matter what the age differential or how unattractive either or both are, on any subject, without the man’s wife running over to monitor the contact. What’s with that?

    I’m not sure what’s up with that either. I’ve noticed a huge difference between church settings and professional settings in that regard. I have a (married male) professor with whom I work closely. Quite often, I’ll go to his office and we’ll have discussions behind closed doors. Nobody thinks anything untoward is happening, and everyone understands that our relationship is professional. (I’m a law student trying to become a law professor, and he’s helping me navigate the process.)

    However, at church, the women get defensive if I dare to talk to men. There are tons of lawyers in my ward, so naturally, I’m interested in talking shop with them. There’s honestly no danger of any flirtation happening in a conversation about the rule against perpetuities. Count me in as another baffled single woman. (I don’t want to start the mommy wars here, but I’ve found that women who work outside the home act less threatened by my conversations with their respective husbands than women who don’t.)

  23. The weird vibe talking to a member of the opposite sex at church isn’t just there for singles. Although for me (as a married woman) the vibe is usually weirder from the men. A lot of the men I try to have a conversation with at church (always about something innocuous, like their children) start acting weird and looking around for their wives. It’s like they’re thinking, “Where’s my wife? You’re a girl, you’re supposed to be talking to her, not me.” I have to say that the people my husband and I have made the best friends with in our 7 years of marriage (in many different wards) are the ones who realize it really is okay for husbands to talk to wives and wives to talk to husbands. Really.

    That being said, if a single woman is talking to my husband at church, I’m sure I’ll be hovering. That’s because if my husband is talking to anyone at church I’m generally hovering, silently thinking, “What are you doing having a conversation with someone? Come help me with your children!”

  24. If you think merely being single at church is awkward, try being young and divorced. Then most people really avoid casual conversation! (It’s contagious.) Glad that’s over with. Being remarried makes it easier on everyone else.

  25. However, at church, the women get defensive if I dare to talk to men. There are tons of lawyers in my ward, so naturally, I’m interested in talking shop with them. There’s honestly no danger of any flirtation happening in a conversation about the rule against perpetuities.

    I wouldn’t be to sure, especially if you start to analyze how it should have been applied to copyright law analysis the last go around …

    Seriously, my wife doesn’t mind when I talk shop with female attorneys who are single. I don’t mind her talking shop with other medical types, as long as they do it where I don’t have to overhear it 😉

  26. Ardis, it may be that you didn’t turn away guys who thought a Roman warrior is a good wedding ring, you just turned away guys who thought a Roman warrior was your idea of a wedding ring. This reminded me of a woman I knew in college. When I suggested that her left-hand ring might be scaring guys off, she responded that it didn’t look anything like a wedding or engagement ring. I told her she was severely overestimating the ability of the average male to either notice or differentiate styles of jewelry. I think a lot of guys would look at it and think that even if it’s not a wedding ring, since it’s on the left hand, it could be some sort of “I’m not available” signal.

    When I was a missionary, some elders in my mission tried wearing an American flag lapel pin so they wouldn’t get confused with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Way too subtle. Nobody noticed or made the connection at all. I think it’s the same thing with a ring. If you’ve go a ring on the proximal phalanx of your left third digit, that’s all a lot of people are going to notice. Expecting them to make a judgment of what style of wedding ring you might prefer could be expecting a bit much.

  27. thank you for these comments..I relate to much of what was shared. That is too bad the guy thought you were hitting on him!

    As a 40 yo single female, never married, I find it very sad that guys sometimes think a mere hello constitutes severe someone else said, professional environments are much better..i find it much easier to talk w/nonLDS coworkers and joke/have fun w/them vs LDS men who say little other than “hello” and “Hi Sis Nita”.

    I want to try the experiment about pretending to be married..would be fascinating I think!

    I’ve also experienced some lds females who do “hover”, when I must interact w/men in the Church (ie w/email) usually I’ve cc’d the wife if it isn’t a confidential issue. But I’ve pretty much stopped that habit.

    Single females and single males do miss out on much of the friendship aspects of church. For those of us w/o kids,etc, we have no one else in our lives about who the other members can talk/interact. So it is “just us” or our work,etc or prhaps a calling.. For those w/families, I think friendships are easier b/w men and women because the friendship can be based on a variety of other kids,etc.

    It does hurt to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to know that it is not possible to have true friendships w/men, single or married..I spend my time at work caring for others, I serve in callings and work hard to do for others in the ward. I feel happy helping others.

    I’m included in shower invitations (ie for babies,etc). But usually I do not receive invitations to the homes of others for purely social reasons, I think that would be something that would be more common if I did have a spouse.

    Sometimes I spend much time feeling lonely and isolated related to the reasons described in the other posts.

  28. If a woman, single or married, approached me at church wanting to discuss the rule against perpetuities, I’d start looking around for my wife, too.

  29. As one married to a non-Mormon, there is some similarity here. I have virtually no relationships with any men in my ward. The men don’t know my husband, so they don’t know me. I suppose they have no reason to, but it does feel awkward sometimes.

  30. A single woman can’t talk to any married man in a church setting, no matter what the age differential or how unattractive either or both are, on any subject, without the man’s wife running over to monitor the contact. What’s with that?

    I have another perspective on that. I’ve often walked up to my husband talking to a woman, only to have her immediately move away or stop the conversation altogether. My intention was not to monitor, but to get to know the interesting looking girl he happens to be talking to. I don’t like being scary. I’m trying to be friendly!

    I had a funny experience once when I went to accompany my brother singing at a single’s ward halfway through a semester. My shiny wedding ring didn’t stop about 10 guys surrounding me in the foyer before church to introduce themselves to the new girl. I’ve never felt so attractive before, but then I had to admit I was married when they asked where I lived. They immediately scattered. I felt like a piece of meat.

  31. I also inherited my grandmother’s ring, only it wasn’t her wedding ring and it is my wedding ring now.

    I’ve gotten many women who’ve known me for at least a few months say, when I mention my husband (The Franchise), “Oh! You’re married?! I didn’t know that!”

    I suspect that, since the main stone on my ring is an amethyst, it’s not immediately recognized as a wedding ring.

    I’m in rehearsals for a show right now, and the being married thing has definitely made for easier friendships with the single males in the show. There’s just one guy, though, who can’t seem to accept that fact, and will still try to flirt with me on occasion.

    A quick story:

    The Franchise dropped me off at rehearsal, and then left to go grab some dinner before coming back to watch. The young man in question saw me get out of my car, saw me kiss my husband goodbye, then followed me inside. I got “So…… was that your….. husband?” Trying not to make a big deal of it, I replied with “Yep,” and just kept walking. He still isn’t quite sure how to interact with me.

  32. I’ll admit that it bugs me when married men in the ward won’t speak to me, or if they do, they’re awkward, obviously distracted or looking for their wives.

    Perhaps it’s just the younger guys. The older men are fine, in fact they’re interesting and helpful.

    A funny story I just remembered.
    We have a really nice older man (late 70’s maybe) in our ward who recently lost his wife to cancer. He’s in the Sunday School presidency and I teach Sunday School to the 13-14 year olds.
    One Sunday he came in to give me the roll or something. He made a little joke, gave me a word of encouragement, and a little pat on the bum as he turned to leave.

    I’m 90% sure he didn’t even realize what he had done, but man it made me laugh.


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