Zelophehad’s Daughters

Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VII, Attempts at Comfort

Posted by Seraphine

If you’re a single woman in the church (late 20s or older), people are kind to you (likely more kind than they are to your male counterparts). However, you have also been an object of pity more times than you can count. The problem is that most of this pity is not direct–instead, it’s usually manifest through attempts to comfort you (because of your poor, pitiful, single status). I call this pity-disguised-at-attempts-to-comfort-the-sad-women-who-are-struggling-to-find-meaning-in-their-lives.

We can see examples of pity-disguised-as-comfort in official discourse, primarily in those comments made for single sisters when motherhood is discussed. Since motherhood is generally the only path towards fulfillment offered to women, leaders feel the need to comfort single sisters.

This “comfort” comes in a few different flavors. First, there is the “you will be a mother someday, even if you have to wait until the next life” message. Or, as I label it, it’s the we-pity-you-because-you-cannot-find-meaning-in-this-life-but-you-should-have-hope-that-someday-you’ll-find-meaning message. I know our leaders mean well, but I don’t find this message comforting. Vague references to an afterlife we don’t fully understand don’t give me much hope, and they don’t give me much guidance for my life in the here and now. And I refuse to spend my life waiting–it’s a sucky way to live (believe me, I’ve tried it).

Second, there is the “you can be a mother now because all women are mothers” message. I think this does a disservice to the women who are actual mothers (for example, me “mothering” my nephews is in no way comparable to the hours and hours of work my sisters put in raising their boys). Also, it sends the message of here’s-a-way-to-find-meaning-in-this-life-with-the-only-role-open-to-you-because-there-is-no-other-way-for-us-to-recognize-women-finding-meaning-in-life. But in the end, it’s a small comfort because single women are not actually mothers; I end up feeling empty after comments like these because I’m just being thrown a bone that doesn’t really address the realities of my life.

If that isn’t enough, when you’re a single woman in the church, you also get a lot of pity-disguised-as-comfort in your one-on-one interactions with fellow church members. Here are some of the most common:

First, there is the I’m-baffled-you’re-not-married response. It usually goes something like this: “You’re not married? I’m surprised. [insert praise of beauty, intelligence, etc.] Why don’t more guys recognize how wonderful you are?”

I realize that responses like this are other people’s attempts to try and reassure me that I am a great person, and that I shouldn’t see my marital status as a commentary on my worth as a person. However, comfort phrased in this way is typically not comforting because it typically gets me wondering about why I am not married. And there are two general conclusions that can be drawn from these remarks:

Conclusion #1: there’s something wrong with all the guys that don’t want to date you

Conclusion #2: even though you’re smart and beautiful, there’s something wrong with you because guys don’t want to date you.

And while people who make this remark might be trying to imply that conclusion #1 is the correct conclusion, it becomes pretty easy to believe conclusion #2 because it involves fewer people (surely, there can’t be something wrong with *all* guys).

Second, is the “I know there’s someone out there for you” response. While I know people who say this have the best of intentions, they don’t actually know that there’s someone out there–they cannot receive personal revelation for my life. And let’s be 100% honest: not everyone gets married in this life, and I would guess that most 30-somethings in the church (especially 30-something women) have begun to face this issue. And random people telling you that they know there’s someone out there just feels disingenuous.

I’m going to conclude this post by telling you a story that my dad told me because single people often get similar attempts at comfort, often from their family and friends.  Though let me preface this story by saying that my father is a wonderful, wonderful man who loves me and is a good father, and also that he has stopped telling stories like the ones that I am sharing. (I love you, dad!)

As I started coming out as a feminist, my parents who were already worried about how little I was dating (and whether or not I would ever get married) began to worry even more. Their socially awkward daughter was *liberal* and a *feminist*, and no good, Mormon boy would want to date her now. So, in order to reassure me, my dad told me a story. Here is my paraphrased version:

“There was this guy I knew in college. He was the smartest guy I knew–just really bright–and nice too, but none of the girls wanted to date him. He was pretty socially inadept, and no one  wanted to date him because he was just too awkward. But he was really smart and nice. I think that this is someone you could have dated because he would have been so grateful someone was dating him that he wouldn’t have cared about your politics!”

I laugh about this story because it’s funny, and it was well-intentioned. I know that my dad was trying to say something like “there’s someone out there for everyone, even if you’re outside of the norm.” But that’s not really the implicit message of the story. The (accidental) implicit message of the story is something like “you’re so out of the norm that the only people who will want to date you is guys who would be willing to date anyone.” Again, hardly a comfort.

So, I guess the moral of this post is: I totally understand the impulse to comfort people who are struggling with a particular issue, but please understand that attempts at comfort where you aim for reassurance often don’t have the effect you intend (at least, such is the case with me and my single status). And honestly, while being a 30-something single in the church has its challenges, I’m not in need of pity–even though dating has proven challenging and even though I’m currently not fulfilling my divine gender role, my life is full of meaning.

119 Responses to “Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VII, Attempts at Comfort”

  1. 1.

    Once again, I’m not Mormon, I’m an evangelical Christian (is that the correct delineation?) but this resonates.

    I wrote a private blog post several months ago about being single. For me, the worst part is their comforting in the form of analyzing my friendships with guys. As I said in that post:

    Yes. I am very close to a couple of different guys. People you might not expect. I get calls from these guys when they meet someone, when they break up, when something big happens in their families, sometimes late at night, when I should be sleeping. I am not dating them. They are not dating me. We are not dating each other. We love each other very much, but that does not mean that we want to be married to each other. This is okay. This is healthy. This is not what our lives would look like if we had gotten married to (other) people in our late teens or early twenties, because then our relationships would have naturally sprung up with other married couples, not other singles.

    This is not to say there is not confusion in these relationships about whether we should be dating. We shouldn’t be. We know this. We know each other pretty well, so you should probably take our word for it. Do not encourage the occasional confusion by asking us how we feel about them or how they feel about us. How do I feel about them? Um. The same as I always have. How do they feel about me? Um. I don’t know, I don’t read minds. I assume the same as ever, since I haven’t received a declaration of love. Which is how I like it.

    Plus, your dad’s story? Cracked me up. Thanks. Sorry this is a HUGE comment.

  2. 2.

    This is spot on, Seraphine. I just can’t help wonder why it’s so much to ask that the church leadership simply encourage and authenticate through their rhetoric other paths for women. As opposed to reducing us all to our reproductive capacity. Because when they employ the rhetoric you mention here, it really is reducing *all* women (not just us poor benighted singles) to their genitalia.

    And please. I am not a cause for pity and charity just because I am unmarried. I hate being treated like I am. Is it painful being 35 and single? yeah. it is. It’s lonely. It’s sexually frustrating. But there’s nothing anyone can say to make that go away. And that’s not the whole story. Because I’m single, I was able to spend two weeks in London doing whatever the hell I wanted with no concern for anyone else’s schedule. It was wonderful. Because I’m single, I can take a new job with incredible opportunity for promotion with no concern for how it will affect my partner or children. I can sleep late if I want. I can eat whatever I want. I have absolute control of my home environment. There are lots of ways that it’s simpler and more comfortable. And life is beautiful. I have incredible friends. And I live in a wonderful world. Don’t treat me like my life is meaningless and like I need to be assured of my worth just because I don’t fit a reductive model of what it means to be a fulfilled human being.

  3. 3.

    Great post. I think I treat “singles” normally.

  4. 4.

    Thank you for your post. I have been reacting against Mormon-defined gender roles since I was in my teens. I was very determined to set my own course, to be free to pursue my passions (sad that we interpret marriage and passionate pursuit of career as mutually exclusive). I would get married when I was good and ready, I told my mom. While at BYU, I was upset by people who went there to get married, by women who got married and dropped out, and by women who got married really early. I single mindedly pursued education.

    At the same time, I was upset that I didn’t date much. I wasn’t willing to admit to myself that a romantic relationship of some kind was something I really wanted. Now that I have admitted it, I have no idea to go about pursuing it because I am still that feisty BYU freshman who is constantly on the alert for signs of male condescension and female submission. And I just don’t like that many people. I think the conclusions you mention are very apt and the exact ones most women struggle with. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Singleness begins to wear on Mormon women early, and although I’m not yet 30, I feel the slow pull of lurking despair. Luckily I only receive the occasional awkward comment from my uncle about dating, but I can only imagine how awful such remarks could be when extended over long periods of time.

    And it breaks my heart to hear women make even jesting comments about their singleness (I make comments like this all the time, and they hide deep pain). I think people rush to comfort because they don’t want to cry (or maybe because they truly believe they have the answers). I do know how much women are taught to define their worth by their relationships with men (hard to escape, too, when we conceive of God as male). And not only are women devalued societally for their unique biological roles and creative potential but they are prevented ecclessiastically from seeing that their creativity extends far beyond their own bodies. Men hold the power (church and state) in this fallen world. But our worth and our divine gender roles as women involve much more than mothering and nurturing. No less than men we are thinkers, leaders, and priesthood holders.

  5. 5.

    Thanks for the post, I always enjoy hearing your perspective. This one did leave me a little confused, though – you describe negative examples of attempts at comfort, but don’t mention positive examples of what people can do to make sure you feel included, despite the fact that a lot of what we discuss in church doesn’t directly apply to you. I could use the advice, since I definitely don’t want to frustrate or offend people in similar situations!

    I’m definitely willing to try and meet you halfway by interacting with single people on terms they prefer. I think single people can also help solve this problem by choosing to perceive sympathy, concern, and inclusiveness as the motivations behind the annoying, awkward and patronizing expressions of pity they hear from their friends and loved ones. The I’m-baffled-you’re-not-married, I-know-there’s-someone-out-there, etc. responses, although clumsy and insensitive, often are just imperfect people trying to tell you they believe in you and in your eternal prospects, despite the uncomfortable acknowledgement that you’re not currently following the culturally expected Mormon track.

  6. 6.

    I have one thing to say to the moral of your post: Amen, sister!

  7. 7.

    nakiru, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve experienced a similar phenomenon. In my ward, any time a single person is talking to a single member of the opposite sex, a married person in the ward often comes up and makes a comment abot how the guy needs to ask the girl out, etc. It’s awkward, and it presupposes that the people conversing 1) are interested in dating one another, which is almost never the case, and 2) if they are interested, are unable to express this interest and go on a date. Typically, this is not the case (we are 30-something adults with adult communication skills), but if it were, it would probably be due to deep-seated insecurities or issues that awkward comments would only make worse.

    amelia, I’m in complete agreement! And I appreciate the point you make about how official discourse reduces women generally to their reproductive capabilities.

  8. 8.

    Recession Cone: here’s my advice. Treat me like a normal human being. That’s all I need. I don’t need special treatment to compensate for my single status. The idea that there is a need to “interact with single people on terms they prefer” is actually the root of the problem because it is built on the premise that single people have different needs than married people. We don’t. Not really. We need friends. We need people to socialize with. We need support in our endeavors. We *don’t* need to be treated like we live in special circumstances that require special treatment.

    I realize that of course my circumstances are different from those of my married sisters (for example). But they are different circumstances; we are not different kinds of beings. Ultimately our needs as individuals are the same.

    I’m being pretty blunt there; I don’t mean to imply that you are being insensitive. I know you’re not; to the contrary you’re being thoughtful for which I am grateful. But your expression of concern reveals the underlying problem: the LDS church’s approach to teaching its members about marriage (and also about gender) turns singles into second class citizens for whom their single status is a disability. The fact that members of the church treat singles accordingly isn’t necessarily they’re fault.

    Here’s what it boils down to (my advice, that is): the very best way for you to “meet me half way” is to stop thinking of me as someone who needs help; to stop thinking of me as inherently “other” simply because I’m single.

    And you’re absolutely spot on in suggesting that singles need to charitably remember that the horrible efforts at reassurance are well-intentioned. Usually I do just that. And usually I shrug them off or laugh at the more ridiculous ones (like when an octogenarian approached me and told me to ask our stake president’s wife for advice about hair and make-up, because i already had great posture; because you know–if I were just more traditionally beautiful, it would all be great; and because apparently my own mother is not talented enough at traditional beauty to help me). However, I believe that it’s very important that people like me and Seraphine make fellow Mormons aware of the underlying problem.

  9. 9.

    Elizabeth, your comment raises a lot of complicated issues from the pain the singles carry (it’s kind of hard not to when you hear over and over and over that marriage and family are the ideal) to the complications of dating as a feminist to the problems with official discourse. I appreciate your final comment, however, and the fact that I’ve been able to realize my own talents outside of prescribed roles is what’s kept me sane (I have a post coming up on this topic).

    RecessionCone, I’ve actually already made a post answering your concern about needing positive examples:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2010/01/12/being-a-30-something-single-in-the-church-part-viii-family-wards/

    Also, I acknowledged in my post (multiple times) that I completely understand people have the best of intentions. I was mainly trying to explain that even comments made with the best of intentions can be difficult to deal with, especially when you hear them over and over and over again (when you’re probably already feeling some sadness or frustration about your single status).

  10. 10.

    I just wanted to say that I’m completely baffled that you’re not married. How can that be? You’re so intelligent and beautiful. What are all those guys thinking?

    Uh…oops…I guess I should have read the OP before commenting…

    (If attempts at comfort are out of bounds, I hope attempts at humor are kosher! If not, my apologies for trying. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series.)

  11. 11.

    thanks, T and jks.

    Kevin, your attempts at humor are more than kosher. Thanks for the laugh!

  12. 12.

    Very well put, and a good reminder that even well-intentioned remarks should be considered beforehand to see what’s in the subtext.

    After my divorce I had a similar experience; a friend I went to BYU with said “you’re probably not going to date any LDS guys now, huh?” I asked him why he thought that. He said that it would be a safer and more realistic approach; that “good LDS guys” wouldn’t want to date me for being divorced and having egalitarian beliefs. “Good LDS guys” wouldn’t treat me well. LDS guys who were left over would be, as he put it “losers with no standards” and “because they would date anybody” I should stay away from them as well because he thought I could do better.

    He wasn’t giving me a backhanded compliment; his comments were meant to put me on my guard. And they rang true over and over again. At parties good looking, attractive LDS returned missionaries that you’d think of as a good example of LDS desirable would instantly stop speaking to me after learning that I was divorced. They seemed to like my personality, and I try not to drag any baggage around with me. But divorce (even in cases like mine where I was escaping abuse) carries a stigma and “Good LDS” won’t touch it because they won’t get a temple marriage upfront out of damaged goods like me. It’s a pretty vile catch-22, and one that was only resolved by doing as my friend advised and looking outside the church for dates.

  13. 13.

    You can comfort me anytime, Seraphine — your funny labels nail down what I’ve been too enraged/hurt/disturbed to analyze. Brilliant.

  14. 14.

    Re: 5 and 8, I’m trying to sort out my own views on this. Because on the one hand, I completely agree with amelia (and Seraphine) that the discourse which makes singles into “others,” a group of people suffering from some kind of handicap, only reinforces the problem. I definitely second the point about just wanting to be treated like a normal human being.

    At the same time, I also have to admit that I probably raise the issue in some situations in a way that might make people wonder what to say (and resort to these kinds of unhelpful expressions of sympathy). For example, I might talk about the frustrations of being single in the church, or I might admit to people that one of the reasons why my church attendance is sporadic is because of this issue, and how difficult it is to feel marginalized. And when I bring that up, I can see that I’m perhaps framing things in a way which might reinforce this notion that singles are in a particular kind of “other” category.

    But thinking about this more, when I bring that sort of thing up, or if I talk about some aspects of being single that I find challenging, I want what I think most people want when expressing frustration about various things–to be heard and taken seriously, and (in a church context) not be called to repentance for not having a positive attitude. I’m thinking that if my sister calls me and tells me she’s going crazy because of the way my niece is behaving, (hopefully) I’m unlikely to try to reassure her by pointing out that in the next life this won’t be a problem, or express pity or astonishment that she’s found herself in this particular life situation. It’s not a perfect parallel, I realize, because having children is the ideal in our LDS culture whereas being single is not, but I think regardless things go better when we don’t interact with others as objects to be pitied (regardless of the reason).

  15. 15.

    I had one more additional thought on the questions that RecessionCone raised, and which others (amelia, Lynnette) have made some great comments about. I think that often when people make quick comments like “you’ll get married in the next life”, people are often trying to reassure themselves as much as (or more than) they’re trying to reassure the single person they are talking to. They need to believe that this single person somehow fits into their neat and tidy beliefs of how the world works (since the single person is not married now, he/she will have the opportunity at some point because the alternative would be too scary to ponder). However, I can assure you that a lot of singles find themselves pondering this scary alternative at various points in their lives.

    I think what I want from people (especially family, friends, etc.) more than quick reassurances is a willingness to be with me in my discomfort. The church asks us to “mourn with those that mourn,” and I think that means doing the kinds of things we would do for others in any kind of difficult or stressful situation (as Lynnette mentioned)–listening, empathizing, giving them space to be upset, trying to understand, asking if there are ways to help (as you did, RecessionCone), and not trying to eliminate the discomfort with quick and easy assurances.

  16. 16.

    Maybe my perspective is a little different because I am single after being married . . . the worst of both worlds (pity me! I don’t mind a little pity ;) ) . . . but the needs of singles are not all the same as the needs of marrieds. As a married person, I had adult interaction built into my life. Now I don’t (other than work.)

    Also, I know that being married is not a goal. Although I knew it before, I REALLY know it now, with vengeance and a cherry on top. Being marriageable may be a goal in the sense of being a good person who can work well with others, but being married can be FAR worse than being single.

    To be honest, I find that childless singles are much more accepted in the Church than us marital flunkees, whatever their age. It’s like finding a diamond to find a local singles activity any earlier than 7pm, and I live in the heart of Mormondom.

  17. 17.

    And that’ll teach me to comment before refreshing. :D

  18. 18.

    Molly, that sounds like a really difficult situation to deal with. I can believe what SilverRain says: that it’s easier to be a childless, never-married single than a “marital flunk[y].” I’m glad that you were able to take your friend’s advice. I’m currently dating outside church circles myself.

    SilverRain, I agree that being married can be far worse than being single (my version of this lesson was realizing that it’s better for me to be single and happy than to be in a relationship that is making me profoundly unhappy).

    And thanks, Ardis.

  19. 19.

    SilverRain, your comment (#16) implies that because you had adult interaction built into your life, you as a married person didn’t need that interaction. And therefore married people and single people do in fact have different needs. I think we’re defining needs differently. You seem to be defining a “need” as something you require in your life but which you don’t have automatic access to. I simply define “need” as something I require in my life. I would argue that both marrieds and singles need adult interaction. The difference is that when you’re married, you theoretically have easier access to that interaction because you theoretically live with another adult with whom you like to interact while the same is not true of singles. That doesn’t change the fact that both marrieds and singles require that same thing. Nor does it change how people I interact with at church should treat me or my married siblings. Plus there are all those “theoretically” qualifiers. Simply being married doesn’t necessarily mean that one’s needs for interaction and concern and love and compassion or whatever will be met (I’m sure I’m not saying anything you don’t know here; just pointing out that at the end of the day married people and single people need the same things from those around them).

  20. 20.

    I think that often when people make quick comments like “you’ll get married in the next life”, people are often trying to reassure themselves as much as (or more than) they’re trying to reassure the single person they are talking to.

    Definitely. Culturally speaking, we want to shape everyone’s lives into a faith-promoting story, so we have to tack on a happy ending to the story of a faithful single person, or it doesn’t fit the mold.

  21. 21.

    I like the analysis. And thanks for anticipating and answering many of my questions. I don’t really receive pity at church, except maybe for how my ex treats me. It makes me wonder if LDS guys mostly miss out on the pity that so many women seem to receive. I notice too that I get a fair amount of respect because of my career choices, which apparently overshadow my status as a single. But I guess that is just male privilege in Mormondom. And if anyone patronizes my single friends at church, I hope I can restrain myself.

  22. 22.

    You hit the nail on the head, Seraphine, both with your charitable approach to the people attempting to give comfort, and with your analysis of why those attempts are often counterproductive.

    I’ve found the “comfort” that people give of telling me that I’ll get married in the afterlife to be unhelpful. It sounds like “things will be better for you when you’re dead.” However, there’s another “comfort” that people try to give that I find even less helpful. Some well-meaning people will say “maybe you’ll get to marry a widowed general authority”. Um. Just no. I’ll pass on the “celestial harem” option, thanks. Singleness is preferable.

  23. 23.

    I think that single women get pitied and single men get blamed. It was made apparent to me at a bishopric mtg some time ago when the Bishop said that the single men in our stake, “you guys are deadbeats”, he doesn’t seem to know that my “deadbeat” single bro makes more money then him ( He has aspergers so he isn’t dating anyone anytime soon)and that I can count on two hands how many active single men over 30 there are in our stake. He seems to be under the impression that there are tons of single women just hanging around here -which there aren’t-the YSA ward is like a branch or a twig even.

  24. 24.

    I was thirty something when I married. That was a long time ago, the world is a different place now.

    If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t date so many different girls/women. I dated too much. It became a habit.

    I ended up finding a wonderful girl, seven years younger, divorced, with a little boy–even though I swore I would never marry a divorcée.

    We dated all of three weeks before deciding to marry. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple within six weeks after first meeting. She was committed to the Lord, and was closer to Him because of the heartache she experienced. Pres Kimball cancelled her sealing immediately when she applied.

    In those days, if you were a male over 25, church leaders weren’t very understanding. Words like selfish and menace were used.

  25. 25.

    Here’s the thing: you are pretty much guaranteed to say something to someone along the way that is going to make them feel like you are an unempathetic a-hole, right?

    I too feel like I treat single people normally: they include close friends and family. Sometimes that means having no comment about their marital status whatsoever. Sometimes that means listening sympathetically about their last bad date or lack of dates or what have you. Sometimes that means commenting that they have a pretty sweet situation of having total control over their lives and that they don’t have to pay half their salary for child care.

    The fact is, if I make any comment whatsoever about their singleness, they might take offense. If I DON’T make any comment about their singleness, they might feel invisible (I would say this is a pretty common complaint, maybe second after complaints about feeling pitied). I can pretty much cross someone no matter what I do or do not say, no matter how much thought I have put into it.

    Being single is not all bad and being married is not all good. We could all do well to give more people the benefit of the doubt that they are good people and have good intentions.

  26. 26.

    ESO: My advice (from above) boils down to something very simple. Be friends with the people you want to be friends with. When you’re someone’s friend, you’ll have a decent sense of when or how to talk about their being single. And if you happen to say something that’s hurtful or offensive, there’s a relationship there that makes it possible to work through it.

    My suggestion is that if you don’t have a personal relationship with someone, you probably shouldn’t be talking about their personal relationships unless they introduce the topic. I really don’t think anyone has any business talking to me about my being married or not if they don’t know me well. It’s just none of their damn business.

  27. 27.

    amelia—Actually, I was defining “need” in terms of “something we really want and don’t have that those around us might be able to provide” since that is the context in which it was being discussed. As a married person, I theoretically at least have one other adult who is supposed to see to my needs as a priority, as opposed to others around me who have other priorities as well. As a single person, I don’t. Does that change the basic “need” of adult interaction, no. But it does change how random person A in the ward who wants to help me can help, and how much of a priority that help might take in their lives.

    One thing I’ve noticed in a ward I have very little connection to, single or married, is that there are so many kind, caring people who just don’t know how to relate to me. I have recently found it extremely rewarding to allow them to interact with me in the ways they know how, even if it is off or offensive. I choose not to be offended, and choose to see their efforts to comfort me as genuine expressions of caring. To me, the caring is never misplaced, though the manifestations of that caring might need some work. That has helped me form (so far) loose bonds of mutual caring where personality and background similarities afford less than no bonding.

    And the funny thing is, as I’ve accepted their attempts to soothe me, their attempts have gradually become better with no thought or work from me. I’ve never had to pipe up and say “that offends me,” rather I’ve said something more like, “thank you for your caring, but I hope to be happy now, whether or not I’m married, not just in the afterlife!” and make a joke of it. They of their own volition have begun relaxing about my divorced status, and treating me as a real person, and I have begun relaxing about my status and feeling more like a real person.

  28. 28.

    Amelia–I agree with that generally. I am not arguing, just adding my ideas to the mix, much of which overlaps with what people have already said.

    As a RS teacher, however, I do occasionally suggest that not everyone is married with kids, as that seems to be the default audience. I try to include everyone in my lessons, and I try really hard not to be offensive in doing it, although I am sure I fail regularly.

  29. 29.

    After reading what ESO and SilverRain have said, I just want to add that I usually avoid talking to single people about their singleness (or dating or whatever) but then it occasionally feels like an elephant in the room and I might be intentionally avoiding topics.
    So I think it is important to be sensitive and follow the other person’s lead which you can do more adequately the better you know that person.
    For every insensitive comment a single person gets, I hope there are many people acting normally around them.

  30. 30.

    I like your analysis, Seraphine. I particularly like your point in #15:

    I think that often when people make quick comments like “you’ll get married in the next life”, people are often trying to reassure themselves as much as (or more than) they’re trying to reassure the single person they are talking to. They need to believe that this single person somehow fits into their neat and tidy beliefs of how the world works (since the single person is not married now, he/she will have the opportunity at some point because the alternative would be too scary to ponder).

    I think people most definitely are trying to comfort themselves more than they are you when they make comments like this. If I remember right, social psychologists study this phenomenon and call it “belief in a just world” or something like that. And the way it works is exactly as you outlined: when we see something bad happen to someone else, we find it intolerable to admit the possibility that something similarly bad could happen to us. So we blame the other person or minimize how bad it is or whatever.

    I guess then when finding that there are singles in the Church who appear to be wonderful people, we others have three possible responses:

    (1) The seemingly wonderful single people are actually somehow evil, and that’s why they’re punished with singleness.
    (2) The wonderful single people will get married any day now, thus validating that marriage is a just reward for wonderfulness.
    (3) The world is full of randomness and injustice.

    As you point out, we tend to have a hard time with #3 because that brings up the possibility that the good stuff others of us enjoy may be random and not deserved rewards for good behavior. #1 is too mean. So we tend to gravitate to #2.

    Katya, I also really like your follow-up point in #20: since stories of being single are typically only told in official Church sources when they ultimately end with marriage, then we have a hard time processing them in any other way (as having an indefinite outcome, for example).

  31. 31.

    amelia, #2, I think this is brilliant:

    I just can’t help wonder why it’s so much to ask that the church leadership simply encourage and authenticate through their rhetoric other paths for women. As opposed to reducing us all to our reproductive capacity. Because when they employ the rhetoric you mention here, it really is reducing *all* women (not just us poor benighted singles) to their genitalia.

    I guess it had never quite struck me this way before, but after reading what you’ve said it’s clearer to me now that the difficulty the Church has with single women in particular can be seen as a side effect of more generally reducing women to their ability to have children. No children translates into no meaningful place. If women were officially encouraged to do more than have children, not marrying and having children would be less likely to be seen as a disability in the Church.

  32. 32.

    Great discussion as always, S. :)

    I had one question. How representative do you think that these views are of over-30 singles in general? I think that some people may offer tired cliches (you’ll get married in the next life) because they’ve known people for whom those particular cliches were very important lifelines.

    You’re personally past wanting the shallow comfort of those lines, but others may not be. It’s sort of like the Mothers’ Day talk dilemma (how to support and validate moms who are drowning, while also not hurting others). Similarly, I’m worried that if everyone treats the over-30 singles they know like an “I’m over it” Seraphine, that the few Pollyannas out there will be horrified that no one is reassuringly telling them it’s all going to be okay. (And the contexts are likely to be similar — some people may use a Lynnette style gripe session as a way of fishing for reassurances.)

    For some people, it’s hurtful to tell them Santa Claus exists. And for others, it’s hurtful to tell them Santa Clause _doesn’t_ exist. And you don’t know up front whether you’re talking to Seraphine or to Pollyanna.

  33. 33.

    I had one question. How representative do you think that these views are of over-30 singles in general? I think that some people may offer tired cliches (you’ll get married in the next life) because they’ve known people for whom those particular cliches were very important lifelines.

    Seraphine’s mindset is pretty similar to my own, but that could just be a matter of birds of a feather flocking to the same blog.

    However, if you (1) don’t minimize real pain and grief, (2) don’t comfort someone just because you feel uncomfortable, and (3) actually listen to how someone responds to the comfort you offer and change your approach, if necessary, you can cover a pretty wide range of personalities and situations.

    I’d have much less of a problem with the bizarre things people say to over-30 singles if the people who said them would actually pay attention to my reaction and change their tune, accordingly (either by cutting out the things no one should say to any single Mormon or by learning enough about me to tailor their conversation to my specific situation).

  34. 34.

    Great post and discussion. I wanted to add a funny “comfort” story… my apologies if I’ve shared it already!

    My HT in Tennessee was a sweet little guy, a recent convert, very gungho about the gospel, and about 90 years old. He and his wife came and visited me every month and I really came to love them (honestly!).

    But on our very first visit, they came over, and right out of the gate he explained how hard it was for him to pick a message to share with me because, ya know, I’m single and how can he apply the gospel to my life? So he decided on an article from the Ensign, read it, and then closed by telling me that I shouldn’t feel bad about being single. In order to fulfill the righteous law of polygamy, some women would have to remain single in this life so that they could become plural lives in the next.

    I sat there, mouth open and completely speechless until his wife suggested we have a closing prayer. It was a great first meeting!

  35. 35.

    Oh, Enna. I think I would have punched him in the nose.

  36. 36.

    I knew a home teacher who told a single woman that if he were single he would definitely marry her. Meant to be comforting, I’m sure, but sooo not helpful.

    Now that I think about it, if people are saying these things to our single sisters, it’s not something I ever hear about. My impression is that people around here simply don’t talk to them about their (rather obvious lack of a) dating life.

  37. 37.

    That’s awesome, Enna.

  38. 38.

    Kevin, I’ve heard that, too. It makes me wonder why married men like me so much :)

  39. 39.

    Sterling and Cam and Jared, I agree that the general pattern is that single women get pity and single men get blamed. I think it’s interesting, though, Sterling, that you feel respected because of career choices. I feel like for women it’s much more complicated. While following certain professions can bring a some respect, it comes with a healthy dose of suspicion–I can sometimes hear people wondering something like, “Is she not married because she’s spent too much time worrying about that Ph.D. or law degree?” etc.)

    Keri and Enna, I luckily have not yet gotten the celestial harem response. (Thank goodness!)

  40. 40.

    ESO, I can understand that it can be difficult to figure out how to talk about certain issues. I liked what Katya said in comment #30–I think if you’re following those guidelines, you’re less likely to go wrong. And if you do, it’s fine. We all say stuff we shouldn’t (I’m certainly no exception), but as amelia said, building relationships means we can get past that. And I think it’s fabulous that you try to address non-standard situations in your RS lessons.

    SilverRain (27), thanks for the reminder that when faced with certain comments, it’s often best to use humor and lightness to address why a comment may be frustrating.

    jks, I think that sensitivity and following the other person’s lead is great advice when thinking about how to talk about any kind of sensitive subject (singledom, divorce, death, infertility, etc.)

  41. 41.

    I know a girl who very, very sadly does not live here…who is doing a grad degree and from what I have heard guys are intimidated by her intellect and assume she is not interested in marriage and kids so she is low on the dating scale. If I lived there I would totally ask her out and do whatever I could to get her in my life! A-she is educated so if something were to happen to her spouse she could help out or add to the family income,B-she is pursuing something she is interested in, good for self worth C- We definately need educated women in the Church, I love the following two quotations ( I have them in my facebook profile)

    “I believe in women, especially thinking women.”
    -Emmeline B. Wells-President of The Relief Society 1910-1921

    You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won’t change”

    Greg Mortenson

  42. 42.

    I’m seldom bothered by the personal remarks of individuals made directly to me — if somebody is an inveterate jerk, I don’t care what he has to say anyway; if somebody means well but phrases something awkwardly, that’s easy to overlook (except that I can’t help storing it away to share in a thread like this, if it’s funny). People like ESO shouldn’t worry about saying the wrong thing when she is, by all indications, an empathetic and courteous woman who wouldn’t deliberately hurt someone for any price.

    It’s the thoughtless repetition of the two biggies that Seraphine mentions — “you’ll get married in the next life” (with its subtext of “your mortal life is a failure”), and “you’re already a mother because you can teach Primary and take your nieces shopping” (with its subtext of “I really don’t know a thing about motherhood, do I?”) when these two biggies are constantly incorporated into General Conference talks and lesson manuals and the Ensign that are the really painful and maddening thing. July’s visiting teaching message, for instance, acknowledges that “each of us in a different family situation,” including the single state, which is all fine and good — but the only illustration of the message’s point is a story about visiting a niece’s family and observing Family Home Evening. The woman has a niece whose family she can strengthen, so what more could she really want? This is a variation of the second “biggie.” There were certainly a boat load of repetitions of both in all the woman-and-family talks in April Conference. They’ve been repeated from our ward pulpit, and in the Teachings for Our Times lesson in our ward last week.

    It’s that institutionalization of these two phony comfort lines — not the inadvertent awkward remarks by someone like ESO — that cause the heartache or heartburn or whatever it is.

  43. 43.

    Ziff, thanks for your elaboration of my point about people feeling the need to reassure themselves.

    Kaimi, that’s a really good question, and I don’t know that I have a good answer. Most of the Mormon singles I know would agree with the sentiments of this post, but I also don’t hang out with typical Mormon singles. There probably are many singles out there for whom this comfort is a lifeline (because they are wholeheartedly believe the church’s rhetoric on family and gender roles, and they need some way of making sense of being single in this church given that). I would say (again) that I like Katya’s approach–engaging genuinely and changing your approach if it’s not working.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with Ardis–the institutionalization of certain attitudes is more problematic than comments you get from your average ward member. I can laugh off most comments, but the institutional attitudes they represent are what is hard to deal with.

    And that’s actually probably a rough guide to know whether someone is a Seraphine or Pollyanna. My guess is that the more someone questions church rhetoric on issues of family and gender, the less likely they are to find the things said to singles reassuring. (And vice versa.)

  44. 44.

    Also, since I’ve seen some worry in people’s responses (what do I say to singles??), I want to say that while I wanted to rant just a bit in this post, as others have said, I’m pretty good about keeping my sense of humor and recognizing the good motivations of others–so please don’t think that if you try to say anything to me about being single, I’m going to bite your head off. I may try to guide you to a more helpful response, but I recognize that we all are imperfect, trying to do our best to engage with our fellow human beings (myself included).

  45. 45.

    I wanted to say “Amen!” to Katya (#33); and to agree wholeheartedly with Ardis (#42). And to pose a question. I’ve been thinking about this conversation quite a bit the last couple days. And I stand by my advice that it’s really not your business to discuss someone’s singleness unless you have a fairly close personal relationship with them. And the question arose in my mind: would anyone in their right mind pry into the state of someone else’s marriage if they didn’t have a fairly close relationship with them? Can you imagine someone you think of as an acquaintance asking you about your marriage? Maybe I’m wrong (I am, after all, unmarried and therefore have no personal experience), but it doesn’t seem like ward members feel like they can and/or should discuss the quality or status of their fellow ward members’ marriages with them while standing in the halls at church. Please do tell me if this happens; I’d be very curious to know. But it seems to me that we recognize that a couple’s relationship with each other is pretty much off limits to general acquaintance level prying.

    So why is my status as a single not off limits? The reasons for why someone is single, or the emotional ramifications of being single, could be (and probably are) every bit as deeply personal and private as the condition of a couple’s marriage relationship is. Why would random Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood in my ward think that they can and should comment on it?

  46. 46.

    I have one potential answer to my question that just occurred to me:

    Mormons think marriage is progress. We progress from being single to being married. It’s linear. And singles are often thought of as not-quite-fully-formed adults (even if that’s not openly articulated, it’s often [if not always] implied). Perhaps in some way ward members look at singles and see them as people who haven’t arrived yet; who are still progressing; who haven’t made it as far as the marrieds have and who therefore need guidance. I don’t think this necessarily happens on a conscious level, but I don’t think I could count how many times a woman significantly younger than me has made knowing (and usually incredibly condescending) comments about what I’ll learn when I’m married or that clearly imply that she knows better than me cause she’s married. It drives me batty. Like somehow my nearly 20 years of adult experience don’t count cause I’ve had that experience alone, not in a marriage relationship.

  47. 47.

    I think it’s even more than that, Amy. Mormon culture equates marriage with adulthood. Thus, for many church members, your experience has not been one of true adulthood but rather of extended adolescence. The perception is that people don’t marry because they selfishly wish to postpone adulthood, preferring to do irresponsible things like play X-Box all day or get graduate degrees. You’ll cross the threshold and become a real adult once you decide to settle down and get married. Until then, we can safely discount your experience like we discount the views of 16 year olds.

    (Then at some indeterminate point around age 40 or 50, the dissonance of thinking of a person as an adolescence is too much, and so they are shifted to the “old maid” category.)

  48. 48.

    Mormon culture equates marriage with adulthood.

    Yep. I have seen this explicitly stated, and frequently implied. (And I find myself doing it a bit, too, when I assume that someone who’s married with kids must be older than I am, even though they could be ten years younger.)

  49. 49.

    The perception is that people don’t marry because they selfishly wish to postpone adulthood, preferring to do irresponsible things like play X-Box all day or get graduate degrees.

    I don’t know that I’ve come across this perception quite so much—maybe the idea that singles are “postponing” marriage is more aimed at men?—but I have come across the idea that marriage is so much harder than being single that married people must be terribly mature and wise, by comparison.

    Alternately, a married person may think “I was very irresponsible and immature when I was single (at age 19), and you are single, therefore you must be irresponsible and immature (even though you are 35 and have been self-supporting for over a decade).” (I think Eve once expressed a similar sentiment at being treated like a perpetual newlywed because she didn’t have kids, even though she’d been married for ten years.)

  50. 50.

    Great post, as always Seraphine.

    I’ve really enjoyed this thread. My only insight is that I now deeply pity the young girls (like me!) who marry before their brains, emotions, and identity have fully developed. That any of us remain married is all the proof I need that there is a God.

    My favorite quote from the thread,

    Being single is not all bad and being married is not all good.

    I actually do this with my cousin a lot. If she complains about being single, I complain about changing diapers, not having a moment to myself, and not getting to travel all over the world like she does. I’m not sure I’m being helpful, but I think I’m being realistic. I love my family, but it’s not always a picnic.

    If we reject the notion that marriage is the ideal for everyone (which I think we should do) then everybody gets to admit the benefits and drawbacks of whatever their current circumstances are. Pity is eliminated because of both the knowledge that marital status could change at any time and neither singleness nor marriage is privileged. It seems like this would be a healthier, though unrealistic, perspective.

  51. 51.

    I actually do this with my cousin a lot. If she complains about being single, I complain about changing diapers, not having a moment to myself, and not getting to travel all over the world like she does. I’m not sure I’m being helpful, but I think I’m being realistic. I love my family, but it’s not always a picnic.

    Jessawhy, I’m sure you mean well, but most older singles already know marriage is no picnic. They don’t need to be reminded. I think too many married people assume that all singles who long to be married have an unrealistic, fairytale view of marriage. I’m sure some do have an unrealistic view, but most of us older never-marrieds have plenty of friends or family members who have struggled in their marriages. We know marriage is hard. And as we get older, it becomes highly likely that if we ever do get married, it will be to someone who has a fair amount of baggage–which will make marriage even harder. But we human beings simply aren’t wired to want to go through life alone.

    If you had a friend who was grieving over the death of her husband, would you complain about picking up your own husband’s dirty socks and not having enough alone time? Just let your cousin mourn her loss. Because it is a loss. Having more discretionary time and being able to travel doesn’t compensate for not having children and a partner to share life with you.

  52. 52.

    Rivkah,
    That’s fair. I appreciate your perspective. I can be more sympathetic to my cousin and others in her situation.

  53. 53.

    My sister has done that to me, too, Jess. And I must agree with Rivkah–it’s intensely annoying and more than a little insulting that people think (even unconsciously) that I’m dumb enough not to recognize that marriage has its problems.

    That said, I never voice that frustration to my sister. Because I know that part of why she voices what she does has to do with the guilt she feels for not finding perfect happiness in marriage, which is what the church’s approach to teaching about marriage implies one should find in marriage. I know that when my sister tells me that she feels alone in her marriage, just as I feel alone without marriage, she is speaking form a place of disillusionment and self-reproach; and that she has absolutely no intention of criticizing me or pointing out my lack of awareness of how things “really are.” And I think that the church is very, very guilty of fostering horrible misconceptions about what marriage means and offers.

    Singles are not the only people hurt by the church’s idolization/idealization of marriage. I agree with a comment from another thread in this series that the church won’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) stop teaching the importance of marriage. I do think, however, that it could teach that sealing is a necessary ordinance and could recognize and acknowledge the importance of family relationships without fostering and perpetuating the horribly damaging perceptions of marriage and singleness many Mormons hold on to.

  54. 54.

    The Church also idealizes/idolizes 100% home teaching, genealogy, welfare storage & physical fitness (to name but a few) so it isn’t a lone obsession re. marriage, rather part of a wider endorsement of a package of goods.
    However, yes, I think the encouragement of marriage is aimed more at the male part of the church population as is the emphasis on ‘growing up’ or adulthood attached to the concept of marriage. Males after all, are the ones who traditionally are expected to do the asking (& taking financial responsibility etc.), More pressure is on us fellas.
    Next, I notice a number of divorces &/or separations pending in the Church (locally) which is probably evidence enough that the ideal doesn’t always work out in practice.
    So what is the point of all this?
    Don’t take it personally girls; nobody achieves the ideal in anything (or hardly so). We are ALL collateral damage – even in home teaching. SMILE..

  55. 55.

    Gee. Now my lifelong single status is equated with some elder missing a10-minute visit to one of his families last month. I do feel comforted!

  56. 56.

    Max, I just need to point out that men in the church have *far* more rites of passage into adulthood than women do. Priesthood ordinations. Mission service. Callings into leadership positions. And less formally but just as importantly given the male gender construct subscribed to in the church: education and employment. Women have precisely one sanctioned rite of passage into adulthood: marriage. There is no other officially sanctioned rite of passage into adulthood for women.

    I fully recognize that men experience a great deal of pressure regarding marriage. And I don’t deny that single men are seen as less than adult. But I really don’t appreciate your dismissiveness about the seriousness of this issue for women in the church.

    And “girls”? Did you really just refer to the women participating in this forum as “girls”? wow. Just wow. I’d suggest that before you try to reassure someone–or even to “lighten” the mood–you learn enough to not insult your audience.

  57. 57.

    I married at 32 and can totally relate to everything I read. My two best friends in all the world are now 40 and 43 and they are still single. They are wonderful women and are just as marriage worthy as any married woman or any of the other great single sisters out there.

    I consider myself lucky that I found my husband. I won’t deny that God had a hand in bringing us together but we both had to wait and learn things and endure before meeting each other (my husband was 38 when we got married). (I hope the word endure doesn’t offend but for me I did endure singleness though I tried to do so cheerfully and find joy and meaning in other things, for which I’m grateful.) But I know I could still be single right now and most of my dearest friends who we hang out with are single. While we enjoy our marriage we can still relate to singledom.

    I’m 36 now and childless, but not by choice. I’m still not “fulfilling my divine role as mother”; I still don’t fit the LDS mold. I’m a mid-single married person without children. Most newlyweds are young and most married women my age have at least school age children. So I’m still trying to navigate my way in the LDS world – and I can still relate more to my single friends than those married women in my ward. And to be honest I don’t feel like the awkwardness is on my end. I can relate in some way to almost anyone. I’m the oldest daughter (2nd oldest) of 8 children and have been around and babysat and helped take care of kids my whole life. I have nieces and nephews. I know it’s not the same as being a mom but it does give me a frame of reference. But for some reason some of the moms in the ward hesitate to talk about their kids or they think I can’t relate or they don’t want to hurt my feelings – or they don’t have anything BUT kids to talk about. I guess they have it hard too not knowing if it’s a sensitive subject for me or not.

    And even if/when I have children I still will be different from the norm – but I am SO very OK with this! I have a depth of understanding about others – and myself – that I would have lacked otherwise. God has been with me the whole time just as he is with all of you! That’s what I wish others would understand…. just because someone is single or childless doesn’t mean that person isn’t being blessed. He/she IS being blessed, just differently! And even if a woman isn’t a mother doesn’t mean she isn’t fulfilling a divine role – whatever God calls and directs you to do is a divine roll. When I do my visiting teaching, fulfill my calling to the best of my ability, increase my faith, follow the promptings of the spirit – these are all divine roles and endeavors!
    Just because Mormons put each other in boxes doesn’t mean that that is what GOD does!

    I will just say that a sense of humor does help as some of you have said and I have come up with some fun little answers to questions about why I don’t have kids just as I came up with answers to questions about why I wasn’t married. I try to keep it light – or if someone does cross a line I try to tell them in a kind and gentle way. The danger is to become bitter and that isn’t very productive or helpful at all.

    To Amelia (the post before mine) I’d like to say that my old roommate used to refer to the single men in our singles ward as boys.

  58. 58.

    I just read the replies of Ardis & Amelia & quickly decided they were right & I was wrong – at least in my flippant conclusion about us all being collaterally damaged one way or another.
    By the way, Sarah H’s comments, I couldn’t possibly improve upon.
    Let me say something hopefully useful though (?) I am a grandfather with two wonderful daughters (& a great son). One daughter married straight out of high school & is presently having her third baby. The first almost killed her & if it happened prior to the modern medical age, would surely have resulted in her death. It was almost a very high price to pay for “rite of passage”. The other daughter delayed marriage & obtained two degrees from university before marrying – & fortunately delivering my latest grandson without complications. Neither of my girls gets much sleep at night; babies keep them awake. Then there are all the baby related illnesses – one chronic.
    What some of you LADIES pine for can actually be fairly tough medicine. I like what Sarah said: “whatever God calls & directs you to do is a divine role”.
    Enough from me. God bless you in whatever capacity.
    Max.

  59. 59.

    I would actually agree with your conclusion that we’re all collaterally damaged in one way or another, Max. I really don’t think it’s possible to be part of a religious organization that emphasizes progress to a point of perfection the way Mormonism does without collateral damage. I don’t object to that conclusion; just to some of the tone, etc.

    And to your last comment: yes. marriage and giving birth and motherhood–they’re hard. There is no life path without difficulty. But let me ask: would you trade your children in order to avoid the emotional pain or financial stress or physical strain having them and providing them caused you? Most of the people I know who have had children wouldn’t have done otherwise, no matter how hard it is. And while I know some people who have divorced because their marriages did not work out, most of the people I know in loving marriages wouldn’t change that either–again in spite of difficulties.

    As Rivkah and I pointed out above, we’re single. Not stupid. Many (if not most) singles realize fully that marriage is not a cakewalk. That having children comes with great challenge and even, as you point out, danger. It’s not like we’re walking around in la-la land believing that marriage and having children is some magic pill that will make everything hunky dory.

    The point is that we believe the general teaching of the church on marriage and family: that despite its difficulties, it is good. Plus, as someone pointed out, we’re human beings; we are, by nature, social creatures. Partnering and having children is a pretty innate drive for most of us. We don’t want those things because we stupidly believe it will make everything better; we’re just normal people who want an outlet for love and an emotional space in which we are known and accepted.

    and Sarah H: I have just as much of a problem with referring to men as boys as I do with calling women girls. There are times when it works, I suppose; humorous moments. Or for rhetorical effect (though that effect is never respectful). But as a general rule I don’t think adults should be referred to as if they are children.

  60. 60.

    Anyone under 40 is a kid to me, I’m 61

  61. 61.

    One daughter married straight out of high school & is presently having her third baby. The first almost killed her & if it happened prior to the modern medical age, would surely have resulted in her death. It was almost a very high price to pay for “rite of passage”. The other daughter delayed marriage & obtained two degrees from university before marrying – & fortunately delivering my latest grandson without complications. Neither of my girls gets much sleep at night; babies keep them awake. Then there are all the baby related illnesses – one chronic.
    What some of you LADIES pine for can actually be fairly tough medicine.

    Max, I don’t doubt your good intentions, but warnings to women about the physical and emotional costs of childbearing from men who will never face those costs tend to come across as condescending. It’s a bit as if I chucklingly warned all you GENTLEMEN who thought you wanted to come to earth in a male body about all those hassles testosterone can cause. Pretty tough medicine for Mormon adolescent boys and lecherous politicians who can’t escape the spotlight, no?

    I’m also not clear what your point is here–that women shouldn’t be mothers, because the risks are too great? That we shouldn’t want to be mothers? That we should be sure to recall how much suffering is involved in our divine gender role (in other words, that we should be martyrs about it)? Among other things, your warnings seem somewhat at odds with the promise that we will find joy in our posterity.

  62. 62.

    Don’t take it personally girls; nobody achieves the ideal in anything (or hardly so). We are ALL collateral damage – even in home teaching. SMILE..

    Ugh.

    Being belittled and ordered to smile by strange men isn’t any less revolting on the internet than it is in real life. This behavior is loathsome. Moderator, please?

  63. 63.

    z, I think Max has been fairly thoroughly taken down at this point, don’t you? (I don’t read his final “SMILE” as an imperative but simply as the equivalent of a smiley face.)

  64. 64.

    Folks, I hope you will indulge me just this once more (?) The following question represents genuine personal research on a question that has occupied my mind for many years but I haven’t had too many people I can talk to about it, whereas in your blog I think I have accidentally as it were, discovered people whose responses are immediate, to the point & (mostly) trustworthy.

    Here is the question: “Does the Holy Spirit /Ghost / revelation / inspiration / whatever (as long as it is Holy), ever give direction in the area of romance”? OR put another way: “Does God ever tell you who to marry”?

    I am NOT interested in theories or opinions or even scriptures being quoted, only true life instances. If you don’t have an actual case history to cite, please don’t even try to answer me.
    When I asked the same question to one lady friend, she said she was sure once (long ago) that she had a spiritual manifestation about it, however it never worked out.

    I realize this question may be very close to the bone for some of us, so I will understand if there is a dead silence.
    Max

  65. 65.

    The Lord has never told me to marry someone, but He has told me not to marry someone. I was shown what would happen if I did, and it wasn’t a life I wanted, so I chose to follow that instruction. (I hadn’t asked for direction, since the relationship wasn’t at that level yet; this direction came spontaneously.)

    I do have friends who have told me that they received spiritual confirmation of their marriage choices. However, the Lord didn’t come right out and say “marry this person”. It was more that they had already decided and the Lord ratified that decision.

  66. 66.

    max, I’m not going to answer your question, not because I don’t have an answer, but because it’s a threadjack–my suggestion would be to create your own blog, and then get your own readers to answer your question.

  67. 67.

    amelia (#45/46), you’ve actually anticipated the main themes of the next post I was going to make in my series. I think you’re right about the whole marriage=progress, and how married people sometimes unconsciously have this attitude when talking to the singles they know.

    Kaimi and Katya, thanks for your additional thoughts. Like Katya, I don’t think I’ve gotten the attitude that other people see me as intentionally postponing marriage, but I do agree that marriage is associated with adulthood, and
    that there is an overall belief that single people are less mature.

  68. 68.

    Jessawhy, I would agree with the other commenters regarding your responses to your cousin. However, I do think married people should be able to talk about the ways their life doesn’t fit the ideal. And while I don’t know that we’ll get to a place where marriage isn’t presented as an ideal for all, I do think it would be healthier if we would be more honest about the many various ways peoples’ lives don’t fit the ideal, and how alternate paths can be okay (and even meaningful).

    Sarah H, I think singles realize that they are being blessed by God (even though they’re not married). And being blessed by God, while nice, doesn’t remove the frustrations of being pitied and condescended to at church.

  69. 69.

    I do think married people should be able to talk about the ways their life doesn’t fit the ideal.

    Oh, I agree. If Jessawhy complains about marriage in response to her cousin’s complaints about being single, it can come off as minimizing her cousin’s pain. But that doesn’t mean that married people don’t need others to mourn with them about the difficulties in their situation. And I think there’s room for this sort of acknowledgment of pain in any situation without degenerating into full-fledged “the grass is greener” syndrome.

  70. 70.

    Two days later & ONE answer – which is one more than I expected, thanks Keri, you even put your name to it, Wow!

    No, Seraphine, I won’t be posting my own blog re. my question since I found out part of what I wanted to know already – it would fall flat wouldn’t it. Maybe I’ll just have to suffer on in ignorance about other people’s experiences.

    In 1973 an LDS musical came out called “Saturday’s Warrior” which went near to the heart of the question I asked, & it was the most successful piece of LDS folk culture we have seen, although “Big Love” & “Paint your wagon” were also successful but then they were written ABOUT us & not BY us (sort of – you know what I mean).

    I am sure that my question (64) has the double distinction of being the universally MOST thought about issue amongst every LDS person ever born, whilst simultaneously being the universally LEAST talked about issue, within the same group.
    Outside of the Church a very like thing goes by different names eg. “soulmates”.

    & now the reason why it is much thought about but little spoken of: … Every R.M. (rite of passage again) expects he /she will have a revelation about the next stage of progression (marriage) in precisely the same way as he /she experienced revelation / inspiration regarding various matters prior. Revelation has become a way of life.
    Enter the shock: Not only may such NOT occur, or be slow or disappointing or even spurious, but one’s peers may regard one as being slow to adjust to the real world – “immature” (?)
    Do you begin to see now how my question may have a bearing on what you are all talking about?
    Can you also see how it forms the very heart & soul of LDS culture – that we live by spiritual expectations in a material world ? You people are only skating around the edge of the issue, you are too scared to go near the centre, that is why I got (politely) impatient with you & tried to push you a little further.
    Personally I still believe very much in the spiritual, without becoming jaded by harsh material reality (like I suspect some of you are), Remember, I told you my advanced age.

    I have had some pretty amazing experiences which I could only tell to a select few, not publish on the web. Similarly I respect your privacy & understand WHY you don’t want to trumpet them openly. You probably know a good deal more than me.
    Cheers, Max.

  71. 71.

    You people are only skating around the edge of the issue, you are too scared to go near the centre, that is why I got (politely) impatient with you & tried to push you a little further.

    Max, you’re assuming a lot about other people here, and not very charitably. This issue of soulmates and personal revelation about marriage is clearly of immense interest to you–to you this is the central issue and all other discussion is peripheral–but that is not necessarily the case for anyone else. More to the immediate point, you’ve persisted in interjecting your own unrelated agenda after Seraphine has asked you to stop. Please respect her authority to set the parameters of her own discussion, or we’ll have to start deleting your comments.

    Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. We do look forward to any relevant contributions you would like to make to the conversation.

  72. 72.

    […] (See here.) […]

  73. 73.

    Sarah H, I think singles realize that they are being blessed by God (even though they’re not married). And being blessed by God, while nice, doesn’t remove the frustrations of being pitied and condescended to at church.

    Oh I agree Seraphine! I wasn’t trying to imply that the singles don’t realize this – only that I wish more (married) folks would! And I know only too well how being blessed by God in other ways doesn’t remove the frustrations of being pitied or condescended – or of being single. But realizing our blessings gives us something positive to focus on and it helps – at least it did for me. I suppose we all have to find our own ways of dealing with life’s frustrations, no matter what they are.

  74. 74.

    Two days later & ONE answer – which is one more than I expected, thanks Keri, you even put your name to it, Wow!

    No, Seraphine, I won’t be posting my own blog re. my question since I found out part of what I wanted to know already – it would fall flat wouldn’t it. Maybe I’ll just have to suffer on in ignorance about other people’s experiences.

    Max, I have lots to say on this subject but won’t here out of respect for Seraphine…you may be surprised of the response you get if you start a blog…I’d comment!

    Seraphine, I look forward to your future remarks about marriage=progress. Your blog is actually one of the more interesting ones I’ve come across about singledom, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s not about being bitter and complaining like some other ones are – which is probably why I’m participating! It’s the first one I’ve cared to post my own remarks on.

  75. 75.

    Hi Sarah H. Looks like I was wrong (again). It’s all happening! Click on 72. Lots of people are answering my question. It’s exciting & immensely informative!
    Cheers, Max.

  76. 76.

    Though I know it’s veered off in all kinds of directions, I’ve been thinking about this post and some of the questions that have come up in this discussion. I can deal with the fact that people say clueless things. That’s inevitable. I myself say clueless things all the time. And I agree with Katya (#33), that the clueless things don’t bother me nearly as much if the person is willing to listen to why such comments are frustrating and stop saying them. As many have pointed out, the ideal is a relationship in which we pay attention to each other rather than jumping to conclusions about the other person’s situation and needs. I do think posts like this are helpful in explaining why certain attempts at reassurance are likely to fall flat–because as Seraphine (and others) have said, I do believe people are genuinely well-meaning, and it’s (I hope) useful to talk about how things can come across in bad ways. I find it helpful when people with different life situations mention what comments make them crazy, so that I’m less likely to put my foot in my mouth.

    But what I find more frustrating is what Ardis said in #42, that this isn’t just a problem of loony ward members saying random things to you–it’s that these kinds of messages are coming from church leaders. I’ve been thinking about Kaimi’s question (#32) about whether some people might actually appreciate these sorts of reassurances. And I can see why in some situations, some of the comments mentioned here could in fact be reassuring. However, I personally have yet to meet an LDS single who was very comforted by the idea that they’ll get married in the next life. There could well be people out there who appreciate hearing that, but I haven’t met them. And I actually think this is the most problematic of all the reassurances, because it’s in essence saying, as Keri noted in #22, “you’ll be better off when you’re dead.” It makes this life solely into something to be endured while you await a meaningful existence. But this is the official party line. That makes me a little crazy. I think Sheri Dew’s proposal that all women are mothers is pretty much ridiculous–and yet I also think in proposing it, she was at least clued in to the inadequacy of traditional reassurances, in that it’s an attempt to find a way to frame this life as meaningful for those who don’t fit the mold, rather than as a period of waiting. Just as I think we need a richer theology of religious pluralism, with a thoughtful consideration of where other faiths fit in the plan of salvation, I’d like to see a richer theology of what I might call life path pluralism.

    One more note, since I’m evidently feeling long-winded. A common feminist conundrum is the looming stereotype of the “angry feminist.” No one wants to be the angry feminist–and yet to express frustration about the effects of patriarchy risks being pigeonholed into this caricature and dismissed. It’s a set-up; if you express unhappiness, something is wrong with you. I’d say something similar about the “bitter single.” My feelings about being single are very complex–I think amelia’s #2 expressed some of the real advantages and disadvantages. But I don’t want to feel like I always have to have a positive attitude about it–sometimes it’s just hard, and I want to be able to say that without warnings about the dangers of bitterness. Sure, I can be bitter. Sometimes the situation hurts. Sometimes I just feel mad at God (for seemingly playing favorites) or depressed (thinking something must be wrong with me). But it’s a double-whammy when I’m then chastised for not counting my blessings. And I’ve found in life generally–not just with regards to this particular issue–that it’s a lot easier to count your blessings if you also have space to talk about the things in your life that are negative.

  77. 77.

    My question is what do you say to singles who went inactive? How do you comfort them? I know the Church leaders say “Come Back” but to what? Some inactive singles still believe in God and Christ but I don’t know the depth of their relationship with Christ or anyone else’s married, single, active or not for that fact. I don’t know if they are happier now then before but do you say come back to the same Church and culture that contributed to your unhappiness because you would be coming back to the same church and culture that you were never happy in to begin with. What do you say?

  78. 78.

    Lynnette, i have enjoyed your comments and am sorry if I offended when I said the danger is to become bitter. Of course it helps to talk about our feelings regarding being single! I never meant to say otherwise.

    My personal experience has been that in talking about being single we support, strengthen and understand each other. And I think that’s what you all are doing here. And when I was single this was very helpful! However, I have unfortunately known more than my share of single friends who didn’t just want to talk about it, or express themselves – they let their sadness, frustration or bitterness grow until it was all they felt and thought about! There wasn’t any room for the spirit anymore, they fed off each others negativity and eventually left the church! As a friend it broke my heart.

    I don’t remember what it was on this thread, but someone started reminding me of these friends and my comment about bitterness was because of that. I never meant to imply that if you are sad or frustrated that that was bad or should remain unexpressed.

    Cam, good question. I’m still giving it some thought, but my initial inclination is to say that I probably wouldn’t invite someone back from the starting gate. I would start by being a friend, fellowshipping, praying, and try to provide opportunities for the person to feel the spirit. If they can feel the spirit more and more that would probably do more for them than anything else.

  79. 79.

    Sarah, no worries; that just happens to be one of my buttons. And I think I hear what you’re saying; I do think it can sometimes be a challenge to follow the scriptural injunction to “mourn with those that mourn”–something I consider crucial–in a way that doesn’t simply set up a solidarity based on bitterness. And the truth is that sometimes I really am bitter, so there it is. :) So I’m still figuring this out; perhaps it’s the challenge of holding multiple realities at once–it’s hard hard hard to be single in this church, and yet my life is defined by so much more than that

    Cam, that’s a tough one. I’m possibly not the best person to answer this because of how heterodox I am, but I think my inclination would be to say, if the church was causing you that much unhappiness, it’s not worth it. At the same time, I will say that when I’ve gone into hiding it’s meant something to me when people have said that they missed me, or that they thought I had something to contribute–not in a coercive or guilt-inducing way, but in a way that still respects why I’ve made the choice to take a break. (I mention this because one of the painful things for me about being single is the sense that the church would be actually be relieved if those like me would disappear–we’re a problem demographic, one that doesn’t fit–and so it’s nice when people see me as a person who adds something, rather than a special need that needs to be taken care of, a drain on church resources.)

  80. 80.

    However, I have unfortunately known more than my share of single friends who didn’t just want to talk about it, or express themselves – they let their sadness, frustration or bitterness grow until it was all they felt and thought about! There wasn’t any room for the spirit anymore, they fed off each others negativity and eventually left the church!

    Another thought–just to play devil’s advocate a little, since I of course don’t know your friends. I’m thinking that another interpretation of this situation could be that they left the church not because they handled their feelings in the wrong way, but because of realizing that staying was having a destructive impact on their lives. I do think sometimes the best way to decrease bitterness is to simply leave the situation that’s causing it. Again, I obviously don’t know the specifics of what happened. But I’m thinking of the different ways I’ve seen of grappling with this. Some focus on what’s positive and find enough of that to stay. Some find it an untenable situation, and discover that they find more peace in leaving. I think they’re both valid decisions. (And then some, like me, simply remain in a state of perpetual angst and indecision . . . )

  81. 81.

    Hmm, interesting Lynnette.
    I’ve actually recently reconnected with a friend (not one of those I mentioned earlier) who left the church for a couple of years because of bitterness. She did so fully intending on figuring herself out and returning. She’s actually just started going back to church but said that she had to leave to grow in a way that staying at church was hindering her from doing. So perhaps what you said has some validity. Everyone is different and has to figure out for themselves what will help them grow.

  82. 82.

    I think that no one should judge a single person for how he or she decides to engage the with the church. The rhetoric from church leadership about the sublime and ideal state of family development is so isolating and painful for singles that it surprises me that any single person stays active. It is actually easier for me to worship in non-Mormon services because I do not have to struggle through the feelings of shame, grief, anxiety, loneliness, and despair that I feel when I walk into a Mormon sacrament meeting. I cope with these feelings in different ways–some of these stragies are healthy (i.e. they promote spiritual and emotional growth), but most are not. So when friends tell me that they have decided to stop doing x, y, or z with the church, it makes me very sad that the church has faltered in its commitment to Christlike charity, but I don’t judge my friends, and I support them in their decisions.

    I agree with Lynnette; the church should validate multiple life-plans. As a scholar of medieval culture, I am finding myself increasingly intrigued by monasticism. Of course there were many problems and abuses with the monastic institution, but I appreciate that there were multiple ways for a Christian to live a “Christian” life during the Middle Ages. Living a life devoted to God for a medieval Christian could include being a (this is not an exhaustive list): monk or nun (celebate, widowed, or divorced), regular clergy, intellectual cleric, anchorite, hermit, parent, royalty, nobility, and peasant.

    I know the argument is that if the church stopped promoting the family exclusively that the family as an institution would crumble. But I wonder if people had the option to choose various life paths without shame that families would actually improve because then families would be created by people who were committed to building family relationships and not by people who did so out of obligation or expectation.

  83. 83.

    I have really enjoyed reading this blog. I personally struggle a lot with church attendance because of how being single and over 30 makes me feel when I attend my church meetings.I am treated in my ward like someone on the short bus. I have a married couple that come to visit me as a home teacher/visiting teacher, because it is uncomfortable for two grown married men to come into my home. I am not able to feed the missionaries because I might lure them into sin. I am not able to be a young women’s president because being an unmarried woman isn’t an example we want to set for the young women in the church.

    I am a successful and dynamic person. I have found many people outside the church never give me strange looks or make me feel uncomfortable because I am not like them or my life does not fully reflect theirs. And I am included in their lives as a fully participating member and not as a charity case.

    I understand completely why people decide not to attend their meetings. No one wants to feel isolated, like a special case, or be reminded by well meaning people that they are “special”.

    I don’t think it is bitterness. It is more self preservation. I like being happy and feeling like I am a good person. When I go to church and am treated like somehow I have done something wrong because I haven’t found “the one,” it really fuels a desire not to go period.

  84. 84.

    I understand Danielle. At one point in my life when I was having difficulty attending church I kept telling myself that I go to church to worship (not socialize), because it was the right thing to do, because that’s what Heavenly Father expects of me – however all those things didn’t make it easier to do so! It’s hard to go when you feel like those around you treat you differently or, as in my case, you feel like they are hypocrites. After a couple of years of on-again off-again attendance I finally went back for good, but it was a slow process.

    One thing I did during the period while I was starting to come back was bear my testimony in RS (I did have one as I’m sure you do!) and also tell them, in what I hope was a kind way, why coming back was difficult, but that I didn’t want to give up on church. I didn’t expect anything to come of that actually. The spirit nudged me to do it, but I still didn’t expect the overwhelming response. It’s like all of a sudden I had friends! And they were sincere too – they just had no idea how their actions or words affected me. It was sort of awkward but also very cool and it was a nicer experience at church after that.

  85. 85.

    I’d like to add a hearty “amen!” to Fideline’s comment (#82)–especially to her thoughts about the medieval model of allowing multiple paths of Christian devotion. This is part of what I was getting at in my first comment (#2) when I query why the church can’t authenticate multiple alternatives for women, rather than turning wife-and-mother into a reductive prescription. And I wholeheartedly agree with the last paragraph of the comment–that turning family into something people construct out of a desire for that family rather than out of simple conformity to a prescription would strengthen families.

    I’d also add the following: We tend to think of families as parent-child units. We don’t always think of family as a collection of adult peers. But for me–a single, childless woman–, my family is a collection of adult peers as much as it is a group of adults parenting children. And I for one have a emotionally difficult relationship with my family–my siblings and parents, other adults–because my life doesn’t conform to the very narrow prescription for Mormon women’s lives. If the church authenticated and acknowledged and accepted alternate life paths for women I have absolutely no doubt that my relationship with my family would be much, much better.

    And thank you Danielle (#83). I completely sympathize. I am regularly disgusted by the myriad ways church teachings and culture and policy relegate singles to second-class status. And there are many times I’d simply rather not be there. I don’t see why I should sit through church meetings that ruin my peace of mind (for these reasons and many others). And I don’t think that it’s right to simply say that it’s my fault that they ruin my peace of mind. There are genuine problems at church–things we shouldn’t tolerate or ignore while cheerfully asserting that all is well in the kingdom.

  86. 86.

    Fideline, I’ve thought a lot about a conversation we had last year at SMPT, with one of the other attendees, about the status of singles in the LDS church. It helped me articulate one reason why I think being an LDS single is particularly challenging. On the one hand, you’re required to live a life of celibacy—a challenge that I think most people would acknowledge is a real sacrifice. But unlike traditions in which that decision can be affirmed in the context of some kind of valid life path, if you’re a Mormon single and you decide to stay active and keep the law of chastity, you get the reward of—that’s right, being marginalized in your community. In other words, you get a kind of double whammy: both required celibacy and second-class status. As I think we were saying in this conversation, if I’m going to have to commit to celibacy, the least I could get is a cool outfit (like those in religious orders). But even if we didn’t get cool outfits, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wish for some kind of recognized theological place within the community.

  87. 87.

    Following #82 there are some additional references amongst your correspondents to the medieval role of monks & nuns (etc) & “celibacy” in the Church of that time. Just in case we idealize things a little too much, let me add that Pope Celestine V , formerly Peter Murrone, initiated a new order of monks in the 1200’s which he described as “the only true spiritual men in … (somewhere – all of Europe I think)” because the rest of them didn’t take their vows of celibacy too seriously; in fact they were quite profligate.
    Then, moving to the 1500’s, I found in ” Foxes Book of Martyrs” the interesting information that during the Protestant interregnum in England, just before Bloody Mary returned things for a while to Catholicism, that the priests were allowed to marry their mistresses. However shortly they were obliged to return to “celibacy” & lacking any means of livelihood other than the Church, many divorced their new wives in accord with Mary’s decree, so that they could remain priests in her service.
    Church officials (including priests) were roundly criticized throughout history & in all countries where the Church held sway, for seducing wives & daughters at the confessional & of course we are all aware of instances even to the present where not just wives & daughters were subjects of interest to the lusty clergy.
    Also the convents in Lisbon, Portugal were described as the next thing to bordellos or places of assignation, just prior to the great earthquake there in 1755.
    Medieval Europe was awash with mendicant friars (beggars essentially) & these were regarded by some commentators as pests. For those not inclined to honest labour, the Church offered an easy lifestyle plus free sex.
    I am sure that a percentage of members of religious orders were sincere about the religious element, but as I understand it, not too many.
    I realize this contribution is almost irrelevant to the contemporary situation of voluntary (true) celibacy you are discussing, however I thought it useful to inject a little historical perspective since that is the direction the blog now seems to be flowing in.
    As for the ‘outfits’, yes they were ‘cool’ but I believe lice & bedbugs were a problem.

  88. 88.

    Max: you miss the point altogether. The point was not that the lifestyle of medieval religious is to be emulated or even that medieval religious lived a virtuous lifestyle; it was that the medieval church authenticated a variety of avenues or life paths. There was official recognition that there was not a single prescription for living a religious life. Unlike the Mormon church in which the *only* acknowledged path to righteousness is to marry and have children (even if you don’t do it until after you’re dead).

    And while I have no doubt whatsoever that there was plenty of corruption and violation of vows and sexual profligacy in the Catholic church throughout its history, the extremity of your portrayal is a little unbelievable. sources?

  89. 89.

    I’ve been following this thread with a great deal of interest – it really hits home for me. I particularly relate to what Danielle said:

    I understand completely why people decide not to attend their meetings. No one wants to feel isolated, like a special case, or be reminded by well meaning people that they are “special”.

    I don’t think it is bitterness. It is more self preservation. I like being happy and feeling like I am a good person. When I go to church and am treated like somehow I have done something wrong because I haven’t found “the one,” it really fuels a desire not to go period.

    I stopped going to church for a variety of reasons, both doctrinal and cultural. Anytime I do attend a meeting, like when I’m home visiting my parents for Christmas, several ward members approach me and immediately volunteer the standard comment: “Don’t feel bad because you’re not married yet.” I feel – and have always felt – like these unsolicited assurances are as well-meaning and warm-hearted as is possible, and I do not begrudge the people who say them. But I found myself gradually growing weary of a culture in which people feel the need to constantly reassure me that I am worthwhile as a person despite not being married or a mother. The obvious subtext – that has been repeated many times on this thread – is that my value as a human being within this organization is materially lessened because of my marital status, and that just hasn’t been my experience in non-Mormon contexts.

  90. 90.

    if you’re a Mormon single and you decide to stay active and keep the law of chastity, you get the reward of—that’s right, being marginalized in your community.

    Lynnette, that is an excellent point. I’d never thought of it quite that way before. Thanks for making it.

  91. 91.

    But even if we didn’t get cool outfits, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wish for some kind of recognized theological place within the community.

    A friend pointed out to me the obvious point that Christ himself did not marry in mortality (at least we have no record of it). Mormons have speculated endlessly about Christ’s “marriage”, but we don’t really know if or when he was or will be married. If we believe that Christ provided the preeminent example of living a mortal life, than single people are actually living lives that follow Christ’s example more literally than married people. In the church, we often say that learning to be like God (i.e. Heavenly Father) is best done by being a parent like him. But isn’t learning to be like God (i.e. Christ, who lived a single life of service, kindness, sorrow, heartbreak, and sacrifice for those whom he was not biologically related) just as important?

  92. 92.

    Fideline’s reiteration of the old Catholic legend that Jesus lived & died single reminds me of the other old Catholic legend that His Mum, Mary, lived & died a virgin & that his siblings mentioned in the text were really only cousins (or some-such relatives). This is part of the way “some kind of recognized theological place within the community” (as you say) was accorded those of single status.
    Jewish tradition required every young man of 20 years, to marry just as it required every young man to be taught a trade by his father (or arrange for some other trade at least). Joseph was apparently a carpenter (probably), hence Jesus took up that trade. As for the other tradition, well Jesus would have had a wife sitting at home while he went off on his mission. Maybe she married someone else eg. afterwards (?)
    Similarly, when we read about Peter (& brethren) casting their nets on the other side of the boat & coming up with so many fish the net could scarce hold same; there was a practical application for it, namely that they were just about to be called on a mission & this was a means of helping provide for their families in the interim.
    Now you asked for “sources” for my previous comment. I gave one (Foxes Book of Martyrs). For the rest you have the net – look it up for yourselves. I read books too. But the main point is” You should find sources for your own theories before you reiterate old Catholic legends verbatim”.
    I realize that I may be doing exactly what you criticize the LDS Church for, ie. reciting the way it is rather than what makes you feel good. Sorry about that. Can’t help it.

    Now I will give you something new to blog about (maybe it’s not so new) ie: “DOES POLYGAMY FIT THE FEMINIST IDEAL”? Eg. Brigham Young was asked “when are you going to stop taking wives”? He replied “when they stop asking me”. The old idea was that women were free to choose the husband they wanted. Now I understand it has been corrupted in many instances so that women are neither free to choose, nor can they pick the husband they want. Hence it may descent to a terrible state of affairs. Nevertheless, in the preferred state the question persists” Does plural marriage fit the Feminist Ideal?

  93. 93.

    Go get your own blog, max. We’re not your puppets.

  94. 94.

    I find it amusing that Max glosses the Biblical account of Christ’s life, which gives no account of his alleged marriage, as an “old Catholic legend.”

    You can cite Jewish tradition all you want. And I can cite Mormon tradition. According to Mormon tradition, I should be married. Which means when people read my journals in a hundred years and find no mention of a marriage, they’ll know that in spite of that omission I was married. Because it’s tradition for Mormon women to marry, after all…

    Just sayin’.

    And amen to Galdrarag (#89). Well said.

  95. 95.

    LOL, amelia!

  96. 96.

    Does plural marriage fit the Feminist Ideal?

    No.

    Thank you, but I think we already have more topics than energy.

  97. 97.

    Just trying to help

  98. 98.

    Look, Max, I don’t think anyone doubts your good intentions. But you may need to review some basic blog etiquette. If you follow the link above, you’ll see that we don’t need any help generating topics, and it comes across as pretty presumptuous for you to repeatedly tell us what to discuss. This is our space; you’re a guest here, not a supervisor. We welcome your on-topic comments, but we’re not at your beck and call to enact your blogging will, and we don’t need your help.

    It’s clear you have a lot on your mind. Might I repeat–yet again–the suggestion that you get your own blog?

  99. 99.

    Don’t know much about blogging etiquette, still learning, just new at it. I feel like the pig at the party – can’t work out why everyone is getting upset at me (?)

  100. 100.

    Max, just re-read Eve’s #98.

  101. 101.

    max, I don’t mean to pile on, but since you asked, here are a few basic pointers:

    1) As Eve said, keep in mind that you’re a guest on the blog. Among other things, that means that we pick the discussion topics. And it comes across pretty badly for you to try to “help” us by telling us what we should discuss.

    We did a thread for you once, because we do generally try to be friendly. But really, if you want to propose your own topics for discussion, you need to start your own blog. It’s actually not that hard to do; check out blogger.com or wordpress.com. I’m not saying that to be snarky–you sound like you have a lot you want to talk about, and a blog of your own would be a way to do that without having to be limited by our rules.

    But as long as you’re here, focus your comments on the topic of the original post. Conversations sometimes go in different directions, and that’s okay (though the person who write the post also might also ask people to get back on topic). But don’t simply jump into a thread and try to start a whole new discussion.

    2) Don’t give lectures. (As in your #87). By which I mean, reciting a bunch of facts (in this case very dubious ones). Assume that the people in the thread know about the topic they’re discussing. When you attempt to tell someone like Fideline–who, as she mentioned, is in fact a scholar of the Middle Ages (“scholar” in this instance not meaning having read a few books, but years of formal academic work)–about medieval monasticism based on Foxes Book of Martyrs and unnamed internet sources, you actually come across as pretty ridiculous. Fideline’s too polite to tell you that, so I am.

    In general, comments are better if they’re about your ideas and experiences, as opposed to a list of random tidbits that could be found on Wikipedia.

    I’m not usually this blunt, but you don’t seem to be hearing more gentle reminders. You’re welcome to comment, but your comments need to be related to the current discussion.

    And since this discussion about blogging etiquette has derailed this this thread, maybe we should get back on topic now.

  102. 102.

    In the church, we often say that learning to be like God (i.e. Heavenly Father) is best done by being a parent like him. But isn’t learning to be like God (i.e. Christ, who lived a single life of service, kindness, sorrow, heartbreak, and sacrifice for those whom he was not biologically related) just as important?

    I really like that point; I’d never thought of things in quite that way. I think I’ve just heard the “I never really understood God until I became a parent” line and been reminded, yet again, of my own marginal position. And I have no doubt that there’s truth to it, that being a parent does give you particular insight into God’s relation to us. But I appreciate the observation that other life experiences also convey unique insights–even some that you might not get from a more traditional path.

  103. 103.

    This thread has been officially un-threadjacked. Please keep any further comments on topic (that is, being single in the church).

  104. 104.

    I think I have a crush on The Bouncer. (Wait, is that on topic? I am single, after all…)

  105. 105.

    It’s the seductive merman costume. Many a young woman has been led astray by my hairy chest and my flashing sequins.

  106. 106.

    oh dear, be still my beating heart :)

  107. 107.

    Can I get things back on track ?
    As I recall the subject was “Being single in the Church”, not “picking up The Bouncer” (smiley symbol). Here goes:
    It seems to me there is a lot of angst amongst (us) single folks;
    indeed I have been a lightning rod for some of it.
    I told you earlier how I got rid of some of my anger ie. spiritually but I haven’t told you yet about how I did it physically – Judo.
    36 is a late age to take up that sport but you can do it at most any age eg. I just quit last year (age 60) for health reasons.
    Judo, particularly when you aren’t very good at it (like me) works along similar lines to the everyday kitchen “meat tenderizer” principle ie, the more pounding you get, the more mellow you feel. I got really mellow by this method because I got beat up a real lot. You get so you don’t worry as much about stuff. Now this is right on the point because you don’t have to take up Judo if you don’t want, but you can take up some other sport – wrestling is good. Pole dancing is the latest craze for the girls. Anything will do – as long as it hurts!
    I hope you will see my point (?) No man wants to marry a cranky (bad tempered) girl. He would rather marry a mild mannered girl with bruises instead.
    Oh, & even tho you say mean things to me sometimes, I want you to know that I still love you
    Max.

  108. 108.

    holy shit.

  109. 109.

    I couldn’t bring myself to say it. Thank you, CWC.

  110. 110.

    giggle!

  111. 111.

    Don’t listen to them, Max. Your comments are awesome. Keep em coming.

  112. 112.

    Wow . . .

  113. 113.

    lolol

  114. 114.

    Getting back to words of comfort for single members of the church, why is it that people are so narrow minded to see singleness as some kind of failing?

    All I can think is that A family with a husband and wife and children is the only measure of success with the doctrine and culture that surrounds the church. That is a wonderful state of affairs, not the 100% guarentee. Why exclude people?

    What stance can be taken within ourselves and as suggestions to leaders so people actually feel welcomed to church and like I am having an actual conversation versus cheering on the sidelines? How do I HONESTLY approach people when all they seem to talk about are their kids and husbands or wives and all I can do is nod and be supportive… not a lot to add there/

  115. 115.

    To Danielle – (& everyone else who is looking for comfort) … the point is: you are in a club that practically everyone else is in as well – everyone has problems! There are just different divisions or classes of problems – to keep it interesting.
    The mob I feel sorriest for is the “poor little rich kids” who besides wealth have social acceptance & good looks etc. – they have to work so much harder to find out what we already know, & maybe they don’t find out at all (?)
    As for your “suggestions to (Church) leaders” … don’t bother; they already know.
    The trick is to realize that the Church is into emphasizing the IDEAL rather than the REAL. They have to do that. Don’t beat yourself up about not landing amongst the stars, the moon will do.
    The Church makes sure the herd is roughly headed west & as for strays, there will always be a few of them bellowing in the hills. My concern is that they might end up down at Temple Square handing out anti-Mormon tracts or otherwise embarrassing themselves.
    Relax, enjoy. The person who seems to have it all while talking about kids & husband may actually need your help.

  116. 116.

    Can we get max off of here? The thing about the bruises was a step too far for me. and the condescending lecturing is really annoying.

  117. 117.

    Max,

    Go back to my response at 33. Read #1 in that response. It says “Don’t minimize real pain and grief.” You are minimizing real pain and grief.

  118. 118.

    max, since your comments, despite their entertainment value, are choking out serious conversation, we’re going to be moderating future contributions. If they add to the conversation (instead of derailing it), we’ll let them through.

    z, it’s bad manners to go to a blog and tell the permas how to run it. (You may recall that we object to people attempting to preside over us.)

  119. 119.

    Run it however you want. It’s just a request, I’m not “telling” you anything.

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