I know I still owe the blog the rest of my engagement story, but I wrote this post awhile ago (last year), and I need to wrap up this series since I’m not actually going to be single much longer. In regards to the contents of this post, while I am now engaged, I still think there’s truth to the rant that it contains. Also, I feel like I just got really, really lucky finding my fiance (and that I didn’t find him because I followed anyone’s dating advice).
People who have “succeeded” at getting married often view themselves as experts on dating, especially the type of dating that leads to marriage. Many of them are positive that the techniques that worked for them at the age of 18, or that worked for them 30 years ago, are broadly applicable and might work for you. As a result, these people are full of sage advice and wisdom, and they are eager to share it with the poor, misguided single people they know (because if single people had their wisdom, they would no longer be single).
I polled some of my single friends, and here’s some of the advice they’ve received over the years:
Piece of advice #1 (from a friend I’ll call Simone): Simone’s mother discussed Simone’s dating life (or lack of one) with her tennis partner. Her tennis partner said that Simone needed to make sure to touch a man that she liked on the arm three times. Simone’s mother diligently passed on this advice to Simone.
Piece of advice #2 (also from Simone): Multiple people have told her that men just need to be “babied,” and that if she can’t successfully do this, she won’t find a man to date and marry.
Piece of advice #3: This is less of a piece of advice than a helpful story. A friend was in a singles ward. The second counselor in the bishopric and his wife had met in that ward, and one Sunday they told their story (as a model for the singles who were there), and then had singles come up to the front of the room and practice asking each other on dates.
And finally, here’s a bunch of advice heard by one of my co-bloggers (thanks, Melyngoch!). I’m going to leave things in her words because she tells the stories so well:
…one of the members of the stake presidency once came and informed us that since all women marry down (because women are inherently more moral/spiritual/levitaty kind of people blah blah blah), we all needed to just settle for, roughly, whatever piece of Priesthood was sitting next to us.
A few years ago, the wife of one of the branch presidency members did an Enrichment on dating where the message was, roughly, pick a guy and stay obsessed with him till he gives in, but be sure to make yourself hotter while you’re waiting for him to come round.
Also, one of my friends here (now married!) was told in earnest by a family member that, when she decided to get a PhD, she was educating herself right out of a husband.
I’m going to let the advice speak for itself (because what commentary can one offer?), but I am going to rant for just a minute. <rant>Many people who are married are probably better at the whole dating thing than I am. But many of them are just incredibly lucky, and they did not get married because they possessed incredible dating skills. Moreover, because their personality is so completely different from my own, what worked for them may not work for me. And what they chose to do to attract the opposite sex may not be something I want to do because I’m trying to attract someone very different than who they attracted.
Also, when acquaintance or strangers ask me questions like “how is your dating life?” or “do you think the person you’re dating likes you?”, do I respond by saying things like “do you love your husband?” or “how are things going in your marriage?” No, I do not because that would be rude and presumptuous. And do I give them marriage advice? No, I do not because that would be rude and presumptuous. Even if I do have good advice.</rant>
In one of my previous threads, amelia made roughly the same point as I was trying to make in my above rant, but she did it so eloquently that I’m going to repost her comments, as well as one from Kaimi. amelia began by asking “…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? … So why is my status as a single not off limits?” Her answer was,
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.
I think it’s even more than that… 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.)
I think one of the things that’s been most difficult to deal with in some of my interactions at church is this underlying, often unspoken assumption that I’m not quite an adult. People assume that my understanding, and sometimes even my capability for righteousness, is limited by my single status. For example, I’ve had my feminism blamed on the fact that I don’t have a kind husband to show me how patriarchy is supposed to work. While there are lessons they’ve learned from marriage that I have not learned yet, there are lessons that I have learned from living on my own for nearly half my life that that my fellow members who were married at a young age have not learned.
And I don’t need dating advice.