We have strong values and beliefs and seek companions with the same. This drastically narrows the dating options, leaving us to wonder, is their any chance of finding a match?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shut Yo' Mouth!

We here at 'Plight of the Religious Dater' are (as far as I know) of the smart, sassy, strong variety. We're here, we're single, we don't want any more bears! (name the show)

That being said, today I feel like a kvetch. Seraphine over at Zelophehad's Daughters said it much better and probably with more intelligence and compassion (fangirl alert!), but it's been on my mind so I'm taking a crack at it, anyway. Here's the sitch: you're visiting your home ward and run into your old youth leaders. Or perhaps you're in a new family ward. Or you're at a family picnic and run into your Aunt Sharon whom you haven't seen in a few years. Or maybe you're having tea with your mom. (ack!) And you hear one or more or a combination of the following:

"You're still single? *awkward silence* Well, good for you for being so strong!"
"I have a brother in law that just got out of rehab. He's got three kids and is kinda obese, but he's single, too! Can I give him your number?"
"Oh sweetie, it's okay. You're totally going to find a super hot, hilarious, sweet guy...in the next life!"
"Yes, this is my husband." *grabs man's arm*

I have heard a variation on all of these, and I'm sure there are many more. In every situation I have fortunately bit my tongue and smiled and said something mild in response. Time and experience have taught me this ever-important skill. I do realize that most people are simply trying to be helpful and nice and don't mean anything by their comments. But these comments highlight the unnerving assumptions that exist in LDS culture about 'older' singles. That we're:

a) At the brink of suicide
b) Desperate
c) Easily comforted by unfounded platitudes
d) Out to steal a married man

In my experience, these are by and large not the case. Yes, there are exceptions. For instance, I know a few women who are greatly comforted by the notion that a wonderful, righteous, foxy man awaits them in the Millenium, and I don't begrudge them that one bit. It just doesn't do anything for me. And perhaps there are single women out there secretly plotting to steal away that 39 year old father of five in all his pot-bellied, balding, carpooling glory...but I haven't met them.

I don't think I need to explain why these assumptions exist. You know them already. In a highly family/marriage oriented church that hasn't yet bucked the cultural tendency to marry young, it's to be expected that people will have trouble relating to you when you don't fit that norm.

How to deal? Ignore and have compassion. People usually mean well. And if they don't? Screw 'em. You know that you're pretty stinkin' awesome, that you're doing the best you can in life and that things will happen when and if they happen. Rock on.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Location, Location

I still need to complete my series on online dating, but first I wanted to further discuss the topic addressed by Francine on Geographical Impairment. I think it is something to which most LDS singles can relate. I have asked my self those same questions for years and at times have felt that I needed to stay in the "Mormon Centers" of the world or I would never find anyone. Other times I have believed that upping the quantity doesn't necessarily up the quality, and that you can find love anywhere.

Many years ago when I was studying at BYU and living in Provo, Utah (Mormon center of the world for those of you unfamiliar with our church), I remember nearing my graduation and feeling very panicked about the future. Was I worried about trying to find a job with my generic B.A.? No, I was worried about leaving Provo and never finding anyone to marry. I couldn't leave Provo as a single! So I stayed, dated a guy, and a year later I still left Provo in a state of singleness.

As I already mentioned I have gone back and forth on deciding where I need to live, and what are the most important factors. I have lived on 4 continents, in 5 countries, and in 7 cities. Some have been Mormon centers, and others have been cities with very small LDS communities. Each place has provided diversity, new experiences, and a new dating pool, however one thing has always been the same: I remain single.

What I have concluded from my history of moving around, and feeling the pressure to live somewhere with a lot of singles, is that you can meet someone anywhere. For every story of two people meeting and falling in love at BYU, there is a story of someone going to a ward in the middle of nowhere thinking he/she will be the only single, only to be introduced to another single and then finding true love.

Therefore, I think it's about identifying your needs for happiness and contentment, and finding a place that satisfies those needs. For the past 2 years I was living outside of North America in an area with less of a Mormon culture, and less members. The dating pool was smaller, but people networked and we still managed to date. When I came to the age of YSA expiration, I decided that I wanted to be near my family, and that I also wanted to live in a city with other LDS people in my age bracket. I knew that I needed a network of people in my situation so that I could survive attending a family ward without a family. Living here has proven to be what I need at this point in my life and although I have struggled with finding a good job and good friends, I am happy being with my family and I have had more dating opportunities than I did even back in the Provo days.

Francine, not sure if any of that was useful, but those are my thoughts.

Hurray for Fans!

Yeah, we have our first follower! Welcome, Jessica! I logged in to write a post, but I'm going to dedicate this one to you and start another one.

Thanks for following and we would to have you join in with the comments.

A big thanks to Fei for being our most faithful reader so far and for keeping the comments going on her own!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Shrew

'The Taming of the Shrew', one of Shakespeare's goodies...You know, I truly wonder if he foresaw the plight of the religious dater. As I give you a run down, guess who my character soul mate is.

The run down is this. Katherina and Bianca are the daughters of a wealthy widower. The youngest is fair, sweet, quiet and accommodating and has a good number of suitors pounding at her door. In contrast, the eldest is a bit more lively, opinionated and shrewish...which equals zero suitors. Their father lets it be known that no one is to marry his popular younger daughter until the older one is wed. Problem is no one will touch Katherina with a ten foot pole!

Have you guessed? Yep...

Once upon a time I was the younger daughter in this scenario. I had little life experience, I had not really seen much of the world or educated myself enough to really have an opinion on much. I had the blessing of youth and my body maintained a shape that required little attention or work, only just out adolescence. Now getting into my late twenties I finally I know what I want, have less patience for stupidity and more inclination to voice the fact and I have ideas and opinions. I joke now that my brain has finally grown to it's full size, although my body is perhaps a little exasperated and doesn't have the skills to effortlessly hold everything in. At times I feel like jelly not fresh out of its mould but after it's been poked with a spoon.

That is correct. I AM THE SHREW*.

Now, although I am absolutely fine with my identity as a shrew, the fact of the matter is that where I am, most men my age don't want a shrew. In my experience most Mormon men want to marry Bianca not Katherina. Tell me that this is not so. And ladies, there is nothing wrong with being Bianca...but what I have noticed is a strong, independent woman is a less favourable choice than a fresh from Young Women, woman who has a little more to learn in life I guess. Remember this is life according to me and is not the be all or end all.

Once upon a time I went on a few dates with this guy. He was cute, a bit mysterious and seemed to like me enough so I thought I'd explore it, try something new like being a bit more assertive in that area. I was watching carefully for anything a bit suss, I had heard some things- nothing horrible but I wanted to find out for myself. On one of our dates he happened to get a text msg from a girl he'd met on the weekend and proceeded to text her during the duration of our whole date. Hello sussness. Unfortunately I was still willing to put the feelers out there to see if he was still interested in me as this girl was from a different state. He went for the girl, who I found out was much younger than me...Rejected using useless metaphors about balls in courts. Later on a bit deeper into his relationship with this lass, he came over and chatted to me about her immaturity, implied some unsteadiness in her spirituality and made a comparison with me. My side was more favourable.

So the question is why didn't he go for me when he had the chance? I was as attractive as her, I was fun, easy to talk to, doing everything I could to be a good person, I had a job, was good at lots of things, far superior...tick tick tick....? Right?

As I considered this dilemma I busted some brain cells but came to the conclusion that he needed a damsel in distress, someone to think he was amazing and build his ego, someone who relied on him temporally and spiritually. The shrew just didn't do that!! I realised that this particular guy didn't need to feel less by being around someone who he felt didn't necessarily need him. And it was true, his priorities were not my own in the gospel and he sensed that.

Now in the play, an eccentric man named Petruchio volunteers to 'tame' the Shrew and marry her for her large dowry. His motives seem to change and he is adamant that he tames and makes her love him. She fights him all the way but eventually he, due to his quirky ways, rough exterior, hard headedness and a love of a challenge wins her love and manages to tame her.

Finally, the point of my saga. Girls. There need only be one man that tames the shrew and he will tame you and you will love it. Don't lament that you'll dance barefoot at your siblings' weddings but be the best you can and prepare to make room in your life for someone else. Petruchio didn't so much as make Katherina into a stepford wife by curbing her spirit and making her a different person - he showed her how to harness it, and their relationship developed. He didn't need her to build his ego up and to place him on a pedestal but allowed her to be his partner and equal. So. Never fear, for the Hortensios, Lucentios and Grumios...are not for you. For although Petruchio's ways were slightly unorthodox and perhaps considered as abuse in this day and age, he worked hard and earned the love and respect of a strong independent woman.

The end.

* A shrew or shrew mouse is a small mammal with the appearance of a long nosed mouse and small sharp, spike-like teeth quite different to that of the rodent. Despite its appearance, its bite is quite painful.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Geographical Impairment

Some of us live in places where YSA Wards and Midsingles scenes abound. Where the problem is how to sort the wheat from the chaff and find your needle in the haystack of fellers out there.

And some of us do not.

Some of us live in places where we literally know every single LDS man in our city. Sure there are a few move-ins and move outs every year, but the fact of the matter is that I know that am not going to meet anyone new when I attend church singles events. I know exactly who will be there. I know exactly what (who) my options are.

I LOVE my city. It's a spectacular place to live. The people are great. The city and surrounding area are unbeatable. My apartment is fantastic. My ward takes in a large geographical area, so it's splendidly diverse in every way. I have a circle of wonderful friends whom I adore. I just love living here. But sometimes I wonder whether I should move...

Here's why: I'm a firm believer that if we keep doing what we're doing, we're gonna keep getting what we're getting. And if I keep living in a place that doesn't allow for forming many new relationships with new men - I can probably count on the same very small offering of new social opportunities.

It's a delicate balance. I think there's something to be said for the numbers game - if there are more LDS men in a city, the odds of me finding one to date will increase. Heck -even if I were to move to another city with a small LDS population, the number of new options would be greater than if I stay put.

But there are no guarantees. It is very possible that I would leave an otherwise idyllic life and career path in my current city, and not find new men to date. It's always a gamble - do I give up the happiness I know here for something that may or may not exists? I'd be glad to leave it all behind if I knew there would be a positive result. But if I'm going to be flying solo anyway... I'd just as soon do it here.

So what's your advice, team? Should a gal move every few years in the pursuit of something that may or may not exist, knowing that at least she's giving it her best effort? Or should she put down roots, resign herself to being content with her singledom in a beautiful city, and hope one day, one of the few-and-far-between new move-ins will be perfect for her?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Online Dating: Take 1

I'm online. I have always been opposed to the idea of meeting potential dates online, but I have reached a point where I can no longer rely on church programs to introduce me to new guys, and I'm not in a field of work that allows me to interact with many single men. Also, I keep meeting people in happy relationships who have met due to online introductions. It's really no different from a blind date, but in this case you actually get to screen the candidate and see if you truly do have common interests, unlike many blind dates where you are just matched because you are similar in height and both single.

So, one night when I was feeling vulnerable and lonely, I signed up for a few websites. On two websites I have focused on meeting guys with my same religious beliefs, so that means most of the guys live in Utah, and therefore a date is out of the question for a while. On the third site people search by location, so I have been getting contacted from guys within my city. The thing that is easy about the first two sites is that it is just a way to network and chat with interesting guys, and quite frankly, to boost my self esteem. The third site takes things to a whole new level because knowing these guys are in the the same city as me makes them real, and because these guys are real, they actually want to meet up. I am getting asked out by all sorts of guys; but here's the catch, these guys are not Mormon.

Initially I was not at all comfortable meeting up with total strangers and I never thought I could do it. I think of myself as a fairly confident person, but when it comes to dating and guys, I clearly don't have the best game. I can be shy at times, and slightly awkward. I avoid situations where I might feel that way, and because of this I have always hated going on dates. I prefer to let a relationship evolve from friendship. Sadly, my circle of friends generally consists of a majority of females and a minority of gay potential males, so none of these friendships can lead to dating.

Anyway, so last night I found myself meeting up with Buddy #1 who met me for a walk in a central park. What I learned from this encounter is something I have learned before, but will likely be reminded of each time I agree to meet a guy I have "met" online.
  1. 3D people do not always look like their 2D photos. 
  2. Witty banter and cute comments in emails do not always transfer to witty and cute conversation in person.
  3. If a guy isn't good at asking questions in messages, he's likely worse at it in person.
I left Buddy #1 feeling fairly certain I would never see or hear from again, however he surprised me with many follow ups and later asked if I would like to meet up again. Nice fella, but this one is a no.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mormon Dating Graduate Seminar - The Outsiders

Y'all who know me IRL (that's 'In Real Life' for you non-Internet geeks) will not be surprised to see this post. This is a big, fat, issue for our demographic and gender and I would be remiss if I didn't bring it up. Ready? Dating outside the faith. Duhn duhn DUHHHHHHNNNNN!

We here at 'Plight of the Religious Dater' like to be well-rounded in our views and I think we owe it to our plight, as it were, to present this side of the argument. Here's the scenario. You are a little bit older (aka late 20's, even early 30's) and as happens in Mormondom and even the secular world, the ratio of single women to single men increases. It's scary. Really scary. As you tootle along in your life, you meet a really nice guy that happens to be funny, attractive and basically has his act together. The catch? Can you guess?

He's not Mormon. Dangit!

For some religions, this is not a big deal. Interfaith dating happens all the time. But for some, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and even Catholics, it's an issue. And it certainly is for Mormons, too. We teach that in order to reach the highest echelons of heaven, we must be married to another Mormon in the temple. It's taught from a young age and reinforced in the Young Single Adult scene. So for a lot of people, breaking out of this by dating a non-Mormon isn't just that, it's shunning your beliefs, God, and even your family. That's a lot of pressure.

But then, what do you do? This fantastic, non-Mormon fella expresses an interest in dating you. 'Decline' is the advice most would give. Why date someone if you know they won't be able to marry in the temple? Best to only date other Mormons, even though the pickings are painfully slim. And even if you never marry and spend your mortal life single and take on the role of super cool, favorite aunt, you'll know you did the right thing by refusing to marry outside the temple. And don't worry, there's certainly an attractive, righteous man waiting for you after you die. *crickets* I don't say that to be sarcastic or bitter, truly. However, this is the attitude you will encounter for the most part in the church, usually from married people. Better to date, and then marry, in the church or not at all.

But what if there was another course of action? Say you go on a date with this spectacular guy. You have a good time and you go out again. He's fine with your religion but makes it clear that while he respects you, he has no interest in joining. You begin to date, you realize you are very compatible and soon fall in love. Eventually, after a reasonable time of courtship, you decide to marry. Things aren't always perfect; you're both human and occasionally you argue. Sometimes you even aruge about religion, too. But when all is said and done, you love and respect each other. Eventually you have a family and are able to enjoy the fullness of the human experience.

I guess my question is this; do you give up that last scenario for the hope of something that might never happen? For some people, yes, absolutely. For some, no way. Ultimately, what you decide is between you and God.

There's a lot more I could say here, about how this situation is actually easier for women (in my experience) and how some of the attitudes that surround this issue can be quite damaging. I've had personal experience with this (in case that wasn't obvious) and perhaps I'll share some of them another day. So, what do you think about all this?