Reality TV and Mormon Dating: Outback Jack goes to my Singles’ Ward

I realize that in the company of the intellectual giants in the bloggernacle, this next confession may forever peg me as a lightweight (if my previous posts have not already pegged me as such…) I watch reality dating shows. Not the serious ones like the Bachelor, no, I prefer the gimicky rip off shows. (My personal favorite moment was when the preening queen from Average Joe Hawaii dumped the average guy for the hottie, then was in turn dumped by him on their post-production vacation because she admitted that she once dated Fabio. Ladies and Gentlemen, TV does not get better than that…)

I have, until now however, been unable to explain my illogical attraction to the gimicky dating shows. Outback Jack changed all that. I have entered a level of higher consciousness and now choose to share it with you. Outback Jack goes to my Singles’ Ward. Let me clarify, the Outback Jack syndrome has infected the Mormon Singles Scene. And let’s just say it does not bring with it a wave of dignity and charity.

For the uninitiated. Outback Jack is a fairly hot, but strangely small man, full of testosterone and Australian good sense. A nice guy–certainly more sincere than his American counterparts. He seems well-meaning, and apparently naieve enough to agree to be on American television. The deal had its perks for him. The producers dropped 12 pampered, phenomenally gorgeous women in his lap, and every few days he gets to pick which ones will “continue on this journey” with him. He started out extremely kind, if a bit overwhelmed. However, as the show goes on, and these women continue to throw themselves at him, his attitude is slowly changing. Let me illustrate: On the last episode, as he was about to eliminate one of the pouting blonds, he voiced over “Ah, I’m about to break one of these sheila’s hearts. That’s so hard for me, I’m not a cruel person.” About to “break a heart?” Come on. And once again, we witness the fact that power begets hubris. And hubris begets stupid voice-overs.

So it finally hit me. Single LDS men are by and large in an Outback Jack kind of “reality.” I have attended my fair share of singles wards, and by the mid to late twenties, on average, the women are ahead of the men in both quantity and accomplishment. Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I’m quite sure I’m the woman that pulls the average down for the rest of my talented and beautiful sisters, but I am an observer, and I’m not the only one making this observation. The women outnumber the men, and by and large, therefore, there are MANY more “on the ball” women competing for a few really great men and a quite a few average joes. Sounds crass? It feels crass and undignified. And breeds very bad behavior, both in women and men.

In fact it breeds the kind of behavior seen on reality t.v. Women who act with charity in any other situation can be pouty and catty, and then feel both guilt and social ostracization. The men get an overinflated sense of self and start behaving badly–manipulating women they are not interested in for ego gratification, and dating friends simultaneously, lying to both of them, just because they can get away with it. (Incidentally these things happened to friends of mine, just this past week…I’m not being hypothetical here.)

The result? More and more women are dating outside the church, and finding ironically, that their non-Mormon boyfriends treat them better than the men in the church. I find it fascinating that women in the church are waiting for moral men to marry in the temple, then find that non-Mormon men handle the dating scene with a greater sense of morality. Which is sad, because for the most part, I like the single Mormon guys I know. I think they’re trying to do their best to navigate a really horribly awkward situation, and are caught up in it. I can’t say with certainty that I would behave differently if put in the same situation. But the fact of the matter is, the demographics powerfully skew the social situation, and that situation skews behavior.

So, I’m willing to admit that I could be caught in the flames of indignation on behalf of my friends who are continually hurt by others’ bad behavior, and also so socially awkward, that I can’t manage to navigate the waters of single mormoness without looking like an idiot most of the time. However, I think this brings up some really serious questions about single womens’ expectations for a temple marriage. Fed up with the indignity of our situation, should we just give up, and cobble together families and happiness in the best way we can? Or is the ideal (that we haven’t tasted yet) worth the intervening social torture? How are we supposed to act when faced with this kind of manipulative behavior? What’s a single gal to do?

Comments

  1. “the three of us who are still reading this thread”

    Plenty of bizarro married types are also voyeuristically following the thread…

  2. aaarrrgghhhh. Lurking on this SITE. (I have spent too much of my life cite checking….and not enough spell checking.)

  3. Any bets on how fast this discussion veers off into a discussion of polygamy? Oops, it just did.

  4. Melissa says:

    As to Christina’s question as to whether anyone had experienced both temple and non-temple marriages – I’m kind of half and half. I had a disaterous marriage to a non-Member and am now married to a wonderfully supportive member, although we are not yet married in the temple (that whole clearance thing takes a while).

    In my opinion, it is the quality of the person, not the nature of the place (although I reserve all rights and this statement is non-binding and subject to a post-sealing [November] review and comment period…). Which of course begs the question — will you be automatically (or even more likely) to find a mate with whom you’ll be compatible in or out of the Church?

    I’m not sure that my experience can offer anything more than anecdotal evidence, although it just so happens that my non-member ex-husband is a terror and my member husband is man full of the Spirit, commitment, hard work, sacrifice, charity and devotion. Is that there because he’s LDS? You bet that his faith is a huge part of that — but that doesn’t preclude LDS men from being terrors nor does it preclude non-member men from possessing good qualities.

    What it comes down to is that there are decent people — and crummy people — everywhere, inside and outside the church. The key is to pick a good one, regardless of where you find him/her and work like crazy to value and cherish one another as long as you’re here on earth. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of faith that Heavenly Father will find a way for those kind of people to remain together for an eternity. I have enough faith that HF loves us all enough to take into account each of our circumstances and decide accordingly….

  5. Ben –

    Don’t let my weary cynicism get you down. You are young and a lover of wisdom. Go forth. And be sure to contact Karen if you get within geographical striking distance. In the meantime, strike up an email correspondence with her.

  6. Ben, I think you bring up a really good point as to why dating is so hard for men in singles wards. And I promise that the women I’ve talked to understand that. Has anyone else felt like they’ve figured out how to maneuver that one?

    Here are a few of my own personal rules. Anyone take issue with them or want to add?

    1. If you’ve known a guy for a month or two and he hasn’t asked you out….probably not interested–stop pining away.

    2. If he asks you out once, you can choose to reciprocate or not, but only once. After that it’s his move.

    3. If either one of you show more attention or affection outwardly, than you feel inwardly, you better question your motives pretty quick and curb your behavior accordingly, because that isn’t fair to the other person.

    4. If you want to be friends with someone from the opposit sex, but are not interested in dating them, don’t act like you’re dating. Be clear up front, and don’t spend much time alone. It’s unfair, and will most likely lead to one person developing feelings. That doesn’t mean don’t hang out, just be really careful of the other person’s feelings.

    5. Don’t lie because it’s convenient.

    6. Don’t be a jerk to a girl with friends who post on BCC. You’re so going to get busted. :o)

  7. Ben: Absolutely. Here’s to hoping geography works in our favor.

    JWL: I totally agree with your “women should be willing to compromise” point. There’s nothing that is more grating than a woman with a checklist. (Unless it’s a man with a checklist that includes cup size or “no smart chicks”.) Trust me when I say there is nothing like years of singleness that makes you examine your own inadequacies and hopefully become more forgiving of others–but everybody lives their lives differently…so I’m sure you’ve come across many people with unrealistic expectations.

    However, I disagree with your “there are equal numbers of men and women.” I can scan down our attendance rolls at church and prove that isn’t true. I swear to all you married ward goers…at least on the east coast There really really really are many more women here. Especially active.

    John: Your old girlfriend sounds mean. I’m sorry. I have male friends, however, who have dumped girlfriends and even fiancees for the same reason. I don’t think that’s necessarily a gender specific problem. But it makes you think that the “be nice to other people” lessons in Sunday School really aren’t sinking in…

  8. Christina: “don’t you think your perception has to do with the fact that your singles ward experiences were at BYU, not at all typical of other singles wards in the US?”

    You could be right — in fact, you’re probably right. I have no basis for real comparison. My *eligible* roommate could, however, provide some insight. I’ll let you know what he thinkgs.

  9. Kristine says:

    Drat, I was hoping I’d said something insightful for you to agree with :)

  10. Having been in both regular wards and singles wards as a single, I can honestly say it is *much* harder to stay active in a regular ward. On a fundamental gut level you don’t feel a part of it. This is especially true in priesthood where many lessons focus in on family experience and you feel kind of left out of the discussion.

    The other problem is that, for all their flaws, at least in singles wards you meet single LDS. In a regular ward just because of the way the geography goes, you typically don’t meet LDS. That means you are limited to meeting people at work, through friends, or end up going clubbing or so forth with its own set of dangers.

    I can’t speak for the non-Utah areas. And it seems each area has its own weirdness. (i.e. Alberta) But I think that unless there are adequate places to meet each others, single wards are a necessary evil. It always sucks when you are in a bad one. However I’m loath to generalize from bad wards to all wards. I’ve had some doozeys in terms of members and leadership. (The 8th ward in Provo immediately comes to mind) But I’ve had some great ones too.

  11. I am unequivocally in favor of abolishing singles wards. I attended them all through BYU, attended Colonial for two years, and am girding up my loins to attend in NYC this fall (a thought that makes me weep and wail and gnash my teeth).

    Without going into too much detail, I think they should be abolished because the two purposes for which a singles ward exists — 1. to serve as the basic ecclesiastical unit for its members, providing fellowship in Christ, service opportunities, and a place to worship, and, 2. to provide opportunities for dating and marriage for its members — are fundamentally at odds and prevent one another from being accomplished.

    They’re bad for singles, and bad for the Church.

  12. I hope this thread has not run out, since this is the most important topic in the universe.

    At the risk of siding with the married people (which maybe I am anyway since I attend a regular geographical ward rather than a singles ward) I am wondering if the phenomenon Karen describes is related to similar conditions beyond the LDS world. Remember those studies which found that it was almost impossible for an Ivy League educated woman to get married after 40? While it was later shown that those studies were overstated, I think the conclusion still stood that if women insist on their partner being slightly older and in a higher socio-economic category than them that somewhat older, well-educated, and well-employed women would statistically always have a smaller candidate pool to draw from. The moral was that women in that group might have to look for mates among men who were younger, more than slightly older, and/or in equal or lower socio-economic categories.

    I am wondering if the same or some variation of this phenomenon is at work among post-college LDS singles. While I have not counted, when I go to singles wards I do not see an overwhelming disparity in absolute numbers of men vs. women. Although we are not open about these matters in LDS culture, could it be that LDS women are selecting out many LDS men because they are outside of a narrow ‘ideal’ age range, or do not have immediate prospects of offering a 3 car, big house lifestyle, let alone falling into other discriminated against classes such as the short, the shy, or the divorced?

    Just to illustrate my point anecdotally, many of us have been following the thrilling adventures at http://celibateinthecity.blogspot.com. There our heroine, a highly educated ABD PhD. urban LDS woman, believes she has found her true love on a trip to Ireland. Interestingly, he seems to be the same age or perhaps younger than her, and more significantly, hasn’t gone to college although in his late 20s.

    Well, there is much more to be said since this is the most important topic in the universe, but I’ll leave it at that for now and see if anyone is still paying any attention to this thread.

  13. I just read the thread (catching up on my blogging on a Saturday afternoon at the office) and this “smug married” has the following thoughts:

    1. Steve obviously never attended a singles ward outside of BYU for even a week or he would know that the odds are very much in the men’s favor and that the women are generally much more accomplished than the men in terms of education and career. On the other hand, some of those women are so pious it could drive you nuts.

    2. The post-25 singles scene is an incestuous merry-go round. Last week I watched as Amy P____ showed up from her Utah ward to Manhattan and was instantly greeted by four people she knew (who didn’t know she was coming) before she had even crossed the foyer. She has never lived in Manhattan.

    3. Dating outside of the church is the way to go. When I turned 26 I decided to date non-Mormon women–three non-Mormons later I had met the “one” (or as Brigham used to say, the “first”–Gigi isn’t laughing at that one). Bonus of non-Mormon girls (at least my, formerly non-Mormon girl)–I no longer pay for movies I wanted to see and have to leave half-way through.

  14. I think it’s the age thing. Single 21 year old men date single 18 year old women. Single 24 year old men date single 21 year old women. Single 28 year old men date single 24 year old women. Etc, etc.

    So single 28 year old LDS women are wondering where all the guys are — well, they’re dating the 24 year olds.

    And because the men are robbing the cradle, every generation of men thinks that it needs to date younger; meanwhile, the women who didn’t get robbed from the cradle are wondering where all of their potential mates went.

    (Thus, singles wards, the say 20-30 demographic, have more women because some of the men in those wards are dating and marrying 18-year-olds, resulting in a drain of male ward members without a corresponding drain in female ward members).

  15. D. Fletcher says:

    I think there are more available women in the singles wards here in Manhattan, but at the risk of bringing up another deadly topic, the reason seems clear to me: the men… are seeking each other, not the women.

    But to bring this ’round again: there is a good reason I have never attended a singles ward. I went to Church to worship. In my married ward, there’s a general “been there, done that” attitude towards dating and sex in general. The couples are there to worship and teach their kids. Even though I felt marginalized in the First Ward, I could still go there and feel at ease about myself and pursue some spiritual goals.

    The singles wards are about something else.

  16. Ben Huff says:

    I’m reading : )
    Karen, I’d love to see your new thread on dating ethics. I’m convinced dating is a deeply disfunctional institution, and not just because people are inconsiderate. That doesn’t mean I don’t still do it, but I feel like it’s a matter of I am just trying to stay out in the field, in case lightning strikes! I’m just trying to find the least dreadful way of going about it.
    I appreciated your saying that you think most women understand it’s not easy for a conscientious man. But do you think that really helps very much? I mean, it seems to me intellectual recognition just doesn’t go very far, and from an emotional standpoint the two basic alternatives I mentioned are both so rough that it’s hard to justify them, even if something as wonderful as a good temple marriage eventually results after a few years of damage-control dating. Even if I think I’ll be forgiven for being an occasion for pain, that doesn’t make me think it’s okay to cause it.
    Luckily perhaps, I still trick myself into getting close to somebody now and then, because it never seems as hazardous in advance as it does once I’m already in the water. The one scenario that sounds somewhat sane to me is to get to know somebody real slowly, over the course of a couple of years or more, and then maybe date, because you might actually know enough by then to make a good decision about marriage within the time frame that emotion allows. But that is an option that sounds pretty rough to someone who is in the highly mobile achiever scene and over twenty-five or so. How do you seriously keep track of enough people over that sort of stretch to have any shot at a good outcome?
    When I was younger, I was callous enough not to worry about this stuff : )

  17. Ben Huff says:

    I’m single, and I like singles wards for reasons mentioned above, tho I generally felt the outrageous turnover of BYU wards made them only semi-functional, spiritually (that’s a problem not very related to their being singles wards). But the dynamics in older singles wards make me terrified of dating. In singles wards I’ve attended in recent years, clearly the classy women outnumbered the classy men, and as a result, I’ve felt like I could hardly move because so much significance hangs on a date. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but from various conversations I’m pretty sure I was going on more dates than 90% of the women in the ward, and I felt like it almost didn’t matter what I did, no matter how honest and considerate I was, I was going to end up coming across like Outback Jack. If I go on (casual) dates with two other women between (casual) dates (like they taught me to do at EFY) with somebody who usually doesn’t go on any dates between dates with me, how can it feel like a fair, equal relationship? And if I don’t, then I either have to space out dates so far I have almost no social life (because since I’m not an undergrad any more, much more of my social life has to be filled with dating), or else I’m diving headlong into what quickly becomes a pretty intense relationship.

    That’s what it seems like to me, anyway; can anyone help me see it as less terrifying?

  18. I’m totally willing to admit that this might be a problem of perception–both because I’ve lived as a single woman for several years in various singles’ wards, because I’m more critical in evaluating potential dates, and because I’ve witnessed some fairly widespread bad behavior lately. (And of course with all generalizations there are the notable and refreshing differences. Truly kind women and men treating others with dignity and kindness in awkward situations.)

    However, I think that those claiming the numbers are even in singles’ wards are married. At least on the east coast, there is about a two to one ratio of men to women. And I would argue that the inactivity rate for men is higher than for women, but I’m not sure. I think that would play out across religions, as I think that most churches have more women than men attend.

    Finally, to answer some speculative emails and posts, I’m not dating anyone right now, let alone a Mormon guy who’s done me wrong, or a non-Mormon guy who wants to marry outside the temple. I’m approaching this as a snarky anthropologist. (And no, Davis, I don’t go to Colonial…)

  19. If anyone is still reading, perhaps the surplus female population of this thread would be interested in the surplus male population mentioned here:
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/001145.html
    I kid, I kid!

  20. Jim, Sumer has made it abundantly clear to me that you are the man she would marry if I were to die. As you could be considered to fall outside an ideal range on some criteria (notably, facial hair), this only confirms your theory.

  21. John, I actually had originally titled this as reality t.v., mormon dating, and polygamy, but decided I would ruffle enough feathers without the polygamy angle. Clearly the same power/hubris analysis applies. Although from the polygamous men I’ve seen, they really aren’t the testosterone filled hotties from reality t.v…..

    Steve, yeah, that’s the big question. It’s just sad that it is a question. I’m kind of wondering what the consensus is out there on that one…

  22. John–“There was a documentary on A&E the other night about polygamy. One of the men was particularly unattractive…The women that married that man would have had to be brainwashed.”

    I hope you’re kidding…

    If a man, say, is kind, loving, reliable, righteous, and a faithful priesthood holder…but not particularly attractive you’re saying (polygamy angle aside…)
    no proper, self-respecting women would (should) consider him for a husband?
    (Gee…what if he’s rich?)

    I can’t imagine the abuse I would get if I suggested that a man would have to be stupid/lobotomized/brain-washed to marry a homely-looking girl…

    One of my favorite Brigham Young quotes (possibly apocryphal…) is, in response to a man who complained that his wife was ugly: “Brother, if you could see what your wife is going to look like in the Resurrection, you’d fall down and worship her.”

  23. John: Men think that women consider men of their own age to be inferior, and I’m pretty sure that women think that younger men don’t want to date older women. Maybe you should start a May-September club and see how that goes. (although I don’t know if a 26 m with 31 fm is exactly may-september…more like june-july.)

    JWL: So many points, and so little time before I leave town for the blessed electronic free beach. But, some points to ponder. Do you really think most singles want to be set up on blind dates? I personally don’t mind it, but I’ve heard others complain up and down about it. (Although I certainly understand your marginalization comment, although I’m not for abolishing singles wards…see above.)

    Second, I’m intrigued by your dating ethics notion. Actually, new thread intrigued by it. Why don’t you send me your ideas, and I can work something up next week to post. I think it deserves more attention than the three of us who are still reading this thread. What do you think?

    Maybe I’m an incurable Pollyanna, but I don’t think you need to be a player (or a playa) to date. I think it’s possible to act with kindness in any situation. Even if someone is temporarily hurt, there’s a huge difference between rejection and manipulation.

  24. JWL,
    I can tell you from a male perspective that it was common knowledge amongst the men in my college ward that some (not all!) of the high-achieving women didn’t think that any of the men their own age were good enough for them. Of course maybe we were just thinking this to compensate for being intimidated…

    I was specifically told by one former gf that she was constantly worried that someone better than me would come along that she would miss out on because she was dating me. I know she isn’t the only woman that felt that way about dating.

    I am not suggesting that people lower their standards but that they consider that they are imperfect themselves and their perception of others is imperfect.

  25. Ben Huff says:

    JWL, I see the problem you’re talking about — dating as consumerism — and I agree it’s serious. I almost think it has the virtue of feasibility, though. How brutal does it sound to try to have maybe a one-quarter dose of the love you would want in your marriage, in dating relationships, but break most of them off? Yet there’s no question some selection needs to take place.

  26. Karen –

    W/r/t absolute numbers of active single men and women, if you’ve done the stats I’ll take your word for it.

    So now for my second rumination on the most important topic in the universe. Our modern method of hunting for a mate strikes me as inherently unchristian. I mean it basically entails continuously rejecting everyone except (maybe) for one person. How much more opposite can you be from the gospel ideal that salvation is open to everyone who chooses it?

    Now I agree that some dating behavior is worse than others, but in the end is there really a nice way to tell someone that they aren’t good enough or is there anyway that a rejection however sweetly put doesn’t hurt?

    So I am wondering if there is a gentler, kinder way to do this. Obviously, the traditional near-universal method of dealing with this matter was not polygyny but rather arranged marriages. Another method is that generally prevailing method in contemporary society where everyone (both men and women) is a ‘playa’ until they get tired of the “Seinfeld” “Friends” “Sex and the City” lifestyle and happen to run into someone else who is tired of it also. Frankly it seems to me that the social scene in LDS singles wards is often the latter minus the sex (I assume).

    The only in-between situation I am aware of in contemporary society is where there is a community that somehow mediates the process. For instance, when a female Jewish attorney in my old office asked the married attorneys if they knew anyone to introduce her to, everyone was instantly on the phone to their wives seeing who were the best men they could set her up with. In such situations, those men wouldn’t have dared to be cads because it would have impinged on their general social standing in the community. Of course, the downside to this situation is that your social life is the community’s business at a cost of privacy, but it seems to me to be less vicious than what you are describing or what goes on in the general non-LDS singles world.

    My point? It has always struck me that for all the importance of marriage in LDS theology, the LDS community is strangley uninvolved in the world of its singles. Outside of places like Utah where there are predominantly LDS social and family networks, LDS singles are largely left to their own devices, and in fact, due to singles wards, almost deliberately isolated from support by the larger LDS community.

    So what are the action points from this rambling?

    (1) Wouldn’t it be great if we adopted the idea from Judaism that it is a major mitzvah (good deed) to introduce two LDS people who make a temple marriage?

    (2) Recognize that not everyone is going to get married within a year after returning from mission, and teach and discuss some dating ethics (as you suggest at the end of your last post) and

    (3) Abolish singles wards. The behavior that you are describing occurs in part because there are no social checks on it. I belie

  27. Karen has forgotten the REAL rule #1: Don’t talk about Fight Club!

  28. Karen,

    Are you in Colonial? Just wondering.

    Anyway, I wish to take issue with several items in your post.

    First, it’s indisputable that there are more single women than single men in most single’s wards. It follows that there are more accomplished, attractive, desireable women than there are men, in absolute terms. I take issue, however, with the notion that there are relatively more attractive, desireable women than there are men.

    I, too, have seen my fair share of single’s wards, and have always felt the reverse of what you are saying is true (i.e. relatively more desireable men than women). I recognize, however, that this impression almost certainly flows from the fact that, as a man seeking a woman to date and marry, I’m critically evaluating women, and often inflate the desirability of the men against whom I’m competing. Couldn’t this explain your evaluation?

  29. Karen,
    I think you are right on. And isn’t it funny that the men on this post say that their experience is that there are proportionally more eligible men than women in singles wards (and we women agree with Kristine…)? Steve, don’t you think your perception has to do with the fact that your singles ward experiences were at BYU, not at all typical of other singles wards in the US?

    I’ve been in singles wards in both northern California and Manhattan, and there is no question in my mind that for all the reasons listed above (more gay men, heterosexual men dating younger women than their age group, more women involved in church than men), women outnumber and often outclass the men in these wards and that the Bachelor TV show phenomenon therefore develops and prevails there.

    But you seem to be asking whether or not temple marriage is better than the alternative. I was married in the temple, although I always figured I would marry non-LDS, because I couldn’t figure how I would ever find the type of partner I wanted from the LDS pool. I agree with John, I don’t know if it really matters that much. I love my temple marriage, but I think I would love it no matter what. The difficulty is we don’t have any control groups – we are all either single, married out of temple or married in temple. At the risk of drawing upon totally anecdotal evidence, anyone been married both ways?

  30. Karen,
    I’m sorry if I framed “waiting for something better” as a gender specific issue. I do still cling to the notion that some women tend to think of men their same age as below them. Also, I don’t mean to cast the ex-gf as mean. Looking at her life I can see why she might have felt that way.

  31. Karen, are things really that skewed in singles wards towards guys? Why then do I remember having such a hard time as a single guy?

    Part of your post is asking the question of whether marrying/dating outside the Church is better than nothing at all. Clearly, having someone as a companion to share your life with is valuable, even if that companionship is finite. I wish I could speak with a little more knowledge about whether temple marriage is worth whatever you’re going through. I really like it, if that helps….

  32. Karen, do you think that the Church should get rid of Singles Wards in favor of unified congregations?

  33. Karen, my opinion is that waiting for the Temple marriage probably isn’t worth it, but that comes from a perspective that’s pretty different.

    My own observations suggest to me that what religion you are has little to do with what kind of spouse or parent you’ll be, or how you’ll treat other people. I know a lot of women are waiting to get married so they’ll get to the Celestial kingdom and have that temple marriage. It’s something that’s hyped up as pretty glamorous when you’re single, but I frankly don’t see much difference between my own marriage, or the marriages of friends who were sealed in the temple, and those marriages of friends who weren’t. When it comes down to it, to be happy in this life, marriage requires all the same things – patience, compromise, love, understanding, sharing, etc.

    I just can’t imagine God expecting someone to be unhappy for much of this life just so they can “prove” that they’re worthy for the next one. Not that one is automatically unhappy with a Mormon husband, but sometimes that’s just how things shake out.

  34. Ben Huff says:

    Karen, thanks for the reassurance! I have talked to a few (single) women who clearly express understanding for the awkwardness of my situation; I haven’t talked about it at all with very many, of course. Sometimes I think they are talking more sanguinely than they really feel — if I ask additional questions sometimes they admit they’re conflicted — but I think given how tough dating is, everyone needs to err on the sanguine side most of the time : ) And it’s a little hard to trust the sanguine words when it’s hypothetical, given how often I’ve seen people who seem carefree on the first few encounters suddenly seem a lot less carefree when feelings start to get involved!

    But the more I hear it, the more I feel like I can trust it.

    About #1 — this sort of sentiment makes me want to wait until I’ve known someone for a couple of months before asking her out! I’m not singling you out; I think this is a typical way to think/feel. There are enough butterflies involved in dating that anything likely to moderate expectations seems like an advantage to me! Plus the more I can learn about someone in a low-pressure, non-dating context, the better. In recent years, I rarely ask anyone for a date who I’ve met less than a few months prior. Is that twisted? But I think it takes time to get to know someone, and yet if most of the time you spend together is on dates, it seems the pressure to commit or forever quit rises much too quickly to make responsible decisions. Oh, to be an undergrad again!

    Here’s the trick: if someone is going to cross me off her list, it’s easier to get back on again if we haven’t dated at all, than if we have gone on several dates close together, so I want to wait and maximize the chances I’ll really know whether she’s for me before I get crossed off! So the more serious my interest, the slower I want to move into dating! Bizarre.

  35. Karen, There was a documentary on A&E the other night about polygamy. One of the men was particularly unattractive. My wife commented, “How could he find ONE woman to marry him, not to mention several!” Not to make light of the abuses that happen under polygamy, but I have to agree with my wife. The women that married that many would have had to be brainwashed. It was a real counter example to the famous Mark Twain quote about the sublime act of charity that polygamous men were making.

    As for singles wards, in my limited experience there seemed to be roughly equal proportions of eligible men and women. It is probably more difficult for a man to classify other men as eligible or not than for him to classify women in the same way. Likewise, I can see women being more charitable in their assessment of other women (who they think of as friends) than in classifying men (who they think of as potential mates). I certainly have higher standards for my eternal companion than I do for my friends. Sorry friends, but it is true. Without some hard numbers it is easy to classify this as a matter of perception, and easy to explain how it misperception might occur.

  36. Kristine says:

    Kevin, I think that might be a bastardized C.S. Lewis quote–he said we’d feel that way about all the annoying idiots we have to go to church with. Then again, maybe Clive stole it from Brigham :)

  37. Kevin, I was kidding. However, his views on women (which in a way you asked me to disregard) made him all the uglier in my eyes.

    Christina, it seems that most of the men that have posted agree that there are more eligible women, which seems to shoot my theory down. I still remember the Stanford ward as being about 50/50, though Suzanne tells me that I am wrong. btw, I am not counting the annual influx of Bug Boys in an effort to boost the number of men.

  38. Kristine, I think Christina’s earlier comment still applies to you: we women agree with Kristine.

  39. Maybe Ben and Karen should date.

  40. Oh, and to echo Steve, we women do agree with Kristine. She should run for office, with all this pre-approval! :o)

  41. Oh, I haven’t even started on my fight club expose yet. But I thought that since it was slightly less vicious than Mormon dating, I should really start with the headline grabber–you know, for the ratings and all. :o)

  42. Okay, I’m one of the single lurkers, and I have to agree with you Karen. I attend a Singles Ward in So. Cal. and have experienced the same thing. As a woman in my late twenties, working at a University, and successful, I have felt very isolated when it comes to dating. So much so, that for the most part, I don’t bother narrowing my dating to only Mormon men. This fact sometimes worries my friends (and Bishop)because of the whole “you marry who you date” theory which (to them) means that I’m more likely to marry a non-member. I don’t know if I completely agree with that or if I really care if that’s going to be the case.

    Either way, I know where you’re coming from!

  43. prior comment continued:

    I believe that the behavior you are describing would be reduced if the men knew that their conduct would be known by married women and through them by male authority figures (their husbands). It may not be pretty, but since you are being a snarky anthropologist about it, you know that social disapproval by the community controls behaviour.

    Of course, this still leaves your ‘is the grass greener (or at least more plentiful) in the other field’ question, but enough for now (especially since I ran over the word limit).

  44. Sheesh, that’s a loaded question. And now I feel like a bit of a hypocrit, because I’ve certainly pointed out the flaws of the system, but I’m going to say no, I think singles wards serve a useful purpose.

    1. Single people are often marginalized in married wards, and wind up teaching primary–the more weighty callings reserved for those with children and “life experience.” I love teaching gospel doctrine, and know i would never get that chance in a unified ward….at least not until my wrinkles set in a little more. I see my friends blossoming as R.S. and Elders’ quorum presidenst etc. and am happy they are getting that experience despite being single and childless.

    2. Socially SWs are beneficial. For dating: (Yes, there is pressure to date, but then at least some people date…and there is the occasional–gasp–marriage. Which, let’s face it, we all want.) And also for friendships: Not to be too trendy, but the urban family of Bridget Jones’ fame is pretty much my reality. I’ve surrounded myself with incredible friends who take care of me, and I take care of them, and I wouldn’t have met them outside a singles’ ward context, as they all live outside my family ward boundaries.

    So, I know there are other singles lurking on the cite…what do you think?

  45. Ben Huff says:

    So, JWL, given that I am not married, I should think of dating more like war, and keep my feelings mostly out of it? Hm, maybe. I would feel better about that if I thought the other parties were approaching it that way.

  46. Sorry, Karen, didn’t mean to write Kristine …

  47. There is a reason why that familiar old saying “all’s fair in love and war” is a familiar old saying. I continue to hold my previously stated view that dating for the purpose of mate selection is an inherently judgemental and exclusionary activity. Like war, it is tolerable only if it is brief and done by resilient young people. The longer it drags on the worse it becomes.

    Any search for an ethics of dating thus might do would do well to start with the laws of war. I am not sufficiently well-versed in the law of war to offer any extended ideas, but one example would be something like this:

    Law of War: One should not seek to entirely annihilate an enemy, but should always leave him with one avenue of retreat.

    Law of Dating: One should not seek to destroy someone when one breaks up with them, but should always allow them some basis for preserving some sense of self-worth in the process.

  48. This sounds like great back row Relief Society fodder. Miss the good old days Karen!!

  49. Ben Huff says:

    “should date”

    Well, next time we’re in the same city, we should definitely go to lunch anyway : )

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