The other night, over dinner with friends, we got to talking about dating in the LDS world. The demographics at the table: two married (not to each other), and three never-married or divorced. Since my divorce over three years ago, I’ve written here and there on my adventures in the dating scene, or what I like to think of as the Pool of Perpetual Enforced Adolescence, which some LDS websites non-ironically and with a straight face, call “Celestial Dating”.
Whether you’re LDS or not, dating past a certain age is just a slog. I do think there is a certain special level of hell to dating as an LDS single that one largely escapes when dating in the secular world. For LDS people, getting married is generally the benchmark in achieving the social status of adulthood; far more than in the secular world. For those of us who find ourselves unmarried— even if you were previously married— no matter how impressive your resume, career achievement or college degrees, in very manifest ways, we are still treated as adolescents. This applies to men and to women, incidentally.
In my own pool of LDS dating experience (I was married when I joined the church, so I have a fair amount of real experience in both worlds), I have two distinct impressions: the age imbalance is waaaay out of balance in LDS 31+ dating, and generally, we’re all nuts. Yes, I know it’s typical (just like height- see sidebar) for women to be slightly younger than their husbands. I’ll let someone else look up the stats, I’m too lazy. But by slightly, I imagine somewhere inside of 5 years to be average. What I found in the LDS dating as an over 30 divorced woman was that the men in my demographic, almost without fail, were fishing in the 20-year old pond. The men fishing in my pond? Well, with over 25 men contacting me from one LDS dating site, only one was within 5 years of my age. ONE. And three of the 25 were older than my father. I was very clear and honest about my age, my divorce, and that status of young children in my home.
On the converse side, a male dinner companion from the other night was telling about his dating site experience. He put up a nice photo of himself, with a sincere and honest profile. He got nothing. Nada. So in the spirit of sociological experimentation, he created a bombastic, misogynistic ***hole of an imaginary RM, with a picture of a super Mormon looking dude he cribbed from a google search, tossed in every buzzword he could imagine, and the hits started rolling. He sat back, agog. Some imaginary jerkwad who told women he would “preside over them in righteousness” while they “fulfilled their roll in the kitchen and bedroom” was getting all sorts of emails from cute girls with Utah hair and Shade t-shirts, while a real, genuine, nice guy was watching dust collect and listening to crickets chirp.
Back to the one guy who was in my demographic, age-wise: I agreed to go out on a date. We met for dinner at a local restaurant, and had sat down and were making small talk, but before the salads arrived, he jumped right into telling me how he was searching for his Eternal Companion, and wanted to begin his Eternal Family right away. Whoa, cowboy! I was clear in my profile that I already have three children. Aloud, I diplomatically try and remind him that if he’s in a rush to create an Eternal Family, I might not be the right woman for him to be dating. He looks at me, pleasant enough, and says “Well, what’s wrong with your uterus?” It’s a good thing the salad hadn’t arrived, I’d have choked. He continued, “It’s clear that it works, you have three kids, why would you not want to bring more of Heavenly Father’s sprits into the world?”
I never got my salad.
And this doesn’t even touch of the dates who asked me to go on a scavenger hunt, or to place ideas in a hat and pull them out for a fun date night. This baffles me. I’m not a child, I don’t need to be entertained, and at nearly 40, I certainly am not going to be giggly and effervescent about looking for clues to get to know someone. Lets sit down like adults and have a conversation, over a nice meal, and share our world-views and opinions, and maybe a funny story. Can we do that without distractions, gimmicks and discussing my reproductive parts on the first date? Can you ask for a second date without a little cute card tied to my windshield wiper or a balloon tied to my doorknob? I would find that darling for my daughter, at sixteen, being asked to the prom. For me? It’s scary.
It seems as though the extra pressure on LDS folks to marry, and thus achieve adulthood, has distorted us in some very important ways. My observation is that we are looking for cultural markers within the world of mormonism, sometimes (often?) more than we are looking at the actual human-being sitting across from us. This is evidenced in not only the messed up dynamic of dating I mention through my (admittedly particular) examples, but also in the formulaic expression of pairing off we see in LDS engagement photos, wedding announcements and in how weddings events are created (modest is hottest!) and celebrated. (If you want the template, look at the LDS wedding boards on Pinterest) Outward markers become so incredibly prevalent that I fear we are losing the very essence of our individuality in the quest to meet cultural expectation and out-mormon the next guy. That doesn’t bode well for marriages lasting through this world, let alone into the eternities.