The last time I saw my daughter, she told me that she had decided to be more proactive about meeting people. She had signed up for a (free) online dating service, and had recently gone out with four different guys. None of them was a hit, but the evenings were pleasant enough and she felt good about actually trying and putting herself out there. I was proud of her and told her so.
I called her just a couple of days ago to make Memorial Day plans, and in the course of that conversation I asked her how the online dating experiment was coming. And she casually mentioned that she’s actually seeing someone now. The guy is a high school science teacher, which was a major plus in my book. (As a boy I was a science geek and always close to the science teachers, who were uniformly terrific.) Also, he’s got a thing for cult films, and I had to laugh out loud, because that is one of my daughter’s passions as well, so in that respect at least they seem well matched. They just started dating, but still, I was again proud of her for being proactive about it and getting out there and making an effort, which appears to have led to some promising initial traction.
She is no longer in the Church, so religion is not a major consideration for her. But talking to her about it kind of got me thinking. If I were in that position, would I want to try to date a Mormon woman or a non-Mormon?
When I was young, there simply was no question, it was Mormon all the way. I fully expected to marry in the temple, which I in fact did, and I was thoroughly Mormon in every respect, so marrying outside the faith would have created various compatibility problems.
Also, the demographics favor Mormon men so strongly that it almost seems rude for a Mormon man to date a non-Mormon woman. It’s like something I read once in a newspaper article about the Tall Club of Chicago. They interviewed one of the women in the club, who commented how they can’t help but view it as such a “waste” (her word) when they see a tall man going out with a short woman. (And in that respect I”m guilty as charged: I’m 6’5″, and my wife is 5’2″). The demand for decent, marriageable Mormon men is so strong that I can see how Mormon women might see LDS guys dating outside the fold as a betrayal of sorts.
But now that I’m much older I’m less stereotypically Mormon than I was as that 21-year old RM I was when I got married. I’m active in Church and I’m a believer, true. But I’m also quite liberal and intellectual in the way I relate to the Church as an institution these days. (To name but one example of many, I think nothing of seeing R rated movies, something which would be shocking to many LDS women.) The mantra of the older Mormon woman looking for someone to date is that she wants someone who “honors his priesthood.” I hold the priesthood and honor it (I think) in my way, but that mantra I suspect is code for a certain Peter Priesthood type, a mold into which I”m not even close to fitting.
Mormonism is just culturally weird in so many ways that it would be a relief to be with someone who either was one or was familiar with the religious culture of the faith, so that I wouldn’t feel the constant need to explain or defend the many things that would come up requiring such explanation or defense. That would be a definite plus to dating within the faith.
But in a lot of ways, it almost seems as though it would be easier to date outside the faith, where issues of the nuances of sabbath observance or Word of Wisdom practice or of a hundred other things simply wouldn’t be an issue she would be invested in the way a Mormon woman would be.
Of course, there are liberal Mormon women out there, and that might be the best of both worlds. But I live in the midwest, and there just aren’t that many Mormons (of any kind) around, so now we would be talking about a small subset of an already small population. It might be hard to find such a gem in the real world.
A concrete example of an issue that might be hard to negotiate: Say I found a Mormon woman I wanted to marry. My two children are out of the faith. There is no way in hell I would get married without them being present, which would of necessity mean a non-temple wedding. For a lot of Mormon women, that would be a deal-breaker right there.
So I’m curious: Were you in that position (and if you’re not, just treat it as a hypothetical, as I am doing), would you prefer to date within the Church, or would you be open to dating (or even prefer to date) outside of the Church? And in either case, why? (I freely acknowledge this is just an off the cuff little thought I had which I haven’t invested a lot of time in thinking all the way through, so please help us vet this question from every perspective as you see it.)