Must Wear Watch

Priorities!

Last week I was going through my old high school keepsakes (mine fit in a hatbox, my husband’s span two countries, but this is neither the time nor place for that complaint) when I came across what used to be one of my most valued possessions. It’s a list in my 16 year old sparkly pink gel pen handwriting entitled “The Man of My DREAMS!”, the result of a Mutual activity planned with extremely limited resources and no imagination. In lieu of doing anything fun, we did this. Before we set to scribbling, my friends and I were charged by our leaders to treasure our lists, never settle for less than what we knew we deserved, and try to become the women these men were looking for, which would be good advice were it not for the darkly implied “AKA DON’T TOUCH WIENERS OR ELSE YOU WON’T BE.”

My list is a full page, front and back. There are a couple of fleeting moments of something bordering on insight, but for the most part it’s embarrassingly materialistic, unnecessarily specific, and clearly parroted from EFY talks. To name just a few:

RM and worthy priesthood holder – honors it (Frankly, I’m impressed with teen me for not saying “Returned with Honor!”)
Can cook
Makes me laugh
Wears a watch
Appreciates EVERYTHING about me (Everything…? Teenagers are so dumb.)
Good taste in clothes and music (my favorite music circa the time I wrote this: Avril Lavigne, Creed, the Crossroads soundtrack)
Isn’t afraid to compliment me (“I really, really want to tell her I like her shirt…BUT I’M JUST TOO SCARED!”)
Good kisser
Republican (In my defense, it was beaten into me ad nauseam by my leaders that it was of the utmost importance to marry someone with your same political affiliations, and I didn’t know mine, so I wrote down my parents’.)
Attractive
Could wear a hat, but doesn’t 24-7 (…?…………????)
Dances with me – even if he’s no good at it (I’m sorta surprised “good dancer” wasn’t a requirement, at this rate.)
Affectionate
Wants to take care of me (And there it is. The most embarrassing one.)
Loves children (One of us had to.)
Older than me (This one makes me snicker. I don’t think I quite had a 10 year age gap in mind when I wrote that.)
Wants a dog
Can take me to the temple (Let’s stop using this wording.)
Lets me choose the ring
Buys me stuff (Ugh.)
Makes me feel better about myself (Double ugh.)
Someone I can imagine spending the rest of my life with without getting scared (Clearly my leaders’ marriage obsession was subconsciously terrifying to me.)

 

I was super into it – after all, I’d been taught that marriage and family were an inevitability for me, so why not plot out the details at 16? – but I distinctly remember having the thought, as I so often did as a female Mormon teen, “I’m sure the Young Men aren’t doing this.” (Just like sweeping the dusty trails of Camp Liahona, a required daily task at girls camp despite the very real risk of hantavirus exposure. “We are ladies! We might be camping, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still strictly observe gender roles to the detriment of our health!” When I asked a couple of Young Men if they had to use a broom on the trails at scout camp, they looked at me like I was simple.)

For the sake of full disclosure, I was married at 19 to a man who ticked nearly every box on my list – no watch though – and we are still happily married 9 years later. So, to my single brothers and sisters, a suggestion: Have you tried writing a list of qualities you want in your future spouse, and cherishing that list, and trying to become who that person is looking for?? I mean, it worked for me.

Wedding-centric Mutual activities pepper most Mormon womens’ memories, I’m sure. My cousin’s wife told me about an activity from her youth gone horribly, and hilariously, wrong. Someone thought it would be a good idea to set a gaggle of Mia Maids clad in their mothers’ wedding dresses loose on the temple grounds for a photoshoot, and a concerned citizen called the cops. I had assumed those sorts of activities were a relic, but it turns out that was optimistic of me. About a year ago, I accidentally arrived early to Mutual. The worst. I burned time by skulking in a dark hallway waiting for someone I recognized to show up. A bulletin board for the Young Women in a different ward caught my eye so I moseyed thataway and was greeted by a photo of a grinning girl in a wedding dress and veil, holding a plastic bouquet, her braces glistening. She couldn’t have been older than thirteen.

You can't rappel in a wedding dress.

You can’t rappel in a wedding dress.

As others arrived for Mutual that night, I pointed out the photo and expressed my concerns to leaders and youth alike. At first some people were defensive – “It’s just a fun thing to do!” – and the wheels didn’t start turning until I asked, “How do you suppose this looks to investigators?” One leader admitted it could be off-putting, then continued, “But someone could post an explanation underneath.” Uhhhhhhh………what explanation.

I am so fortunate in my calling as an advisor to six intelligent, engaging, spiritually gifted Young Women. My Laurels talk about college plans and careers, they talk about extracurricular activities, they talk about missions. They discuss how to share the gospel with friends, they are inquisitive about the scriptures, they bear testimony. I could never imagine interrupting those conversations with, “But are you spending enough time thinking about your future husband and what your wedding dress will look like??”

 

In conclusion, please, no.

Comments

  1. I’m an advisor for the young men in my ward. Tonight at mutual the priests were going to play a board game and talk about gospel topics, but making a list of qualifications for their future spouses sounds like so much more fun. We can probably talk about not touching wieners too.

  2. My mom forbade me to attend one of those activities. Here I am at 26, safely single and graduated and employed. (Imma avoid the drama and just not raise any kids LDS.)

  3. This is an interesting list. I remember in Young Mens there was a lot of focus on listing qualities. Luckily, I lost mine and never made another list. Maybe not so luckily. Maybe if I had had a list I wouldn’t be 30 and single. I just try to be the best person I can be, and hope that I’ll eventually find someone who likes me. Anyway, I’m not going to belabor the issue of being older and single in the Church. You can do everything in your power, be the very best you can, and still fall short. Thank goodness for the Atonement and the Grace of God.
    “Have you tried writing a list of qualities you want in your future spouse, and cherishing that list, and trying to become who that person is looking for?? I mean, it worked for me.”
    Yes, for the first couple of years after my mission. It didn’t work for me, but I’m glad it worked for you.

  4. Bryan S. says:

    I do remember making a marriage list in Priests Quorum once. I think they said something about keeping it and looking back on it. Most of us didn’t really take it that seriously and tried to put the funniest things we could on there. I don’t remember what kind of things they were but they probably weren’t that funny…

    I never swept trails but I remember someone telling me a story about someone’s ancestor who had a dirt floor in her house and kept it cleaner than any kitchen floor he has seen since. He then encouraged us to keep our dirt floors (of our tents that had no plastic floors I guess?) clean. I remember thinking “How do I get the dirt off the dirt off the dirt off the dirt off the… when do I hit MAGMA!” Then we threw a Coke…err Sprite in the fire.

  5. Dude, you are so brave for posting that list. You know we all had one- even me, not LDS, still followed the advice in Seventeen and Glamour and focused on what my life would be like when I finally found McDreamy.

    After my divorce, my list looked substantially different:
    1. Has to be sober.
    2. Has to have a job.
    3 Has to have a place to live that’s not his parents.
    4. Has to have a car.
    5. Has to be literate.

    You’d be surprised how easily that cleared out the queue.

    I’m glad you called attention to how that would look to not-Mormons. 13-year old girls should be doing just about anything besides pretend weddings at church.

  6. Struwelpeter says:

    We regularly made lists mirroring this in my Sunday Aaronic Priesthood lessons. Breast size was often discussed. I occasionally challenged that as a legitimate criteria for seeking an eternal companion, but with limited success, and limited support from the adult leaders teaching the lessons.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of making lists about attributes a future spouse should have we encouraged the youth to make lists of attributes they are trying to develop?

  7. As someone who just saw photos in my FB feed of young girls in toilet paper wedding dresses, this hits close to home.

    At least you didn’t write “must be taller than me.”

  8. “Wears a watch” — what’s the deal with that one? And what kind of watch were you envisioning?

  9. Kristine says:

    Mine was mostly a list of books he should have read, including all the Anne of Green Gables books and the collected works of C.S. Lewis. I preferred a brass player, but was willing to consider a percussionist or EVEN possibly a cellist.

    The first thing on the list was that he should love God more than he loved me. This has been revised to “should consider me godlike.” ;)

  10. When I was a Laurel we went to a local department store to try on wedding dresses while our leaders took pictures. The Sunday after the event my leader handed the picture of me to my mom and advised her not to cry tender tears at the sight of me in a wedding dress. My mom assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem.

    Regarding your list, it would be quite handy to be with someone who always knew the answer when you asked what time it is.

  11. Yeah I’m still obsessing over the watch. Digital? Or fancy like a Rolex? Or was it shorthand for just being reasonably punctual?

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I love the must wear watch criterion. My guess is you had in mind a sober-minded, professional man.

    I never filled out a list like this (because, you know, I’m a dude), but if I had at that age I suspect it would have had one item:

    – Willing to marry me.

  13. Would any timepiece do? Like a pocket watch on a chain, secure in a vest pocket? Or something more Flavor Flav, hanging off a gold necklace? The latter would let everyone know that this girl caught a man who can really tell time.

  14. Was that the age of “Gentlemen, synchronize your swatches”? late 20th century is already starting to blur. :P

  15. Capozaino says:

    “Could wear a hat, but doesn’t 24-7″

    I had a similar item on my list: Must have a recognizably human head, which must be on full display at least part of the time.

    Really separated the wheat from the chaff.

  16. I wish I could elaborate on the watch thing. I have no explanation other than I’m pretty sure it was completely superficial – no underlying meaning. I know for sure I didn’t have a Rolex in mind, Steve; what sort of classy highfalutin’ broad do you take me for?

  17. Jason K. says:

    Would a Salvador Dali t-shirt have counted? Or a peculiar love for the dream sequence in Wild Strawberries?

  18. Love this.

  19. I remember Elder Bednar words to the YSA back home on Florida: “If you have a list, go home tonight and rip it up.” I wish he would say it in general conference.

  20. Jonny J says:

    The brand was Timex, digital, set to military/real world time, and it doubled as a timepiece once the leather band had rotted away. This from sweating for a religious cause in the humid french summer of ’96. Christopher Walken would be proud.

  21. I didn’t have a list until I was around 25 and I’d recently gotten out of a bad relationship (that was not so much a bad relationship as just a bad idea in the first place). My list was this:

    1. Has finished school.
    2. Has a (paying) job.
    3. Is taller than me. (I was 5’7″ but enjoyed wearing high heels.)

    When I met my husband, he was this:

    1. A sophomore in college (and was planning to go to graduate school).
    2. Unemployed.
    3. 5’6″ (mostly).

    I don’t really believe in having expectations anymore.

  22. This post also reminds me of the Very Special YW Lesson we had on temple marriage and the importance of staying worthy. Each of us was given a small gift box that we were supposed to give to our husbands on our wedding night. Inside the box was a white handkerchief trimmed liberally with lace and a note that said, “I saved myself for you.” [Insert gagging emoticon here] At the time I thought it was pretty corny, and I didn’t realize that I’d kept it until about seven years into my marriage, I found it in a box of old childhood keepsakes. My first instinct was to chuck it (it wasn’t a terribly useful sort of handkerchief), but my husband insisted on keeping it, since it rightfully was supposed to go to him. (Unfortunately, the note was missing, so he only has my word for it that it means what I told him it means.) I think he still has it somewhere. Every so often when we’re cleaning out a closet or something, he’ll find it and wave it in my face. Actually, I don’t like to talk about this.

  23. I found a similar list a while ago, and it’s a sad commentary on my sense of self-worth at 16 that my top two listed traits were:

    1. Doesn’t laugh at me
    2. Thinks I’m interesting

    I did find someone, finally, who thought I was interesting and only laughed at me when I was trying to be funny on purpose, but the marriage didn’t work out for many reasons. Now I’m single and 35 and I’m just looking for an actively Mormon guy who is OK with the fact that I have kids, have a gay ex-husband, I have a master’s degree and a professional-level job, and I’m a registered Democrat. So far this is proving much harder to find than finding someone who doesn’t laugh at me was.

    I’m pretty sure the list I have was filled out during a Sunday lesson. I don’t remember ever doing a YW activity that involved trying on wedding dresses or talking specifically about marriage. Many of my YW leaders that I had while growing up had not married in the temple or followed traditional Mormon paths, so that’s probably why they shied away from that sort of rhetoric. And 13-year-olds in wedding dresses are creepy…

  24. … and I’m guessing that means the photo was from my current ward. BLERG.

  25. I remember I made a list as a YM (maybe more than once). I think YM may have done this almost as often as the YW, but I think we were less likely to internalize it and more likely to turn the whole exercise into a farce (though unlike Struwelpeter, I don’t remember breast size coming up, but I think that was a fascination my group was deeply embarrassed about). The only thing I vaguely remember from my list was to marry an RM That one came true.

    Rebecca J, you are hilarious.

  26. The only requirement I actually articulated when I was single was that my wife must be willing to watch rated R movies. Some gulfs can never be bridged.

  27. Old Man says:

    List-making is ridiculous, but isn’t it really just whistling in the dark? Teens are overly emotional, insecure and scared of everything. That is why some express no fear whatsoever. Sometimes silly activities help. But it takes a wise adult teacher to help put things in perspective. Best of luck…

  28. Angela C says:

    Wow. “Wedding-centric Mutual activities pepper most Mormon womens’ memories, I’m sure.” I can only say that this is not one I ever experienced first-hand. So glad.

  29. I remember going to see the temple visitors center as YW and then standing outside the temple and getting our picture taken in the ‘bride’s spot’. In her ward my neighbor had a temple backdrop brought into the primary room, complete with photographer’s lighting and YW wearing wedding dresses from women in the ward for their pre-pre-pre bridal photo shoots.

    I made a list like this, it’s somewhere. My husband actually made his list in YM and the leader required the boys turn it in to him and the leader then delivered the list back to them at the wedding reception. I remember him reading the letter to me . . . I MUST find it now, I’m sure there’s some comedy there.

  30. I know I made one of these lists because my mom found it in an envelope in a file at my childhood home a few years ago and OPENED it (and I’m sure read it), and then scanned/emailed it to me. I could not even read it. I still haven’t. I agree with Tracy M that you are brave to revisit it so thoroughly. Maybe I’ll dig mine up when I feel like having a good old-fashioned cringe.

    I do remember that I had “makes me laugh” as high up on the list, though. Also: “loves The Simpsons.”

  31. The man of my dreaams for 13 years now and counting doesn’t wear a watch. His forearms are too hairy. Rrowr.

  32. Jon, tell us you at least married a human being and not the sasquatch. Because the Handbook is quite clear around that issue.

  33. Kristine A,

    That’s funny that your husband had to make a list but didn’t get to hold on to it. What good was it supposed to do him while he was dating? Giving it back at the wedding reception is the best part . . . “Congratulations young man! Let’s see how she measures up, now that it’s too late to back out.”

  34. As a YW, I was mortified by the prospect of donning a white bin-bag wedding dress for mutual, so I quickly feigned the appropriate level of martyrdom and offered to take the photos instead. I learned later that the YM once had an activity that included ‘writing a list of qualities they wanted in an eternal companion’, but once they’d finished they were given the plot twist that these were the characteristics they needed to develop. Somewhere out there, are men with 34D chests and Sexy Legs.

  35. Matt Stone says:

    Steve Evans, she had to marry a human because I’m pretty sure Cain wouldn’t qualify for a temple recommend!

  36. Every woman I know that is a Gen-X’er did an activity like this in YW. I remember a few horrifyingly specific things from my list, things like “wears double breasted suits” (gagging) and “is in graduate school or has graduated and has a REAL job”. Which is so funny because my first husband was in undergrad when we got married and he never actually has finished that degree. I think I also had the requirement that he be between 2 and 4 years older than me which makes me laugh now that I am 10.5 years older than my current husband. Such a terrible waste of time and focus. I also remember when Elder Bednar said “tear up the list”. I think I may have heard Elder Holland say that one time, but I can’t substantiate that. I have to go ask my 15 year old daughter if she has ever had an activity like this. I sure hope not. We don’t go to YW on sunday, so I know she has not had some of the terrible lessons I had growing up.

  37. I was an adult convert, so I never made a teen list (which would have been awful, I’m sure.) By the time I was divorced in my early 30s, my list was:

    doesn’t tell lies
    A good listener
    has all his teeth, or wears his false ones if he does not.

  38. I started to type “I’m pleasantly surprised by how many men are saying they’ve made lists at church” but then I realized “pleasantly surprised” probably wasn’t the right expression. Still, 16yo me is a little relieved to know that it wasn’t a thing that just the YW were doing.

  39. Hey Mark #1, aren’t the boys supposed to plan their own activities? Just sayin’… Adult-initiated activities are lame by definition.

  40. Hi Owen, don’t get me started on the idea that a bunch of 30+ adults know what is interesting or useful to a group of teenagers. Most of the time, we don’t. Usually we do a planning meeting where the boys figure out what we are going to do on Wednesday nights for 6 weeks at a time, and we, the leaders steer them away from mud-wrestling or a field trip to Hooters. Occasionally the stake interferes and things get switched around, leaving gaps in the schedule.

    A couple of weeks ago the girls had an activity where they made homemade cards for all the priests telling them their acceptance in Mormon society depended on their decision to serve a mission. The cards were worded a little differently, but that’s what the boys got out of it. This week the boys wanted to respond with notes telling each of the girls how much they appreciated their reproductive potential. The YM leadership decided that there were less destructive ways to blow off steam, so we played a trivia game and discussed the correlation between the number of women wanting to attend priesthood meeting and its availability on-line.

    Next week is a scout court of honor. Maybe we will take a group picture of all the boys in their uniforms and give it to the Young Women. Maybe not.

  41. CE: yes, he didn’t get to keep his list, maybe it was his leader’s way to say “haha look what a dumb teenager you were”? I’ll have to find the list!

    What is weird is the MIL told my husband to write down the name of every girl he took out on a date after he got home from his mission until he got engaged. I think I was #41. Now that’s weird, kind of creepy seeing my name at the end of the list. Like it was a binder full of women he was choosing from . . . weird.

  42. Look at the fun I missed by joining the church at age 18.

  43. MDearest says:

    In the hall after sacrament meeting three weeks ago I saw one of our YW leaders carrying a bulky zip bag protecting a fluffy wedding gown, so yes, fetishizing weddings for the consumption of our teenage YW is a current thing.

  44. As a guy, I suspect at some point back there in my teens we made a list, but I don’t remember it. As a single college age guy, I had a simpler list. it progressed from “I wonder who I am going to marry?” to “I hope I marry somebody like Katie or (one of her friends who shall remain nameless),” to finally, “Wait, what about Katie?” It will be 42 years this summer.

  45. Angela C says:

    “I also remember when Elder Bednar said “tear up the list”.” E. Bednar’s stock just rose a few points.

  46. Angela C says:

    I really don’t remember what would have been on such a list if I did this activity. Probably stuff like:
    – makes me laugh
    – no visible moles
    – gingers need not apply (Give our kids a fighting chance since I’m one)
    – tiny hands are a non-starter, and no dead fish handshakes (well, after my mission I would have added this one)
    – can’t like country music

  47. Astolfo says:

    I can remember having to do something similar to this as a YM but during an early morning seminary class. Those of us awake jokingly listed the attributes of our current TV crush. Alas, I never had a chance with Agent Scully.
    I remember also talking about it with missionary companions in the Philippines and at one point started to do a comprehensive list, then after a few pages realized there was no way anyone could meet such exacting standards. More sobering than that was realizing there was probably someone out there doing the same thing for me. The list went out with the rest of the trash to be burned.

  48. When I was engaged I had some trouble with my soon-to-be husband over wedding plans. Basically, I didn’t care much about colors, flowers, and tablecloths. I was busy at work, so I kept deferring the decisions to him or making off-the-cuff suggestions (orange calla lilies! goldfish in bowls! pulled pork!) when he pressed me for opinions. Finally he lost his cool and said, “I don’t get it, you’re a Mormon girl, you’re supposed to have been planning this since you were twelve!” Really?

    Oh, I think watches are majorly sexy on men, especially men with rolled up sleeves. Forearms, baby.

  49. I’m with Stina. I spent absolutely zero years planning my wedding, and was happy to hand of napkin colors and flower choices to my mom and others. I bought the first dress I tried on, and that was that.

    Also: be-watched forearms with rolled sleeves = totally sexy.

  50. Susan H says:

    Before my husband and I began dating, my younger (already married brother) met him and said: “How about John? He has a job, a pulse and a truck.” I was 39 and my brother was worried I was being to particular. In college, my health teacher told us: “Don’t look for the right person, be the right person, and everyone will be looking for you.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,484 other followers