Looking at this blog now is kinda funny. Since it’s been so long since I last posted (and it feels like an eternity since I posted “regularly”), going back and reading posts, even “recent” ones, feel like I’m reading something written by someone else. Even the layout looks like someone familiar yet different put it together (a huge chunk of the blog and webcomic links are even more defunct than this blog has been, and the ones that aren’t are still ones I haven’t visited in a very long time, and I haven’t been active in the Rescue Ranger community in at least a decade, despite what my sidebar implies). So it feels weird to be making a new post here, as though I’m a guest blogger on someone else’s blog, someone who I have a lot in common with but hasn’t actually existed for some time. The things I’ve gone through and the decisions I’ve made in the past few years have put me in a completely different headspace, the beginnings of which happened in the past few posts where I describe leaving the church, but it’s more than that.
I think I’m in a good place mentally regarding who I am post-LDS: what my values are, what I pursue and what I leave alone, where I find happiness, how to be OK with any sadness that may happen (for the most part); in essence, I’m fine with who I am and where I’m heading (despite it being somewhere that most of the culture around me disapproves of, but that’s far less a problem than it used to be). That isn’t to say life is perfect and all rosy; while living alone has its perks, I do eventually want to find someone. The difference between earlier and now, however, is that before I was looking for someone to make my life complete. Now I believe my life is complete even if I don’t find someone, and so now I’m looking for someone to share in the goodness I already have instead of someone to fill a hole. (This has had the side effect of me being far less pro-active when it comes to dating, but whatever; part of that is also because I’m in my mid-thirties, when meeting new people is difficult anyway, especially if you’re no longer a part of the majority local culture and you’re a bit of a loner anyway.) There are good people, friends and family, in my life who fill my social needs, so finding “the one” who does all of that for me has become less important.
So maybe that’s one reason I haven’t posted in forever: on a blog that, historically, has been mostly about angst and self-exploration, since I’ve been in a far less angsty place recently and I’m mostly at peace with who I am, what is there left to say here? I also feel like a lot of the answers I’ve found may rub some people the wrong way, especially people who are still involved with the church and its culture, and writing about that honestly here feels wrong, as you can go back in the archives less than a dozen posts or so and see a completely incompatible opinion being expressed.
I almost feel like this should be the last post of a blog that has documented my journey from boy to man, and I should start a new personal blog less focused on “why I’m still single” and “what the heck is Mormonism” and more “why I’m fine being single” and literally nothing about the church (except maybe how it’s affecting those around me, which is occasionally heartbreaking to see). I haven’t actually decided to do that yet (I literally came up with the idea as I was typing this post), but the more I think about it the more I like the idea: wiping the slate clean and starting over blog-wise may help me post more, and what’s more, may help those who read this blog separate the person who wrote most of it from the person I feel like I am now and have been for most of the past two years or so that this blog has remained silent. I’ve started a whole bunch of rough drafts for blog posts here, but it hasn’t felt right to post any of them, so maybe it’d make more sense to put them a new site. I don’t know about what I’ll do with the URL or anything, or even if I want to start a new blog (I might think of some great posts and/or finish ones I’ve started within a week, or it may take five years, who knows?) but I’m pretty sure that this particular blog feels complete to me now.
So I think that’s where I’m gonna leave this. Happy about where I am, unsure about the future, but at peace with that uncertainty. That goes both for the future of my blogging and, interestingly enough, my life as a whole.
This blog has been fallow for over ten months now (beating out the previous record between these two posts). I’ve begun a few posts on various topics — religion, dating & romance, Player and Doodler stuff — but none of them have quite coalesced. So I figured I’d do a more off-the-cuff type deal to at least get something up here and maybe jumpstart some of the other posts I’ve been tinkering with.
Most of my attempts at a new post keep reiterating what I wrote in the last post. I still feel like I’m stuck between two worlds, trying to please everyone but not really picking a side firmly. Internally I’m completely non-LDS now, but I still have things I’ve taken from being a member for more than 30 years that are important to me. Also, most of my friends are still LDS, active or not, and I find it easier to be with them (and vice versa) if I keep the reminders that I’m not to a minimum. So I still order the Dr. Pepper at a restaurant with friends, even if technically I could get a beer, because I don’t want to shove my differences in their faces. I still try to keep my chatroom for Player and Doodler videos family-friendly (or at least PG-13-ish) even if no kids are in it. Is it cowardice? Maybe. But at the same time, I’m not going to go to church or a baby blessing or even say a prayer at a family gathering because I don’t feel comfortable doing so anymore. Is that an expression of my beliefs or is it just stubbornness? Can I be the type of guy who won’t say the prayer or go to church but still wants to keep raunchy chatting out of my goofy internet videos (even though I don’t care if somebody’s talking raunchy in front of me in person)? And, in doing so, who the hell can I find that is like me? What does it say about my moral compass (or lack thereof)? It’s been nearly a year since that Lukewarm post and I still haven’t found a community, and I can’t really talk openly to anyone because everybody’s on a different place on the scale than I am, and heaven forbid I make anyone uncomfortable! And if I reveal my opinions, then I lose the trust of those around me to express their opinions freely, cutting me off even more than I already am.
So a year goes by and the blog stays silent.
As a side note, I don’t find raunchiness necessarily off-putting anymore like I used to when I was still LDS. However, what I don’t like is when raunchiness is the punchline of a joke in and of itself, especially if there are no other layers to it (aka “he said something that is slang for penis so it’s funny”). It’s akin to a five-year-old saying “poop” then laughing until he passes out (which, OK, is kinda funny, but only because a five-year-old laughing until he passes out is kinda funny, not the “poop” part). If you’re going to make a dirty joke, at least make it clever.
I’ve been dating some more this year, and I haven’t said a lot about it, mostly because there are parts to it that would remind my LDS friends that I’ve left the Church in ways that are far more obvious than just not saying a prayer would. I have learned a lot about what I want/need out of relationships, though, especially physically. I won’t talk about them on a public blog, though; if you want to know then ask me privately (but remember, I’m not LDS anymore, and that means things. I know I keep saying that, but members tend to not really believe it because I didn’t become a complete atheistic hedonist when I left). And whatever thing you’re thinking right now, what I actually learned is probably something different.
I also want to say that I love my nieces. I especially love that they are at the age where they are starting to form their own opinions independently of the forces in their lives (family, friends, media, etc.). We had a Dokapon Kingdom recording recently, and afterwards we went to go eat at Leatherby’s (with Johnathan too), and we had a really nice time just talking about stuff. Not just light stuff like school or Undertale (which Madeleine is currently obsessed with), but some more serious topics as well. Those girls are growing up, and I love engaging them on the level of people talking to people instead of adults talking to kids.
I’ve also discovered that I don’t really like bars. They’re loud and annoying, especially if music is involved (which it often is, and it’s often terrible). Of course, I have issues with any group of people who have to interact without any clear purpose other than “get to know each other” (this is also why I didn’t particularly like LDS “Munch ‘n Mingles” either) because I find myself either compelled to perform (tossing out one-liners or whatever) or shut up unless a topic comes up that I’m interested in (and considering my interests, that doesn’t happen much in those settings). I ain’t no small-talker!
Player and Doodler stuff is taking up a lot of my time, and it’s beginning to wear on me a bit. I’ve got a far longer blog post in the works dedicated to the subject (we’ll see if it ever gets posted), but my current feelings are that I greatly enjoy the end result. But the process has become far more arduous since I got better equipment, and even though we only record maybe twice a month, I feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. But I gotta keep it going; it’s the only thing outside of work that I’ve got at the moment! I like making those videos because the experience of playing games with people is something great, and I want to preserve that, even if nobody else watches it. (It would be nice if more people watched it, though; even just to help make a teeny bit of money on the side.) Watching Let’s Plays, especially things like The Runaway Guys playing party games like Mario Party, helped me through some lean years after I graduated college when I was living with roommates who didn’t particularly like me and all my friends were far away or too busy taking care of families. They reminded me of better times when I did have friends close by and we could have fun together before life got in the way. So now, during those rare moments when my friends are close by, I need to do these things with them and document them, so that when this channel inevitably ends and all my loved ones move on with their lives (again), I’ve at least got something left. Experiences are better than things, they say, and this is turning things (video games) into experiences, which can then be remembered. This is also why my favorite stuff so far is the Dokapon Kingdom stuff, because that project is far more about the people involved than the game itself, and that’s really why I’m doing this.
I use too many parentheses (it’s true).
Anyway, there’s a bunch of random stuff that came out of me. Hope that tides you over for the next year, or whenever I feel comfortable putting my thoughts out there without alienating anyone I care about, whichever comes first.
EDIT: I forgot to mention this! Exactly ten years ago (minus a day), I moved this blog to WordPress, where it has been ever since! To celebrate, I’m making this edit!
So it’s been about two and a half years since I was active in the LDS Church, and about eight months since the time I consider to be the point where I actually left the faith (despite having been inactive for a year and a half before that). I’ve spoken at length on this subject, especially recently on this blog, and I’ve no wish to beat a dead horse. Suffice it to say that, between what I’ve already said and a lot of research I’ve done in the interim, I cannot believe in the Church or take its claims at any sort of face value. My opinion of the Church in general now is basically this: an organization, mostly filled with people doing their best to be the best people they can be in the way they’ve been taught, that, despite dubious and/or peculiar beginnings, now exists as a force both for great good and great ill, depending on both the issue and the specific people involved. If there is divinity and/or goodness in the Church, it is there because some people in it seek to be good people; it’s not an intrinsic divinity. But it is there. If there is evil in the Church, it is because fallible people are in it whose opinions hold more sway than perhaps they should, and too much emphasis is placed on contradictory, nonsensical points. But, before I get too off-topic, the point is that I’m never going to be able to go back to being an active, believing, temple-recommend-holding member again. I know too much. However, the cost has been more than I expected.
Compared to a lot of ex-Mormons, my situation has been “ideal.” I didn’t have a wife or children to be torn apart from. I wasn’t serving in an active position in a ward (especially not one high up, like a bishopric or higher) when I found out the Church wasn’t true. I didn’t really even lose any friends, though that’s mainly because I’m not the kind of guy who has a giant amount of friends to begin with. And, with a few exceptions, most people’s reactions have been, “Believe whatever you need to believe. I’m not going to drag you kicking and screaming in either direction.” I had already fallen through the cracks of the Church’s inefficient midsingles program (my inactivity coincided with my 31st birthday, the point when I became too old for the YSA program, too single to really fit in to a family ward, and too “works on Sunday too much” to attend a midsingles ward), so in essence I got lost in transit, like somebody’s luggage that was supposed to go from Newark to Los Angeles, but instead ended up outside the LDS Church. And, for a while, my life wasn’t really different, other than a change of underwear and a few people on Facebook praying for my soul or whatever.
But I’ve lost the community.
Now, fitting into the LDS community was a not a thing I ever did, even when I was active, as many posts on this blog can attest to. And my current, shall we say, melancholy, is not because I’ve “lost the Spirit” or some such. I’ve actually felt what many would consider the Spirit on several recent occasions which are irrelevant to this post. However, as time has gone on, I’ve noticed a few patterns with people, and it has started to take its toll.
With people who are still members, even people who have remained my good friends, there now exists a bit of a wall. Certain subjects simply remain taboo. There are things I’ve found that I cannot share, simply in the name of preserving the peace, whether it be “anti-Mormon” material (especially if it’s, say, a non-partisan study from scientists who’ve had almost no exposure to Mormonism; how the heck would they have a pony in the fight?) or a funny bit of fluff that may be poking fun at a sacred subject, or experiences (good and bad) I’ve had since leaving that would’ve been impossible to have when I was still a member, or even just something incredibly insightful with the word “fuck” in it (yeah, I said it; please disregard this entire blog now if it’s important for you to do so). And, in return, I’ve noticed that people are a lot less prone to talk about Church-related stuff around me, even if it’s just something funny that happened in sacrament meeting, or a bit of wisdom that a bishop shared with them, probably also in interest of keeping the peace (and those who do share Church stuff with me are very transparent in their “bring him back to the fold” motive, though fortunately that’s been rare in my case). Neither my LDS friends nor I will ever be able to be 100% comfortable around each other anymore. That’s simply the nature of the beast. It does make things lonely, though.
So what about joining an ex-Mormon community instead? The problem is that what unites the ex-Mormon community is, by definition, opposition. People in it have to remain dedicated to that cause to remain a part of the crowd. What many members don’t realize, however, is that, unlike faithful LDS members, the status of “ex-Mormon” isn’t nearly as all-consuming as the status of “Mormon” is. For some people it can be, I suppose, and most who leave have to go through a period where they untangle themselves from what they thought was true for so long. But at the end of the day, we’re all people. People have different interests, likes, dislikes, personalities, and idiosyncrasies. One thing the Church does well is unite people under a (supposedly) positive banner. “Come to us and we will make you better,” they say. The ex-Mormon community cannot offer that same promise. Nor should it. Its promise is, “Come to us and we will show you that this Church isn’t the only way to be better, and you don’t have to accept or deal with all the other stuff that’s making you worse.” It doesn’t tell you how to be better, though. It’s not a philosophy. The paths people take after leaving the Church are as diverse as the people involved. Some find another Christian faith to follow. Some let go of Christianity but hang on to belief in God and/or divinity. Some end up in atheism. I think a lot end up in atheism because they’ve found out so many flaws with Mormonism that they can’t bring themselves to believe in anything after putting so much labor, blood, sweat, and tears into a system that didn’t ultimately live up to its own ideals. You can’t make a positive belief system defined by opposition to something not wholly negative, just like you can’t make a fair and balanced news channel from opposition to a political party that isn’t wholly negative (yeah, I went there too). And, while it can be important and even cathartic to get together with a group of ex-Mormons and let out all your issues and maybe have a good time, it’s not what appeals to me. Just as I’d be the guy in the back of a priesthood meeting thinking, “This whole thing is faulty logic at best, and I can’t just sit here and take it,” I’d be the guy in the back of the ex-Mormon get-together thinking, “I don’t want to drink. Coffee tastes like burned pizza. Yes, we all have issues with the Church, now how about that local sports team or shared cultural event?”
I don’t just want catharsis. I want community.
I wanted community within the Church, but couldn’t find it. Outside the Church, I don’t even know how to find a community. Within the Church it was automatic: these people who live near you are the people you’ll see every Sunday, and the people you’ll see in activities during the week. These are your friends, or at least a decent pool from which you can hopefully draw some friends. And you all speak the same language, too, figuratively speaking. You can walk up to a random stranger in Church and gush about how great Joseph Smith/President Uchtdorf/whatever is and already have something in common. Outside the Church, there’s no such thing. About all anyone has in common is weather patterns and how much it sucks to be tired or hungry. Within the Church-based support system, I didn’t really know how to make friends; outside it, I’m thoroughly and totally hosed. It doesn’t help that I’m now over 30, not in college, and work a job with a ton of night hours, limiting my time to go do a play or join some local community group or something.
I talked with a recent ex-convert (or however you term people who’ve recently left) who was advised to stay within the Church even if they didn’t believe anymore simply to keep that support system. After all, you sure as heck can’t call the elders’ quorum to help move your stuff, or have visiting teachers watch over your sick mother, or whatever, if you don’t both believe in the same religion (for starters, how do they even know you need help if you’re not crying about it in Relief Society?). I can’t live like that, though. I have to do what I believe is right for me, even if it means I lose those opportunities. It still hurts.
It also doesn’t help that, romantically, things are a lot more complicated now. Since my ideal relationship is no longer mandated by the Church, I’ve (potentially) had the option to reach outside those definitions and experiment a little. And no, that doesn’t mean I’ve been going out having one-night stands or anything, but it has meant that I’ve been able to go out with people without the immediate pressure of “will this person be the person I marry?” And while I’ve learned a lot, I wish that I could’ve done this ten or fifteen years ago, because I really do want to have a family of my own when I’m still young enough to keep up with kids, and spending time in relationships where I’m not focusing on marriage seems to be wasting time. Don’t get me wrong, the dating experiences I’ve had are very important to me, and I want to keep having them. But finding someone who wanted to marry me in the Church was already a giant challenge for me. Finding a girl who wants to have kids with someone my age or in my position who’s outside the Church seems nearly impossible, especially since finding someone with the same moral system as me suddenly got more complicated. I want someone to come home to, or who comes home to me, or we both come home to each other, or however the employment situation would work…look, I’m open-minded; the point is, I want to be with someone who is as devoted to me as I am to them, and that’s doubly hard to find outside the Church in an environment that doesn’t specifically push that narrative.
So there’s loneliness.
When your best friend literally can’t afford to see you. When the girl you’re sort-of dating has contacted you only once over the past week just to say, “Sorry about the rash,” (uh, out of context that sounds a lot worse than it actually is; don’t read into it) and normally all you talk about between dates is scheduling anyway. When all of these people who have left the Church keep complaining about how well-meaning ward members keep trying to bring them back, and you realize that you’ve heard maybe one peep from anyone Church-related for more than two years (I’m not complaining, really, but it is odd how clean of a break I made). When you go to a party with a bunch of ex-Mormons but don’t drink anything, and so haven’t been invited to another one since. When your sister who also left the Church tells you about great parties and get-togethers and so on that she goes to that sound like a visit to a foreign country without a guide.
When you’ve spent almost an entire week without human contact other than the work-based or store clerk type, and it hasn’t been the first time in recent history, nor will it be the last. When most people your age are too busy living their own lives to have room for you to be a significant part of it. When online dating hasn’t worked because your message gets lost amidst a sea of creepy guys sending inappropriate pictures. When the most social thing you do is talk over video games that haven’t been relevant in decades, spending hours and hours working on a series of videos and a website that, ultimately, will have ten viewers at most if you’re lucky, because you can’t, don’t know how, or are too scared to peddle it to a wider community, so you playact at running a popular series without any numbers to back it up. When people tell you all about their lives or problems, and you listen because it’s what they need, but you don’t want to alienate anyone with your problems, so you put them in a blog instead.
When you’re too Mo for the Exmo community, but too apostate for the membership. When you’re too introverted to just go to a bar or something, but you feel entirely out-of-place at a gaming/comics store or other nerd nirvana. When you like acting, music, and theatre, but never quite mesh with music or theatre people. Jack of all trades.
When you’re not hot, but you’re not cold, you’re lukewarm. And nobody wants that, not even God.
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” — Revelations 3:16
I was attending the LDS wedding reception of a long-time friend. While there I engaged in a conversation with one of my friend’s stepsisters: a young, vibrant, attractive, 15-year-old high school student who proceeded to tell me and my other friend at the table all about how she wanted to either go into cosmetology when she grew up, or spend some time doing professional equine sports (I don’t remember the exact field, but it was something along the lines of horse racing but with obstacles that the horse had to jump, kind of like a steeplechase but called something else*), which I thought sounded pretty cool. Later the conversation turned to dating and typical high school relationship stuff: you know, how a bunch of guys like her but she has to fend them off because she likes this other guy, etc. etc. and I joked that when she got out of high school she could just wear a fake wedding ring around guys that she didn’t want to deal with. She then gave me that withering “well, duh” look that only high school girls can give and said, “Um, when I get out of high school I’m gonna have a real wedding ring.”
That statement brought me crashing back into the reality of a culture that I had left behind years ago, where a young woman with great hopes and dreams of cosmetology and/or horse racing was also expected to immediately find a guy, settle down, and start popping out kids before she reached her 20’s. And with how many guys she said were always pursuing her, I’m sure that it would be no problem for her to find some fresh RM ready to marry the first girl that he goes on at least two dates with.
I bring this girl up, not to pick on her specifically, but to use her situation to address a larger problem. I’ve seen this story before. At first a woman will be happy that she’s fulfilling all of her godly mandates by having kids. But then she’ll start to think, “You know, I miss those times when I rode that horse through the steeplechase courses. Could I have been a good competitor?” The answer isn’t no, or yes, because she never got the chance. She had to sacrifice everything that she was for the sake of her family. The tragedy, though, isn’t that that’s what she had to do, but that she made that choice without even realizing what that sacrifice meant. She married so young that her brain wasn’t even done fully developing (which happens around 25-ish), and she went immediately into motherhood without even knowing what it was like to not be living with her own parents. The girl at this reception, who spent about ten minutes telling me a “hilarious” story about how much she sucked at Mario Kart the previous night (that was literally the entire story; most of the time telling me about it was spent giggling with her friends), was expecting to have a kid of her own before the end of this decade. It was so clear that this was her course in life that I got that contemptuous look usually reserved for the most obvious of dorks when I even hinted at her life taking a different path.
Most of my readers who are or have been LDS shouldn’t be surprised by this. This type of situation is by far expected to be the norm. Am I saying that everyone who got married young and chose motherhood over all their other interests was wrong, or misguided? Of course not. I can’t presume to tell anyone what would truly make them happy. I guess I’ve just been talking to, hearing from, or reading about so many women my age who did this when they were young, to the severe detriment of their marriages and family life, and it took them years to suss it all out (and many of them still haven’t), that it took me by surprise to hear that this mindset is not just still existent, but prevalent. Default, even. I wanted to take that girl by the shoulders and shout, “No! Don’t do it! Go buy a jumping horse (or whatever the term is), or study cosmetology! Find out who you are! Become a strong woman who knows who she is and what she wants! Then make the decision to find a good guy and have a family! Do it because you know it’s what you want, not because you’ve been told it’s what you should want!” But, of course, I didn’t. It wasn’t my place to steer a teenage girl I barely knew away from marriage in the middle of an LDS wedding reception, at least not if I didn’t want to get thrown out or something. And who knows? Maybe I’m being presumptuous and she’ll be perfectly fine giving up all her current hopes and dreams to become the attractive wife of a worthy priesthood holder. It’s not my place to judge (unless, of course, I’m doing it anonymously on a blog later; then it’s all good, right?). After all, what do I know?
What do I know?
I know that I spent a large chunk of my adult life not being able to live up to the ideals set forth in front of me by someone else, and it made me feel like less of a person by comparison. Even a cursory reading of older entries in my blog can attest to that.
I know that a culture dedicated to homogeneity on such a scale that one of the best-selling and widely-read non-official publications in it is based on trying not to feel guilty about not being good enough is a culture that doesn’t allow people to grow in positive ways.
I know that, since leaving the Church and its culture behind, I have better been able to define myself, what I want, how I feel successful, and what makes me happy. Sometimes it’s what the Church teaches. Sometimes it’s not. Often I have to tweak those definitions and seek advice from those wiser in certain areas than I am. But I can finally grow organically, freed from a cookie-cutter end goal.
I know that the leaders of the Church, at best, are mortal men trying to do what they believe is right and whose counsel is sometimes wise, but who don’t have the authority to tell me what is black and white, right and wrong, especially if what they are telling me is not what I know in my heart to be true.
I know that, if I’m wrong, then I’m OK with that, for I am learning things down this path that I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and I treasure the opportunity more than I can express.
I know that “Love thy neighbor as thyself” for many of us needs to also be “Love thyself as thy neighbor,” because many Mormons hate themselves for not being perfect, and it hurts them and everyone around them.
I know that some women have found supreme happiness in child-rearing. But many of those needed to get a few years of steeplechasing out of their system first to be able to decide who they really were and what they really wanted.
I know that, when I do eventually get married (which I still want to), I won’t be doing it because I was commanded to, or because I have a fear of dying alone, or I have to marry somebody in order to have children, but because I know who I am and what I want, and I will have found somebody who knows what she is and what she wants. Sure, we won’t be perfect people by any means, but our marriage will be built on a foundation of love, hope, and joy, knowing that out of a world of possibilities we chose to be with each other. Not because we were expected to, or because we thought we should, but because we wanted to, and we were old and experienced enough to know what that means.
Am I still Mormon? I guess I’m still technically on the records. But at this point I’m not going back. I’ve done enough research into the Church, its history, its policies, and its effects to know that I am done with this organization. What good it does is far outweighed by the damage it tolls, especially on people who don’t mesh with it, and the good that it does do can be found elsewhere. So no, I don’t consider myself Mormon anymore.
Am I still Christian? That’s a harder question to answer. At this point I’m skeptical of most religious texts in a historical and/or literal sense. I think it’s safe to say that I follow the philosophy of Christ as best I can, though I don’t limit myself to it (which is actually more a Buddhist idea, I’ve found), and the question of whether or not he is my personal savior or the Son of God and so on is, in reality, a moot question, as it doesn’t affect how I live my life or how I treat others. You can follow someone’s good example with or without literally believing in their divinity. And if he is truly the ultimate good in the universe, then I hope that my attempts to be the best person I can be will be looked upon kindly, regardless of whether or not they’re derived from a specific belief system (like the Calormene in The Last Battle, perhaps), even if the good I do consists of things like “play around with and love my nieces” or “post silly Internet videos so that my artistic roommate knows that someone values his work.”
Am I atheist then? No, I don’t believe so. While I find myself increasingly out of the Judeo-Christian tradition more as time goes on, there still exists a measure of spirituality in my life that I can’t chalk up to mundane or empirical evidence. I’ve received and acted on spiritual promptings, even as recent as within this past week. An atheist may argue that this kind of thing is a result of either physical external stimuli, or the power of suggestion/persuasion/emotion/what have you, and maybe they’re right. And maybe I’ll change my mind down the road, given enough evidence. But, for now, I choose to believe in at least some things.
I know that I am far from a shining example of a selfless, pure, giving person, and that it’s a lot easier to spout all this philosophy then it is to live it. But I also know that I don’t have to be perfect yet, as long as I am willing to continue to learn and grow. There’s room for improvement all over the place. And as I live life and learn more, my philosophy will inevitably shift and change, like a tree shaped by the weather.
I know that some people will take issue with parts of what I’ve written. I know that I may get some differing viewpoints on Facebook, or here in the comments. If so, that’s great. Let the reader read both points of view and decide which one works for them. I’m not telling you that I’m right. I’m saying that I’m doing my best to do what I believe is right, but that definition is no longer dictated to me, nor is it set in stone.
During my first semester at BYU in the fall of 2000, I took an American Heritage class. The very first day, the professor put forth the idea that there is an absolute “Good” in the universe that all (morally) good ideas and philosophies spring from, things like “2+2=4” or “slavery is wrong.” He represented this “Good” using a tree trunk with a giant “G” on it, with various branches symbolizing different belief systems that nevertheless sprang from this source. He then introduced the idea of moral relativism, i.e. there is no “Good” that ideas are coming from, and that any idea is as valid as any other idea, and humans can come up with morals from scratch that go against the “Good” and believe that, for example, “2+2=5” or “slavery is fine” (never mind the fact that math is not a moral belief system, but whatever, BYU, amirite?), taking this idea to its final conclusion: that some moral system had to govern the others, and if it was completely man-made, then there was no guarantee as to whether it was good or not. This idea he termed “utilitarianism,” represented by a mechanical monstrosity that kind of looked like a tree, and was based on the idea of a purely logical moral system (e.g. John Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”). In later classes he went on to teach that the American Revolution turned out well because the Founding Fathers were not moral relativists, but at least tried to base the government in this “Good” (which increasingly became obvious as a euphemism for “God”), where the French Revolution ended badly because it was based in philosophies of men (utilitarianism), and how other failed systems of government (e.g. communism) didn’t work for similar reasons.
In other words, moral relativism = bad. Also absolute truth exists, and one should align oneself with it as opposed to making up one’s own truths.
I still…kind of believe this? What I think I disagree with is that this “Good” must equal “God,” or at least Mormonism’s definition of God, since through the Church much harm has been done (and yes, much good too, it’s not black and white). And I don’t think that “philosophies of men” necessarily means “devoid of good,” because I think that mankind is inherently good (though that doesn’t mean that I think all philosophies of men are that way). I also believe there’s a middle ground between absolute moral relativism (i.e. every idea is just as valid as every other idea) and dogmatism (i.e. we figured out/had dictated to us everything that you should do to make your life the best it can possibly be, and if you deviate then it’s impossible for you to be happy and/or good), but it’s one that’s increasingly swallowed up by black-and-white arguments. I bring this up because I can see some people wanting to accuse me of moral relativism, when in truth that’s not the case. When I say that what is right isn’t dictated to me or set in stone, I don’t mean that I’m not seeking what is right, but that my understanding of it is changing based on what I’ve learned and how I’ve progressed.
I know that I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to learn this in my life, and to have the opportunity to be able to explore it without being locked into a marriage or other social situation within the Church that would’ve made this exponentially more difficult. And my heart goes out to those who have had similar faith shifts but have to remain within the Church out of a sense of obligation, or familial duties, or cultural ties, or because they believe that because some part of it is probably true then it’s worth weathering all the stuff that is harmful.
And finally, I know that a young girl should be allowed to pursue her own hopes and dreams in the adult world, and get to know who she is before getting married, so that she can truly be a whole person and have a happy home. And if her true hopes and dreams are all based around motherhood, not because she’s been told they should be, but because they truly are, then more power to her. Let her be at least old enough to make that decision. Let her be at least older than fifteen.
But what I actually said at the reception was basically, “Well, that’s a choice. Hey, is there any more cake?”
It was good cake.
*EDIT: It’s called Hunter Jumping! Not Steeplechase! I’ve edited the photograph!
Today is Wednesday, October 21, 2015, and, as social media today will attest, the same day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in Back to the Future Part II. So I figured it’d be appropriate to share some short musings related to the subject.
This was one of, if not actually, my favorite movie trilogies, not just growing up, but today as well (and not just because my birthday, Nov. 12th, is the red-letter day in 1955 when the clock tower got struck by lightning). I love this franchise more than Star Wars, more than Star Trek even. There will probably always be a small part of me that, whenever people talk about “the present,” I will think of 1985 (hey, it’s like that Bowling for Soup song!). Time travel, in particular, has always been the sci-fi concept that I’ve found the most fascinating. This is probably why I also adore Quantum Leap from around the same time period, and may contribute to my love of Chrono Trigger as well. (You would think that it would make me also a big fan of Doctor Who, but, well…) The “What if?” scenarios are full of endless possibilities, both as forces for good and for ill. I’ve always found it more interesting, however, to see stories that deal with this on a personal level, rather than a global or historical one, and Back to the Future (along with the aforementioned Quantum Leap, usually) focus on this aspect a lot more than the ol’ “let’s kill Hitler” or “let’s prevent Skynet” that sometimes crops up in time travel stories. The story is kept small, mostly affecting some random teenagers and their subsequent families more than any far-reaching national or global scenarios (at least in the first movie), which works to its advantage. Keeping it small keeps the focus on the characters, and helps it become more relatable. Instead of being a far-out tale about the weird science-y possibilities and pitfalls of time travel, it’s simply about a normal kid trying desperately to still exist and get his dad to not be such a loser, and the questions it raises are about things that most people can ponder, not just nerds.
My early-life obsession with this movie and the potential it represents has led, I believe, to my propensity for introspection. As a kid, I was more concerned with what the future holds: if I could travel to 2015 or beyond, what great things could I find? Often at recess I’d pal around with my friend Dan Burk pretending to be time travelers from the future (inspired not just by this movie but also a little by Bill & Ted), coming back to this primitive 1990’s era where you had to use pencils and paper to do your homework: lame!
As I’ve gotten older, however, I have more of a tendency to look at the past, as most people do when they age. Being in your 30’s gives you the unique viewpoint of having enough in your past to truly see where you have been and what has shaped both you and the world, yet with enough time still in your future to have the opportunity to still live up to your potential. And I often ponder: what events in my life have shaped my future into what it is today? How many “punch out Biff” moments have I had, and where have they led me? If I could take to my teenage self, what advice would I give? Or, conversely, what would my teenage self think if he could see where I am now and what has happened in my life? Would he be proud that I’ve still kept up with my video game skills and I like the same type of stuff that he did? Or would he be disappointed that I’m still not married, not writing music for a living, and barely have enough money to scrape by, despite the large potential that I had? I think he may be disappointed, but perhaps not surprised. After all, I was a pretty smart kid; I think I saw where things were heading, even if I hoped that some day, somehow, my future teenage son would magically appear and help me find my density.
Every year I think, “This could be the one! This is the one where I finally meet that girl, settle down, and become an adult!” without having any idea how to get it to happen. My recent religious status has forestalled my usual venues for finding dates (I’m now far too non-LDS for any faithful girl, yet I’m still probably too LDS for most women outside the Church since I still won’t drink), and now I’m to the point in life where all my friends are either married or in the same have-no-idea-how-to-get-married boat that I’m in. Seriously, everyone, how do you meet people outside of YSA wards or bars?
As for my career, I’m working in a field that I enjoy, and I think that my teenage self would be happy with that, though with the hours that I keep and the relatively low pay/lack of advancement opportunities he may chafe a little. Also, I had always wanted to become a professional composer, but have had little progress in the field. I tried it for a year and a half, made about $500, and realized that, more important to success than actual musical aptitude was the ability to be a self-promoter, which is something I’ve never been good at (this also explains many of my dating problems).
Indeed, I probably have more in common with the original sad George McFly. Or, more likely, I have more in common with the George McFly that we never saw: the one from the future where he never got hit by the car or punched out Biff and Marty never was born. I may not be quite that much of an obvious loser, but I do suffer from similar self-esteem issues. Am I living in my own “bad future?” Was there a point in my past where I should’ve punched out a guy, or taken some risk, and become a far superior version of myself?
More importantly, is there still such an opportunity in my near future, and will I have the guts to take it?
I don’t know what I want in a woman. Or a relationship. No idea.
As a single guy in his early 30’s who’s never been able to hold on to any relationship for more than a month, I’ve got a fairly diverse dating background. True, I haven’t dated nearly as much as maybe I should have throughout my dating career, but between the women I’ve dated, women I wanted to date but never did, women who wanted to date me but never did, and even just friends who happen to be women, I’ve come to the stunning realization: I don’t even know what I’m looking for anymore.
Last time I came to this realization, I tried to codify some attributes of a desirable mate in a list (before thinking too much of this list, keep in mind I wrote it seven years ago). This ended up being a bad idea for several reasons. First, any girl (well, OK, two girls) I dated who then found that list automatically compared herself to it, which kinda screwed things up between us. Second, as times change, people change, and a lot of the things I found important at the time are now no longer important, whereas now new things are important. Third, it becomes a lot easier to dismiss a woman who otherwise would have made a wonderful partner if she doesn’t live up to some pre-approved set of standards (kind of the same as the first point, but from my point of view instead of hers). Maybe a woman has some quality that you didn’t even realize you were looking for until you found it, or she has other great qualities that make up for a lack of something on the list, or a woman that fits all the attributes is either impossible to find and/or wouldn’t be interested in you anyway.
The point is, I don’t do lists anymore. But it does leave me a little blind when it comes to the dating scene. Without anything terribly concrete to guide my brain, I’ve got to trust my heart and perhaps rely on it a little too much, which often is a problem because I don’t trust my heart to make good decisions. My heart likes to flip-flop based on the silliest Seinfeld-ian things, and I end up breaking off a relationship that could’ve had potential, or (more often) falling for women who, in the end, would not be good for me, nor I for them.
The problem is, I don’t know what kind of woman would be good for me.
It’s really hard maintaining even the desire to go out and date when you’ve got nothing really to guide you. I mean, sure, there are some pretty obvious things to look out for and avoid (“no puppy-stranglers,” for example, or “not a lesbian”). Lately it seems most of the women I’ve dated have been between “women I’m attracted to (not just physically, but overall)” and “women with whom I have much of anything in common,” though I’d rather not get into too many details on a public blog like this. I know that a lot of guys go for broke on the attraction angle and just live with the fact that many, if not most, of their hobbies and interests will be separate from their wife. I’m not sure if I can do that, and I’m also not sure whether I should keep searching until I find someone with whom I share a lot of interests and a mutual attraction, or whether I should let one go to focus on the other. That’s not necessarily settling as much as it is rearranging priorities (especially since a lot of my interests are, like, really niche interests, at least as far as most women in LDS culture are concerned).
The other problem with dating women that have similar interests to yours is that the little differences tend to be more problematic than the big differences between you and someone else. Take, for example, the silly example of Star Trek fandom. If someone I was dating didn’t care too much for Star Trek and liked, say, So You Think You Can Dance more, I’d be all, “Yeah, OK, that’s fine, different strokes for different folks.” But if she liked Star Trek: Voyager way more than Star Trek: The Next Generation, then OMG it is ON!!!! Nobody badmouths Picard or praises Janeway in my home, b^#&@!!!
Now, realistically, that isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is a fact that almost every nerdy girl I’ve dated recently has been waaay into either Doctor Who or the recent rash of comic book movies, neither of which really holds my interest (for reasons I can delineate probably a little too specifically), so it’s been hard to bond over similar interests when really, they haven’t been that similar after all. Once again, I could overlook all of these things if an attraction existed independently of them, but when you’re trying to build a relationship with someone using these similar interests as a starting point, it ends up not working at all. (It also doesn’t help that most nerdy girls I’ve dated have also had little to no experience in the dating realm either, and I’m not exactly the best person to teach someone how to be a good girlfriend after they’ve had ten or twenty years of non-experience.) So if building off common interests isn’t the place I should start, what is?
There’s that oft-quoted passage from Alice and Wonderland, where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which road she should take, and he responds that it depends on where she wants to go. When she admits she doesn’t know where she wants to go, the Cat then replies that then it doesn’t matter which road she takes. That’s how dating has felt for me for a while: when I’m not even sure what kind of relationship I’m looking for, how will I know if I’ve found it?
I have no conclusions to draw from all of this. I just wanted to share.
It’s been an extremely long time (about a year and a half or so) since I’ve done a post about being single, dating, relationships, and all that jazz, despite my last post on the subject (The Third Date Dump) becoming at least somewhat popular and even entering the lexicon of some of my friends. Some of that has been due to a desire not to screw up or bias women that I’d been contemporarily dating (nobody wants their dirty laundry aired, even if names have been changed, as anyone who knows the two probably can figure out what or who the blog post is talking about). But even a bigger part has been that something strange has changed since the last time I posted. It was kind of a slow process, but the playing field is a little different now than it has been, and I’m not quite sure how to proceed.
Long-time readers of this blog know that I’ve done quite a bit of complaining/soul searching/whatever on the subject of being single and dating. Almost all of it, however, have placed me in the helpless victim column. You look at almost any post in the category and you can see that I’m either blaming my failures on something else or lamenting my inability to gain whatever undefinable skills are necessary in order to succeed with women or making elaborate excuses (or just simply complaining). In pretty much all of those cases, wherever I had put the blame, the underlying theme was similar: this is how things had been, how they are, and how they will always continue to be. You will always be alone because you aren’t attractive to women (whether physically or mentally or financially or whatever) and, barring something utterly miraculous, you’ve just got to get used to it.
That was how I saw the world. It also isn’t true.
The woman I was dating when I made the “Third Date Dump” post didn’t dump me on the third date. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. We actually had a pretty good thing going for quite some time, and I was actually the one who broke it off. Since then I’ve been in a few more relationships, and all of them have either been broken off by me or ended mutually (or at least it seemed that way on my side). What’s more, I’ve been informed that a few women that I haven’t dated have been interested in me nonetheless. I’m not going to go into any details, but this represented a whole new mindset for my dating habits that has just begun to coalesce into something more powerful than I’ve ever had before.
More broadly, I’ve noticed in the past year and a half or so that women’s attitudes toward me have changed, at least generally speaking. Part of this might be due to the fact that I’ve now turned 30, and then 31, and the women in my life are somewhat more mature than all the 18-21-year-olds from my YSA wards. Part of it may be that I’m living on my own, in a situation where I feel I’m in control of my life and at least somewhat satisfied with how things are going. Part of it may be due to the de-mystification of women for shy guys (not those shy guys) that has been helped along by things like Facebook (seriously, I could write a whole blog post about that topic alone). And part of it may be that I’ve been starting more and more relationships with online dating, where at least everyone’s there for the same purpose, so you never have to perform the surreptitious ring-finger glance or start flirting with someone until their boyfriend shows up. But there’s more to it than that, and it has much more to do with me than it does with anyone else.
One of the hardest ways to start a relationship with anybody is from the pity side, where the person is only going out with you because they feel obligated or just want to be nice, or whatever interest they may have had gets squashed pretty quickly once they get to know you. This has happened to me a lot, as I assume it has happened to most people that make it to their 30’s as singles. The problem comes when you get stuck in a mindset that every relationship you start will be that way. That every date you go on is doomed to the Third Date Dump (if not sooner). Then, when it isn’t true, you see it that way anyway and try to pre-empt the pain of breaking up later, in effect ruining whatever budding relationship you may have been building. And if both the man and the woman have this mindset despite being quite attracted to each other, why, that’s the saddest thing of all. I even wrote a song about it recently as part of my most recent “52 Weeks of Music” project, about the assumption that all relationships will end before they begin and the missed opportunities that result. It’s stifling. It’s painful. It’s damning, in the old sense of the word (i.e. hindering one’s ability to progress). It leaves one powerless. And it totally sucks.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, most people are attractive to somebody. I have seen some of the strangest people somehow get married, but when you see the spouse you go, “Oh, oh, OK, no, that makes sense. That works, somehow.” And a big difference between those who succeed and (some of) those that don’t is that some people never try (or make a token effort every once in a while, expecting failure). They’ve bought into Hollywood’s notion that either a white knight or some sort of Zooey Deschanel pixie dream girl will swoop in and fix everything. Or even worse, that since that type of thing is not going to happen, no relationship will ever work.
What’s the difference? Confidence. Confidence that, yes, somebody out there will find you attractive. A lot of people will find you attractive. And you have to assume that this is the default case. You don’t have to fight an uphill battle with literally everyone you date.
This isn’t arrogance. This isn’t that one douchey guy who thinks he’s God’s gift to women. That’s swinging the pendulum a little too far in the other direction. Assuming that every date you go on will end with your date hopelessly in love with you is just as out-of-touch with reality as assuming that every date you go on is a pity date, or just a “friend thing.” This is just operating from a different viewpoint. You may still have failures, relationships that don’t work out, and even maybe some pity dates. But it’s much better to assume a relationship may go somewhere even if eventually it doesn’t, than to assume that a relationship will go nowhere even if eventually it could’ve.
And here’s the kicker: it’s the very act of recognizing this, and changing your attitude to fit it, that makes you even more attractive! And this applies not only to men, either. I’ve seen women who own their lives and make something of themselves vs. those who are just piddling around waiting for a man to fix them (or waiting for a man for them to fix, putting him in her debt), and the former are much more attractive (to me, anyway). It doesn’t guarantee success in love, but it at least makes success possible and more likely.
For some who may be reading this, all of this seems pretty obvious. But for others it may seem pretty hard to believe. It’s certainly been my major sticking point for many, many years. And it’s a viewpoint that’s really hard to shake. It’s a scary viewpoint to shake, because it destroys victimhood and instead fosters responsibility. The old catchphrase from Spider-Man is “With great power comes great responsibility,” yes, but the inverse, “With great responsibility comes great power,” is not only just as true, but much more useful. Responsibility doesn’t just mean that it’s your fault if it goes wrong, but that you have the ability to make it go right. And it’s a lot easier to focus on the first part of that sentence than the second, especially for me and people like me when it came to dating.
So, in the end, what does this mean, in terms of how I will proceed in my dating life from now on? I’m not quite sure yet, because fundamental shifts in viewpoint tend to take a while to shake out bad habits, but so far it’s helped me realize that a successful relationship is indeed within my grasp, and it won’t take a miracle. Indeed, the real miracle is this change in my way of thinking. (A pessimistic part of me would say that it would be a second miracle for me not to fall into my old ways of helpless victim thinking before I actually see any success, but ignoring that part of me is essential to this working.)
I’m not sure this blog post made quite the point I was planning to make, but I like the point it did end up making, so I’m sticking with it.
P.S. One more thing that shows how my way of thinking has changed: I realized that I’ve stopped using the term “girls” and started saying “women” when I refer to people I date. I’m not sure exactly what that portends, but I think it’s a good thing.
We interrupt your previously scheduled philosophical musings about religion and its place in the universe and life to bring you…another post about being single. Yay.
So I have probably done a lot more dating in the past year than I’ve done in any year previous. And while that doesn’t mean I’ve actually done a ton of dating, I have dated quite a few different people, and different types of people. I’ve dated people near my age, and people a lot younger than me. I’ve dated people I’ve known for years, people I’ve only recently met, and people I met online through dating services. I’ve dated fat girls, skinny girls, girls who climb on rocks. Tough girls, sissy girls, but no girls with chicken pox. And even though I’ve gone through a rather large range, there have been some striking similarities with every single one of these “relationships”, and one common trait in particular, which I shall dub the “Third Date Dump.”
What is the Third Date Dump? Well, contrary to what it sounds like, it’s not where I consistently got dumped on the third date. At least, not exactly. Rather, it refers to the moment, usually during the third date, where I know that the relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere. And on almost every occasion (save maybe one), it was due to the girl making it clear that she was just kind of being polite, usually something like sitting stiff as a board with her arms crossed while we’re watching the movie/watching the DVD/taking a walk/whatever, coupled with That Look. This normally coincides with a complete lack of contact after the date other than replying to me asking what their schedule is so we can go on the inevitable next date (which is especially telling with the girls I meet online, where we normally have several long and meaningful conversations in text before we even meet each other). Sometimes (OK, once) we do end up talking about it, where the girl confirms my suspicions that yes, she’s not interested and was just interested in putting me in the friend zone. Other times she just gracefully disappears from the radar (this works great with the dates found through online services). Often we go on a fourth or even fifth date, but it’s apparent to both of us that the relationship is over and we’re just humoring each other, and things just peter out after that. This, I have found, is the way that most girls will dump you: not by sitting down and saying, “I think we should see other people” or whatever, but by the little signs until you get the hint. Therefore, the “Third Date Dump.”
This has happened with every single relationship I’ve been in over the past year. Heck, I shouldn’t even call them relationships, since three dates doesn’t really constitute any sort of meaningful relationship. This is similar to something I’ve complained about several times in this blog (see that “That Look” post I linked to earlier), but with one important distinction: the first date is almost always great. We normally hit it off pretty well, have a lot to talk about, and we enjoy each other’s company, with both of us eager for a second date. And the second date normally goes pretty well, too; sure, some of the excitement of the first date may have worn off, but we still normally have a good time and get to know each other better. But always by the third date we hit that wall of “sudden disinterest”, and I just don’t understand it. A few times this wall had been hit prior to the third date, but all of those were cases where the person had known me for a while, which makes me think, “At what percentage of knowing about me does the typical girl get turned off?” or “What precise trait do I possess that always comes out at the same point in dating someone that is such a deal-breaker?”
It’s really starting to get repetitive. And that’s what caught my attention. Normally I’d be prone to think, “Well, this particular girl isn’t interested, and that’s fine,” if this had happened once or twice. But every single one? What are the odds? In fact, if we extend this back to all the relationships I’ve had/dates I’ve been on, only once has something like this not happened. And of all the times it did happen, only once did it not take place until past the third date, that I can recall. It’s seriously sapping my will to date at all. Why put so much effort into getting to know a person if we’re just going to break it off two weeks down the line?
I’m turning 30 in a little over two weeks. And the problem with being single for so long is that you get set in your ways. Your life is so self-focused that, even though you want a relationship, you really have no idea how to get one to work, or even start. I know I have this problem, and all of the girls I’ve dated around my age have the exact same problem (and anyone who doesn’t…is probably already married). They have constructed their life already, and adding a partner to that doesn’t jive with everything else that’s already been set up. And while that carries with it a certain amount of loneliness, it also carries with it a certain amount of control and comfort. While I was searching for an image to put at the top of this blog post, I came across this article (yeah, I just linked to the Oprah magazine; make of it what you will) that describes this phenomenon much better than I can. And while the analysis is spot-on, the conclusion (that people who feel this way should learn to accept and embrace being single instead of chasing unobtainable dreams) is something that I can’t accept. Is there another option to break out of this? Is this the thing that breaks up every relationship I’ve attempted? I don’t know! How come everyone who has a successful relationship is always like, “Well, I met the right person, and the rest is history?” How is that supposed to help? I didn’t make it this far alone because that “special someone” is still out there, gazing at the stars outside her tower window. I don’t believe in the “one true soulmate” story. So it’s gotta be something else! Angry rant! Frustration at everything! Inability to figure out what to do differently! Resignation that nothing’s gonna change unless I change it, coupled with the ignorance of what to change! Awareness that I keep using the word “couple” as a verb, because I guess it’s on my mind! Exclamation points!!!!
Here’s the thing. My most recent relationship is currently right at this phase. It’s a girl I met online. We’ve had the third date. The 3DD (you know what this stands for) signs were there, coming from her. At the same time, she wants to go see the current Poison Ivy Mysteries show with me. There’s always the chance that she’s just not sure how she feels and maybe this relationship will work with some effort. Or there’s the chance that she’s done with me but wants to go see the show anyway because it sounds fun and hey, free dinner. I want to actually discuss the topic with her, but I don’t know how to bring it up without the dreaded “DTR” talk somehow pushing things too fast and killing off an otherwise salvageable relationship (which has also happened in my past). I like her. I want to like her more. Everything that implies. But I feel like a fourth date at this point will be the same as the previous fourth dates I’ve had recently: we’re just kind of humoring each other, and it will peter out after that. So there’s the impasse.
Thanks for reading this rant. I promise next time we’ll go back to questioning the foundations of my faith, which garners a much larger response from people.
Your Existing Situation
“Is stubborn and strong-willed, once his mind is made up it is impossible to change it. He does not ask for much, so he feels when he does ask his needs should be met.”
Your Stress Sources
“Always trying to make a good impression on others, but doubtful he is succeeding. Feels he has the right to everything he hopes and dreams of and becomes annoyed and helpless when things don’t go his way. Is troubled by the very thought of failure which leaves him feeling miserable. Always sees himself as the victim as if everyone treats him poorly and he never is given his fair share. Feels his failures are no fault of his own, but due to the shortcomings of others.”
Your Restrained Characteristics
Open and emotionally involved in relationships and easily finds satisfaction through sexual activity.
“Feels trapped in a helpless situation and is desperately seeking relief. He is able to find pleasure and happiness in sexual activity, as long as there is not a lot of conflict or emotional difficulty.”
Your Desired Objective
“Longs for tenderness and for a feeling of acceptance from a partner. Appreciates things that are beautiful, pleasing to the eye, and stylish.”
Your Actual Problem
Lack of energy leaves him unnoticed to pursue further activities or demands placed on him. He feels powerless which leaves him agitated and depressed. Tries to escape from his struggles by searching for peaceful and restful conditions in which to relax and recover in an atmosphere full of security.
Your Actual Problem #2
Disappointed because his hopes have not come to pass and he fears coming up with new goals will only lead to further disappointment. These conflicting emotions lead to a feeling of anxiety and depression. He tries to escape into a peaceful and calm relationship which offers encouragement and protection from further disappointment.
I say this is interesting because, despite just picking random colors from a lineup, this pegged a lot of things quite accurately. It’s not 100% there (for instance, I usually don’t blame others for my failures, and if I see myself as the victim it’s often of my own previous decisions, not from what others do to me, and since when do I know anything about what’s stylish?), and the sexual activity part is, well, impossible to put to the test at this point, but for the most part it’s fairly accurate. It is certainly, absolutely, 110% true that my actual problem is due to a lack of energy; not necessarily physical energy (though that does play into it), but just a general sense of apathy about pretty much everything. The Actual Problem #2 is slightly less accurate, but I can still see some of my deal in there.
Speaking of the “Longs for tenderness and for a feeling of acceptance from a partner” part, I can say that that is true, but with a few caveats. I recently had another brush with dating someone, and, as always, I’ve learned a few more valuable life lessons. This time, she was into it way more than I was, but at the same time, she wasn’t really into me at all. We ended up going out about five times, and she texted me every day for about a month and a half (which added about $20 to my phone bill), but she never actually got to know me on anything other than a superficial level. I just think she wanted a boyfriend and I seemed nice, so she projected on to me all the attributes she wanted in a boyfriend without really getting to know me well enough to see if I actually fit those attributes. To that end, she ended up telling me all her personal details and deep dark secrets without ever being interested in my opinions on them, or even any personal traits of my own, and I’m not one to volunteer such information unless there’s a certain level of trust first. And I never felt like she knew me well enough as a person to earn that trust. So in the end I let her know that I needed some space, and I haven’t heard from her since.
Looking back on my past relationships, both failed and aborted, I can see that this problem is somewhat of a common one. At least one other girl besides this most recent one has ascribed to me characteristics that they want in a boyfriend that I don’t actually possess. And I know I’ve ascribed characteristics to girls I’ve liked in the past, several times (one example would be Katie Hewitt from my high school days, who I had a major crush on until I actually got to know her well. Not that I was suddenly disgusted or horrified by her or anything, but I realized that we just wouldn’t work out). This is one reason why I’m not a huge fan of the traditional dating scene, at least without becoming friends first (and I mean friends friends, not Facebook friends). It seems like you’re somersaulting over a lot of essential steps, leaving uneven expectations on both sides. If you don’t know each other, how in the world are you supposed to accept each other? That’s my caveat for “longs for acceptance from a partner”: that that acceptance comes from actually knowing me and still accepting me, not just accepting me without actually getting to know who I am. Getting to know the giant chicken, as it were, instead of just ignoring it. In other words, I’d like a girlfriend of mine to be able to say, “I think Jeff’s a great guy, who happens to be my boyfriend” instead of “I’ve got a great boyfriend, who happens to be Jeff”, and I’d like to be able to say, “I think X is a great girl, who happens to be my girlfriend” instead of “I’ve got a great girlfriend, and I think her name is X? Well, she listens to me ramble on about professional Starcraft, anyway.”
Problem is, I have never, ever, ever been good at making new friends, from the day I was born. Ever. Ever. To put it into a nerdy analogy, when I rolled up my character sheet before I was born, I put a lot of points into random obscure skills like “perfect pitch” or “good spelling” which didn’t leave any points for more essential skills like “proper social behavior” or “ability to talk to new people without immediately running out of things to say or sounding pretentious”. Also, the points I put into my “making the nerdiest analogy possible” skill haven’t helped things either. So where does that leave me on the dating front, where I can’t have a successful relationship without being friends first, yet am horrible at making friends? It leaves me spending my time reviewing old Atari games in an attempt to make some sort of contribution to society, even if it’s an obscure nerdy contribution. And that’s just sad.
Here’s a story I heard from our bishop today, who is sadly getting released next week. He wanted to teach one last Sunday School lesson, and as part of it he told the tale of his son’s first wife, who was ultra-conservative in the faith, to the point that if the TV got turned on on Sunday, she’d go and play hymns loudly in the other room to drown out the sound. At one point they went to eat at my bishop’s father’s house (meaning the husband’s grandfather), and there was the grandfather, watching the Superbowl. This made her so angry that she went upstairs for three hours and didn’t speak to anyone, though the sound of hymns came through the ceiling every so often.
So what’s the moral of this story? And before you answer that, keep in mind that the name of my bishop is Thomas L. Monson. Which means the name of the grandfather watching the Superbowl was Thomas S. Monson. (Yes, that Thomas S. Monson.)
I won’t give a moral to this tale myself. My bishop’s point was that you shouldn’t marry a spiritual fanatic (unless you’re also a spiritual fanatic) because it will just make both of you unhappy; instead, marry somebody on roughly the same spiritual level as you (you know, as long as both of you are at least active members), but I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.
I recently had an open discussion on Facebook about nerds and marriage, and I wish to post it here, to save for posterity (and future reflection). However, since I didn’t get anyone’s permission to post their comments, I am assigning everyone an avatar to protect their identities.
Serious question for people: if you’re a nerd, is it better to date/marry: 1)a nerd with similar interests, so you have very specific things in common, 2)a nerd with different interests, so you don’t have conflicts over weird things like Kirk v. Picard but can at least appreciate nerdiness in general, or 3)a non-nerd, to provide a counterbalance?
I think “nerd with different interests” for me, but I think it depends on the general level of nerdiness and the tolerance of your partner for said nerdiness. I wouldn’t mind a non-nerd as long as he is willing to put up with my fondness for Rescue Rangers and the occasional fanfiction……
Oh, but they do need to enjoy Harry Potter!!!
Any of the above can work.
You need a combo of all three: She needs enough nerdy things in common with you that you can talk to them about it without driving each other crazy. She needs enough opposing nerdy interests to expand your interests and also put you in your place and point out reasons why you’re wrong. You also need her to be non-nerdy enough to tell you when you’re going WAY overboard, driving away friends, sounding like a freak and you need to come back down to earth.
(I of course would have no personal knowledge of these occurrences)
Honestly, if you’re a nerd, take what you can get. I once had a “list” of things I’m looking for. Over the years I have become nerdier and my list has shortened to, well…nothing.
I was going to suggest the nerd label might not be the strongest characteristic on which to base marriage; but after reading [Snoopy], well, he does have a good point.
You definitely both need to be nerds, at least to some extent. What you like won’t matter too much, since there will inevitably be some crossover that will let you have things in common.
My wife doesn’t consider herself a nerd but has enough of a solid appreciation for some essential nerdly things (E.G. Star Trek, Harry Potter) that we can talk about such things. I guess, though, if you’re going to marry a non-nerd, the essential characteristic you should look for is patience so she can listen to you ramble about something without getting frustrated with you.
My wife is a definite non-nerd and it works for us
I think that it’s important, when you’re dating, to introduce her to the things you like (e.g. Star Trek) and see how she likes them – both for compatibility’s sake and to see if she’s down-to-earth enough to appreciate good things like that despite the stereotypes. She doesn’t have to convert to total nerdiness to appreciate or even love those things. I believe it’s equally important to understand that the pseudo-obsessive dedication to nerdy things is incompatible with marriage.
You have to relax your nerdiness and let go of those things to some extent. And as your love grows for her it’ll be easier to do that, and you’ll find joy in doing it =)
Marry whomever you love. You’ll realize your differences later in the marriage no matter how much you look for similarities.
(But that doesn’t mean the marriage will be more difficult. Just different.)
This question could be posed with equal validity having other substitutions for “nerd,” and IMHO, the eventual answer has to be that the quest is for someone who will value who we are, irrespective of their own packaging.
I’ve been thinking about [Snoopy]’s response, and I do wonder whether we might get “nerdier” as years go by and we don’t have certain “counterbalance.” On the other hand, as one who still feels nasty side effects years after having once settled, I always urge people to stick with their standards. There are unfair expectations, and then there are vital ones. (For instance, we get into trouble if we contemplate finding a non-respectful person or a non-responsible person, etc.)
In your early dating, once someone has come up to a minimal, reasonable bar, perhaps just be sure that, even if they’re not what you might have initially thought you wanted, you’re going out with them because you’re considerate, but never do so because you’re desperate.
I’m with [John Lennon]. WAY too much analytics here… This is a question for after you get married, not before. In other words, don’t purposely limit yourself…
And level of nerdiness is as solid a basis for marriage as favorite football team. It will affect conversation, but isn’t a matter of any real consequence.
Look for someone with similar interests AND different interests; and if Kirk vs. Picard is going to be a deal-breaker in a relationship, then I’d say there are bigger issues at hand here. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just sayin’. I never liked country music, yet developed a fondness for it after dating two different guys because THEY liked it and I liked them.
But [Abdul Alhazred], overanalyzing is what nerds DO!
Also, I find the rainbow of responses from different backgrounds quite interesting. If I may conglomerate them somewhat, it seems that you’ll eventually find things in common if you love them enough, but mutual nerdiness is usually a plus. But it can be a minus unless there’s patience involved.
I guess I ask because I’m unsure of a few things. Like how would you even start dating someone if your interests aren’t similar? There’s nothing to talk about! On the other hand, I’ve found if your interests are too similar, then break-ups can happen over stupid things, like the girl who stopped doing stuff with me because she thought the movie Sucker Punch was a deep, emotional, female-empowering piece, where I thought it was mindless action-schlock that didn’t know what its point was and was actually a bit misogynist to boot. We weren’t actually dating, and otherwise we had a bit in common, but everything sure dropped off after that. I also had a girl dump me because I didn’t like horror movies, and I wasn’t into doing the wacky art projects she loved doing (although I liked her work and told her so). So I thought I’d at least solicit a few opinions to help me understand it better, but…
It just seems like happy dating/a happy marriage is like having faith. If you don’t have it, you can’t understand it, and if you do have it, no explanation is necessary. And that’s frustrating.
Also, Kirk vs. Picard wouldn’t be a problem, because Sisko wins anyway.
Ah, but you didn’t say similar interests, you said nerdiness. Could be two different things. I think the point is that you start pursuing someone because you are attracted to them… But the reason why you are attracted to them may be completely different every time. And sometimes something that attracts you to one person may repulse you in another, so it is hard to qualify.
That’s true. I guess I said “nerdiness” instead of “similar interests” because most (if not all) of my interests are pretty nerdy. Plus nerdiness not only implies a certain type of interest, but also a certain level of devotion to whatever interest that may be, to the (extreme) point that someone ends up dumping you based on your taste in movies or something similar. (Though, who knows? That may just have been a convenient excuse.)
The other problem with dating is that, as this thread illustrates, EVERYONE has different ideals and standards and things they’re willing to overlook and things they’re going to break up with someone about. All this would be a lot more relevant if everyone thought the same way. Then you would just have to be “enlightened” as to how things work. But there’s not one single way that “things work.” Except for kindness and sacrifice and patience. Everything else is secondary, and there are no rules.
This is obviously a very deep question that I shall need time to ponder.
Easy! Every person should marry who they love simple as that. And if you love two people marry the person you fell for second because if the first person was THE ONE you wouldn’t have fallen for the second. (Johnny Depp said that and he’s right)
There is no such thing as “the one.”
What does that mean? How many other people are you in love with besides your wife?
Just Date/marry whom ever you enjoy spending time with. Appreciate/respect differences. My wife Michelle enjoys sports and I could care less, but I enjoy it with her.
(Note: while this post is called “The Undiscovered Country” and is inspired somewhat by the Star Trek movie of the same name, it is not a review or even really a discussion of said movie. You can either stop reading now or breathe a sigh of relief and continue on, based on your reason for being here.)
Recently I watched an online review of Star Trek VI (yeah, I know I said this wasn’t going to be about Star Trek, but I have to start somewhere) done by Internet reviewer Chuck Sonnenberg, also known as SFDebris. His reviews of both Star Trek and other sci-fi franchises, such as Babylon 5, Farscape, Doctor Who, and even Red Dwarf are excellent and highly recommended. Anyway, he discusses the title “The Undiscovered Country” and what that means in the context of the film. The title originates from the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, where Hamlet is discussing whether he should kill himself or not, but decides against it because whatever awaits after death might be worse. To quote that specific part:
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
In the film, which is basically a big “end of the Cold War” allegory, Chancellor Gorkon (pictured above), who is a transparent Gorbachev stand-in, comments on this speech, but uses it to refer to the future, rather than death. This explains a lot about the other events of the movie: how perfectly rational people on both sides ended up working together to preserve the war; that is, working together for a chance to work against each other. Not only that, it explains why otherwise moral people (such as the Vulcan Valeris) were willing to go to extremes by assassinating several people, getting Kirk and Bones arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on an ice planet, and other heinous acts. They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown (in this case, a galaxy where the Federation and Klingons were at peace). This completed the Cold War allegory and the uncertainty of the early 90’s after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. Heck, there were even comedies made on the subject, such as Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, which featured some Brits and Russians working together to try to restart the Cold War to restore their lives to something they were used to.
But let me go back a bit and repeat a line I said: They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown. One more time: They would rather live with the reality they were used to, however flawed, than face something new and entirely unknown.
Using the allegory that an unknown future was as frightening as what lies beyond death (you know, without a religious context) gave me a whole new perspective on several issues I’ve been struggling with, both recent and long-term. As pretty much anyone who reads this blog would know, I am single. Extremely single. And it’s been getting worse, if that’s even a possibility. I’ve been living at home, where I’m lucky if I have a conversation with my parents once a week. I’m fairly isolated in my ward, where most people don’t even know who I am beyond “the redheaded guy I don’t talk to.” And now I’ve been working a job at the Little America hotel doing audio/visual work. This basically means setting up and taking down microphones, lights, projection screens, etc. whenever groups come in to use the hotel’s conference rooms. It’s a solitary job, especially since my only A/V co-worker works a schedule opposite mine, and even in the hour we overlap he doesn’t talk much. About the only friend I have left who lives within a 40-mile radius and hasn’t passed through the social wall of being married is Josh Reese, and while I do hang out with him on occasion (probably about once a month or so), it isn’t exactly socially stimulating, considering what kind of person he is. Other than that, the only social things I do mostly revolve around Annelise and her family, and even then we’re usually talking shop about murder mystery stuff.
In other words, I’m not just single in the married or dating sense. I’m single in a social sense. I’m single in an emotional connection sense. For the vast majority of my time, I’m single in a physical sense (i.e. not in the presence of other people, or at least interacting with them other than a nod as we pass in the hallway). If it wasn’t for this job, I could go for nearly a week at a time without seeing another soul (which did happen several times before I got hired back in June). There may be others in my type of situation, but even so they’re all isolated from each other by nature.
I stand alone.
It’s a sad story, you may be thinking, but what has that got to do with the Hamlet thing? Or you may be thinking, “Well then, go out and make some friends! Nobody’s forcing you to stay by yourself!” I suppose that’s true, though I could justify it by saying that I don’t have the opportunities due to my schedule, or that my ward keeps scheduling activities I have no interest in, or living in my parents’ basement hardly provides opportunities for me to meet people my own age. However, I think that, while these may be obstacles, the root cause runs much deeper.
A couple of weeks ago in a sacrament meeting I did try to jump-start my social life. I sat next to a girl with whom I’d had a short, small-talk conversation the previous week. However, the entire time I was extremely uncomfortable and when the meeting was over I politely excused myself and left (the room, not the church). She didn’t do anything wrong or particularly cold but putting myself in those kind of situations activates a “fight or flight” response in me for some reason. (It also didn’t help that she was nearly a decade younger than me, but I think her being closer to my age wouldn’t have made a big difference.) Why the fear? I’m obviously not happy with my life. Getting to know people leads toward a potentially brighter future, one with marriage, kids, or at least something to do on Friday nights other than play Heroes of Might and Magic III by myself or watch Internet reviews of Star Trek again. What kind of future would be in store? A world of possibilities! An “undiscovered country,” if you will! Ah, you may now see where I’m going with this.
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of
Fear of an uncertain future is such a driving force that it drove otherwise rational people to kill in order to preserve the status quo (in the movie, anyway). I have no idea what dating will do to my life. I’ve never had a successful relationship before, and even the unsuccessful ones I’ve had either never got off the ground or didn’t last longer than a month. And that’s only been with two girls ever, one of which got into the relationship because of a “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot” attitude. How do I conduct myself? What’s the difference between the way you treat a girlfriend and the way you treat, say, a sister (besides the obvious physical things, I mean)? Will I still be able to play Heroes? Will that even matter? Where’s the line when it comes to how much of my own life, habits, and customs will I need to change to keep a woman? Do I even need emotional support? I’ve gone a long time without it, and I’m still alive, right? Wouldn’t it be better off for the ladies in the world to end up with someone who doesn’t have these issues? There are probably about a thousand questions I haven’t even thought of on this topic! This puzzles my will! I’d rather bear those ills I have than fly to these others I know not of! At least I know how to set up a 16-channel mixer with several lavalier and handheld Shure mics, along with an SM-58 or two for the lectern, combine them through a Kramer VGA switcher to output on three separate screens, while hanging some parnells to provide a nice podium wash, etc. etc.! Or failing that, write a rock song about cooking! I have no idea how to sit next to a girl in church without it becoming so awkward that I consider fleeing after the sacrament has been passed and spending the rest of the hour in the bathroom! It seems my native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought!
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.
Fear of the future can drive some to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. It also can paralyze those who should do something. I could go on more dates. I could talk to more people. Heck, even Josh goes on more dates than I do. Looking back on my life, it seems every time I’ve been successful socially it has been due to others taking an interest in doing it for me (usually relatives, or Steve Porter). And when that person leaves my life, or at least leaves my daily life, then all the sociality seems to disappear as well. Back at BYU I used to host a game night every week, and we had quite a nice bunch of people show up every week, at least until Steve got engaged. Then it dropped to the five guys who were just into gaming. I moved to a different apartment and set it up again, and once again we had a pretty good turnout until two of my roommates got engaged, at which point it dropped off. But the main reason I held game nights was because that was where I was comfortable socially!! I don’t know how to approach girls at a dance, or at some social dinner, or whatever. But when I’ve got a set of Bang! cards or whatever in front of me I know exactly what my job is. I’m playing this game. I’m making sure everyone else knows how to play. I’m making sure that everyone gets a fair chance to play. I’m trying to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves. I honestly don’t really care if I win or lose, as long as everyone played fairly. (This behavior, by the way, is somehow wrong? I guess? A lot of people seem to resent it, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. When playing with family, I’ve noticed Mickey is just as much of a stickler for rules yet seems to catch a lot less flak for it. Maybe I’m just an ass.) My point is there are very few situations in which I am socially comfortable, and they are often ones in which others do not thrive socially. So it’s obvious that I need to step out of my comfort zone in order to progress in life, especially socially. And it’s obvious I’ve got to do it, because there’s nobody left to do it for me, and no girl is going to suddenly call up and ask me out.
I believe I am capable of learning. I believe that if I put my mind to it, I could learn to like dancing, or basketball, or small talk, or whatever, if it served the greater good of meeting people, social support, and dating. But it frightens me. What kind of person would I turn into? Would I be recognizable as me? Would I be betraying everything that currently makes up who I am? Does that really matter? How can one really betray one’s past self, anyway? He’s not going to know. Continuing as I have been has been producing diminishing returns, to the point where, as I said before, I stand alone. But being alone is an ill I know how to bear. Thus conscience makes a coward of me, and I sit alone in the back of the chapel, or at home on weekends.
Marriage, dating, life: all enterprises of great pith and moment. But paralyzed by the fear of the future: with that regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action. Thus this weekend I will be playing computer games.
Note: this post originates as a final paper for my Persuasive Writing class. The topic given was “marriage” and under that topic we were allowed to write about whatever we wanted. Originally I was going to write about how it’s OK for spouses to have different interests and hobbies from their partner, but as I was working on that I realized that I didn’t care. I therefore changed my topic to something much more close to home and the result is what you see here.
As a single student attending BYU, I have felt a lot of pressure to get married. Every day it seems that some sort of reminder crops up that marriage brings eternal happiness, emotional strength and resolve, and stability; in effect, it provides meaning in life. Classes are offered on how to make a happy and successful marriage. The entire social structure of a singles’ ward is designed to help young men and women meet and court each other, with the end goal of matrimony in mind. Happy couples litter the landscape of the campus like wildflowers, showing the rest of us how wonderful life can be once a person has found his or her special someone. One of the main focuses of the Church is marriage and family life, and the basic unit of the Church is indeed the family.
This environment creates a lot of pressure for people like me to get married so I can share in the wonderful blessings that come with the territory. However, despite my best efforts to win a girl’s heart, I have not been successful in this regard. Recently it has been more difficult to work up the enthusiasm and effort required to date, court, and marry. My situation is not unique: there are large numbers of students at BYU who desire marriage, yet have all but given up hope for themselves. With such a pro-marriage environment such as BYU, how did this happen? Could the constant emphasis on marriage actually drive people away from doing the necessary things needed to get married?
Young people today face an increasingly complex world, one in which it is difficult to find a role. Some psychologists have termed this the “quarter-life period,” an emerging adulthood between approximately 18-29 years of age where a person has grown out of adolescence but has not fully assumed all of the roles and responsibilities of traditional adults. Generations in America before World War Two usually went straight from schooling into the work force at early ages. With the developing affluence of the post-war period, more training was require to compete in the job marketplace, and as a result of spending more time in schooling before entering a career, the teenage culture developed an identity of its own that had been missing before. As time moved on and the job market became even more complex and demanding, young people have had to put off establishing their careers well past adolescence. Identity exploration, instability, possibility, self-focus, and parental conflict – issues normally associated with adolescence, have extended into people’s twenties, creating a sense of limbo for many young Americans.1
The environment at BYU and elsewhere in the Church can be highlighted to define this stage of life for students and members of the Church. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the phenomenon that is the singles’ ward: a place where the members are too old to go to their parents’ ward as a child, yet haven’t moved on to the next stage of life, that of marriage. Although the basic elements of the ward organization exist, the auxiliaries and other organizations have often been modified or done away with altogether in order to fit the needs of this unique unit within the Church. Many of these altered organizations are put in place precisely to encourage the social interactions that will hopefully lead to marriage. A friendship committee may be set up, to organize ward date nights. The activities committee takes a large chunk of the ward’s time and budget. The Sabbath Day committee organizes events such as Break-The-Fast, Sunday ward prayers, or Linger Longers to provide more social opportunities. A lot of lessons taught in singles’ wards tend to focus more on dating and marriage than on more traditional gospel subjects such as faith, prayer, tithing, or temple attendance. In short, nearly every aspect of the singles’ ward is geared toward getting people out of the singles’ ward and into marriage.
So into this pressure cooker of a pro-marriage environment come these new “quarter-life” people: those who are still unsure of their future career, who are trying to become independent of their parents, who haven’t yet discovered their identity. A healthy identity is essential to the well-being and happiness of a person. Those with a strong sense of who they are tend to be more decisive, sure of themselves, and act with confidence. Conversely, those with a negative identity, or those who associate their identity with negative groups or connotations, tend to be more reserved, unsure, and lax in decision making. “Identity diffusion,” or a lack of a strong sense of who oneself is, often leads to a lack of orientation and ambivalence about life. A healthy sense of identity occurs when a person associates him or herself with positive groups, or believes that he or she has something good to contribute. One of many good environments to be in to cultivate a strong sense of identity is, indeed, a marital one.2 This is probably a main reason why the Church and BYU emphasize marriage so much: to help young people overcome their “quarter-life” stage and become functioning adults.
Spurred on by the many pro-marriage messages he receives, along with a desire to establish a positive identity, a young man comes on to the BYU dating scene with optimism. Examples of couples getting together, becoming closer, and getting married are all around him. However, for whatever reason, he is having little success. Dates, while numerous, always seem to end with polite disinterest. Despite his best efforts, he cannot find a girl with whom he “clicks.” Repeatedly hitting his head against a wall, he soon begins to date less and less. Eventually, years have gone by and he is poised to leave BYU, still as single as ever. What happened?
This young man has now an established identity: that of a single person. Since he has lived for years in this state, it is where he feels most comfortable, and therefore, where he defines himself. The problem comes, however, with the connotations associated with being single, especially at BYU. As has previously been mentioned, it seems that every aspect of BYU society, particularly singles’ wards, is geared toward getting people married. Therefore, if a person goes through the system, doing his best to provide opportunities for marriage yet not getting any success, the only alternative is that he has achieved failure.
Often well-meaning bishops and other members exacerbate this problem by reacting to singles with pity or patronizing comments designed to help. Statements such as “What is it going to take to get you married?” or “Quit being so picky,” or “You just need to date more,” while well-intentioned, simply exacerbate the feeling of failure many singles feel.3 When my brother was single he was asked on a consistent basis why he wasn’t married yet. He confided in me once that the response he wanted to give was, “Well, I was dating someone, but she died.” Pause. “Feeling awkward? That’s how I feel when you ask me about marriage.” The example may be somewhat extreme, but the sentiment is clear.
In addition, there exists what Dr. Bella DePaulo calls the “soulmate mythology,” or the idea that marriage to one’s soulmate will solve most of a person’s problems and allow them to live happily ever after. As she puts it, “The soulmate promises an all-in-one solution. Find that one perfect person and you have—for starters—your best friend, your sexual partner, your comforter and caretaker, your cheerleader, your escort to every social function, your consultant on matters large and small, and the one and only teammate you will ever need in home management, money management, and vacation planning. And that list doesn’t even include any of the potential coparenting possibilities. The soulmate mythology is the ultimate seduction: Find that one right person and all of your wishes will come true. Find that one perfect person, your All-Purpose Partner, and your path through the rest of your adult life is set. And it will be a happy path, indeed.”4This myth is alive and well at BYU, perhaps even more so than in the world at large.
Single people are often stigmatized by society as immature, self-centered, and insecure. In a recent study, undergraduates at the University of California were ask to define what the characteristics of married people were, as opposed to single people. Over half responded that married people were caring, kind, and giving, where only 2% described single people using the same terms. This was despite another study in which single people and married people rated their own satisfaction in life at about the same level. In addition, the study showed that most people believed that the older a single person got without marrying, the more self-centered, more envious, less socially mature, and less well-adjusted they were perceived to be.5 This attitude is prevalent within the Church and the BYU society, displaying its colors most prominently in the oft-quoted but apocryphal statement mistakenly attributed to Brigham Young that any single male over the age of twenty-five is a “menace to society.”
So what does this all add up to? In essence, as time goes on, single people at BYU feel like they have failed at getting married. They have missed out on finding their soulmate and all of the wonderful blessings associated with that. Since they’re not married, society tells them that they are selfish, immature, and inferior. And since their identity has now been established as selfish, immature, and inferior, who would want to marry them? With so much pressure, disappointment, and disapproval heaped upon them, many simply give up, resigning themselves to a miserable single life.
By living in such a pro-marriage environment, single people tend to feel a great burden of disapproval and inferiority. In this way, by creating and maintaining this environment, those who are seeking to help the cause of marriage are, in fact, hindering it. Fortunately, the Church has realized this and in recent years has published articles in the Ensign to help single people feel better about not yet being married. This is a good start; however, to truly see improvement, perhaps the emphasis of BYU and singles’ wards need not be happiness through marriage, but simply happiness despite marital status. In this way those who have been unlucky in their relationships may find the self-esteem they need to make something of their life other than being the unhappy single guy or girl.
1 Atwood, J. D., & Scholtz, C. (2008). The quarter-life time period: An age of indulgence, crisis or both? Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 30(4), 233-250.
2 Montgomery, M. J., Hernandez, L., & Ferrer-Wreder, L. (2008). Identity development and intervention studies: The right time for a marriage? Identity, 8(2), 173-182.
3 Chris Brough, “Seeing beyond Single,” Ensign, Jun 2004, 36
4 DePaulo, B. (2006). Singled out: How singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after. New York, NY US: St Martin’s Press. 247.
5 DePaulo, B. M., & Morris, W. L. (2006). The unrecognized stereotyping and discrimination against singles. Current Directions in Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 15(5), 251-254.
I noticed tonight during a home evening activity that I have grown extremely cynical, even for me, and I thought it might be wise to try to explore why.
When it comes to attraction, there’s that one undefinable quality, one that I lack. I don’t know what it is. Everyone I’ve ever dated seriously has either been suffering from depression or not that into it in the first place. And the ones suffering from depression just needed someone, and I was there. They’ve never lasted more than a month. I’ve pursued relationships with girls who I thought were interested, girls I really liked. But there comes a time in all these where she gives that look. You know, the one that says, “How do I cut this guy loose?” I think I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing this look. I’ve seen it probably close to a dozen times. In the past, the look usually comes pretty early on, but at first I didn’t recognize it. Then in later relationships I thought I did, but just hoped I was wrong about it (I wasn’t). In my most recent failed attempt at a relationship, it only took three dates to figure it out, as opposed to a few months like with many previous ones. If there has been a girl who genuinely liked me for me, and not just ’cause they felt obligated/wanted to have fun with some random guy/used me as some sort of venting board and discarded me afterward, I have yet to hear about it.
There’s something I don’t have that guys who have successful dating lives and get married do have. I don’t know what it is. I’ve tried to figure out what it is I’m missing. I try to be on my best behavior when I go out, yet still be myself. I’ve tried to treat girls like queens. I’ve tried to treat girls like human beings. I’ve tried treating dates like they were no big deal; no pressure, no worries. I’ve tried treating dates like they were a big deal: nice dinner, fun activity, even a walk afterward or whatever. I feel like I’ve tried everything, but sooner or later, that look appears, and it’s over. Doesn’t matter how much longer the actual relationship lasts, it’s over from that point.
So what is it? What do other guys have that I’m missing?
This is not a new thing. I even wrote a song about it once. But it’s been weighing on my mind heavily lately, and as a result it’s been sapping my will. It’s gotten to the point that whenever I see a girl I might be interested in, I immediately dismiss the notion that I should do anything about it, simply because I’m done putting in the time and effort to get to the point where that look comes and then I’ve wasted some more time and gone through an emotional wringer to be back at square one. Until I know what I’ve got to change, it’s not worth it. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. And the fact that I have no idea what I need to change gives an added feeling of helplessness to the loneliness I’ve already been swimming in most of my life.
I still possess the capacity to love. I just have nowhere to direct it. And that eats at your soul, bit by bit, until you find it hard to love anything again. In the movies there’s always that one girl determined to somehow get through to the curmudgeonly protagonist and teach him to love again. That’s Hollywood for you. Most girls I know want to be loved back. Of course, when I’ve tried that, and I truly have loved women that I’ve dated, then it’s just a matter of time before the look appears. Being loving doesn’t work. Being the curmudgeon doesn’t work either, but it takes less effort and heartbreak.
So I guess what I’m saying, in a roundabout way, is this is why, during home evening tonight, I wasn’t all that excited about looking at my roommates’ fiances’ rings. Sorry to offend, gals!
(Note from the future: I’ve decided to reveal this post, which previously was password protected, with names changed to protect the parties involved, mostly to remember the things I learned from the times I have dated people seriously. Also, there are many references to orchialgia, which was a painful health problem I was going through at the time. I won’t explain what it is, but suffice it to say that it completely stopped once I stopped wearing tight pants.)
Two girlfriends in the past few months. I posted about them quite a bit on my private journal blog, and now that they’ve both ended I’d like to place here for readers’ benefit, what I’ve learned before, during, and after.
“Carmen was not the one. I think she liked me, quite a bit, but it was always awkward. We never had anything to talk about, not really, and it just didn’t work. The first week was all right, but was horrendously painful, due to orchialgia, and by the time that pain had faded away the relationship was already on the rocks. Her family thought it was going way too fast (which it was), she didn’t seem interested in my family (even though she was, but in her own antisocial kind of way), and she couldn’t believe that I liked her. She just couldn’t believe it. I told her that it was true, but she kept questioning and questioning it, getting more and more hysterical each time, until her dreams came true, that of me being, “Fine, if you’re going to be so freakin’ insecure about the whole thing then we need to split up.” I don’t think she liked that either, but I couldn’t have this giant burden of high-maintenance guilt pile-drived on me after a week and a half of dating. Plus the kissing was slobbery and nonmagical. I’m just saying. I don’t defend myself here. It was slobbery and unmagical and it didn’t do a thing for me (except for the orchialgia flaring up).
So fine. Now we get to Carmen. She’s liked me for a while, and I’d never had a girlfriend before. So I thought, hey, she’s pretty cool; let’s give it a shot. Plus, a few weeks before she wanted me to hold her because she was feeling down. Fortunately we both had enough self-control that it didn’t turn into a makeout session or anything, but it showed that she had enough trust in me to let me do that. So on Halloween I held her hand and we watched DS9. And like that, we were suddenly dating, despite not having actually gone on a date. Our first actual date came a week later, when we went and saw Wall-E at the Varsity theatre, then went to a playground somewhere and made out on top of a slide. It was her first kiss, and I was pretty inexperienced. But it sucked too. Maybe some of that was the orchialgia. Maybe some of it was the fact that by that point I knew it wasn’t going to work. After all, whenever we were together our conversations mostly consisted of pleasantries, followed by a once-in-ten-minute awkward small-talk question that had a short reply to it. I didn’t feel comfortable talking naturally around her. I never did. I can’t say exactly why, but I believe it was an issue of trust. I know she trusted me enough to tell me about horrible family and self-esteem problems she was having, which also didn’t help. Tip to ladies who may read this: if you’ve got horrible self-esteem issues, hold off on burdening the guy with them until you’ve at least gone out twice! Preferably more than that. A car can’t cross a bridge of balsa wood until it’s been reinforced by steel, and that may take a while. Also, don’t make out after a week, even if you think the relationship is going to work.
Maybe I could have been more sensitive and helped her through the issues she was having, always reassuring and having that open shoulder to cry on and etc. etc. But I was getting absolutely no enjoyment out of the whole thing, and it’s awfully hard to be motivated to help someone that intimately without some sort of bond and/or investment in that person. We had just started dating. We had little chemistry, at least that I felt. And by gum, she was burdening me with all these family problems that I certainly couldn’t do anything about, and then was scared silly of a future with me, and maybe she knew that it wasn’t going to work either.
And all of that, together, made the kissing suck. I hope. Maybe just intrinsically it doesn’t work for me. Who knows? The relationship sure wasn’t a healthy one, anyway.”
First post about Sandy:
This was the Monday after we started dating (we started on Jan. 24).
“Started dating again. She doesn’t seem to notice, though. How do I let her know without pushing her away? I want to go slower than last time, but seriously, she’s so busy; can’t she make some time? I suppose not. Even when I ask her roommates to tell her to come over when she gets home, no matter how late…whatever. Destiny isn’t kind sometimes. Whatever.”
The day before Valentine’s:
“Sandy doesn’t want to be very physical. Which is good, I suppose, for I have a tendency to push that because I didn’t ever get it. Also, from the outside it seems that that is what separates a dating relationship from the just friends stage. This will help me learn the other levels, levels that I never quite comprehended. Last night was an excellent eye-opening experience, when we finished Seiken Densetsu 3 and also had a walk ‘n talk.”
Last Wednesday, Feb. 18.
“I’m feeling in a funk. I don’t know how to start this. I’ve been dating Sandy for nearly a month now, but it doesn’t feel like dating should feel like. I keep telling myself, “Well, she wanted to go slow, so we’ll go slow.” But going slow isn’t standing still. Or going backward. To become attached to someone, I think I do it best through touch. Apparently it drove her crazy, so she asked me to tone that down. Now it feels like we’re not dating. Not that we hate each other or anything; far from it! It just feels like we’re good friends. Also, I don’t know if it’s my inferiority complex, but I feel like I’m doing everything wrong around her and with the situation. Like everything I say or want to do isn’t validated, but dismissed. The same type of thing that I get from Ben sometimes, which I’ve mentioned on my blog a few times early on.
It used to be great. I guess it still can be. I know she’s inexperienced and so forth, but galdernit, I have needs too in a relationship. She said she liked me. Once. I don’t want to press the compliments and stuff because it makes her feel uncomfortable. What I want to do is present [my girlfriend] with gifts and tell her I love her thirty times a day and hold her on the couch and smell her hair and etc. etc. but that seems like it will never happen with her, not at this rate, anyway, because it’s not what she said she wants. Is this a sign if impending break-up or just a hiccup? Am I overanalyzing things? Will this just take patience or does it need to end now before I get in a deeper funk and grow increasingly unsatisfied? I’m afraid that if I say what I want to have happen she’ll just break up with me there because she’s not ready or willing or whatever the hell. I’m trying to do what she wants; to make her feel comfortable. I don’t want to push too hard. But I’m increasingly feeling like I need to push somehow, lest we fall into stagnancy, and become friends who occasionally hold hands because Facebook says we’re dating. I mean seriously, what the crap do I do? Seriously! Is she in this relationship because of love (or potential love) or is it just a “What the heck, we’ll see how this goes”? Because that doesn’t work. I know. That’s what happened with Carmen. I guess we need another walk. I just don’t know how to broach the subject. Why doesn’t she want to give me a hug?”
Sandy, final version:
Posted this tonight, after we broke up.
“We had a walk. It was time to break up! She’s young and it was quite obvious she wasn’t into the whole thing. This just reinforces what I learned from Carmen, but from the other side now: being in a relationship based on “What the hell, we’ll see where this goes” is a bad idea. To be fair, the whole thing sucked. Not as horrible as the last one, but it didn’t fulfill the needs I had. True, she wasn’t all touchy-feely, but I think if you like a person that comes naturally. You want to be touchy with a person you like; I think that’s a natural human response for just about everyone. So if a person doesn’t want you to do anything beyond maybe hand-holding and an occasional arm-around-them thing, that’s a warning sign, yo! But I did stick with it, and I did my best to respect her, and as the earlier entry here shows, it just wasn’t working for me. So that’s that. We’ll now see what happens in the future with regards to everything, but we’re definitely done until she matures and figures out what she wants. And from all signs, it probably won’t be somebody like me. And if she’s going to be as frosty as she was, then I won’t be happy anyway, so let’s move on!
On the plus side (not to mention the shallow side), I’ve been able to take somewhat advantage of my dating situation with both of the girlfriends I’ve now had. With Carmen we were dating when I turned 26, so she got me a birthday present! A Calvin & Hobbes book! With Sandy it was Kjersti needing help with her set for her junior high school musical, so Sandy the aspiring set designer helped us build it, which she probably wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t been dating! Who knows what I can wheedle out of my next girlfriend! Maybe we’ll even be dating for an entire month the next time! Ha ha ha!”
Sandy and I failed because of a lack of communication. If we would have been better about that earlier on a lot of grief may have been avoided. Obviously, as stated above, there were a lot of other reasons too, but I think the problems were certainly exacerbated by a lack of communication. In any case, I’m going to bed.
Well, Casey and Steve got engaged. In the same week, no less! I guess that leaves Nate and I to make it to the final round of the singles’ game, outlined in The Final Four. Nate, of course, is off traveling to find the place he’s never been over in Germany, while I’m just plugging away at school here in Provo. Before last week, I would have given us pretty even odds, but I actually got a girlfriend (gasp!) (more on her at a later date), while Nate, I think, is going to just marry the Alps and be done with it. Still, I leave it up to my readers: who will win this game of singlehood? And as a bonus: post in the comments what his prize should be, given to him by the loser(s)?
(Read the poll question carefully!)
Yet another reason why I rarely date.
I know it’s a parody site, but it’s waay to close to the truth for a huge amount of girls, especially in Provo. I had a co-worker that was exactly like this, no exaggeration. It was the only time in my life I contemplated ritual suicide. Ordinary suicide wouldn’t have been strong enough.