Around the Blogs Flashback: JL’s post on Singles in the Church

I just noticed the new snazzy template over at Celibate in the City. One of the links (new, I think) is to JL’s first post from six months ago. I remember reading it at the time, and laughing at her dating misadventures. This time something else stood out to me — her poignant lament about the plight of single members.

She writes:

Another motivation behind this blog is the alienation of single mormons. I love the church but it was designed to serve the family. Many of us feel left behind and left out, myself included. Because we are single and not having sex and don’t have a partner in the gospel to share our burdens, we face challenges that the sexually satisfied marrieds do not. I think it’s harder to be a faithful member when you have no one to pray with, no one to wake you up Sunday morning to go to church with, no one to sit in the pews with, no one to enjoy your Sabbath with, no one for family home evening, no one to read scriptures with…

When I meet someone new at church and they ask me who my husband is and I tell them I don’t have one, then I have to endure their puzzled looks which then transform into pity. Next they ask me why I don’t go to the singles ward (a congregation solely for singles). Underneath that question is veiled, ‘So why aren’t you married, what’s wrong with you?’ That’s what they really want to know.

Three years ago, while visiting my mother, I had a shocking epiphany. . . . My mother said she sure felt sorry for my cousin being that age and still single. A sudden wave of horror passed through me. In a few years my mother and aunts would talk about me in the same way. I got sick. I said, “Please don’t feel sorry for me when I’m 30 and single. I’m going to be doing lots of things and living my life and enjoying myself.” My mother sat silently for a moment. Then she said trepidly, “Do you think you’re going to be single when you’re 30?” “Probably. Don’t hold your breath for my marriage.” That ended the conversation. She sounded scared for me, like I told her I was going to catch a disease. What a long strange disease it’s been.

I don’t have the same firsthand experience JL does, because I managed to avoid the LDS stigma of late-singlehood by marrying at 22. But my secondhand observations dovetail with JL’s experience: It seems that single members — especially women — often feel that they don’t fit in in church. I wish that this were not the case. I wonder what we as members can do to make it better.

53 comments for “Around the Blogs Flashback: JL’s post on Singles in the Church

  1. September 9, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Another similar group in the church that struggles just as much or more with how church organization is structured: single divorced moms with kids — particularly if they happen to live in young married housing and attend a ward that is composed almost entirely of young marrieds. Being pitied or having people look upon you with concerned perplexed looks clearly is a serious burden.

    In our ward, the elders quorum presidency assigned a couple (husband and wife) to simultaneously hometeach and visit teach a single divorcee and her kids (the suggestion having come from a member of the stake presidency). The suggestion and the alteration were well meant but she (the teachee) was not pleased about being treated “differently” at all. She wanted regular hometeachers and visiting teachers, just like everyone else — partly because she needed the extra contact with the sisters that having separate visiting teachers would bring.

  2. September 9, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    I think that if anything, it is harder for men Speaking as someone who didn’t marry until 35, I can assure you that going to regular wards was hellish and single wards often uncomfortable. Further, unlike women who have to put up with unwanted “sympathy” men have to face distrust and other such matters. Then there are the ever present subtle accusations of homosexuality by some. (A small minority, but I recall in my late 20’s being very sensitive to it to the point of doing some really stupid things out of insecurity)

    Part of the worst thing is trying to find a social life. While I speak from a Utah-centric bias here, having spent most of my 20’s here, I do think after around 27 or 28 it gets to be very hard to have a social life. Ones friends often move and the ones who get married just don’t have the time to hang out. But there isn’t typically places to meet people, unless you lie about your age and hang out with the college kids. The only choice is your ward, but frankly that isn’t always the best social opportunity. I’ll be polite there, and recognize that this varies from singles ward to singles ward. But once you get the “boot” then your social life completely dries up. I don’t mean dating, but more just doing things.

    LDSSingles helps a bit and I have friends you like it. I hated it myself. The danger then becomes that what opportunities abound, even in Utah, are more amongst non-Mormons and bad influences.

  3. Janey
    September 9, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    My mission president told me to quit teaching single women unless they were really interested because the Church didn’t have the priesthood leadership (in that area) to keep up with the growth in the membership of women and children. We were supposed to focus more on women with husbands and older sons (daughters didn’t count). I’m now one of those women my mission president said not to teach. Needless to say, I think he was wrong, and I thought it at the time he said it, too. I didn’t drop any of my investigators.

    One thing I’ve noticed that would make fitting in easier would be to ask about the person’s life, i.e., where do you work, how long have you been in the area, what do you like to do in your free time, and then share some non-kid related interests of your own. Often, the conversation with ward members ends because the married member figures she has nothing in common with a single member (at least I assume that’s the reason).

    And please don’t offer to set me up five minutes after you’ve met me with someone else you barely know.

    I also agree with Clark, I think it is harder for single men.

  4. D. Fletcher
    September 9, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    There is no question that single men of a certain age are suspect. Single women at the same age are considered heroic, courageous survivors (witness Sherri Dew). The men are perverts.

    I haven’t attended Church regularly since the beginning of May (after a lifetime of complete activity). I’m single, for obvious reasons. I’ve also been celibate. When I contacted the Bishop, saying I would be taking a break, he said he would send the Home Teachers. I haven’t seen anyone.

    Just as I suspected, the Church seems better off without me.

  5. September 9, 2004 at 7:53 pm

    D. Fletcher, bless your heart.

    Wish I could say more, though having not married until I was 29 … much of this sounds rather familiar.

    We’ve some good friends who are singles, and I home teach one who is 35, used to visit with one who was 41 or so (she died about three years ago).

    It can be rough.

  6. Kevin Barney
    September 9, 2004 at 7:53 pm

    Clark, I’m curious about why you hated ldssingles.com, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. What is it like to try to meet another Saint online?

  7. September 9, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Basically it is just “unnatural” doing the LDSSingles thing. Further there really weren’t people I enjoyed. I typically didn’t have good experiences. It’s hard to put my finger on it. I just never liked it.

  8. September 9, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Let me also briefly say that I have no regrets about marrying late. Indeed both from my own development as well as looking at the crosssection of recent RMs who get married, I think there are numerous, numerous advantages to it. Most of the problems you hear about have never been an issue. Further a lot of social and emotional development was possible that i think would have been much harder in a marriage. Which isn’t to say it is bad. Everyone is at different levels in their development with respect to various attributes. I know for me, I was shy and socially awkward in college. Sometimes I cringe looking back. It took effort, but I was able to overcome all those weaknesses. Yet the emphasis on getting married early tends to put those “late developers” at a distinct disadvantage within the church. Further, the way things are structured for singles, it is very hard from “within” the de-facto social situation to develop. I don’t mean that as a slam in the least. Just that the informal social structures really don’t lend themselves to certain sorts of personal development.

    Regarding activity, I’d certainly second “D”. It is much harder to stay active. I consider myself as having a fairly strong testimony and so forth. Yet it is very hard to get yourself to go to church when you don’t feel a part of it in the least. I should also second in that I’ve had maybe five HT visits in the last 10 years, if not more. I can think of several times when HTs would have been a big help. I don’t blame this on the “family” nature of the church. More the members failings with respect to the more important aspects of the church. After all, for most of that time I was in singles wards.

    I would say, however, that I truly believe the reason most people go inactive is because there is no social connection at church and *not* because of doctrine or sin. Of course that is a vicious cycle since if you don’t feel socially a part of things and the only places to feel social are outside of church, then it is that much easier to become part of environments more conducive to sin. If it was like that here in Provo, I can’t imagine what it would have been like in a less Mormon area.

  9. Mark B
    September 9, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    D.

    Perhaps the bishop is suffering from the Glendower conundrum. He called, but did they, the home teachers, answer?

    Too often, I’m afraid, our failures to reach out and serve our brothers and sisters as we ought makes a liar of Glendower once again, and confirms Hotspur’s taunts.

    GLENDOWER
    I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

    HOTSPUR
    Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?

    Henry IV, Part 1, III, i.

  10. D. Fletcher
    September 9, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    My ward since 1983 has been the Manhattan First Ward, the same ward as the Bushmans, Steve and Sumer Evans, and formerly Kaimi and Mardell. I played the organ there, starting in 1985 (for about 19 years).

    But the evidence of careless leaders now prompts me to seek a different home (if not a different church altogether). I will probably find myself in the singles ward, though for many reasons, I shudder at the thought. Basically, I fit nowhere. But organists are needed, eh? I’ll have to be satisfied with my job of ministering angel.

  11. September 9, 2004 at 9:15 pm

    D., as you home teacher I can’t help but feel terrible about letting you down. In my defense, I don’t think we’ve been entirely out of touch, have we?

    I will visit you this month, now that I’m back in town.

    It worries me that you express this dire sense of alienation, when you are one of the most beloved and prayed-over members of our ward. While I’m not in your shoes, is the situation is as nightmarish as you are portraying it to be? You are indeed sorely missed by the ward — at least those who were able to know you. If you were to return, I can tell you it would be with open arms and gladness by all of your friends here. Part of the problem may be the constantly rotating membership we seem to have in Man 1st ward. But believe me, you can indeed belong to our ward and feel welcome there. — if this were West Side Story, “There’s a Place For Us” would cue.

  12. Rosalynde Welch
    September 9, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    What D. wrote, “I’ll have to be satisfied with my job of ministering angel,” made me think of something similar my unmarried sister said recently. After staying with me for a few days and helping me with my children while we moved, she told me what a tender experience it had been to spend time with her niece and nephew, and said “The ministering angels don’t have it so bad.”

    Call me imbecile, but is the (folk) doctrine that unmarried saints will become “ministering angels”? I’d never understood that, until D. repeated the phrase in the context of single life. And what is a ministering angel, anyway?

  13. sid
    September 9, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    I am over 30, and am a single person in a family ward, plus I am recovering from some severe health problems which have disrupted my academic and social life since 1990 or so. And sometimes, i do feel the way Bro Fletcher does. Like I am the odd man out, a curiosity in the Ward!!!

  14. sid
    September 9, 2004 at 9:42 pm

    And like Clark said – it is hard when people seem to assume that you are gay, or otherwise “damaged goods” in some way, for being single and over 30 years old

  15. D. Fletcher
    September 9, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    Steve, sorry to have put you on the spot (I didn’t, you did).

    Nobody has let me down except God (and maybe, Joseph Smith).

    There are no clear-cut solutions to my specific problems (and no, I don’t think I’m alone in my problems, and I humbly empathize with the frustrations of the sisters).

    I have simply tried to live up to the standards of the Church, with two huge exceptions — I haven’t married, and I have steered clear from temple work. At least I remained active, in a married/family ward, for all those years. Only of late, did my level of activity become a problem — it wasn’t enough for my current leaders, who are fairly clueless as to the predicament of single members of the Church.

    I certainly agree with the initial post here, that the Church is so focussed on family that it can’t comprehend the problems, let alone support, those people who aren’t actively engaged in producing a family.

    I do think the ward misses me, to a point. I guess they miss the music, but what else of me? And now, with September, the ward that last knew me will be (as you know) almost completely transformed into an anonymous body of new graduate students who are married.

    It’s best that I start anew, somehow. When I was in Utah, everyone I talked to suggested that the way out of this current predicament was to try a new ward.

  16. Maren
    September 9, 2004 at 10:17 pm

    As a single adult in a family ward almost devoid of any other singles, I can say that the new ward I recently moved into in Brooklyn has finally gotten it right. As soon as I moved in there was discussion of several different callings, and help whenever I needed it. The fact I was an active member was all they needed to hear. Being a woman means I get the sympathy, especially being in a situation where I seldom meet people to date. The thought has often run through my head that many young single adults do get lost in the church. The post originally questioned what to do to avoid this. The answer is simple. Put them to work, ask them about themselves, stop feeling bad about them, and become their friends.

  17. D. Fletcher
    September 9, 2004 at 10:21 pm

    Maren, this is the Park Slope Ward?

  18. Nathan Tolman
    September 9, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    I think what most people want is just a friend or two that they can talk to or have fun with. In my post-Mission experience this has been very difficult for me single or married, so I can imagine how much harder it is to be in the situations you describe. Indeed, being single is never easy in the Church, and my experience in my BYU single student wards were my worst Church experience in my life, stretching this type of thing out and then going into a married ward must be horrendous.

    Lately a single sister has moved into my ward. I have talked to her once and she seems good, but I am ashamed to say I feel strange taking up a conversation with her at the Church, which is particularly strange because I have no such compunction at school. I guess I just need to get over it.

    Perhaps we should focus on what we can do better in this thread. I for one think that repeating statements about married men staying away from other women, even in friendly or business situations does not help.

  19. Maren
    September 9, 2004 at 10:46 pm

    no, Bensonhurst

  20. September 9, 2004 at 11:03 pm

    D.

    I’m in the Park Slope ward. We’d love to have you. We already have an organist so we’d have to love you for you, not for your skillz. Our elder’s quorum president of 5+ years is single and over forty. I’ve never once heard anyone question his worthiness or imply he was a pervert. The ward does have a lot of younger couples (a large majority being graphic designers), but also a lot of people in non-traditional situations as well. I must say, though, that I’ve never been in a ward like this one. I’ve been teaching gospel doctrine for the last year and have found them to be the kindest, least judgemental ward that I’ve ever known. I could be incredibly naive, though. But I don’t think so. Please pay a visit. I’d love to meet a fellow blogger.

  21. Kaimi
    September 9, 2004 at 11:07 pm

    If you’re looking for ward alternatives, I would be remiss not to mention Kingsbridge Second. I’ve been here for three years. It’s another quasi-dysfunctional non-Manhattan ward where anyone active is generally welcomed. It’s been my experience that the usual Mormon ward standards of cliquishness and perfection aren’t around: I’ve been the Elder’s Quorum President, Logan Bobo (who blogs over at Sons of Mosiah) is the Ward Mission Leader and former Exec Secretary, and a newly married guy who literally just moved into the ward was made Second Counselor in the Bishopric before he had been here a month.

    The upsides of K2 are a chance to be appreciated (needy wards don’t worry so much about details), and a ward with an established record of being indifferent towards marital status. There have been and continue to be singles, both men and women, of varying ages and marital statuses (i.e. divorcees and never-marrieds), in all sorts of visible positions — including (over the past three years, inclusive to today) young mens’ presidency, teacher instruction, seminary, stake missionaries, primary presidency, various teaching callings, elders’ quorum presidency and (I think) relief society. No one (that I’m aware of) asks if you’re married. Single members, as far as I can tell, aren’t treated any differently than marrieds.

    There are downsides. The Bishop is a convert, and is decidedly quirky. The ward infrastructure is pretty shaky. We don’t have enough priesthood leadership. The members are enthusiastic about music, but largely uneducated. This is how bad our music is — I play the organ every Sunday (split duties) — and if you remember, in M1, I was the nursery pianist. People here would appreciate your musical talents, but not in the same way that M1 might appreciate your talents — in K2, I’m perceived as a good organist, so it’s clearly an undereducated group. Oh, and it’s in the Bronx. (Kingsbridge and Grand Concourse — a half-dozen stops north of Yankee Stadium on the B/D, or one block east of the Kingsbridge stop on the 4).

    Now, before Brent Belnap comes over to hit me with a two-by-four, let me reiterate that as a general matter, I’m opposed to ward “poaching.” The general rule is that one attends the ward where one lives, and I agree with that general rule. But, as you’ve suggested that you see your current choices as non-M1 or non-attendance, let me encourage you to drop by the Bronx (1:30 meeting time) before settling completely on non-attendance.

  22. September 9, 2004 at 11:13 pm

    Sorry Kaimi, I invited him first. Besides, I didn’t list any downsides, so there must not be any. 10:00 AM is better than 1:30 anyway.

  23. D. Fletcher
    September 9, 2004 at 11:53 pm

    Rusty, your Bishop, Christopher Williams, is my nephew-in-law. Kaimi, I might just visit you one of these days.

  24. Mark B
    September 10, 2004 at 12:47 am

    D.

    As long as people from odd places (Bensonhurst and the Bronx) are inviting you, let me invite you to Bushwick 1st Branch. Although I live in Park Slope Ward (which actually should be called the Carroll Gardens Ward since that’s where the building (and I) are located, my church assignment has me attending in Bushwick and other branches in the Richmond Hill District.

    Bushwick is close and convenient to Manhattan–just over the river on the L train. A branch of new members of many races and nationalities–most of them single, a few very young families, mostly untrained leadership (I suppose that’s another of my failures), but people who love each other and welcome all who come.

    And, what’s more, the branch president just recommended a sister for a mission who lived over in the East Village. I guess nobody else noticed (and the BP probably didn’t understand the policy on boundaries and attendance–I told you the leaders are relatively young and/or inexperienced) until after she had received her call and then someone your side of the river noticed and sent me an email which was the moral equivalent of a two by four upside the head–so, hey, we don’t have the concerns that Kaimi does about that. Been there, had that done to us!

    And, music. Oh, if we only had any …

  25. JL
    September 10, 2004 at 2:23 am

    Hey Maren,
    I’m the JL Kaimi quotes in his post. I just moved to Brooklyn and I think I’m supposed to be in Bensonhurst but I can’t find the building. How do I get there? I live on the A line.

  26. September 10, 2004 at 8:32 am

    Home teachers not coming isn’t limited to singles. When my daughter Jessica died, our home teachers didn’t show up for the next two or three years.

    I wasn’t single then (I’m still not single, but very lucky), so that wasn’t the reason. Given that Jessica died January 26 and Courtney died December 26 that two year period sure was one a visit or two might have been useful.

    Need to remember we are all children of God, not fully formed adults.

    Wish you well, looks like all of New York wants you. :)

  27. September 10, 2004 at 8:45 am

    What can you do to “help” the singles?

    1. Don’t assume that we are unhappy. Don’t pity us. Believe me, there are many times when we pity you. I can’t think of a single female friend’s spouse I’d want for a husband. Having said that—don’t assume that if we are happy we are not righteously seeking a spouse or don’t want to have a family. Don’t make us into the “other”

    2. Be our friend. At 30 most of my closest friends are married with children. It is so easy to have parties, host dinners, book groups, etc with other couples instead of with singles. Don’t forget us when you make invitations! Assuming that my friends will naturally be other singles is a mistake. To do so is to assume that my marital status is the biggest part of my identity. More often in my experience the people I have most in common with (education, interests, etc) are married at this point. For example, don’t call on us to babysit while you go out to dinner with other couples (this was the most egregious example I’ve experienced). This call to be a friend is especially important advice to the men. I miss having many male friends like I did in college. Often men who are married who would be my friends if I were also married steer clear of me. Those of you who don’t—some who are on this list— I really appreciate.

    3. Don’t assume that women who are single (and beautiful or talented) are being too picky, scare men away or are threatening. Likewise don’t assume that beautiful and talented single men are gay. Things are more complicated than that.

    4. Women—-don’t assume that single women are baby hungry and want to hear all about the care and feeding of your infants. This comment kind of goes along with the babysitting comment above. At the same time—don’t fret that talking about your children will be painful to the single, childless woman. Don’t avoid discussing topics that are part of your life, but be interested in her life too.

    5. Don’t be afraid to be warm. Singles (and in my opinion a lot of married people too) don’t get enough non-sexual physical affection. Living in families we may hug and kiss each other often. Living alone that doesn’t happen. So, put your arms around a single sister. I always try to make non-offensive touch (a touch on the arm or shoulder) a part of my greeting to all my friends. Singles especially need this.

    6. Don’t wait to be asked for help. I hate the fact that I can’t move myself (my piano weighs a ton,literally) and that I don’t know anything about cars. I’m learning a lot about cars because mine is such a clunker but the fact remains that I need help sometimes with things—even hanging the heavy pictures in my house, for example. Be observant and consideration. What are the things that take strong arms or two pairs of hands to do that you take for granted? Even kindof silly things like putting up a full-size Christmas tree?

    7. Don’t ask. That’s right, just don’t ask. There are well-meaning relatives that everyone has who always ask “so, whatever happened to John, David, or Michael…..” that you were dating two or twelve months months ago. They tell you that your biological time clock is clicking away. They act shocked that you can’t manage to find a husband because “you’re such a pretty girl” or they assign blame “it’s that Ph.D., just too scary for a Mormon man….” and on and on. Please don’t make such comments. And don’t ask. It is really not helpful.

    I could go on and on but I have to go prepare to teach a little Hume.

  28. Mark B
    September 10, 2004 at 9:32 am

    JL

    If you live on the A line, you’re probably not in the Bensonhurst Ward. You’re probably in either the Park Slope Ward or the East New York 1st Branch.

  29. Kaimi
    September 10, 2004 at 10:34 am

    Melissa,

    It’s probably evidence of the twisted nature of my own mind, but if anyone asked something like “so, whatever happened to John, David, or Michael…..â€?, I would see it as an opportunity.

    Tom? I found out he was connected to the Mafia. Yeah, quite serious — he was in the contraband-sardines trade.
    Mike? Oh, he joined the French Foreign Legion, and he’s off fighting in the Endive mountains.
    John? Drank soda while eating Pop Rocks, and now he’s in a coma. Yes, can you believe it, it really can kill you.
    Steve? He joined a cult that worships Millard Fillmore. Last I heard, he had painted himself purple and moved to the Mojave.
    David? Killed by a carnivorous guppy while visiting the pet store.
    Sam? He went to visit his friend’s cousin Vlad in Transylvania, and no one’s seen him since. I eventually stopped writing letters.

  30. September 10, 2004 at 10:34 am

    Or maybe the Midwood ward. But a sister I home teach lives around where it sounds like you live and she is still in the Park Slope ward. The invitation to come to the Park Slope ward is open to you as well :)

  31. Chad Too
    September 10, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Heck, D., since the invites are going our fast and furious, if you want to move south and look for a good North Carolina ward, let me know!

  32. Kristine
    September 10, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    NO! I have dibs on D.–our ward REALLY needs an organist.

  33. Chad Too
    September 10, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Psst. Kristine. Don’t forget you’re already invited too. Two tenors with a strong treble Bb (B-natural if pressed and reeeeeeaaaaaly warmed up), no waiting.

  34. September 10, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Just let me make a couple brief comments. First off I personally don’t think that the problem has much to do with the church. Meaning, I think this is a structural issue due to changing demographics and perceived needs. Further, to be honest, I simply can’t think of what the church could do. If there is a problem, it is that we expect the church to solve our problems. (I can see that in my own frustration back in the late 90’s and perhaps some bad choices I made accordingly) There are “solutions” popping up somewhat. Lots of third parties trying to provide outlets for older singles. I don’t find most of them that interesting, but the fact is that there are lots of hobbies and so forth one can engage in. I’d also say that for many older singles (myself included) that the number one thing we have to do is get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Look at the strengths you have and not the things you don’t have. Indeed, now as married, looking back, I’d not trade those times of my late 20’s and perhaps even my early 30’s in for the world. I was able to travel and have adventures that most people never get to do. I also think that if you try you can have an active social life. Indeed I probably dated more in my early 30’s than most people in their early 20’s do.

    I’d also disagree that singles wards are a bad thing. I’ve loved a lot of my singles wards. Further, having been in many married wards, it seems like singles wards – especially in university towns – offer a lot of advantages. For one, the lessons are almost always better simply due to the perspectives and experience people have. That’s not to slam in the least regular wards. But when people are out of that learning environment, how they approach learning the scriptures is far more passive and frankly less interesting. Single wards simply have *far* more activities. Not all do, of course, and some wards simply are lame. But by and large there’s a lot more going on to make use of if you really want. About the only big problem is the age thing after a while.

  35. Kaimi
    September 10, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    D.,

    I’ll keep an eye out for you. In case you don’t recognize me, I’m the one with the three noisy kids, sitting in the front-right pew, and as often as not around 10 minutes late. :)

  36. September 10, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    Ha! Thanks for all the one-liners, Kaimi. I’ll keep those stored somewhere in my brain for the next round of well-intentioned questions. I’ll also try to keep my sense of humor even after the sixth or seventh time someone asks—I sometimes think that the people in my life think much more about marital status than I do.

  37. D. Fletcher
    September 10, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    LOL, reading this thread, I feel like there should be a Times and Seasons Ward! Kaimi can be the Bishop, Kristine the Relief Society President, and I’ll fill in as Ward Organist. We’ve even got a tenor for the choir!

    I didn’t mean to make this thread all about me. I meant to point out something that’s implicit here. Kaimi’s popularization of the Celibate in the City blog proves my initial point, that the single women who can’t find suitable husbands are more exalted here in the LDS Church than the men in similar situations. There’s a tacit recognition that it isn’t the women’s fault; but this of course draws the sad conclusion that the fault is entirely the men’s. In my own case, I’m happy to recognize my own personality quirks and failures, but this is only part of the real story.

    I’m certainly grateful for all your gracious concern, however humorous. I wish it were as easy as choosing a ward. My situation is…complex, for want of a better word. It is more complex than just the aging-goofy-guy-can’t-find-a-mate. Some of you who know me better know the level of complexity to which I’m referring.

    And yet, more than anything else, I’m trying to simplify. I’d like to go to church, play the organ, participate in the community. I’d like you all to embrace me, meaning, inviting me to dinner, coming over to my place for a DVD, working together on the Pioneer Day Picnic, asking me about my job and my music activities. I’d also like all of you to leave me alone, meaning, don’t ask me why I don’t have a temple recommend, or why I won’t teach Gospel Doctrine when it’s Book of Mormon, or why I’m not married at 46. I have survived on my own for 46 years, and I have made some choices (obviously) about how I’m going to live.

    If I could, I would come and play the organ in all your wards. P.S. My organ playing is overrated. I don’t play Bach, for instance. I just like playing our hymns on big pipe organs, using all loud trumpet stops. It makes me happy to wake everybody up.

  38. D. Fletcher
    September 10, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    By the way, I’ve been a volunteer helper on the pipe organ installation. It’s been a great project, very satisfying to me. It’s coming along nicely, should be done by the end of the month.

    I’ll be attending the Manhattan First Ward, this coming Sunday.

  39. Kristine
    September 10, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    “I just like playing our hymns on big pipe organs, using all loud trumpet stops.”

    D.–may your tribe increase!!

  40. JL
    September 10, 2004 at 10:24 pm

    I second EVERYTHING that Melissa said. And looking at her list of suggestions and some of these comments, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not the church like someone said. It’s the people(not everyone this is a gross generalization) in the church: Marrieds not inviting singles over for dinner or to go out, married men acting like single women have cooties, the attitude that singleness is a disorder to be pitied and understood, not giving singles the important callings (hello! most of us have more time than you marrieds with kids), not asking singles to talk or to teach the grown ups….. I repeat that there are lots and lots of exceptions to these. But that kind of treatment makes us feel out of place and unwelcome.

  41. JL
    September 10, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    Melissa,
    Who are you and where are you? Please email me so we can talk. I don’t have any girlfriends at church, the ones I like are all married and only hang out with each other.

  42. September 10, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    JL, I was the one who said it wasn’t the church. However I think it is a basic structuralist problem and not the people, as you suggest. For instance I always said I wouldn’t be one of those married people who stopped hanging out with people. Yet the reality of marriage is, I’m finding, that you spend more time with each other. Once you start having kids, the amount of time you are able to go out and “hang out” is far more limited. I still hang out with my single friends, but far less that I thought I would.

    The problem is that when I was single I was always looking for stuff to do and people to do it with. So a few days sometimes seemed a long time. Now that I’m married seeing my single friends every few weeks strangely seems like I’m seeing them a lot – even though I know from their perspective I’m not. It’s weird as I totally recall how I would have perceived this as a single. Yet the reality is that the structures you find yourself in (housework, yard work, correlating time, spending time with your wife, finding things you both like, church callings) ends up really limiting what you can do with friends. I have friends I honestly *want* to see of invite over for dinner. Yet suddenly it is a lot harder to even arrange to go shooting together, go climbing or go hiking.

    Being married really is like an other world. I honestly don’t know how people with big families or time intensive callings manage to do anything outside of the home.

  43. September 11, 2004 at 12:53 am

    Word on the non-sexual touching.

  44. September 11, 2004 at 8:28 am

    Hi JL—-I’m technologically challenged so I can’t figure out how to get your email from this site. You can email me at [REDACTED by admin] and I’ll get back to you. Are you somewhere on the East Coast? I am in all the cities with good university libraries between DC and Boston on a fairly regular basis so it would be easy for me to meet you for lunch somewhere if you are on this side of the country.

  45. September 11, 2004 at 9:37 am

    Hey D.—-

    I know that you’ve already been inundated with invitations but in the last year both of the professional organists in my single’s ward have married and left us high and dry. We have a really fabulous organ in the Cambridge ward even if I complain a lot about the singles in the Cambridge ward. However, it is one of the few single’s wards in the country where there is no real age limit. There are lots of members much older than thirty. It is still a single’s ward though, complete with weekly munch n’ mingle and valentine’s day dances which just may be a deal-breaker for you. (It’s just about driven me out) Still, I’d love to have you come and play the organ.

    Clark,

    I don’t think that the challenges of being single in the church have anything to do with not being as busy as the marrieds. You make it seem too simple—like the only problem is that you look around and find that suddenly there’s no one to play with because everybody’s paired off and gone home. I think many singles have more to do than they have time and have lots of good friends (at least this is my situation). For me many of the difficulties of being single are directly connected to the Church (though certainly not all as my prior post shows). Members of the Church treat me differently because I am single. Non-members do not. For example, sometimes members (even those much younger, less educated and less experienced) actually treat me as though I’m not an adult yet—as though I will perpetually be an adolescent until I am married. I’ve even been told that I won’t really be a woman until I bear a child. The direct quote was “until you have a little girl or boy you remain a little girl yourself.” This mentality may not be universal among members of the Church but it is not uncommon. In the church, especially I think for women, one’s identity is inextricably linked to marriage and motherhood. If you are neither a mother or on the way to becoming a mother by being married, people don’t know how to respond to you, what questions to ask you about your life. People assume you are grieving, lonely, bitter or desperate. They assume that you are merely marking time until prince charming comes and so they feel sorry for you. And if you are not just marking time—if you are actively pursuing a satifsfying career— then that must be the reason that you aren’t married and you should consider doing something less intimidating or go out of your way to show your willingness, even eagerness, to give up your professional goals in a heartbeat when you meet the right guy. If you are neither bitter nor desperate and anything but willing to give up your career as a woman then many members are at a loss when they interact with you. If you are a man, however, it is legitimate to find some of your identity in your career. Other members feel like they can confidently support your professional goals because your profession can be perceived as preparation for your future familial obligations not as an obstacle which may prevent their realization. Although men are certainly consider more culpable and thus more blameworthy than women are for being single, they are also encouraged to have legitimate professional identites beyond their roles as husbands and fathers. Women are not. At thirty anything other than motherhood that you are pursuing is 1)selfish—which perception produces harsh judgment (especially from other women) or 2) people assume, more generously, that your work must be your second choice since you didn’t get your first choice—-which perception produces pity. It causes consternation if you try to disabuse them of this idea. I am not saying that this is the official position of the Church but rather that on the ground level—-in chapel foyers, at ward picnics and family reunions this is what things are really like.

    These kinds of perceptions, expectations and the awkward conversations they produce have occurred for me exclusively with other members of the Church. I have never had someone outside the Church (even very close friends) question whether I want to have children, tell me to reconsider my career decisions if I want to get married, call me to repentance, express surprise or pity because I don’t have a husband and so forth. But these things happen with alarming regularity in the Church—even relative strangers feel like they can make comments, pass judgment, advise, suggest, line up, and warn. It is frankly one of the reasons I usually can’t stand to be in Utah for more than a few days at a time.

  46. Kaimi
    September 11, 2004 at 12:48 pm

    I should add the the best one-liners are ones that leave the questioner scandalized.

    A bit of relevant background: Singles aren’t the only people who get inappropriate questions. In particular, married couples get the question “when are you going to have kids?” A lot. From everyone.

    Immediately after Mardell and I were married, it seemed like every member of her family wanted to know that one. We got this question from quite a few at the wedding reception (following the temple wedding). My answer, every time:

    “Well, she’s due in about four months.” (Cheerful smile).

    The inevitable response was a second to digest that, followed by a shocked look. And typically, no further questions. A few realized that I was making a non-serious reply, and laughed, and also didn’t follow up (perhaps realizing the inappropriateness of the question to begin with). (And of course, she wasn’t really due in four months.) The efficacy of that reply declined as the time from the wedding increased, but it was still a very useful shut-upper for at least the next two months.

    So, along those lines, it seems like the best single answer for “what ever happened to John?” — if you think you can pull it off, and if you feel comfortable doing it — is:

    (Sweetest, most cheerful possible voice) “Oh, John? He just wasn’t any good in bed.” (Smile).

    If that doesn’t shut them up, nothing will.

  47. Mark B
    September 11, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Kaimi:

    Your response to nosey questions reminds me of something that I wish I had said (too much of my life is made up of that sort of thing–the absolutely beautiful zinger that comes to mind too, too late).

    Once my wife, very pregnant, and I went to a concert–I don’t remember where, Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. I do remember that it was just a few months before the birth of our fifth child.

    Some well meaning soul asked: “It is your first?”

    If only we could have thought to have said: “No, it’s our last.”

  48. Liz
    September 11, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Ditto to everything Melissa said! The singles situation isn’t any better in Los Angeles. At least the church is consistent.

  49. Maren
    September 12, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    JL
    as has been said before, living on the A line I really doubt you are in Bensonhurst, though we would love you to come anyway. The church is actually on the D line. 25 Ave stop, almost to Coney Island. You can’t really miss it. The park slope building is on the corner of Union and Court Street. That is probably where you go. Institute starts Tuesday nights on the 21st, in the midwood building. Haven’t found out yet where that one is, if anyone wants to help me!

  50. Maren
    September 12, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    PS
    JL, Melissa, I am in Brooklyn need friends to hang out with as well, so check up with me anytime if you can figure out how to get others e-mails from here!
    Maren

  51. Mark B
    September 12, 2004 at 10:49 pm

    Maren

    The Midwood building is at the corner of Argyle and Glenwood Roads, which is just two short blocks from Coney Island Avenue.

    Can you get there from Bensonhurst? Maybe, but there’s no direct route. If you take the D down to Coney Island, and then the Q up to Newkirk Avenue, that’ll get you close.

    OR

    You could take the bus (either the B6 or the B8) up to Coney Island Avenue –the B8 will drop you off 2 blocks from the church; if you take the B6 you’ll have to transfer to the B68 and take it up to Foster Avenue.

    Good luck–if you want to “mapquest” it, the address is 1218 Glenwood Road, Brooklyn, 11230.

  52. D. Fletcher
    September 13, 2004 at 10:00 pm

    To keep you all up to date, I went back to my old ward last Sunday, and they asked me to play the piano for Sacrament Meeting (the organ isn’t finished yet). It was a lovely, cathartic experience. I love to make people happy!

    But I was just a substitute for the day — there is a regular organist in that ward. So, I’m available, since I’m ward-hopping anyway, to come to some of your wards and try out the organs you’ve got. I’ll certainly come up to Cambridge (my sister lives in Belmont).

  53. December 1, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    Welcome to LDS World Singles!

    http://www.ldsws.com

    The fun, simple and easy place to meet single members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

    http://www.ldsworldsingles.com

    Have fun, date safe and enjoy!

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