s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: All the lonely people

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

All the lonely people

I don't like my ward.

I am past the “don't know anyone” stage – I have many acquaintances, and I still don't like my ward. I am past the “too shy to be myself” stage – I have been my real self on multiple occasions, and I still don't like my ward. (Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that the masses have not reacted well to my “real self.”) I am past the “haven't yet made a good friend” stage – I have effectively exhausted the potential candidates for good friends, and am resigned to the fact that I will not make one in the current crop. (It doesn't help that all three of my Utah friends who were considering coming here next year have now made other plans.) What I really don't like about my ward, I now realize, is that it's full of single people who are obsessed with being single.

I do not deny that being single is a great hardship in the lives of many Latter-day Saints. Nobody wants to be alone, particularly not in a religious culture which vaguely equates singlehood and damnation.

I also do not deny that there are plenty of people in my ward who are not single-mindedly obsessed with getting marriage, who live happy, full lives and who realize that there is more to living the gospel than pining for a ring and a temple date.

However, this does not change the fact that a group of people, united by one feature, will necessarily approach life from the perspective of the thing they have in common. Women in Relief Society approach the Gospel as Mormon women. Single Mormon adults approach the Gospel as single Mormon adults. I imagine that in Spanish-speaking branches, the Gospel is approached from the point of view of Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Nonetheless, there are some huge differences between groups of women, singles and Spanish speakers. For one thing, there are no congregations composed entirely of women. Relief Society is certainly biased towards the perspective of women (for better or for worse), but it ought to be balanced out by Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting, where we have to take the men and children into account, as well.

Spanish-speaking branches, like singles wards/branches, worship as a homogenous group. Again, though, there are crucial differences – the main one being that speaking Spanish is not considered a sin, trial, or hardship. If one is living in the United States and if one does not speak English well, that may certainly be an inconvenience, but we do not tell native Spanish speakers that the most important thing they can do in life is to learn English, we don't obsess about the fact that they don't know English yet, and we certainly never imply that those who chose not to learn English in this life are set to be ministering angels, while the Anglophones receive higher glory.

The fact that we, single Latter-day Saints, are united by something that is “wrong” with us means that we are going to spend a lot of time obsessing about that thing that is wrong. Worse yet, this is something over which we do not have complete control. If there were a ward comprised entirely of people who were having trouble with the Word of Wisdom, you can bet that the Word of Wisdom would be the underlying topic of many lessons, but you wouldn't have a room full of sweet sisters and “nice” RMs who would very much like to live the WoW if it were only under their control because it is much more under their control.

So, I am tired of being a single person in a singles' ward, and watching engaged people magically float away to the Land of the Marrieds like one more cat ascending to the Heavyside Lair. (The fact that they often move out of state, and not just out of the ward, makes the transition all the more magical, as one never sees them again.)

Attending my last ward, a family ward with a fair number of young marrieds, was quite refreshing, as one got to see the beatific ascension from the other side. Mostly the dewy young things would show up in Relief Society, gushing about how married life had been the best three weeks of their life, and everyone would say “Awww. How cute!” and move on to talking about something REAL.

The downside of attending this ward was that I was effectively invisible to the (married) women my age, since I didn't fit into their “group,” and they hadn't yet learned how to have friends outside of their group. All the same, I think that I'd still take effective invisibility in balanced family ward over being one more sheep in an obsessed single's ward.

8 Comments:

At April 11, 2006 6:41 PM, Blogger Th. said...

.

I have better comments, but I'm feeling rather fragile right now----

Are you saying Anglophones won't receive a higher glory?!?!

 
At April 11, 2006 7:46 PM, Blogger Melyngoch said...

th. -- Anglophones who know their Old Anglish will, but the rest of you whippersnappers --

anyway, cat ascending to what?

 
At April 11, 2006 7:48 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Mel - It's a reference to "Cats" (the musical). It's sort of a dramatic way of going to heaven.

 
At April 11, 2006 8:00 PM, Blogger Logan said...

'... a religious culture which vaguely equates singlehood and damnation.'

Vaguely?

 
At April 11, 2006 8:05 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Logan - It's by no means the same as outer darkness, and there is possible exaltation for those who don't get married in this life.

 
At April 12, 2006 8:35 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Heh, I think we should obsess a little bit about people learning English in this country. It may not be as eternally important as a temple marriage, but it sure makes life easier for people.

By the way, Katya, should you ever get too sick of your ward, we'd love to have you come to ours. You'd probably have to get up at 3 am to make it to sacrament meeting, but it'd be fun!

 
At April 12, 2006 12:07 PM, Anonymous A Blogless Reader said...

I am a young married in a regular "family" ward in Indiana and I seem to have a similar problem. It's not that I don't like my ward...I do, but I don't seem to fit in. The other young marrieds are all expecting, and the single students here attending the local university seem to like to stick to themselves. These single students are, from what I can tell, fabulous people, and I'd love to get to know them better, but I'm not sure how to do it. As great as marriage is, it still can be hard to find your place...you no longer fit in with the singles for the fact that you're no longer one of them, and you don't easily fit in with the young marrieds because they're busy living their happy married lives and having babies. Can a young married fit in with the singles? And since I'm assuming that yes, this is possible, how do you go about it? Any advice from a single to a young married on how to help you out? Because honestly quite a few of us want to...

 
At April 12, 2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Peter - While I think learning English is a very important thing for people living in the United States, I also think that there is already plenty of outside social and economic pressure, and the Church doesn't need to add to it (although it may certainly offer programs to facilitate the process).

blogless reader - I was talking to Melyngoch just last night about the difference between external features and internal structure. On the outside, I have plenty of things in common with many people in my ward - we're Mormons, single, female, grad students, even grad students in LIS. The presumption is that people with a lot of externalities in common will also find internal things in common. And to a certain extent, that may be true. I, like my fellow Mormons, want to live a moral life in a relatively amoral society. I, like my fellow singles, want to get married. I, like my fellow students, want to do well in my classes and graduate some day. However, I find that the internal things which I think define me most strongly (a general curiosity about the world and a love of analysis) don't really have anything to do with my external situation, and so there is no reason for me to have much more in common with other single Mormons than with anyone else I encounter.

I think you're running into the same kind of problem. As a "young married" Mormon, you "ought" to be having babies and caring about domestic life and scrapbooking, or whatever, but if your internal interests aren't associated with your external situation, you aren't necessarily going to get along with other people who have your same external features.

I guess I would say to try and find people who are fellow misfits (be they single, married, parents or childless) but who have the same internal things in common with you. If they are out there, then they're looking for you, too.

And yes, I think that marrieds and singles and people with very diverse daily lives can be friends, so long as they're willing to look beyond their immediate personal lives to identify with people who are different from them.

 

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