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Young Single Adults...and Me


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I'm a bit of a hermit. I make no bones about it. My favorite way to spend a weekday is to go to work in the morning (well, if I could avoid it, I wouldn't, but that's neither here nor there), spend all day there, come home in the evening, hop online, and spend until the late hours of the night typing away on various chats/blogs/IMs and so forth.

On a weekend, I'll usually drive home to my parents' house for Sunday afternoon dinner, and stay until the late evening enjoying the company of my parents and my many siblings.

This is how people generally define "having no social life."

And you know what? I'm really quite okay with that. But it always startles me a little to realize that some people...well, they aren't. Folks have different ways of interacting (can you see it's been on my mind of late?), and for most young, single, Mormon people that involves spending weekend nights at each others' apartments or at various Singles Ward functions talking and laughing and getting to know each other and generally having fun.

Today, I went to the movies alone. I saw Nanny McPhee, which had Colin Firth (swoon!) and Emma Thompson (who I adore) and some delightful young child actors. And when I got out of the movie, I had a voicemail -- "Hey Arwyn," it was my Visiting Teaching companion's voice, "We've got a couple people coming over to watch a movie and have some ice cream -- come around seven, if you're interested."

Aside from having dinner a couple times with some old friends from high school (who are now married and/or have children), this is the first time I've been invited to something informal like this since I moved into the ward seven months ago. I was a little shocked, and not a little pleased -- I like the VT companion a good deal, and have thought that we might even become friends.

I arrived, stepped into the living room, and met VT companion's boyfriend, her roommate, and another friend. We made odd and slightly awkward conversation, then some other people showed up -- "This is Joe, and his sister Sarah. They're not dating. They're siblings," the roommate informed me. Apparently this was essential information.

"If they're siblings," I replied, "I sure hope they're not dating."

Well, at least I thought it was funny. The looks I received were odd, but...as they liked. Movie started. We watched Millions, a slightly odd, slightly sappy, very funny movie about a kid who sees saints and ends up with over two hundred thousand pounds (that English currency, not weight) of stolen money, which he is determined to give to the poor (including a trio of Mormon missionaries who, woe, have no microwave), and which his older brother is determined to invest in the housing market, or maybe stocks.

Well. Movie was cute. We laughed. We predicted. We mocked. Good show. And when the movie was over, apparently the night was just beginning -- there was more popcorn, there was ice cream, there were a number of other people who'd shown up in the middle of the show and were debating which games we should play now.

I got there at seven; it was now nine-thirty. All I could do was sit on the couch and think, "Why do I feel like if I stay here another minute, I'm going to puke?" These were nice people! They were having fun! They were people for crying out loud!

And then it hit me.

The only thing I had in common with these people is that we are all young, single, and Mormon. And as a young, single, Mormon, I'd been drawn into one of those settings where people -- often entirely unconsciously -- weigh each other and size each other up. Girls size up girls as some sort of competition; girls size up guys as potential mates. They were discussing cookie-attacking, or making dinner for the apartment of guys next door -- things that I know happen at BYU, but having never lived in that area -- having attended school where, if there was cooking for anyone, it was the guys cooking for the girls not to get them as dates or to marry, but because the guys really liked watching Emeril and wanted to practice their mad cooking skillz. Yes, we're nerds. But you know -- I'm okay with that.

I believe it wasn't conscious or intentional, but I was suddenly sitting in an environment not unlike that in high school when you're sitting in the same room as the "cool kids" but you know you're not a "cool kid" and don't really want to be a "cool kid" and you realize that you're trying you're hardest to make them like you, but...why?

So I muttered something about needing to get up early in the morning, and I left.

Actually, I ran. This may sound even more nerdy than Emeril, but I ran to my car, I sped home, I ran into my apartment, I shut the door, and I proceeded to call people who could assure me that I wasn't just being weird, but that it's okay to be a hermit and to be myself and to not want to sit around at that sort of a party.

And then my mother called, and when I told her about my evening's adventures, she only laughed. I said, "Mom, I'm so weird!" and she said, "No, I'm so proud! I didn't raise you to be programmed with the young single Mormon programming that requires you to be so focused on getting a husband that you forget to be yourself."

That's what had struck me wrong about the party -- not the event itself, and not even the people, who were very nice and kind, even if I felt like a three-headed monster sitting in the same room with normal human beings because I found their conversation completely uninteresting and their current life priorities had nothing to do with my own.

What struck me wrong was that I couldn't be myself there. Not and fit in. Not without leaving awkward pauses after jokes that they didn't quite get, or didn't think were funny. And this, because we had nothing in common, except that we were young, single, and Mormon.

And for me these days -- that's just not enough. That's not a game I'm wanting to play. So I'll sit at home with my computer, my boy on the other end of the line, my various online peeps. I'll go home and enjoy the company of my family on Sundays, or whatever other day of the week.

And the Singles Ward...I'll keep going to church itself, because I believe in the Gospel. But it won't ever, I think, be the basis of my social network. Or, really, much of a part of it. It's fine for other folks -- it does a lot of good -- but it's really just not for me.


12 Responses to “Young Single Adults...and Me”

  1. Anonymous Susan M 

    I can totally relate, although I'm not young or single. (My husband and I always thought it was weird when people in church would say things like, in order to help spread the gospel, you shouldn't be friends with just Mormons. We'd think, "There are people whose only friends are Mormons?") I'm an introvert and with the amount of time I spend working and commuting, what little free time I have is usually spent trying to get caught up on everything else/with my husband and kids. I don't have much time or inclination for socializing.

  2. Anonymous Psychic Head 

    Great post. I remember when I came to that same realization. I actually still struggle with it, for after all, it is a lifetime of programming you are up against. And I don't really believe it is a 100% bad thing; like you said, it works for some people. The Gospel is true. A friend and I were discussing how there are incestuous relationships, molestings, thievery, adultery, murder, and scrapbooking inside the Church as well as outside the membership; the point being, we are all God's children, we are all the same, except with our knowledge, we are held to a higher standard.

  3. Anonymous Mary Siever 

    Arwyn

    Very good post and it makes a lot of sense. I remember enjoying socialising as a YSA, but I have to admit I was in a YSA ward in Vancouver BC and the focus didn't seem to be so MUCH on getting married. Yes it was there, but not the same as like, southern Alberta. so I enjoyed that time.

    I laughed at your response to the siblings not dating, LOL< don't know why they all didn't. It's funny.

  4. Anonymous D-Train 

    Great post, Arwyn. The funny thing for me is that I feel the same way, even though virtually all of my close friends are now Mormons. I spend a lot of time with them, but despise groups of other Church members or activities.

  5. Anonymous Starfoxy 

    That was a nice post. I was very blessed to have a similar epiphany at a much younger age, which saved me from a lot of heartache and headaches that many in my peer group went through. And I agree, the sibling/dating thing was very funny, and can't see why someone wouldn't think it was funny. Weirdos.

  6. Anonymous Sarah 

    I thought the siblings dating joke was funny, and I think at least a few people at my YSA FHE events would laugh (though most of them would be the senior adult advisor types.) It's a struggle to get myself to go to FHE a lot of weeks -- at the end of a day of work, which usually involves a lot of talking and being around people, my idea of fun is not going and playing games or in fact, pretty much anything other than "sit at home and be quiet while other stuff goes on." I don't go to a YSA ward, and I teach in Primary, so FHE is my official YSA-related sacrifice each week (when I'm told to go to a YSA ward, I know I'll become inactive within a few months, and they've stopped recommending it.) I may never get married, but at least I'll avoid total mental and emotional breakdowns throughout the rest of my life.

    It was sometime around the day my fellow YW pinned me down and tried to force me into an eyebrow-plucking procedure that I decided it didn't matter to me whether I went to optional and semi-optional Church stuff, and it really didn't mean enough to me to give up my personhood just to make other members like me. Especially since I knew they'd always think I was weird anyway. ^_^

  7. Anonymous Aaron 

    I feel pretty much the same way. I'm a convert, and even though I grew up in a Christian home, my interests vary a little more than those of most people who go to our YSA branch. I guess I wasn't "shaped" (for lack of a better term) like most of my friends who were born into the church. Although most of my friends are out on missions now, i've had to make a niche for myself in college (at The University of Florida, where most likely, i'm the only 19 year old mormon kid walking around.) But I like it this way, and I know that it is where I am supposed to be.

    Sometimes it is a little annoying though, as a few people in my branch might percieve my difference of opinions on certain things as me having a "risk of becoming inactive". I mean, come on. We're all different. I believe the Gospel is true, but sacrificing my personality to please other people is just absurd.

    and I like cake.

  8. Anonymous Arwyn 

    It's great to know that I'm not the only one floating around who has trouble with the YSA social scene.

    Aaron, I think you hit a really interesting point -- that you weren't "shaped" the same way as your friends who were born into the Church. I wasn't, either -- though that because my mother was determined I shouldn't be, though with the same ultimate outcome. She calls it "progamming" -- that we, especially us young'uns who are raised in the Church, are programmed to feel like we must participate in these activities and have to spend our Monday nights playing board games with other single people just so we can mingle enough to get married.

    I decided four years ago that I didn't like FHE, and I haven't been back since. Perhaps this is. wrong of me, but I've scheduled a fencing class, and feel that socialization with non-young, non-Mormon people that involves swinging big pointy metal objects around is more conducive to my happiness and a more valuable way to spend my time than being bored and talking to people with whom I have nothing fun in common.

    Again, though, there are a lot of folks who enjoy FHE and such church functions. At the end of my high school years, my best friends were all LDS and we'd make a good time out of Conference weekends or a dance show or even just Wednesday nights or Sundays after church. It was good, it was uplifting, I enjoyed their company...but it's because we were friends, and not because someone out there was trying to make us be friends.

    So, for people who do have/do find friends in that setting and enjoy it -- I say, all power to you. But it's definitely not an all-encompassing solution, either -- not in my experience and, it sounds like, the experience of others commenting here.

    Which makes me wonder if there is a way to diversify it more...

  9. Anonymous Rob 

    I just stumbled upon this site.

    I totally agree. I tried in my singles ward to fit in and be social, but I was never quite comfortable. At least I will always have the back row.

  10. Anonymous D-Train 

    Rob, welcome to the back row of Mormon blogs.

  11. Anonymous D-Train 

    And again with the comment problems.

  12. Anonymous Arwyn 

    Trying to make D-Train's comments show up...

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