In less than two months I will be 31. This means I am one year closer to throwing myself a "now I can run for president!" birthday party. Of course, I am psyched. However, it also means that I will no longer be classified as a young single adult by the LDS Church. This leaves me with three options: keep going to my ward, go to a persistently single singles ward or go to a family ward.
One is out. I'm just too crotchety. That leaves me with a fun new activity for the next few weeks -- trying on wards until I find one that fits.
This, for anyone who's never done this, is more painful than clothes shopping, which is already a really unpleasant task that I put off until I realize I hate everything in my closet but I have to put on something or I will be considered a streaker. And with ward shopping, I have only two options and it's very possible that neither of them will fit like a glove and I may end up at the one that I look at and feel less out of place.
So, let the shopping commence! On Sunday I went to a "mid-singles ward" — 31- to 45-year-olds, or possibly higher. I went with a friend, which made the whole experience far better. I will definitely have a couple of friends in that ward, so point in its favor. Also, the chapel is about a mile from my house. Two points. And sacrament meeting was at a spiritual depth and maturity that I haven't experienced in years. Eight points.
But the ward is huge — like, hundreds of people, need ushers to seat people, put latecomers on the stand because there are no other seats, have six different Sunday School classes and two packed-full Relief Societies huge. And for someone who really needs to be needed, knowing I will not be is somewhat disconcerting.
I could handle that, though. The bigger problem presented itself in the sacrament meeting program. I have quoted for you exactly what the ward member who puts the the program together wrote. (Well, almost exactly. I removed the extra spaces. You really only need one after a period. Really really.)
"I know I harp on this a lot, but in a mid-singles ward, one of the main purposes is to meet, date and MARRY. I know it's all taboo for people to talk openly about this in a singles ward but isn't that a little contradictory since isn't that really why we are here? I mean, honestly, who doesn't want to meet someone great? For most of us in the ward, we all filled out the little application, and if I remember correctly, we agreed to date and participate in activities. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Did you know that there is a waiting list to be in this ward? If you aren't willing to put yourself out there, to try something different or meet someone new, then maybe it's time you rethink the reasons you are in this ward. If it is to hide from family ward responsibility or because you want to be with people your own age, there are social groups for that. These mid-singles wards are to lead us to marriage. So let's get to it!"
Wow. Respect. Or ... something like that.
So I pretty much spent most of the meeting being program-shamed. I hate participating in activities! If I were Superman, socializing in large groups would be my Kryptonite. And yet if I join this ward, I am selfishly keeping somebody else out of this ward, somebody who probably likes people and thinks ward parties are fun and isn't mortally offended by inappropriate caps lock usage. If I am not social and do not go on dates, I am not keeping up my end of the bargain and am pretty much a failure. But good heavens, that is so much pressure. Church suddenly became really, super, critically important, and not just for the repentance/soul-saving/learning about Jesus Christ aspect that I'd been going for for the last three decades. This ward exists to get people married. After years of people saying that singles wards are not about getting people married, someone finally came out and said that it is, in fact, why singles wards exist. That is what we're all embarrassed to talk out -- not that we secretly want to get married but that we're going to church as a method of getting married.
But, sarcasm and debased humor aside, that paragraph really did make me question if I should be in this ward. I don't like huge social gatherings; they're exhausting and I can't think of a single close friend that I acquired at one. And I'm tired of putting myself out there. I know I seem really lazy in this department, but it goes in spurts. I really, really have tried. I spent almost a year doing online dating, which is straight out of Dante's Inferno. I asked out a different guy every week for three months. I am a terrible flirt, but I am pretty good at straight up telling guys when I'm interested in them, and I usually do not use the newspaper to do it. And the results were exactly the same as when I didn't do anything in the dating department, so logically, I went with the option that required less work. I'm really only a hard worker when I know a result is coming. Training for a marathon? Worth the result, even the pain. Studying? Worth the result. Working 12-hour days, nights and weekends for a good story? Worth the result. Saving money I want to spend now for a trip later? Worth the result. Agonizing about dating ... and still not dating? Not worth it. It's logic, people.
And all of this led me to probably the most important question: do I want to get married? It's so hard. And I'm not even talking about marriage, I'm talking about actually getting married. It means picking through the web of damaged people and finding someone whose damage melds with my damage. That is harder than it looks. Really, those are the questions eHarmony should be asking: not "what do you like to do with your spare time?" but, "in what ways are you broken? How many of those are temporary and how many are beyond repair?" And then, assuming that there is a compatibly damaged man somewhere in my vicinity and who likes sports and Star Trek and dogs, we have to learn to trust each other. We have to not run away as soon as it gets hard. (OK, I have to not run away as soon as it gets hard.) We have to share. We have to agree on movies. We have to take each other's feelings into account. We have to learn how to communicate without sarcasm And keep in mind, this is before marriage. Afterward there's even more sharing. Marriage means a man in my kitchen. My. Kitchen. Most likely doing things in a way that I do not do things.
See? This stuff sounds hard. Almost as hard as finding someone to go on vacation with me, worrying about who's going to pick me up after a surgical procedure and wondering how long it will take people to find my body after I die.
Yeah, I should probably put myself out there, try something different, meet someone new and work a wee bit harder at meeting, dating and getting MARRIED.
Or I could just ask a guy out in my weekly newspaper column, wrap it up all pretty and have a friend drop it off at his house. Thoughts?