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Single, Female, Mormon, Alone
January 10, 2011 6:18 PM   Subscribe


 
It's a very nice, well-written story.


But I'm still too pissed at the Mormon church for defeating Prop 8 to be able to stomach this:
Thanks to the Mormon church, they ... were rescued by a community committed to family, forgiveness and joy.

Committed to some families.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:30 PM on January 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


After reading articles like this or yesterday's on Chinese parenting I always feel a strong inclination to call up my parents and thank them for not being dogmatic nutcases.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:30 PM on January 10, 2011 [32 favorites]


After reading articles like this or yesterday's on Chinese parenting ...

Or Bill Zeller's suicide note (warning, tough read) (relevant MeTa thread)

I always feel a strong inclination to call up my parents and thank them for not being dogmatic nutcases.

Yeah, me too.
posted by smcameron at 6:38 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not Mormon, but I could easily be this girl. I have friends like this girl. Thanks for posting it, JeffL.
posted by emjaybee at 6:40 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood make it hard for me to enter into the story. Although perhaps she doesn't really feel that way — she's ironically citing how she's supposed to feel. Hard to tell, though.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Erm, I mean for passing Prop 8. Forgot which way it went.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2011



Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood make it hard for me to enter into the story.
But her best friends are lesbians!

Actually I didn't read it that way, it seemed like someone who was overcoming that stuff, what she'd been "taught" to believe vs. what the reality was.
posted by delmoi at 6:57 PM on January 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood make it hard for me to enter into the story. Although perhaps she doesn't really feel that way — she's ironically citing how she's supposed to feel. Hard to tell, though.

I thought those were pretty clearly examples of things she had been raised to believe in, but no longer does.
posted by kmz at 6:58 PM on January 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood

Where? Show me.
posted by John Cohen at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood

Like the empathy she feels after watching Brokeback and the tears that come to her eyes when she realizes that everything she was taught about Planned Parenthood was wrong?
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:08 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Actually I didn't read it that way, it seemed like someone who was overcoming that stuff, what she'd been "taught" to believe vs. what the reality was.

agreed
posted by mannequito at 7:10 PM on January 10, 2011


Given that I'm neither female nor Mormon, I was surprised by how much I recognized in this article, particularly this passage:

felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.

If you shift far enough from your faith and the community that comes with it, but not far enough to break entirely and restructure your life to more mainstream values, you find yourself living in a strange sort of no-mans-land, isolated in particular ways from both. Relationships are one of the first areas to constrict under those circumstances, and the last to reopen, because the gap between the two sets of values is widest and adherence to those values at its most critical, not just in regards to sex but the relationship between the genders, etc.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:12 PM on January 10, 2011 [23 favorites]


I honestly don't understand this article. She made choices and she lives with them. Does she want a medal now, for realizing that life and faith are complicated?

Lady, we're all stumbling toward enlightenment. But we don't all need to tell people we feel good about ourselves while we're doing it.

Ya' damned narcissist.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:14 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


I honestly don't understand this article. She made choices and she lives with them. Does she want a medal now, for realizing that life and faith are complicated?

Lady, we're all stumbling toward enlightenment. But we don't all need to tell people we feel good about ourselves while we're doing it.

Ya' damned narcissist.


She's just relating her experiences in how her worldview expanded and changed. What are you expecting out of it?
posted by girih knot at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


My Mormon friend forwarded this to me earlier... I think it sums up where she's at perfectly. She kinda fell through the cracks... and now, there she is, unmarried and in her mid-30s, and she doesn't really feel like she has a place in the religion to which she was so faithful. Say what you will about the Mormons, but they take care of their own -- they say that when you're Mormon you never need to worry about someone helping you move... and for a long time, that went well. When she hit a certain age, though, she was bounced out of the youth area of the church and into the family area, and started feeling very alone and disconnected. It's something she still hasn't really resolved.
posted by ph00dz at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: damned narcissist.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:21 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good for her, I suppose. It's good when someone can re-examine their conditioning and strike out on their own, and make their own choices.

Don't we all have compassion for those in some societies, who are different, or want different things, and yet their entire - entire - environment is against it? How difficult it must be to break through such conditioning, especially when there are zero role models around, and none to even read about. And historically, it could be whole centuries, where certain thoughts were simply not expressed openly - medieval times and atheism, f.ex.

But in the U.S., in the late 20th century? Alternative role models are all around us. We are bombarded with different perspectives - even those who grew up in extreme religious households (plus home schooling or Bob Jones University etc.). Even those extremes don't compare to the middle ages or some places in the world today.

So much as I give this woman kudos, and certainly have compassion for her plight - well, aren't all of us subject to some kind of environment, by definition? Some break through early, some late and some never. I can't say this woman's plight is particularly heart wrenching, to me.
posted by VikingSword at 7:29 PM on January 10, 2011


I'm 30, Mormon, single, and female, and found the article self-indulgent and kind of annoying. I mean, uh, if you don't believe and don't think the promises you made matter and don't want to uphold the community's standards anymore? Congratulations, it's a free country. Has been all along. Sheesh.
posted by SMPA at 7:31 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is great, thanks. This reminds me of a couple of women I knew in Boston, about ten years. They were in their late 20's, still single, still finding their way in the world like many people these days are. They were from Utah and very devout, but they knew that if they went back to Utah everyone would think that they were really old and would wonder why they were still single. I wonder what happened to them. They were both really nice.
posted by alms at 7:32 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think the article's so much trying to be "heart wrenching" or making the case that she deserves a "medal." I read it more as "Here's something important that happens a lot in society that's not talked about enough." It's an interesting first-hand look at the consequences of religious tenets that mandate chastity till marriage.

Some of the comments here in the vein of "well of course life is complicated!" and "it's a free country!" seem a little callous. She might have had the metaphysical and legal "freedom" to do whatever she wanted all along, but there can still be overwhelming social and familial pressures that make someone understandably not feel like they're "free."
posted by John Cohen at 7:37 PM on January 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yeah that comment about the teen sitting next to her in the waiting room at PP didn't really warm me up to her essay.

Yet one spring afternoon found me in its waiting room next to a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle.

Oh how droll!

The concept of aging out as a single mormon is interesting, though.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:45 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


But in the U.S., in the late 20th century? Alternative role models are all around us. We are bombarded with different perspectives - even those who grew up in extreme religious households (plus home schooling or Bob Jones University etc.). Even those extremes don't compare to the middle ages or some places in the world today.

I'm not so sure about this. To grow up in a fundamentalist religious community in America is to be saturated with a certain understanding of the larger culture. Those role models? What happens when your entire framework for understanding the world insists that they're everything decent people abhor?
posted by brennen at 7:46 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


What are you expecting out of it?

From the NY Times' Fashion and Style section, I'm expecting fashion. And style. In New York.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:48 PM on January 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


This was very well written, thanks for posting.
posted by noway at 7:51 PM on January 10, 2011


Written like a 20-year-old, which I guess makes sense.
posted by Kloryne at 8:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Don't we all have compassion for those in some societies, who are different, or want different things, and yet their entire - entire - environment is against it? How difficult it must be to break through such conditioning, especially when there are zero role models around, and none to even read about.

I dunno, I find that roughly 1 in 100 people I run into have any empathy or respect for those of us choosing to live in contented secular celibacy in the 21st century mainstream US. Whereas we can accept or at least tolerate adult virgins like Hardy as long as they feel miserable or "incomplete" about it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


One of my best friends (!!!!) lives in secular celibacy (I like this term, FelliniBlank). He is a whole, complete human. He is a brilliant writer. He would never write something as pathetic as this article. I believe it's because he does not feel incomplete. I have no sympathy for this woman and her story is boring.
posted by Kloryne at 8:07 PM on January 10, 2011


To grow up in a fundamentalist religious community in America is to be saturated with a certain understanding of the larger culture. Those role models? What happens when your entire framework for understanding the world insists that they're everything decent people abhor?

Sorry, but even growing up within the framework as you described, many are able to break free, and frankly, those are perhaps built of sterner stuff. Where I can see a qualitatively different situation is precisely as I described: environments where there are zero alternative role models, and zero exposure to a different framework - as in some countries where you are 100% enveloped in a cast system, or as in medieval times, where you never even heard of anyone who was an atheist. This is quite, quite different from a situation where you ARE exposed to different frameworks/role models even if those are 100% condemned as abhorrent. Very, very different. I have a huge amount of compassion for those unfortunates trapped in the former. But as for the latter... well, it's limited. I mean, in this case, good for her - at least she's questioning, where many don't... and yet, she's not exactly made of "the sterner stuff"... which is OK, I mean, not everybody has to be X, Y, or Z, there is room for all and compassion for all. Only it's not very compelling, this journey of someone who grew up in America in the late 20th century. Not compared to stuff someone from f.ex. a small village in Pakistan, who chooses to break with religion and her community. Golf clap.
posted by VikingSword at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess it's nice that she's decided to come out of her shell at 35, but if it takes you that long to realize that Planned Parenthood is about giving women choices over their bodies and health (especially poor ones) and not abort-o-matic central then you're not just emotionally lagging, you're also kind of dumb.
posted by bardic at 8:21 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


One of my best friends (!!!!) lives in secular celibacy (I like this term, FelliniBlank). He is a whole, complete human. He is a brilliant writer. He would never write something as pathetic as this article. I believe it's because he does not feel incomplete. I have no sympathy for this woman and her story is boring.

I waited for sex until marriage and I didn't get married until 29 years, five months and nine days of age. Not that I was counting. While I kind of get her perspective, I don't resonate at all with the idea that somehow an older virgin is still an adolescent, or incomplete. I felt as adult as any other 29 year old. Scratch that--I felt a lot more adult than most 29 year olds, sex or not. Yes, sex is nice and fun and exciting and all of that, but I think she's likely to get with the banging and find out that she's no more or less grown up than she was before. She's had a new experience, but there are lots of ways to get new experiences. If you ask me, some extended foreign travel was a lot more significant to my maturation than my wedding night was--not that my wedding night wasn't very significant in other ways.

Ironically, thinking that sex is going to help you grow up is just the kind of mistake that an insecure virgin would make. And that seems like more of her problem--insecurity, not virginity.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


The "problem" with this article is that it will emotionally trigger anyone who reads it and who is repressed. Then they will post a condescending comment as if she did it wrong by doing her way, thereby tipping their hand. (I'm referring, of course, to future comments; nobody thus far, thank goodness.)
posted by Brian B. at 8:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not a provider. I'm a taker.
posted by CarlRossi at 8:58 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


but if it takes you that long to realize that Planned Parenthood is about giving women choices over their bodies and health (especially poor ones) and not abort-o-matic central then you're not just emotionally lagging, you're also kind of dumb.

Can you really not understand that if you're not exposed to certain facts, you just aren't going to be aware of them? There really are entire segments of the population who have been taught for their entire lives that Planned Parenthood kills babies. If you're taught to respect the word of your elders, then how would you know the difference? Good for her that she learned the truth eventually. There's no need to call her dumb. Naive, maybe, but dumb is harsh.
posted by cabingirl at 9:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


But in the U.S., in the late 20th century? Alternative role models are all around us.

I'm 30, Mormon, single, and female, and found the article self-indulgent and kind of annoying. I mean, uh, if you don't believe and don't think the promises you made matter and don't want to uphold the community's standards anymore? Congratulations, it's a free country. Has been all along. Sheesh.

When it comes down to it, both of these things are true. Her experience takes place in the context of a free society, and as much discussion as I've read & heard how controlling and authoritarian and hierarchical the Mormon church can be, my observation has been that you can more or less do and believe whatever you damn well please without a lot of hassle, particularly if you can manage to be diplomatic about it.

The trouble, though, is that this glosses over the depth of impact spiritual/religious experience and socialization can have on a person: particularly if it's early and or positive. Clearly not everyone has those experiences, but many Mormons do, and find that whatever questions they may (or, in some cases, may not) have about the history, doctrine, culture, and community, they feel something deep and significant through their association with it. And it essentially works for them as a community, as a cosmology, as a set of practices, and as a personal narrative for their life.

So what happens to a person who may have a real measure of that kind of experience to start with... and then enters a place where there is an apparently an unresolvable tension between personal desires -- in this case, needs which in some ways the community and doctrine actually not only acknowledge but emphasize -- and what's actually available?

Now, Chaim Potok this particular piece may not be, but I recognize the themes, and I'm familiar with this kind of Brooklyn Crucifixion. If you've never been on the edge of having to negotiate anything like it, then maybe this piece isn't as compelling, but it's not trivial... there is no just waking up and deciding deciding the community standards just don't suit you and you're going to pick a new lifestyle today, just like there is no simple adaptation when you're deeply hungry for something that's out of reach. And the kind of tension we're talking about here isn't necessarily unique to religious-personal tension. There are other parallels. Divorce comes to mind.
posted by weston at 9:06 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought it was interesting, but I have a soft spot for these sorts of narratives.

The issue of maturity being related to sex stood out for me because I've been thinking about my sister lately and trying to figure out why she's in her late 40s, two years older than me, yet seems so immature. I do think that part of the reason is that she's a virgin. It's not that sex by itself helps you mature, it's the adult relationships that involve sex that make you more mature. You simply learn so much, grow so much, by having romantic relationships and by having sex. You come to know so much more about other people and about yourself.

I'm not explaining this well (and it's not clear in my head), but here's an example. My sister gets crushes on men she works with. Her latest crush recently broke up with his girlfriend, and the girlfriend has a new guy; my sister mentioned in passing the other day that she had driven by the new guy's house just to see what it looked like. It struck me as such a junior high school thing to do; it's the sort of playing at adult relationships thing that junior high school girls do because that's as close as they get to a real relationship. Adults with some relationship experience (that aren't creepy stalkers) know that this is ridiculous behavior and gets you exactly nowhere.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of that Jewish "shomer negiah" (or uh, however you spell it) girl that had a similar blog for awhile back. I have sympathy for the chick, and I'm glad to hear that she's (albeit slowly) growing up, learning to accept non-Mormon lifestyles, gay people, and PP when she specifically was raised NOT to be accepting (yay rebelling against your programming!), and especially that she doesn't have to have twelve Mormon children if she doesn't want to. I also feel sympathetic because it's hard enough to be over 30 and single without being a Mormon virgin too on top of it.

I had a childhood friend who was Mormon that got married around 30. I'm still curious as to how the heck she found a single Mormon guy to marry her that was decent, but secretly I'm proud of her for waiting till she found the right one, however that worked for her. Other than her, this is the second Mormon I've ever heard of who wasn't married off before 25.

To be honest, while having sex doesn't drastically change your personality (as Pater pointed out), I do kind of agree with her that it is a kind of arrested adolescence to not be having relationships or sex or any kind of involvement like that when everyone else you know is in the swing of being married and having children. I have had some over-30 religious virgin friends over the years, and.... uh, yeah, I have certainly noticed that at times. You aren't "really" considered an adult until you're married with children, and society has a huge problem with your not conforming even if you're not religious. You don't fit in to very many places, your life doesn't develop in certain ways. And the older and more virginal you are, the more it scares guys off so that how the hell are you ever going to lose it.... I guess I look at women like this and think, "I'm surprised it's not me. It should have been me."

I wish her luck in finding a guy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yet one spring afternoon found me in its waiting room next to a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle.
Oh how droll!,
Yeah... it's pretty condescending for someone in her position - she has no idea what the girls' sex life will be like, or even why she's there.
posted by delmoi at 9:49 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Can you really not understand that if you're not exposed to certain facts, you just aren't going to be aware of them?"

Obviously. But at the (relatively young) age of 35 she should have forged her own path at least a decade ago.
posted by bardic at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2011


Honestly, the bigotry she demonstrates towards gay people and Planned Parenthood make it hard for me to enter into the story. Although perhaps she doesn't really feel that way — she's ironically citing how she's supposed to feel. Hard to tell, though.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 PM on January 10 [+] [!]


I'm a lesbian. One of my best friends is a Mormon. They can be human and normal too.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Any religion that would deny you the choice of who you would love freely if they are able and willing to love you back freely should have no hold anywhere. These 'faiths' are toxic, immoral, atavistic throwbacks to uglier times, and if they ceased to exist tomorrow, I would celebrate.
posted by lalochezia at 10:13 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't know what her sexual plans are, but I really hope she makes her partners wear condoms. I'm all nervous about it for her.
posted by anniecat at 10:57 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like a lot of people are saying, "I have no sympathy: she should've broken away years ago and there's no excuse in such an open society for not doing so."

It seems like these people default to regarding a completely shut-off society more difficult to live in than an open society...which, I guess I can see how that might seem more likely to people...but don't people ever consider that in a closed society, certain possibilities are effectively shut off from you? So, you don't have even to worry about them. If God is a social fact in your life, and you don't have materials out there that cast doubt on him, or on the foibles of the church, or whatever, then you simply aren't likely to worry about what it means to be "atheist" in a "repressive middle age/theocratic/autocratic society."

If you have 0 exposure to a different framework, you have no wherewithal to rebel, so you don't have the tension *of* rebellion.

For as open of a society that we think we have, the reality is that it's not so simple...and the complexity is what changes EVERYTHING. Now, you have the internet, where you can stumble upon unfavorable history, unfavorable doctrine, unfavorable past or present teachings -- the possibility for doubt becomes far more likely.

And yet, it doesn't guarantee that exiting will be a no-brainer or that it will ever be "easy." After all, despite the comparative cornucopia of information and freedom one has now, one still is raised in a worldview that processes some information as more trustworthy than others. If you are raised to know that you are a "peculiar people" (as Single, Female, Mormon, Alone was if she grew up hearing the same things at church I did), "in the world but not of the world," then you have to grapple with teaching that suggests instead that the so-called "openness" or "freedom" of the outside world represents depravity, sin, or unenlightenment. In this way, I don't think it's true that "she has role models so she should've realized she wasn't alone." The alleged role models she might have looked up would most likely have been seen as sinful and unreliable -- before she could benefit from ANYTHING like a role model, she would have to take a leap of faith *first* in the unknown.

And moreso, that IF you pursue that path, (rather than staying in the church, following commandments), then as an apostate you will continually kick against the pricks, realizing the scriptural truth that Wickedness Never Was Happiness. Or at least, that's what you internalize from years of church.

Even being unsatisfied in the religious community isn't enough to make a decision to leave (or a decision to "become educated" or whatever) all that easy. Because you have to grapple with the socially ingrained concept that your lack of satisfaction is due to your character flaw, and not anything with the religious lifestyle.

More problematically, if you are taught things ought to be black and white, the actual grayness of reality won't help. It's not like Everyone Is Happy In The Church and No One Is Happy Outside...but just the same, it's not that leaving will magically evaporate all of your problems. You still have a lot of baggage with you (as Single, Female, Mormon, Alone points out) that you have to PROCESS through (which I think she describes a lot of the process in this article.) And so, if you show any weakness, you can count on people on the inside (the people whom you left) to always remind you of the wounds from exiting.
posted by subversiveasset at 11:31 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


As someone who grew up Mormon and stayed in the church until I was in my late 20's, I deeply sympathized with Hardy's account. I have known, and still know, women who could write a similar story.

What surprises me is the lack of anger in her piece. When I tore myself away from the church (and it was extraordinarily painful) I was mad as hell. I felt like I'd been unknowingly wearing a big red clown nose that everyone else could see but was invisible to me. I felt duped. I don't get any sense that she feels anger, and all I can say is - she's a better woman than I am.
posted by Euphorbia at 11:58 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know what's sadder, the fact that we let people indoctrinate their children with all manner of hateful nonsense, or that the indoctrination sticks well into adulthood, when any non-cloistered human being should have enough evidence and reason to cast it aside.
posted by unigolyn at 12:39 AM on January 11, 2011


We are all indoctrinated with nonsense. I was taught that male/female marriage is "legalized slavery". I'm sure it is what my mother believed at the time and that for her to tell me any different would have been lying about her beliefs. I have infinite patience for people raised in nutty ways since I am aware that I will probably never get married because that I will never be able shake the impression that I am entering into some sort of state sponsored ownership of a woman.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:57 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

-- Philip Larkin
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:00 AM on January 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Dumb was the perfect word. Roadhouse and Brokeback Mountain? I'm sure there have been a couple of movies in between the two which could fill even an alien in on free will and how to express it.
I kept waiting for a revelation, and all she has is birth control from the evil PP, and something about her role in society revealed to her by a man who still didn't lay her.
Honey, God wants you to question stuff, that's why he doesn't exist.
posted by hypersloth at 1:32 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what her sexual plans are, but I really hope she makes her partners wear condoms.

Yeah, I also found that really odd. Why, as a virgin, would you choose an IUD as protection? Does she think that her choosing to not approach sex casually means that anyone she eventually sleeps with will do so as well? I feel like she's been given questionable advice somewhere along the line.
posted by elizardbits at 4:56 AM on January 11, 2011


We are all indoctrinated with nonsense.

I guess I'm lucky and the extent of the nonsense I was indoctrinated with was "take a multivitamin every day, it's good for you". My parents did not push religion, politics, or any sort of bigotry on me. As an adult, I've found that they do indeed have religious and political ideas, most of which I disagree with, and that they have some misguided and mildly xenophobic thoughts. My mother's mother is a rabid racist, and my father's mother is a bible thumper, so considering, they both turned out pretty well.

And they did their jobs and let me make my own mind about pretty much anything, except the whole "be honest and don't hurt other people" thing. I dearly wish everyone would raise their children with sufficient humility to realize that their ideas might not be true, or at least might not be true in the world that will exist in 20 years when the child becomes an adult.
posted by unigolyn at 6:04 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What surprises me is the lack of anger in her piece. When I tore myself away from the church (and it was extraordinarily painful) I was mad as hell. I felt like I'd been unknowingly wearing a big red clown nose that everyone else could see but was invisible to me. I felt duped. I don't get any sense that she feels anger, and all I can say is - she's a better woman than I am.

Oh, I don't think she's "better" than you. She probably wouldn't have gotten her essay published in the New York Times if she had expressed the sort of anger you're talking about.
posted by John Cohen at 6:48 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This in the article:

So why wasn’t I dating Mormon men? In a nutshell, the pool is small, and people marry young, for obvious reasons. The leftovers were left over: closeted gay men, porn-addicted virgins, along with the merely awkward, uncompromising and unlucky.

Doesn't really make sense. After all, the author is still unmarried. I guess she thinks she's just one of the unlucky? If so, what's bad about that?
posted by Jahaza at 6:59 AM on January 11, 2011


I am really not getting the whole "What does she want, a medal?" attitude. She doesn't ask for a medal; she's just telling her story. I assume the Times published it in Modern Love because the Mormon culture is pretty alien (therefore interesting) to many of their readers, and because it's interesting to ponder about the effects of being a virgin into your 30s and how that affects your ability to have relationships in general.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza wrote "Doesn't really make sense. After all, the author is still unmarried. I guess she thinks she's just one of the unlucky?"

She isn't unlucky. She just doesn't want children. I'm not Mormon, nor am I especially well-versed in the core teachings of the church, but I am pretty sure that constitutes a major deal-breaker for most believers. It is my understanding that the Mormon church is pretty strongly in favor of pushing out as many kids as you can before your girly-parts dry up. If you're a guy who wants to be Mormon and married, with all that it implies within the teachings of the church, you just aren't going to be that interested in the woman who wants to be Mormon and married but childless. As the woman gets older, the pool of available Mormon men dries up pretty quickly. That early disadvantage (no kids = less men interested) shut her out of the game before she really had a chance.

I feel bad for her and for everyone who has their life plans thrown awry because they are trying to fit within the confines of their culture, when that culture clearly is at odds with who and what they really want to be. I hope she can continue to grow into her future self without developing resentment and anger, and I hope she can find a way to become a helpful, supportive resource for anyone else struggling with similar personal issues.

Personally I don't like the Mormon church. They teach their adherents a lot of useful, worthwhile things about self-reliance, community, and so on. But they also push a lot of beliefs I find narrow-minded, hateful, and bigoted. Worse in my mind, they have shown that they are more than willing to use their member's money to try to push these beliefs on non-Mormons through legislative efforts. If there were a way to excise the hateful bits and keep the good, I'd have no problem with them. This woman seems to be finding a way to merge the values she was raised with into the world she was lied to about and I think that no matter how her internal struggle might seem to an outsider like me it must be damn courageous of her to even try.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"…a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle."

That right there, in the opening paragraph, ejected me right out of the story. I'm not going to finish reading an article that makes this assumption out of any young woman who happens to show up in a Planned Parenthood lobby.
posted by LMGM at 7:48 AM on January 11, 2011


Also keep in mind (again, I repeat that my understanding may not reflect the actual reality) - the community support of the Mormon church is reserved for Mormons in good standing. If a person leaves the church, which it appears this woman is doing, she leaves behind that support. This isn't as simple as "Well I guess I am not going to church any more and wow now I can use birth control and drink a Coke". It's more like "Yes now I can do these things, but I also have to give up pretty much every friend I used to have in the church and expect the cold shoulder from most of my family."
posted by caution live frogs at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it's indicative of anything, every Planned Parenthood ad I've seen here in Utah has focused on Motherhood. A young woman in cap and gown (could be high school, could be college) hugging someone who looks like an older family member. The tag line is almost always, "Someday, I'm going to be a great mother, but for now, I'm using birth control." Or something like that.
posted by BlooPen at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2011


Caution Live Frogs, I missed that she didn't/doesn't apparently want children at all.

Yeah, for Mormons, as I understand it, having kids is a huge purpose of getting married and to get married saying "I don't want kids" (different than "can't have") is largely to miss the point of getting married.

Basically, to say "I want to get married and I don't want to have kids," seems in some ways to be saying "I don't want to be a Mormon" or at least "I don't want to be a Mormon all the way," which makes it hard to find a Mormon to marry you, I'd figure. With that in mind, the article reflects a much deeper level of inner conflict than I realized on first reading.
posted by Jahaza at 9:47 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a reason the New York Times is going broke and this is Exhibit A as to why that is. Often their stuff is brilliant and engaging but then a piece of crap like this reminds me how bad the paper can get.

This reads like a list of all the things Good Urban Liberals are Supposed To Admire-
single woman in her thirties- check
doesn't want kids- check
raised (but outgrew) in a repressive religious household- check
lesbian friends- check
Planned Parenthood represents all that is good and decent- check.
and so on.

By the end half expected the light of the golden dawn to shine its rays on the Altar of Free Choice. I was laughing at her, not sympathizing. Enjoy your single life with your cats.

Oh and find an editor who knows something about cars. I don't think a girl has lost her virginity in a Chevelle in 25+ years. They are collectible cars and no longer teenage makeout-mobiles. An SUV would have been a much better choice.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am really not getting the whole "What does she want, a medal?" attitude. She doesn't ask for a medal; she's just telling her story.

I can understand why she comes off that way to some people. But, although IANAMormon, I grew up in Utah and I know a few people (of both sexes) in very similar situations to this author. I think this piece would be really helpful to some of them.

I have one male Mormon friend in particular who was slow to start dating and had his first serious relationship, which turned into an engagement, in his early 20s. If that one had worked out, he would have fit in with his tribe just fine.

But they broke it off, and by that time, at 25ish, he was already in a very small pool of unmarried people his age, and it was getting smaller by the month. As this author points out, the dating pool for "aging" Mormons not only is small but also selects for people who fall outside the norms of their cultural for many different reasons, and the prospects get grimmer with every year of age. These people really are pariahs, in a significant sense.

I'm ecstatic that my friend is now in what seems to be a great relationship, but that's after 10 years of anguish and exclusion.
posted by gurple at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2011


Why, as a virgin, would you choose an IUD as protection?

Because she plans on using condoms but wants extra protection?

One of my best friends (!!!!) lives in secular celibacy

Does "secular celibacy" include masturbation? It must, right?

It's not that sex by itself helps you mature, it's the adult relationships that involve sex that make you more mature. You simply learn so much, grow so much, by having romantic relationships and by having sex. You come to know so much more about other people and about yourself.

Yep, that and more. Sex opens a whole new world of exposure to the intimate details of another person, not to mention your own sexual creativity and personal expression. There are certainly people with low or damaged libido (and certainly those with physical reasons why they cannot have "conventional sex") but I think most everyone has a sex drive and needs to feed it some way.

It's like never playing on a sport team, never learning a music instrument, etc etc, except to a much, much larger degree. There are outliers, but interpersonal sex is near universal to the human experience.

So, no, having a quickie with a prostitute won't change your life much at all, but a brief torrid affair with the delivery woman? Or a one-night stand with a mohawked punker you met at a show? Yeah, those will certainly change your life (for good or bad).

For those 40ish-year-old virgins out there, I don't have a lot of great advice, and with some twists of fate, I could be you. Honestly, if you are willing and not having luck IRL, I'd go cybering. However, I realize my libido is not universal. I think the snuggler virgins have it the worst...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2011


There is a reason the New York Times is going broke and this is Exhibit A as to why that is.

This has nothing to do with why they're going broke. The Huffington Post and a thousand sites like it are filled with this sort of story, and none of them are going out of business.

If anything, the MeFi reaction to this piece (which I just kinda shrug at, given I've read this stuff for years at HuffPo and a thousand sites like it) reminds me of what someone said after the Virginia Tech shootings:

Virginia Tech proved that every one of your biases is true.
posted by dw at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2011


Wow I am shocked by some of the antagonism and lack of empathy on display here.

I was laughing at her, not sympathizing. Enjoy your single life with your cats.

So you're not so different from her repressive church then. You too scoff at singleness and assume there is something wrong with a single woman, i.e. probably a "cat lady".
posted by Danila at 11:10 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this; while IANAMormon I can identify with a lot of the conflicting desires she went through in her life.

When I was growing up, one of my Sunday school teachers was a single woman in her 30's who was very active in the church. Over the years she would increasingly slip in statements into her lessons about relationships about how she really wanted a boyfriend/husband. Over time her sentiments seemed increasingly desperate...and increasingly bitter...and each time she mentioned the absence of a man in her life inside my own head she was saying to God: "Just let me get LAID already!!"

I vowed that I would never, ever, end up like her. I told myself I would rather break from my upbringing than become a bitter, lonely woman who let the church dictate her personal desire for human intimacy.

I admire the writer of this article because she came to a similar conclusion and it sort of justifies my own decision in a way. People who have not been brought up in the church may make the mistake of thinking it's an easy thing to break with your family, friends, and community in order to make sense of your life: It is not an easy thing.
posted by wundermint at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a nutshell, the pool is small, and people marry young, for obvious reasons. The leftovers were left over: closeted gay men, porn-addicted virgins, along with the merely awkward, uncompromising and unlucky.

People are widowed and divorced all the time. She's also probably picked the best decade ever to be single and in her 30s, thanks to online dating, and the increasing prevalence of childless monogamous relationships that don't end in marriage. If I have one bone to pick with her story, it's that she seems to think she's far more alone, and more of a victim than she actually is.

For better or for worse, being a Mormon narrows your worldview considerably; your entire social network revolves around the church. I'm actually genuinely interested to know how this woman came to develop a close relationship with a lesbian couple, not necessarily because they were lesbians, but because they clearly came from outside of her church.

I actually sort of understand her comment about the Mormon "community committed to family, forgiveness and joy." For one thing, my understanding was that joining the church gave its members something of a clean slate (hence the forgiveness). Otherwise, there would probably be no people alive who would be eligible candidates for conversion.

Similarly, Mormons are indeed incredibly community-based, which I suppose has given rise to any number of their various quirks and idiosyncrasies that aren't directly connected to their religion itself. Generally speaking, they're very nice communities -- almost outright idyllic. However, if you do something to draw the ire of that community, you've just lost your family, your friends, and in a few cases, your job. There are a whole lot of incredibly bad things about the Mormon community, but still a handful of very positive aspects.

In the context of "Mormons writing about themselves on the internet," which is incredibly, incredibly common, this editorial is pretty tolerable. This recent thread comes to mind as being a particularly *bad* example of this sort of thing. Got to hand to to that author too for having what seems to have been a relatively clean and peaceful break from the church. That's not at all common, and she has the right to be a lot angrier than she comes across as being in the article.

It is my understanding that the Mormon church is pretty strongly in favor of pushing out as many kids as you can before your girly-parts dry up.

Actually, it's a core foundation of their belief system. They believe in a commandment from God to populate the earth as quickly and as extensively as possible.
posted by schmod at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2011


Yet one spring afternoon found me in its waiting room next to a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle.

Yeah... it's pretty condescending for someone in her position - she has no idea what the girls' sex life will be like, or even why she's there.


I zeroed in on the Chevelle line because it seemed so completely out of date. After reading the rest of the piece, I took the line's inclusion as self-deprecating. It's only as droll as a well-worn Roadhouse-era observation could be (which is like .006 percent droll) and it does help her introduce herself as Sheltered Woman in Waiting Room. Maybe a little too easy, but it is the NYT.
posted by theefixedstars at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2011


Yet one spring afternoon found me in its waiting room next to a teenage girl, who was clearly perplexed by the intake form and likely bound for an uncomfortable, humiliating four minutes in the back of a borrowed Chevy Chevelle.

Yeah... it's pretty condescending for someone in her position - she has no idea what the girls' sex life will be like, or even why she's there.

I zeroed in on the Chevelle line because it seemed so completely out of date. After reading the rest of the piece, I took the line's inclusion as self-deprecating.


Me too. The line is ambiguous as to whether she's literally making this judgment as she writes the Times piece or whether she's trying to capture how she felt in that unfamiliar situation at the time. It's probably more of the latter, though she did open herself up to charges that it's the former.

Can we appreciate nuance, ambiguity, and an imperfect narrator/protagonist? Or is the opportunity to moralize just too tempting to pass up?
posted by John Cohen at 12:09 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we appreciate nuance, ambiguity, and an imperfect narrator/protagonist? Or is the opportunity to moralize just too tempting to pass up?


Yes to both? I only answer yes to the latter question because as much as I liked her story, I felt that its purpose was to sell a future book, and while that is not a bad purpose -- it's in some ways a very noble one -- I still felt like a bit of a mark. I wonder if that defensiveness crept into other people's reactions.
posted by theefixedstars at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2011


I think this woman might have an interesting story to tell. She certainly hints at it in parts, but the overall impression (to me, at least) is one of banality.
posted by malocchio at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2011


Can we appreciate nuance, ambiguity, and an imperfect narrator/protagonist? Or is the opportunity to moralize just too tempting to pass up?

The last couple of years it seems like the latter is de rigeur for any FPP. And it's annoying as hell.

One can disagree with an imperfect narrator without being a moralizing douche. Leave the moralizing to the experts -- the Southern Baptist Convention.
posted by dw at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems like there's a lot of people here explaining what the church is without really knowing. It's important to separate the behavior and beliefs of some mormons from the actual doctrine. Are there bigots, racists, sexists, and homophobes in the church? I'm sorry to say that of course there are. But not everyone is. You may not realize that:
* The church has no problem with birth-control. Abortion is a bit trickier, but is not out of the question in cases or rape or incest.
* The church acknowledges that sex isn't solely about children. Sure, that's a big part, but it's also about the relationship between a couple. Intimacy and fun are a necessary part of marriage, and when, how many, or even if a couple has children is up to the individuals to decide.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reads like a list of all the things Good Urban Liberals are Supposed To Admire-
single woman in her thirties- check
doesn't want kids- check
raised (but outgrew) in a repressive religious household- check
lesbian friends- check
Planned Parenthood represents all that is good and decent- check.
and so on.


Yeah, those women getting out of oppressive situations and making choices that make them happy, fuck that shit, amirite? That shit is so over.
posted by emjaybee at 9:57 PM on January 12, 2011


* The church has no problem with birth-control. Abortion is a bit trickier, but is not out of the question in cases or rape or incest.
* The church acknowledges that sex isn't solely about children. Sure, that's a big part, but it's also about the relationship between a couple. Intimacy and fun are a necessary part of marriage, and when, how many, or even if a couple has children is up to the individuals to decide.


You forgot the important caveat that it has no problem with birth control and sex for pleasure between a married man and woman.

I didn't see anyone in here claim that the LDS advocates a dark room and no more skin contact than is necessary through the flap in the magic underpants.

The issue is that people are brainwashed into abstinence before marriage, which leads to some people ending up like the author.
posted by unigolyn at 2:54 AM on January 13, 2011


There is a reason the New York Times is going broke and this is Exhibit A as to why that is.

You mean that they're a newspaper company rather than a test prep/for-profit education/cableTV company with a newspaper wing or a media conglomerate with a loss-leader NY Metro area print mouthpiece?

Enjoy your single life with your cats.

You must be a really charming person, especially around your coworkers.
posted by deanc at 10:00 AM on January 14, 2011


Abortion is a bit trickier, but is not out of the question in cases or rape or incest.


I dearly wish that "the health of the mother" had been included in this list of acceptable reasons to have an abortion.
posted by Euphorbia at 12:23 AM on January 18, 2011


I dearly wish that "the health of the mother" had been included in this list of acceptable reasons to have an abortion.

Although the commenter above omitted it from the list, the Mormon church's official position on abortion does include the health of the mother on the list of acceptable grounds for its members to have an elective abortion. The church's position focuses on individual choice and emphasizes the importance of a woman choosing to have an abortion only where she has determined through personal analysis and prayer that it is the right decision for her in that instance.
posted by The World Famous at 1:01 PM on January 23, 2011


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