Single, Female, Mormon, Alone – A Review.

I came across an article recently in the New York Post entitled: “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone“.

Adjective One – “Single”: CHECK

Adjective Two – “Female”: CHECK

Adjective Three – “Mormon”: Yeah, CHECK

Adjective Four – “Alone”: well, most of the time. So, CHECK.

Yes, the link is embedded above, but I am going to quote pieces of it here, to help with my discussion.

 

Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it 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.

Yes. Yes. Yes. This I can relate to this statement. There were readers who commented that this was a hyperbole, and perhaps, insensitive to the plight of the Russian orphans. I understand the basis of comparison for literary value. But I also understand where Hardy is coming from. There is undeniably an additional connection that is granted when physical intimacy is present. Even in those first few youthful relationships I had I could recognize the impact intimacy, granted at that time it was holding hands, or kissing (to various degrees) had in the progression of not only the relationship, but in my own development. As I progressed through my 20s, I became increasingly awkward around the male species. I think there was a point where I realized that my peers/crushes/whatevers had reached a certain level of sexual maturity, or maybe a better phrase, sexual expectation. I wanted it, but wasn’t willing to act on those desires. And so, this apprehension, dreading the “sorry, I can’t have sex with – not today – not ever” conversation, led to avoidance of second dates, then of first dates, then of flirting.

Yes, one can argue that there are many who abstain until marriage and who live happy, fulfilled lives. I’m sure they do.

I needed to experience 1) A man’s hands all over me. 2) A man inside of me. 3) The joy of sleeping held in the arms of a man. I don’t anticipate turning into an individual who sleeps with every gorgeous man that crosses her path. In my current pseudo-relationship the possibility of sex is there. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not an obligation, it’s not even a priority. But it’s really nice to have that option.

 

Obviously, I was left over, too — I was just never sure what my problem was. Until one man let me know. After overhearing a friend and me comparing our weekend horror-date stories, he walked up to me and asked, “You know what your problem is?”

No, I did not know what my problem was. And I was dying to find out.

“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

I thought that was a good thing — to be able to take care of oneself.

He asked if I had a job.

“Yes.”

“A car?”

“Yes.”

“A house?”

“Yes.”

“Clothes?”

“Of course.”

“Food?”

“Obviously.”

“That’s your problem.”

“Excuse me?”

“Men in the church are raised to be providers. We are the breadwinners, the stewards of the household. If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”

“What of love?” I asked. “What of intimacy and partnership and making a run at the world together?”

“Nope,” he said. “We’re providers.”

 

Ahhh! This passage sent the deepest, darkest chills throughout my entire body. I haven’t had these words spoken to me, but I’ve felt them, I’ve seen them. For as long as I can remember I have staunchly believed that I will 1) have a successful lifelong career, 2) I will not be a stay-at-home-all-the-time-for-20-years-mom, 3) I will not be dependent on anyone, although I’m willing to build a partnership in which we both contribute to the best of our ability and 4) I will not date or be married to anyone who does not fully endorse points 1 – 3. Thus, I don’t date Mormons and drive my parents crazy.

 

How unprepared I was to experience tenderness in the place I had been warned so vehemently against. How unprepared for the flood of relief, the bud of hope, after a life devoted to keeping myself separate from my body. Here was a path, an opening; here was empathy.

Dear Mark (not his real name).

Thank you for the tenderness and mercy you have shown me as I’ve explored this thing called sexuality. I was ready. But I was scared. I was worried that you might have expectations seeing as I am 29. Thank you for telling me you had no expectations, as if you read my mind. Thank you for telling me that we could do whatever I was comfortable with. Thank you for being willing to just hold me when it was too difficult, and to guide me when nervousness took over. I have always felt comfortable with you, but your tenderness, love and respect for who I am has increased this 100-fold. Because of this, I’ve felt what it is like to have my body loved after been so boldly rejected previously. I’ve felt what it is like to be a woman, and am slowly learning to embrace the beauty that I have. Thank you for encouraging me to be true to myself. Thank you.

Faking It.

Part I.

Can we trick ourselves into believing life is ok? Into believing we are happy? Into believing we are going down the right path?

Sometime ago when I had a less-than-happy life, I read an article in the paper or magazine. It was an interview with a mother who had lost a child. She explained that while the pain was unbearable, little by little it was becoming manageable. She believed that the best way to get through something like that was to, when you had the strength to move forward from grieving, was to start to pretend that you are happy. To start doing little things that you remember made you happy. And to smile. Her hope was that one day she would realize that she was no longer pretending, and was actually experiencing happiness again.

I remember reading this and realizing that this was the approach I was going to need to take. I couldn’t change the fact that I felt deeply betrayed by someone I loved. I couldn’t change the fact that my heart felt like it was shattered into so many little pieces that it could never feel whole again. I couldn’t change the fact that I didn’t know what pieces of my ‘history’ to believe, having discovered so many lies in what I thought was a great romantic tale. But what I could change was the fact I looked miserable. So I decided to get my act together and pretend to be happy.

Now, I’m not going to advocate this as necessarily the best approach. There were weekends I had to hole myself up in my apartment, exhausted from being “happy” for so long, and just curl up on the couch, cry and watch movies. There were days when I desperately wanted to have a someone gave me a big hug and ask if I was ok. And then to have the courage to say that I wasn’t and cry and just release.

But, little by little, I think I did slowly trick myself into be happy. Yes, I had to trick myself into being happy. When you’ve been miserable for so long, you become comfortable with it. It seems normal. Scary. So putting on the smile, laughing, etc. was something I was no longer as intimate with as I should have been. And then, little by little, even though I didn’t realize it, I think the ratio of “fake happiness” and “real happiness”

I remember the moment when I first realized I was happy again. Or maybe when I realized I was coming back into myself. It was just an ordinary day at work. I was standing in the doorway to a colleague’s office, just chatting with her. She commented that she liked my dress, a black and white swirl pattern, and it reminded her of an optical illusion. Spontaneously I started do a little hula dance, trying to make the dress swirl a bit and really look like an optical illusion. She started laughing, it was so out of my then-character. For me, it was a profound moment. I realized that my tensions and anxieties from be married to someone who was not meant to be married were finally melting away. I smiled and walked to my office, full of joy. Three years later (three years? holy cow!!) I still remember that moment.

Part II.

A Quote:

“Live the questions now. Perhaps the, someday far in the future, you will gradually … live your way into the answer.” -Rilke

Yes, I have so many many many questions about “life and the universe”, as an old grad school supervisor used to put it. Sometimes all these questions seem paralyzing. How can I go about living my life when I don’t know what I want to be living?

Is the way to live then:

Choose a path based on the available data. Start down that path, gaining speed and momentum. Stop. Look around you. If everything still seems ok, and you’re still reasonably comfortable and aren’t considering jumping off the cliff continue. If things aren’t going well, reevaluate and adjust path. And then, somewhere along the way, you’ll find the answer to the question.

Maybe.

Sex.

Blog Post the First. Well a post over 100 words, that is. No topic filtering. Sex is on the brain today. Sex is what you are going to get. Well, maybe not literally. I know I’m not. Hence the post.

Let’s not be coy about the subject. I grew up in a family / religion where discussing sex just did  not happen. I distinctly remember the day when my dad decided it was time to give me “the talk”. Painful. I was in Grade 9 or 10, and well, fairly educated by that point. He made a nice blue binder with photocopies from his 1970’s medical textbooks and brochures from his medical clinic. My sister and I had to then sit beside him and read it all aloud. Every. Single. Word. I remember crying. Why would anyone want to spend their Sunday nights doing this?

In church we were faithfully taught: “sex before you are married is bad”. Don’t pet, poke, heck, even look. I remember being in my Bishop’s office when I was probably 16 and being instructed that when kissing boys I should only kiss them as if I was kissing my father. Well, I don’t remember the last time I kissed my father. My guess is that I was probably only 6 or 7. So that advice to me was translated as “don’t kiss boys”. And that just wasn’t going to happen. Ok, I know I was much older when I had my first non-drama-class kiss. 21 to be exact. But I quickly made up for lost time.

I digress.

I didn’t have sex  before I was married. I had opportunities. Some I knew I wasn’t ready for. Some I wish to this day I would have taken. And then I got married. And still didn’t have sex. I know there are many folks in MOMs, either where both parties are privy to this knowledge, or not, in which sex does exist. It didn’t for us. Not even the wedding night. As the marriage disintegrated, I again passed up opportunities to fulfill my near-crazy thirst for sex, but vowed to myself to exit in dignity, and wait until the divorce papers were signed. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I needed to do that. At one point I had decided that I was going to go out the day he left (I kept thinking/hoping that he would just one day vanish), go to the bar and just, well, let whatever happen happen. It didn’t quite happen like that.

I was conflicted for many months. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Ack! Opportunity #1 came knocking. I could tell he didn’t know what he was doing, not worth it. Opportunity #2 came knocking. Almost. So very close. Definitely appreciated what he did for me. And then at that point I decided that if it happens, it happens. The Opportunity #3 … it  happened. And now .. well I have 29 years (or maybe 14, assuming I started to sexually mature at 15) of supressed sexual desire to fulfill.

I’m not sure if I like the way that sounds. But it is true. It’s on my mind. A lot. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a teenage boy.

I don’t feel guilt for abandoning the moral/religious belief that sex outside of marriage is bad. Maybe I will one day. Ok, I do a little bit once in awhile. But mostly, I just feel hungry, and then un-hungry for the times when I’ve been fulfilled.

I’m not getting a lot sex these days. Mostly been taking care of myself. But I’ve been doing this for years. It’s not quite as enjoyable as the real thing, you know, now that I’ve experienced it.

Facebook.

I notice when I get lonely or bored I start to spend a lot of time on Facebook. I hate it. Why don’t I just go out there and meet new people, actually make some friends, instead of just looking at the lives of people who I used to be friends with. Or only sort of know.

Internet. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. All bad for the people who need friends. Real live friends. But are too shy to go out and find them.

Sleep. Or not.

I do this all the time. Stay up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too late when I’m already super tired and know I want to / need to be asleep. It’s not as if I’m doing something that will save the world and eliminate poverty and feed the hungry. I’m usually just puttering in my room, reading useless things on-line, or just being awake. Why am I afraid of sleep? I don’t believe there are monsters under my bed.