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.
“That’s your problem.”
“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.