Monday, January 10, 2011

Now Swirling Around in Text

Now that I've had a good day or so to ponder this article that caused quite a stir in my head, I'm ready to put a few thoughts down.  I did email it to several people and have a couple conversations with friends, and wow - reactions all over the board.

Upon an initial read, I could personally identify with many things that this author brings up.  Do I necessarily agree with her course of action?  No.  But I applaud her for being honest and bringing up the fact that we are indeed human, with need for closeness with other human beings, and just  because we're promised amazing blessings in the eternities, sometimes that's not enough for us to hold out in singledom forever, without companionship, etc.  Getting a dog doesn't fill that gap.

As singles, we may go weeks without any sort of human touch - not even shaking hands or hugging anyone, and that, my friends, can get lonely after awhile.  Hence the weirdness I see in church meetings with girls sitting next to each other, rubbing each other's backs or playing with each other's hair.  Always strikes me as odd, but hey, that's what we're driven to.  Gentlemen, you can't get away with that.

Like the author, I never really imagined myself not getting married.  At the age of 30, I still don't feel any sort of pressure to do so quickly, however, I know that I am not capable of maintaining single life forever.  Men are that they might have joy in this life; I think there are options for those of us who don't find ourselves happily in a relationship with a fellow member of the church, standing in front of the temple steps.  Making the same choice as the author and breaking a serious law - yeah, probably not the best move.  But many of us are going to have to find other options, make choices outside the Mormon norm, and learn to be okay with it.  Regardless, the Lord loves us.  You can still pay tithing, attend your church meetings, serve in callings, go to the temple, even if you have a spouse that doesn't.  People do it every. single. day.  Would it be easier to have a spouse who's on the same page?  Absolutely!  I could only hope to be so lucky.  But at the end of the day, I have to stand on my own testimony and relationship with the Lord, not ride on the coattails of my family or friends or spouse.

As for some of the reactions I received in emails:

One female friend wept for the author's open rebellion in such a public forum.  I'm personally kinda glad the article was written.

Another female friend had never really thought about the fact that men need to be providers of some sort, and independent women don't have a place for them.  For me, the jury's still out on that, but for some Mormon men, maybe that is the case?  Though I personally don't want to my family to be dependent on seasonal sales of alarm systems and pest control so......

Sorry if that was mean.  I just need a little more structure in my life, that's all.

Male friend said:
"A lot of people don't get what they want in life and dealing with it is the challenge." I agree with this point, though I think the author tends to say that what she wants (no kids) is different from what church culture teaches us to want, and she's having a hard time finding her place.  There IS a place for single women who don't want kids (sometimes I think I am one of those women), you just have to work a little harder to find it, especially in places like Utah and Arizona where the culture of the church is sometimes more overwhelming than doctrinal principles.  

Male friend thought she was feeling sorry for herself and justifying her actions.  Yeah, I don't really see that.  I don't think she's feeling sorry for herself.  She seemed like a devout member up until this article (though none of us truly know anyone's circumstances) and socially capable.  I'm in a similar place, and I certainly don't feel sorry for myself, nor am I angry/bitter that I've never had luck dating within the church.   

Other guys were upset at the vast generalization of single men over the age of 30 as complete weirdos.  Yeah, don't agree with the author on that point, though the numbers do get smaller in this cohort, and we won't all get to start this eternal marriage thing in this earthly life.  

Female friend expressed concern at the perhaps disappointment of the author's first time (which, did the author ever say she has a boyfriend, or what?) and the guilt that may creep over her after dealing with her choice.  I am sure that she's thought all this out, though it just might be impossible to predict her feelings after her actions are carried out.  

Perhaps the best response I received about this article came from a friend in DC.  He mentioned another NY Times Article, about sustainable love and our need for a partner who makes our life more interesting and drives our self-expansion.  DC friend mentioned that all his close friends fill this type of role - introducing him to new things, etc. 

"Interestingly, I think it also can be said about God. Through developing a relationship with him, I experience a remarkable degree of self-expansion.  Studying the Gospel and finding ways to live it enlarges me as a person, and ultimately allows me to feel joy.

I have come to realize that there is a point at which I cannot feel self-expansion both with other human beings and with God. It is essentially in doing what the author of this article went to Planned Parenthood for. Moving far in that direction ultimately severs the closeness I otherwise feel with God.  There's still a relationship of sorts with him, but delicate and delightful spiritual whisperings and insights end.  Self-expansion vis-a-vis God is slowed, even halted, even as it continues with another person."

Brilliantly said, and something to think about, as I seek relationships that expand my horizons, though friends, dating, and while improving my relationship with the Lord.  There is a balance to be had, not going so far that we miss out on spiritual blessings.

I could edit and rewrite this a million more times, but when you have a goal to blog more regularly, time is of the essence!  Further feedback appreciated - these are interesting times.


chartie said...

I read the article from your previous post and have been thinking about it myself. At first, I was perplexed at her action and seeming disregard for eternal truths in order to satisfy immediate pleasures. Then I thought two things:

1. The way the article is written, it doesn't even seem that intimacy is a "pleasure," but more of a strong longing or need for her. She seems very methodical and rational about it, not flippant and reckless. That can make it all the more justifiable (and identifiable).

2. Who am I to judge her choices? I made my fair share of choices contrary to my own beliefs as a single man with the same desire for closeness that she has. If I were still in that boat now (at age 33), I honestly could not say where I would be.

I had previously read the self-expansion article that your DC friend mentioned, but had never thought about the relationship to God in conjunction with that self-expansion. Thank for sharing those thoughts and giving me more to ponder.

Anonymous said...

just had to weigh in here.
i think the feelings she expressed resonate with a lot of LDS women. she wasn't wrong to share them. her article was not a blast on our religion, just her realization that it wasn't fulfilling her needs. and while i don't agree with her course of action, i don't fault her for wanting to find meaning and happiness in this life.

as a married LDS woman, there have been those awkward adolescent moments. while non-member friends with being sexual explorers, becoming comfortable with their bodies and the act of sex, and learning about themselves we are sheltered entirely from that. (with good reason). but just because you get married, and the no no no becomes go go go doesn't mean that knowledge comes easily. my husband wants to fill those needs, but i didn't even know how to fill those needs. some paint that exploration as a wonderful adventure together (and sometimes it is) but a lot of the time, it's frustrtating.

so, for her honesty, i applaud her. however, in the context of her article, naming our religion wasn't necessary. she just needed to establish that it was religion that brought her to this point. be it southern baptist, catholicism or mormonism (all teach abstinence til marriage).

Nikki & Drew said...

though it is clearly her choice to be made, all I can say is, its not worth it to just completely throw away things you've been taught- especially on a gospel level.

Sure human contact is great and much needed. But crossing the line of morality guidance, that experience will forever stick with you. Even after later repentance and forgiving, it stays with you in future relationships.

Oh I don't know how to explain it, but to put my stuff on blast- for every 'love fix' I got, it left me lower than I started. I felt used, unloved, and with damaged self worth. So I'd go looking for another 'love fix' to build me up from the previous, only to again, be left lower than before. And no matter what anyone says, you can't stay close to the lord and be deliberately disobeying him. You can't have it both ways (matthew 6:24)

But it is hers and everyones choice to be made. And with that they have to decide which is more important, filling their physical void they are temporally feeling or that bond with god.

katilda said...

that self-expansive love article is fascinating. we talked a lot about that type of thing in my undergrad (3 cheers for a marriage/family studies degree! huzzah!) anyway, one of my favorite marriage principles is the idea that so many types of relationships can make a successful marriage … one where the couple never leaves each other’s side and have all the same hobbies, one where each spouse can live their individual lives and do their own thing, one where the couples never fight, one where the couples yell like crazy (but make up like crazy). One pretty widely accepted notion is the idea of a 5:1 ratio…that whatever the dramatic dynamics of the relationship, if there’s a consistent ratio of 5 positive things to 1 negative thing, the couple is generally happy. So even if that one fight is nasty beyond all measure, if there’s 5 good things balancing it out then the relationship is bueno. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just love this topic and tend to ramble. kbyenow

LaurenHoya said...

Everyone - thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's an important and relevant topic for me (and many others), and I'm grateful for the interesting discussions and viewpoints. Maybe we'll all learn a little something!

Chartie - it's been ages! Glad to see you :)

LaurenHoya said...

Oh, and Katie, now I have a new 5:1goal to aspire to in relationships! That's fascinating stuff!

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