I have a complicated relationship with dating. I’ve written about it before.
For so long I was convinced dating was all I needed to live a fulfilled life. Even in my utterly dateless high school years, I just knew that the first time I spent time with an intelligent man who treated me right, I would see the light, fall in love, become instantaneously happy, and OBVIOUSLY get married as soon as possible, probably before graduating college. Easy!
After all, this is the essential narrative that we, as young women, hear time and time again from our parents, our church leaders, even our young married friends. It’s the message taught in Disney movies, young adult novels, and family sitcoms. While the decision to marry is obviously not quite so simple for many or even most couples, the relationship itself isn’t something described to single people as challenging or difficult. The challenging part is supposed to come after the honeymoon phase, when finances, babies, and big life decisions come into play – all things I didn’t even have to begin worrying about.
I went to college assuming dating and falling in love would be just that; easy. Never mind that I hardly talked to boys as a teenager, let alone became friends with them. Never mind that I’m a highly emotional, yet emotionally guarded person which means if you don’t know me well you probably don’t know me at all. Never mind that I’m not traditionally beautiful, inside or out (ha). College, it seemed, would be different. I was entering a world where I’d be surrounded by men my own age who had the same standards as me, who reportedly had the same goals of marriage and family that I did. I assumed, of course, that dating would be fabulous. I didn’t foresee any problems.
But boy, are there problems.
First of all, and this is a fun one: Just because you might like a boy, there is absolutely no guarantee that he likes you back. In fact, if you’re anything like me, the odds are probably not in your favor AT ALL. There are a lot of reasons for this. He might not like your personality. He might think your sense of humor is weird. He might be turned off by your enthusiasm for politics or history or feminism. He might think your utter lack of submission is intimidating. He might be really shallow and only care about appearance, which is a REALLY HUGE PROBLEM IN MORMON WORLD. I don’t know. It doesn’t actually matter, because if he doesn’t like you from the outset, you’re not getting anywhere with him. Sorry. It’s just how it works the huge majority of the time. It sucks, doesn’t it?
Don’t be fooled, though; I could spend all day calling men out on being superficial, chub-fearing narcissists, but we can’t blame men for all of our problems, no matter how fed up we are. There are, in fact, really good men out there. I would know. I’ve been on dates with some of them.
The uncomfortable truth is that we ladies are allowed to be picky, too. Many women, like the aforementioned men, are stupidly shallow and won’t date a guy if he isn’t at least six foot or sporting a full head of hair or ultra-svelte, but that’s not me. Some women are concerned that a man’s area of study won’t be able to get him a job that can provide for a family, but anyone who knows my music-major parents will also know that’s not me. What it comes down to is that humans, despite their best efforts, don’t always click with one another.
A couple months ago, I went out with a man I’ll call Jason. I’ve already sacrificed a lot of my dignity on this blog so I might as well be honest and say that we met online (blech), but he didn’t seem creepy so I went with it. Jason did everything – and I mean everything – right. He took me out to fun, almost-too-expensive-for-comfort locations on our dates. He walked up to my apartment and knocked when he picked me up. He opened all the doors, payed all the checks, and was a complete gentlemen. I found him attractive, and we could hold down a pretty good conversation. In short, he was everything I thought I wanted in a man from the time I first thought about dating.
And you know what? After my two fun, exciting, thoughtful experiences with Jason, I had an epiphany. It’s as if a voice in my head were saying: “Look. You went on those good dates you’ve always wanted, and guess what: you’re not in love with him. Now you know that even the best of dates with good, kind men won’t necessarily lead to lifelong commitment. Good for you. CAN WE MOVE ON NOW?”
This might seem weird, but it felt AWESOME. Finally understanding that concept, over three years into my dating journey, was liberating. Knowing with certainty that I might not end up getting married after five or five hundred good dates weirdly made me feel better, and helped put everything into perspective. I didn’t need to shop for potential boyfriends on my phone, or obsessively worry about my marriageability. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen; in the meantime, wasting time artificially setting up dates likely won’t yield the best results.
I quickly deleted all my dating apps – they were wasting my time – but kept Jason’s number. I’m not ignorant enough to give up completely or keep myself from getting to know him better. After all, getting to know each other is what dating is all about, right? I don’t even know how he feels about me. All hope is not lost. All that’s changed is that I really don’t care that much anymore. It’s freaking awesome.
What all this comes down to is that I am a very young, headstrong young women with a sort-of aimless desire for love. I have a lot to learn about relationships, and I’m not actually sure I’m ready to commit to another person at this point in my life. I no longer think dating holds some magical key to happiness, and I know that marriage will come when it’s meant to come. I won’t passively wait around for a husband to sweep me off my feet, but I also won’t exert too much energy into dating strangers. SOOO NOT WORTH MY TIME ANYMORE.
This solution isn’t for everyone. I know married couples who met on Tinder and made it work. I applaud them for there efforts, but I know now that’s not for me. Instead, I’m going to enjoy my time with good friends and good food and good books and the whole world available to me as a young single lady, and not feel even the slightest bit worried about marriage or my inexperience in relationships. I know my married friends are happy and whatnot, but they’re also probably not taking a 7-week trip hiking the UK next year, and I am, so there you go. Nice little consolation prize, no?
For the first time in college, I’ve been able to be comfortable and confident with my single status in Provo, without worrying about things I have little to no control over. I encourage other women in my situation to do the same. If we all just take the time to enjoy life and be the best we can be, exploring the world and becoming better, more mindful people in the process, a man worthy of our awesomeness is bound to catch up, and if not? His loss!
Honestly, I’d love to be married. Every time I cuddle my four-year-old niece or see a new mom holding a teeny baby, I feel that pang of envy I’m sure a lot of single Mormon women feel. Of course I’d like to share an apartment with one person of the opposite sex instead of 4-6 equally-single girls. I’d LOVE a kitchen full of just my stuff, and a bookshelf filled with just my books (plus my husband’s books, because I can guarantee you now he will own books). I’m not trying to belittle the married lifestyle because it’s still something I want more than ever.
The only difference is that now, I’m willing to be patient. I’m prepared to spend the precious time I have left without diapers or mortgage payments or cooking dinner every night with a suitable amount of ZEAL.
I’m going to traipse back to England, buy expensive chocolate, and eat out semi-regularly. I’m going to have silly slumber parties and watch chick flicks and spend way too much time searching for cat videos and “The View” clips on YouTube. I’m going to go weeks without purchasing meat at the grocery store and not even notice because there won’t be a protein-starved man in my house at all times. I’m going to wear swimsuits at the beach because I know my body will be even weirder after having a baby or four. I’m going to sleep well in a bed, as long as I want, all by myself! I’m going to enjoy every second of quiet alone time. I’m going to go on hikes in the woods by myself, and it will be GREAT.
It’s not always easy taking the road less traveled in Mormon world, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Sure, there’s an appeal to fairy tales and our grandparents’ seemingly-perfect love story, but real life isn’t always like that. We all need to take our own journeys, and if marriage by twenty isn’t part of that journey, all the more power to us. If constantly having a boyfriend isn’t part of your journey, you will be okay. Go to school, serve a mission, start a career, join the peace corps, whatever. There is so much more to be doing beyond idly waiting as your biological clock ticks along – SO. MUCH. MORE.
Getting married isn’t as easy as willing yourself into a relationship, or using OKCupid often enough. It takes more than attending all the YSA ward activities or flirting with every guy you come into contact with. It’s complex, and most infuriatingly, usually controlled by fate. Whenever it happens, things will be okay. I will be okay. You will be okay, too. Until then, enjoy life; It’s pretty awesome, even without a husband.