Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ladies in Waiting; A Modern Sensibility

I've promised [a very important person] to write about what happens to a Mormon girl that waits over 20 years to be married in a culture that puts marriage on the pedestal just short of "endure to the end." In a modern gospel, with a membership of women growing twice as fast as men...not all the kernels of corn will be popped, if you know what I'm saying. (I just can't bring myself to use the cliche "old maids.") But the stigma is still there. I felt/feel it. I cried, alone in my bed for years while I watched my siblings and students marry, get pregnant and start their families right in front of me. Though I appreciated their love, I hated anyone feeling sorry for me...I tired of their encouragement and attempts to protect my feelings.
The speed of this blog testifies that we are a society of "NOW." And as the modern, single, Mormon population is tested with patience, we are seeing more and more of them give up and succumb to the loneliness. And who can blame them? Life is hard. Loneliness sucks. I can only write about my experience and say, "adjust your grip. Let God have your life. The blessings will be beyond your ability to comprehend." I know, because it happened to me.
This series will be called "Ladies in Waiting."

Back in the day, people didn't think twice about getting married straight out of high school. The girls took Home Ec and the boys took Auto Shop and when they were done with school, he found a job and she raised kids on his salary alone with her coupon smarts. Mormons were sequestered in a way, able to say things like "women should do everything they can to appear attractive to their husbands," and "it is the sole responsibility of the patriarch in each family to provide for the needs of their wife and children." What seems antique was once modern and here we are in 2012 where they say Mormon is the new black. My gay friends say "Mormon is the new Gay." Times, they are a changin'.
Mormons change too.... it just takes them a little longer. We're on God's time. We have mastered the art of patience. Of waiting. If every prayer we uttered was answered the instant we asked, there would be no need for hope. And I've needed hope in my life. Hope has gotten me out of bed sometimes. I've needed to learn humility and to trust in God. Trust has built a sure bridge from me to Him. If my trials and disappointments are not teaching me something, what's their use? Why live through it? Why go on? Trust creates endurance.

Today, we are more careful about what we expect from the membership. We are moving toward a modern sensibility, albeit slowly, and FAR too slowly for some. The human clock moves at the speed of light today and God will not be pushed from behind. I speak for myself, I guess. But I would NEVER suggest that an 18 year-old girl knows enough to raise a family today by taking all the Home Economics classes in high school. I've seen the tide of advise, of Mormon child-rearing, counseling the youth, take on modern sensibility.

Young Mormon women in the church today are taught, brought up to believe that when they get out of high school, they have one noble option. 1) College. At least that was the option at my house. We went to high school, specifically to prepare us for college. Because my parents are keenly aware of the modern world, they believed that 18 was way too young to get married and girls that went to work after high school were wasting the precious time they had (before they got married) to get a college degree, or at least part of one.

That's the ideal, anyway.

I hesitate to say "Mormons" in general because that certainly isn't every one's truth and that drives me nuts when people group us together like we're mindless bleating sheep. N.U.T.S. I tell you. I am that dark brown sheep that created her own path by dancing to the beat of a snappy Broadway pit band. I'm the Mormon that didn't go to BYU because I was a local kid..."Go the Y? We'd rather die!" So I went to Southern Utah University, saying (out loud) "I'm going to have a career and travel the world!" But my inner monologue fully expected that I would only be there a couple of semesters before I was picking out wedding colors. (Which, by the way, were going to be dark green and maroon at the time FER SHUR.) D'Oh! That only happens at BYU? Daaaaaaaang. I only had enough money to stay for three semesters. What then?

Three years and thousands of dollars of student loans into the theatre degree at SUU, I was sick of school. I was also confused. I thought I'd be married. I was raised to be married...NOT to be a college graduate....what would I do with that? So I put school on hold and served a mission. I also felt that I owed my Heavenly Father my service because I had been...let's be nice and say...exploratory...and naturally, when you come to some darkness, you search for light eventually. I had seen missionaries come back with their feet firmly planted in gospel sod and covered in spiritual armor. I wanted what they had. I also wanted an experience that would turn me inside out every day! And Heavenly Father, did not disappoint! He sent me to the Buddhists, who spoke a language that sounded like popcorn 90% daily humidity. I was called to serve in Hell.

Sister missionaries had terrible reputations in the 80's. You were, er..., you felt like...the leftovers. The girls that failed at their first mission: "find a husband at college." You were what they termed "a special spirit." You wore sensible shoes, prayed entirely too much, cried WAY too much, always got put in charge of the food at Zone Conference, and would ask the Elders for a priesthood blessing (a laying on of hands to heal the sick) over a stubbed toe. It's legendary. Andy should write a blog about this alone. His stories are hilarious!

I have this thing about appearances. I hate being caught taking a nap. It's true. It's also sad. Naps are lost on me. I hate being caught ordering desert and I hate being stereotyped. I set the pace in my world and you better keep up with the chubby chick because she is a language learnin', bike ridin', cockroach killin' fool. That's right. I had one blessing on my mission and that was when I was in the hospital dying (which I found out later was just a kidney stone.) I admit, I did create some kick-ass banana bread out of rice flour and Thai bananas and it was legendary in the mission. I was the MacGiver of translating Thai ingredients into American yummy-ness. I will not apologize for learning how to make beef gravy...without beef. Gravy was a beverage at our house when I was growing up.

I digress.

I had a "National Geographic" kind of mission. I learned a nutsy language. I taught English in a refugee camp. I saw an elephant give birth. I ate things that still had a heartbeat. The Lord protected me and taught me things that I could mever learn sitting in a college classroom. I served to pay a debt...I only ended up in more debt.

Secretly, I also looked at a mission as an opportunity to find my future mate in one of the Elders that I served with. I think most sisters do. They were super smart (they had to be) and had great survival skills, including a powerful sense of humor (it was required in Hell.) I thought it would be fun to be married to someone that spoke my language so that we could talk about our children in front of them in Thai. How romantic. ?!?! What?!?! Whatever. The important thing was by the end of my mission my wedding colors had changed to hot pink and light green. Fer shur.

I got back. I didn't marry anyone from my mission. I served a year as student body president of the university just for kicks and giggles, I finished a degree. I taught in Japan for a year, because I could. I started earning a living because I had to, etc... I was (embarrassingly) O.N. M.Y. O.W.N. I had failed my real mission. Because despite our modern sensibility, Mormons believe that the grand ordinance that will express your full commitment to God is to be sealed (married) to a companion...forever. And that little task alluded me for another 18 years. In fact, when I was on my mission, my future husband was in Third Grade. Need modern? Wrap your mind around that!

And that is what God gave me to work with... a complete education, a mind-blowing mission experience, love for mankind, leadership opportunities, world travel, confidence in independence, and total TRUST in Him, imagine that! Because down the path....W.A.Y. down the path....he knew what was being prepared and that I would need ultimate trust in Him when it was put in front of me. In addition to blessings that I can not comprehend, He gave me someone that was also sugar-popping to a Broadway pit band and you know the rest. Turns out God was just buying me some time!