I have called off "dating." This doesn't mean that I don't go out on dates any more (though it might, since I'm no longer going to as many singles events,) but that I'm rejecting the entire Dating Game. You all know what I'm talking about. If you don't, go watch reruns of Bachelor/ette and walk away sadder, wiser, and disgusted.
I'm not blaming anyone for creating the morass that dating, especially LDS-Singles-of-a-Certain-Age dating, has become. I think it is a byproduct of overachievement, advertising, and the detachment of social skills. But that's a whole 'nother diatribe.
Let's take a woman, Sally. Sally is an average LDS woman. She went to college, we'll even say BYU, got a decent degree that landed her a job that can support her and maybe a bit extra. She's not a supermodel or athlete, but she's not terribly overweight and she takes care of herself. She served a mission, studies the scriptures, and has dedicated herself to the discipleship of Christ. But for whatever reason, she has found herself in her thirties and still single.
So Sally decides to participate in Church singles' activities in order to meet other people in her life situation, make friends, and hopefully someday meet a man she can build a life with. She meets with her bishop and finds out (happily!) that there is a mid-singles' ward in her area.
The first time Sally walks into the singles' ward, her first impression is of a sea of people. The chatter is a dull roar that makes it difficult to hear any one conversation. Anyone trying to move anywhere has to navigate the ocean of 6-700 people crammed into an average church building.
Sally is relatively outgoing, but it is impossible to know where to start. Even if she could find a conversation to join, she wouldn't be able to hear it. So she pushes through the mass to find a seat. When services start, most people find a chair and almost total silence settles over the massive congregation. Throughout Church, "Being Single" is referred to several times in the talk or lesson, usually as a self-deprecating joke on the part of the speaker, or in a way that makes it clear that if only the right things were done by the right people, the "single" problem could be solved. It is the elephant in the room that everyone talks about.
As time goes on, and Sally begins to get to know people by attending various events, she can't shake the uncomfortable realization that every encounter is an evaluation. Whenever she speaks to another single, man or woman, questions are asked that delicately pry out details of her life; married before? kids? roommates? education? (If she were a man it would be; job? salary? hobbies? education?) She is immediately categorized into a "dateable" or "not dateable" category, often before she even opens her mouth. And who can blame them? With so many people to process, they need a way of quickly filtering out those with the greatest statistical probability of compatibility.
Or do they?
Because that's the problem I see. The very nature of singles' mega-wards and online dating makes it sooooo easy to make the opposite sex into a commodity. Rather than seeing everyone as PEOPLE, you see them as objects that may or may not fit into your life. And it is a tragedy. It blocks the very process that makes marriage (or more importantly, ANY healthy relationship such as friendship) possible. Sure, some people manage to power through it. But I don't think I have the time or energy for that. I'm tired of feeling like one person when my children are around, and morphing into a totally different version of me when I'm not being a mommy. It's exhausting.
So, I'm stepping out. Out of the ward, pretty much out of the singles scene. That is my new resolution that happens to coincide with the New Year. Part of me fears it a little. I tend to think that if I work my hardest at fulfilling the will of the Lord, the opportunities will come. There is little room in my paradigm for NOT working on something I know the Lord wants for me. But in a sense, I have to. I can't be continually frustrated with the myopia of singles. It's not helping me in my goals to be more charitable, for one thing. And as much as it satisfies me on one level to say, "See, Lord? I'm doing all I can do, now it's up to Thee," I think it's keeping me from being His disciple, which is more important than marrying, even though it IS what He wants for me.
It would be nice if the Church leadership would realize all the many problems the mid-singles wards are creating (despite those few singles who threaten to leave the Church if the singles wards are disbanded.) It would be great if they could see how such a mass of people all "broken" inside (their words, not mine) mixing together is filtering against qualities that would make them great spouses. It would be nice if the Church restructured to allow more people like me, with happy lives, maybe children and a dollop of wisdom under their belt, to also participate in singles events, if it allowed for singles to do things worthwhile rather than just entertain themselves.
But I don't have control over Church leadership. I don't even have a voice. It has been made clear to me that they have bigger fish to fry, let the aging singles mingle in the large stewpot and hope some of them will stick to each other. (I call it the Brownian Notion of Matchmaking.)
But I also don't have any obligation to play that game. How much better for me is it to leave the notion of remarrying on the back burner right now? It would be easy enough for me to marry, if that's all I wanted. The singles wards, sadly, are well stocked with people who need rescuing. All you have to do is meet their needs, and the "relationship" would blossom. But I want more. I want someone who will be a good male role model for my girls, someone who can look beyond himself and his needs. I am pretty sure that won't be found by watching movies with singles or playing volleyball. If the Church won't provide a venue for me to engage in worthwhile activities—to serve—while meeting other singles, than I choose to serve OVER meeting other singles.
And that decision, for me, has been a huge relief. Now I can start focusing on the things that matter, and let the Lord worry about the rest. I can start seeing People and not Potential Mates. It's just too hard to keep perspective when you are surrounded by such unconscious lack of perspective. And, contrary to what all those men who bemoan "the Friend Zone" think, I'm not getting married to anyone who can't handle being my friend first anyways.
Besides, I have plenty of other work in the Lord's Kingdom to keep me busy.