Actions speak very loudly

From a comment on another blog. (Read the post too, but this particular comment resonated strongly with me.)

I’m a single in my early 50’s. I used to sit in the chapel, but found that no one would sit on the same row. In a few cases, if I sat on the end of a row partially occupied by a family, they would get up and move. And I shower every day! Now I sit in the foyer, and it’s a lot quieter than the chapel.
I have noticed that when being greeted in a group of other adults, it goes like this, “Hello Brother Smith, Sister Jones, Mark, Brother Brown”. I’m referred to as though I was still a little boy.

I used to wonder if this was unique to me.  After all, it’s happened to me in at least a couple of different wards now.  Before reading this comment, I’d spoken to a few of our inactive mid singles, and a couple of them had cited this same phenomenon among the reasons they felt out of place and unwanted in Church.  In a way it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one, but also very disturbing to see that it is apparently somewhat widespread.  For all the talk of singles being an “important part of the Church family,” we’re often treated as outsiders.

I even tested the theory that maybe I inadvertently picked an unpopular part of the chapel to sit in, and over the course of a month, tried four other parts on both sides of the center aisle, front and back of the seating.  Always the same result; there was a minimum two seat buffer on either side of me, and usually one row in front and back of me that stayed empty unless we had visitors (who didn’t realize I was single) or Spanish speakers (I guess the bulletin on the contagious nature of divorce didn’t get translated) to fill some of those seats.

Lately, I’ve been catching the evening service at one of those “casual” churches each week, because a friend invited me and while I’m no fan of “praise band” music, they do have very good sermons.  Today’s was about the most important chair in any church; the empty one that should be filled with a new member, a guest, a returning inactive member, or just a regular member who couldn’t make it this week.  That chair represents two things to the congregation in general; first, that there is room for those people, and second, that we need to work to fill that chair.  To the single surrounded by those chairs, though, it represents a strong chance that there will be another empty chair soon.


The Difficulty of Dating

Something I see over and over again is women complaining about not being asked out.
Of course, some of them post this on local LDS singles groups in spite of the fact that I and other men I’ve talked to have asked them out. Others post the “come on guys, ask. I’m not turning anybody down” and then a half dozen of us get together later and realize that all of us asked, but she was always busy, or said yes, then cancelled later.
In other LDS singles groups, I’ve even seen women telling each other that it’s better to accept and then cancel or even stand the guy up than to simply be honest and decline the date.
Well, I think it’s time for a man’s perspective on this.
What goes into asking for a first date?

First, checking the budget and the schedule to see if I have time and money for it. Now, neither of those is free, so there’s always an opportunity cost; I can always find something else to do with the time and money that a date will take. Now look around at what’s happening in the area and come up with a plan.
Then, assuming I already know who I want to ask, there’s overcoming the fear of rejection. This used to be easier; a couple double shots of mid-grade bourbon and go for it. Now I have to do it stone cold sober, so it’s more like 10-20 deep breaths and a five minute prayer that she will at least be polite when she turns me down. (When asking nonmembers, it’s two deep breaths and one prayer that she won’t turn out to be some militant anti-Mormon trying to save me from the Church, or insist on finishing the evening at some place where I’ll hate the music.)
Now on to the actual asking. Even this is more complex, since LDS women won’t offer an option even when they really can’t make it Saturday night. Nonmembers in that situation almost always do a simple “I can’t Saturday, but how about next Friday at 7?” or something similar. LDS women say they can’t and it’s up to you to decide how many alternatives you’ll throw out before you write her off as too scared to just say no. Be warned, though, if she’s not trying to say no and you don’t list off every free evening between now and the Resurrection for her to pick from, she will blame you for not trying hard enough later.
Some just plain won’t respond. That’s always lovely when you have to ask in a text or Facebook message. You wait 24-72 hours, during which time you don’t want to be a jerk and ask someone else, and then you have to either come up with some slightly more polite way to say “thanks for playing, but no thanks for playing with my emotions” so she knows the offer is withdrawn, or wait until the proposed time has passed so she can’t pop in and say yes at the last minute and try to make you feel bad if you did find someone else to go. (Again, different with nonmembers; only one did the silent treatment so far.)
Now, in the event you get a yes, there’s prep work to be done. Clear your calendar, buy concert tickets, set aside some extra cash just in case you end up in a situation where you can’t use plastic, make sure the car is cleaned out, tell your Home Teaching companion you can’t come watch the game with him that day, etc.
So, now it’s the night before the big day, and you’re making that special trip to the laundromat so your favorite shirt will be clean and pressed for the date. You already picked up the rest of the suit from the cleaners, and you’re going to fill up the tank and Febreeze the Taco Bell sauce stains on the passenger seat again in the morning. (For nonmember women, just go get some cheap universal seat covers at WalMart, if that.)
Time to go pick her up; if you’re really lucky, she forgot to cancel because she forgot all about the date, so when you get to her house, she’ll answer the door in sweats and a confused look. Now, if you prayed hard enough, she’ll feel bad and rush to get ready, rather than coming up with an excuse to cancel on the spot.
If she doesn’t cancel…well, I don’t know. I’ve only gotten to that point six times with Mormon women so far, and I winged it from there when that happened. It must have worked, since four of the six resulted in at least second dates, and three in third and beyond.

Now, when I ignore the bishop’s advice to stick with Church women, and ask nonmembers, I’m batting about 50/50 on getting the first date. Past that, the percentages are about the same: somewhere around two thirds will end up with a second date, and half in a third.  Sure doesn’t sound like it’s LDS men that are the real problem.

Starting off

Talking to a few of the other LDS single men out there, I’ve find that my situation is disturbingly common; adult convert, divorced prior to conversion, not particularly tall, athletic or wealthy.
Now, I’ve been told by some unbiased sources that I’m not unattractive, and indeed, when I try the regular (non-LDS) singles scene, I rarely have any difficulty getting and maintaining the attention of the best looking woman in the group. Hard to be sure, given the Law of Chastity, but I know at least a few of those cases, I could have taken her home just for the asking.

In the Church, however, it’s a whole different game. Next weekend will mark a full year without a first date with any LDS woman. Not for lack of trying, either; I’ve been turned down, cancelled on our stood up over 70 times since then.

So, what is it that is such a barrier?
Divorced: believe it or not, there are 35+ year old women out there still looking for a virgin. Not a socially awkward one either, but an attractive, confident guy who has managed not get married or to have sex yet.
Adult convert: I converted after my divorce, with children, so I never went to Primary, didn’t serve a mission, etc. I’ve had more than one woman tell me that I couldn’t live up to her standards because I wasn’t born and raised in the Church.
Non-RM: see above. Never mind that she married an abusive, cheating RM before, somehow she’s sure this requirement will guarantee a good one next time.
Not wealthy: come on ladies, “what do you do for a living?” is a fine pre-first-date question. “How much do you make?” before you even get to last names is a sure sign of a gold digger.
Renter: yep; not only turned down, but flat out told I’m incapable of being worthy to court any good woman because I don’t own my home. Apparently a rented house doesn’t fulfill the “necessities of life and protection” as some women see it. (Or, more likely, they’re looking for someone they can take half the equity from in the divorce that’s inevitable when one partner is using a criteria list like this instead of looking at things like personality and how he treats her on a date.)