As the pictures showed, Rhode Island is a beautiful place and it was so fun to get out of the city and meet some new people and get to know some less new people a little better. But it was not just about discovering this new place. It was also about me discovering a new me. (How’s that for an overly built-up lead? I only wish that I thought the rest of this post was going to be so dramatic…hopefully I can do the experience a little justice.)
The Background, Part 1:
For those of you who aren’t Mormon (or who are Mormon and got married at 22 and don’t have a lot–or any–“older” single friends), you may not get this…but here’s the thing. Mormons over a certain age and still single are kind of socially awkward. This is not a statement that can be limited either. The bottom line is we all are. A little bit. And some, obviously, much more than others. The are many reasons for this. The one I’m going to focus on is that we believe that families are eternal and an integral part of our progression, both in this life and in the life after this one. Because of this, there is a huge focus on dating and marriage and popping out babies. And this focus creates an inordinate amount of pressure when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex at any age over, say, 27. (I’m being generous, it really starts at like 18, but whatever.)
This creates an awkward dynamic for those of us in our late twenties and beyond who are still single. Any social interactions between members of the opposite sex who are both single and Mormon have this constant underlying tension. Tension that comes from the ever present conscious or subconscious question: Could I possibly want to date and/or marry this person? Or, in my case, it has often been: Could this person possibly want to date and/or marry me?
No, I’m not joking.
So, very few relationships between members of the opposite sex are just normal friendships. The hunt for a partner seems to be ever present.
The Background, Part 2:
I have never been one who dates a lot. I have never been the girl that boys just ask out. I, and for those of you who know me this will come as no surprise, have blamed this lack of dating on not being pretty enough/thin enough/flirty enough, etc, etc, etc. Through lots of therapy and even more introspection, I have come to the sad realization that much of this reality is the result of my own thoughts and actions, and has next to nothing to do with what I look like (other than how my thoughts about what I look like affect my actions).
Whether it was the chicken first or the egg, the bottom line: I don’t date a lot and I am SUPER insecure when it comes to single men, Mormon ones in particular.
The Background, Part 3:
My adventures in dating non-Mormons (which is basically over) was a huge step in the right direction. I know I’ve already blogged about some of the things I learned in the process, but I just want to revisit those most relevant to this post.
- I’m not unattractive.
- In 6 out of 7 experiences, the guy I went out with wanted to go out again…and again. And it wasn’t because I was putting out. (Not on the first date, anyway.)
- Dating is really fun when you take away all the pressure of a future relationship or marriage and just use it as a means of getting to know a person.
The trip to R.I. was not just about getting out of the city and relaxing. I had a personal goal. I wanted to try and just be myself around a group of Mormon coeds…like I am able to do when dating these non-Mormon guys. This is not an easy task for me and requires serious commitment. (The reality is that the way I’ve dealt with my insecurities around Mormon guys is to turn into a b@#!$. I know. I have issues. I already mentioned that I was in therapy.)
So, without boring you with the details, I will say that the trip to Rhode Island was a success on all levels. I had a great time. I was myself. I was not a b@#!$ to the guys on the trip. (Maybe a little bit to one of the girls…but she was really, really obnoxious and rude…still, I feel bad about that.) I chatted people up, overcoming all of my insecurities about whether people will like me or not (both guys and girls). I went to the beach and wore a bathing suit without worrying about what I looked like in it. And I came home with a number of new friends.
After Rhode Island:
There was one particular guy that I met that I thought I would like to hang out with again. And, rather than just say, “Oh, he was cool. Too bad I probably won’t ever talk to him again because I’m not this or that,” I emailed him. This, of course, was pathetically scary for me. But I did it. And he emailed back. And then I emailed back. And then that was the end of that (translation: he didn’t email me back).
It would be easy to see that as some kind of defeat; a confirmation of all of the lies that I believe about myself…but that’s not what happened. Instead, I felt very victorious. This trip, for me, was not about me meeting someone who I might want to date at some future point (or even now). I mean, that would have been great, but it also would have been just a little too fairy-tale-esque for my reality. This trip was about me getting over my ridiculous fears and insecurities. It was about me not putting up this wall with the words “I’m a b@#!$” spray painted across it. It was about whatever happened that made my reaction to not hearing from this kid again totally rational, instead of laden with self-doubt and self-loathing.
When I didn’t hear from this guy, my thought was, “He probably thinks that I want to date him (because we single Mormons are just that socially messed up) and he doesn’t think he wants to date me which is really too bad. If only he could be approaching this the same way I am in terms of developing a friendship because I think we would be good friends.” And yes, maybe he was approaching it the same way and just didn’t want to be friends. Whatever. The important thing here is not what he was thinking, it was my reaction.
The difference between that and how I would have normally reacted are just slightly nuanced, but that nuance is so important. To make it a little more clear, here’s what I didn’t think. I didn’t think, “If I were prettier, he’d want to be friends.” I also didn’t think, “He probably wishes that so-and-so had emailed him and not me.” And finally, I didn’t think “If I had just been myself and not been on the defensive, maybe he would have wanted to hang out.”
It’s progress. Maybe minor, but real.