Rhapsody in J. Crew: Life as a Modern Single Mormon Woman
Stop! This post has a soundtrack. For optimal enjoyment, please listen to this song while reading (this won't work if you skim).
There’s a new group of women emerging from the shadows of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dressed in ballet flats, skinny jeans, J. Crew tops, and chunky necklaces, these are the single women of the Church, ages 31 and older.
Historically, women our age were considered spinsters, the nice favorite aunt who missed the marriage boat and was doomed to live alone forever. Even today, for many Mormons, 31 is the new 30 in terms of dreaded birthdays because 31 is the age when those who don’t “graduate” (read “marry) from a Young Single Adult congregation are given a waive and a thanks and sent off to the Single Adult congregation, or as one friend described it, “the place where dreams go to die”.
But now, being single in your thirties and forties is no longer the social death sentence that it used to be.
For reasons unknown (to us as well as those around us), single women of the Church are becoming an increasingly large part of Mormon society. Let me clarify that all of us want to be married; we just aren’t. So rather than waiting for marriage to give us a future, we are creating our own.
With more opportunities open to women than ever before, we have thrown ourselves into school and careers. We have Master’s degrees, M.B.A.’s, law degrees, Ph.D’s, M.D.’s, and so on. We are lawyers, doctors, professors, government officials, nurses, teachers, counselors, consultants, event planners, campaign managers, and scientists. We run businesses and non-profit organizations that are changing the world, one person at a time.
And because we only have ourselves to watch over, we take full advantage of the amazing things the world has to offer. We spend our disposable income traveling and exploring every corner of the globe, including Antarctica (thanks Kory Riddle, for beating us all to that one). We keep running lists of the best places to dine out, the best plays and events, the latest books and TV shows, and the best deals for quick weekend getaways. We plan and attend extravagant parties and generally live a pretty amazing life.
But our lives aren’t always like an episode of The Bachelorette, with helicopter dates and chest-baring men trotting along behind us.
Behind the glamour and glitz there’s a touch of loneliness too. Many Friday and Saturday nights are spent at home alone, doing our own retirement planning, and looking upon the green lights of our friends’ Facebook posts and wondering – Did we miss our chance?
Over time, it’s hard not to become the jaded spinster when yet another great date or conversation is followed up by its companion, Silence. We constantly deal with a loneliness intensified by our commitment to the belief that intimacy should be reserved for marriage. We endure our friends’ baby showers, trying to think of anything other than the horror pregnancy stories being shared around us, yet secretly wishing we were part of the club. We patiently smile when friends and family tell us in the same breath to “smile and be yourself, but not all of yourself because the guys might be scared away by your ambition, so be sure to throw in a casual, up-front statement about how much you also really want to be a mom”.
And when the rejections come again and again, each one cutting another diamond off the engagement ring we admire in our minds, we curl up with Adele or Alanis, sift through our pain, and look to one of our 4 Mormon role models – Kristin Oaks, Sherri Dew, Wendy Nelson, and Barbara Thompson (who seems to have disappeared like Barb from Stranger Things) - for comfort. Once the pain has subsided, we pull ourselves up by our Frye bootstraps, put on our latest J. Crew battle armor, our deflective Alex and Ani bracelets, and our Kate Spade Bags of Truth, and go back out into the world, a little more guarded but a little stronger as well.
Perhaps, in some way, God is preparing us for what lies ahead.
I realize that most of what I've said is not unique to single Mormon women; both men and women inside and outside the Mormon church can identify with these emotions. Nevertheless, we belong to a church whose doctrine is marriage, yet we remain single in spite of that doctrine, which means we often feel like strangers in our own land. But as the world becomes increasingly secular and antagonistic towards religion, God needs people who can stand up for what is right. And because we have nowhere else to turn, we have chosen to turn to God, and we are spiritually stronger for it. In the battle for good and evil, that has to count for something.
So even though our biological clocks tick after us like Captain Hook’s crocodile, we trust that God can deliver. Until He does, we, the accidental Amazons, march on, living our lives, contributing to society, pushing boundaries, comforting those around us, and hoping that one day that miracle of marriage will be ours. But whether or not it comes, in the end we will stand at our graves, proud of the covenants we've kept and the legacy we’ve left for those who are coming next.