White Noise

single mormon chickMormon 18 Comments

Everybody blogs, right? Why not me? Looking for my niche, my angle, and the one thing that seemed to make me stand out in my corner of the world. I found it: Being single. And 40. And Mormon. In a family ward. In a town where EVERYONE is under 30, sealed in the temple and constantly reproducing. The best humor is found in our painful life experiences. Read about mine and laugh with me. Or at me. Whichever.

Despite being single the majority of my adult life, I have never regularly attended a singles ward. I went a few times when invited by a friend or someone I was dating, but I saw singles wards as means to “catch” a husband and since I always seemed to have a boyfriend, I never embraced the whole singles culture within the church.
According to the traditional LDS time line, I was married before my twenty first birthday and any thoughts of singles wards were quickly replaced with all things newlywed. I was thirty when I divorced and was thrown into a whole new category of singles. Previously called “Special Interest Singles”(I had visions of riding to church in the romantic short bus)and now simply called Single Adults(not to be confused with the YOUNG Single Adults) Subliminal message: “you’re old and we have to keep you away from the kids”. There were some(my mom)who really encouraged me to go to the singles ward, but I was wary. Ready to be active again, I started sneaking into the sacrament meeting of my family ward and slipping out before the closing prayer was said. The rare occasions that I stayed for the whole block seriously tried my testimony. Mormons are the nosiest people ever and don’t hesitate to ask you the most personal questions within seconds of introducing themselves and shaking your hand. Explaining I was divorced after ten years of marriage, but had no children was such a foreign concept that I felt I had slipped into speaking Swahili considering the confused looks I got. So maybe the 30+ ward is where I needed to be. Maybe my mother was right.
Though rare, there are entire singles wards dedicated to the over thirty crowd. The membership is guarded closely by the bishop. He acts kind of like a bouncer, checking ID’s and making sure everyone fits into the designated age bracket. There was no way I was facing this experience on my own so I sweet talked another inactive, thirty-something friend of mine to go with me. He is hilariously sarcastic and even if the whole experience was a dud, I knew we would have fun mocking it for weeks to come.
I feel it necessary to give a disclaimer: I am a TBM, have what I would consider a strong testimony of the church, and know the singles program was developed by the church to address an ever growing population within our membership, but… it’s weird. I feel crippling pangs of guilt even typing those words, but if we need any additional examples of how we are a peculiar people, look no further than the 30+ singles ward. First of all, no one said a single word to us. Not hi, not get the hell out, nothing. Has that ever happened in the history of modern Mormonism? All our initial worries of being attacked as fresh meat dissolved when we were completely ignored. The meeting itself was dry as a bone. The talks were boring, but the oddest thing was the silence. I had never realized the white noise that exists at the typical sacrament meeting in a family ward. Cheerios hitting the floor, babies slurping on bottles, high priests gently snoring, and a variety of other noises like primary kids “whispering” and the rustle of diaper bags were completely absent. It was creepy. The cold reception was unusual, but the silence was the weirdest thing of all. Do we really need a singles ward dedicated to the 30+ members? Shouldn’t we be able to participate and function within a family ward and turn to the extensive singles activities for “wholesome” socialization?

Comments 18

  1. “Don’t feel too bad about no one talking to you. We went to a Kona Ward in the “friendliest place on earth outside of Disneyland” and no one said a word to us. Plus I suspect hanging around a guy (looing like a couple) limited your chances of being “interviewed” as a prospective spouse by one of the males.

    But, I have to say that my wife and I have done music for what is called “middle singles” which is after young single adults and before old single adults. We met a lot of very nice people, but the men tended to be very awkward socially. Especially the never married ones.

    I wonder how much that had to do with it. my wife attended a singles Ward prior to our marriage that was 18 to past 40 and as I attended as a non-member, it was always wierd to see the old guys hitting on the 18/19 years old newbies. One chronically unmarried guy and girl finally got together and got married. He was just released as a Stake President, so that taught me that there is hope for almost everyone who wants to be married in that situation to an active LDS person

  2. I can only imagine the feelings that you must have when your testimony of restored truth has to deal with the social and cultural realities of participating in church congregations.Here in Indiana, such wards exist only in large metros like Chicago & Indianapolis. Participation us usually by recommendation of a traditional ward bishop & coordinated by stake leaders. Have you met with the bishop and shared your concerns & feelings? Too many times we carry around insecurities like rocks in a backpack when we just need to get rid of them. It seems to me that single ‘faithful’ sisters always seem to outnumber men in almost every age group. I’ve found that when I’ved moved into a new ward, getting involved into anything and everything I could (choir,service projects,temple assignments) was the best way to get to know others. Its that thing about ‘losing one’s through serving others and finding life’.

  3. I don’t have much to add, but I hear you on the singles’ ward issue. I’m 27 and have never had the desire to attend a singles’ ward. I’ve visited on a few occasions, and I always felt like I was being evaluated for dateability. It’s like people were adding and subtracting points based on my characteristics. (+1 for being musical, -1 for being a returned missionary, etc.) In my family ward, I feel like a contributing member of the ward, and I like it.

    I’m in the awkward phase where I’m still technically a YSA, but I’m considerably older than my fellow YSAs. I don’t have much in common with 19 year olds still living with their parents, and I certainly don’t want to date them. I’ve tried mid-singles activities, but I don’t really fit in there, either. I have more luck dating outside the church, which is problematic because I want a temple marriage.

  4. Don’t like it? Don’t go! Singles wards do a lot for those who need the additional support and relative quiet an all-adult meeting can provide.

    I’ve attended singles wards where childless never-married adults were marginalized in the traditional wards to the degree that singles wards saved them from inactivity or leaving entirely. Singles wards offer leadership opportunities that are not available in other wards, especially to single men.

    The “creepy” silence you describe is often a solace to people who truly want to meditate during the sacrament and not just watch babies eat food off the carpet or listen to sibling fight to be taken put of the chapel.

    Women in the older singles wards i’ve attended are often more mature, highly educated, and highly motivated than their counterparts in traditional wards, many of whom having left college to start or raise families. Weekday RS activities on singles wards are often creative, educational, and relevant to unique needs of single women. One memorable RS meeting was about the unique health risks faced by older virgins and non/mothers, taught by one of our single sisters who is a gynaecologist.

    Music in singles wards ( especially choir) is often at a higher quality than in other wards. In one of my old wards, we had annual community concerts and sold CDs for charity.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  5. Post

    free agency is a wonderful thing. i dont go to a singles ward based on my experiences, but dont judge others for wanting to go. i understand completely how many can find a spiritual base with others in their same situation: single in a married with children culture. the family ward i attend now is amazing. i am seen for who i am and what i contribute, not some sore thumb sticking out making life hard for the high priests that are responsible for us single sisters. sounds like janet found one of the rare singles wards where it works as it was designed to. my experience is that the 30+ singles scene in my area is a singles bar atmosphere with no alcohol being served. the sounds i described as “white noise” do not interfere at all with my quiet reflection as sacrament is being passed,rather it serves as a comforting background music.
    amen keri! i know exactly what you are saying. one of my dearest friends is 28 and is the rs president in her singles ward. she ends up playing mommy to a lot of them and so many of the men are just so immature. the stake gives lots of talks about not delaying marriage and to break away from hanging out and group dating.

  6. sorry i wasnt clear. the sacrament meeting was not like a singles bar, the activities were.
    sacrament-dry and boring.
    social activities-alcohol free singles bar complete with cleavage and cheesy pick up lines.
    again, just my personal observations in my corner of the universe.

  7. I am now officially an ‘old’ single adult. I attended the YSA sacrament meeting occasionally last year and despite being within the approved age range I never really felt like I fit in. I refuse to be the creepy 30 year old hitting on the 18 year old girls so I never felt comfortable going regularly. When I did stop in at YSA wards when I was out of town people were not very welcoming at all.
    S does the 18-30 age range make sense to anyone? Would anyone feel comfortable with an 18 year old dating a 30 year old. I can see 18-25 being an appropriate division, most are starting college or just finishing. Of course the 30+ age group does not appeal to me either, the only ones that mention single activities are 50+ year olds in my family ward.
    So why are activities for mid singles so lame? Is it the activities themselves or is it the singles? I know I have noticed the ‘real’ adults (married ones) tend to treat singles at an activity like a bunch of kids that need ‘adult’ supervision.
    I don’t like to complain but after being married for 8 years I now feel very out of place and the church really doesn’t seem to have a structure in place to help singles around 30 and 40 years old meet people within the church.
    I’ll be interested in reading your blog singlemormonchick, see if you come up with any good ways of meeting people in real life.

  8. Post

    jenkins- i think you are right. the division of the age groups does seem off. so glad to hear there is a man out there that doesnt want to be the creepy guy hitting on the 18 yr olds! i have always considered the activities kind of lame myself-when joking about it with the bishop, he threatened to give my name to to the stake as a sa rep to improve things. i guess its like voting, dont complain unless you participate,but who wants to participate in such lameness? 🙂 vicious cycle. i dont even know what i would consider to be a good alternative to the standard….any ideas? maybe, just maybe together, you and i could revolutionize the whole thing! 😉

  9. Thirty might be the hard limit, but in my limited experience, 25 is more the practical limit. In most of the singles wards I used to attend, by the time someone hit twenty five, they were either married, leaving town to go to grad school, ward hopping at the local university, or heading into inactivity. It was pretty rare to see someone above 25 most of the time.

    My sister was actually kicked out of her singles ward when she turned 27. The bishop told her she needed to start either attending family wards or the mid-singles. Apparently, she didn’t fit in with all the (painfully) immature 19 and 20 year olds.

  10. During the year or so I was single (between my first and second marriages), I never attended a singles ward. I was 32 and had moved to Utah shortly after the divorce; I honestly don’t know if there were singles wards for my age group back then (1985-86). I did, however, attend singles’ activities for that age group: dances, volleyball games, and the like. Most of my actual dating, however, was via introductions from mutual friends.

    The woman I ended up marrying? My former wife’s best friend. (With her blessing, I might add.) ..bruce..

  11. wow! kicked out at 27? that seems harsh. those are the times when i question how things get handled in the single wards. another time i question it is when the late 30’s guy is still attending a ysa ward and the bishop DOESNT kick him out and lets him hit on all the just graduated girls. ick. a friend told me of how the bishop of her singles ward told them(from the pulpit)no more hugging at church. how bizarre is that?
    bruce- i think the single adult wards have come into existence in the last 10 or so years. maybe a little after your time. you should write a book-marrying your ex wife’s best friend?! with her blessing? thats talent.

  12. I really don’t have any spectacular ideas as a good alternative to the standard, it’s easy to point out the problems and harder to come up with solutions… I do know that where I live the YSA and SA programs are pretty non-existent. The leadership says the singles don’t participate but the people with callings for planning the activities don’t do anything. I have a hard time getting excited for an activity planned by a 50 year old guy, the only one I’ve heard about was going to house and discussing Jesus the Christ. So it’s a vicious cycle, I guess it’s like with anything in the church, things function better when there are dynamic people heading them up. The age thing really gets me though, of course, if you had some dynamic YSA and SA “leaders” they could probably plan some activities with more of a mid-singles feel… 25ish – 40ish, but they really need to take it out of the hands of the married 70 year old high councilman that has no interest in it whatsoever.

    As far as activities go I just want an excuse to get out of the house for an evening, whether it’s playing board games, going to a concert (at a bar gasp! or coffee shop if you’re in Utah), going out to eat, to a movie. I’m not so interested in playing silly games in the cultural hall. Of course, for the activities I want I don’t know if you can make it an official church sponsored event.

    I use Meetup.com to get out of the house right now and I guess one could start an LDS Singles Meetup group in my area and start putting ads in the local bulletins to get the word out to the singles. Then it would not be officially church sponsored and it would really all just depend on singles in the area to participate in the activities. What do you guys think?

  13. silly games in the cultural hall. ick. i hadnt even thought of that for years until you mentioned it. it really needs to be stepped up a notch in maturity. i was asked to offer some service at an upcoming singles event at the end of this month. i will be behind the scenes, but will have a good view of whats going on. i havent been to an activity in about a year. the last one was a “mingle” after a fireside. it was a nightmare. maybe i will have some new stuff to report. fingers crossed. we just got a new high priest for the single adults in our stake. hes definitely interested and takes his callings very seriously. he might be in his 40’s, so it will probably get more attention than a 70 year old man might.

  14. The church in Oklahoma City does not need a University Ward/ Branch, they need a singles ward, one that members can go to until they get married.

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