I recently posted on Facebook about my experiences with Tinder and of course it got more likes than an photo where I actually put on makeup or my amazingly perfect tiny homemade pie. I have become known for my dating stories--the bad, the awkward, the uncomfortable, but sadly never the good. Though I like to keep things lighthearted and focused on the ridiculous, one thing keeps happening to me that sucks and I don't know how to handle it. Just last week I stood on a windy corner in my neighborhood as I was told that Mormonism was black and white; the guy I was dating was standing on the white side and I was on the black. "Yeah, that sucks, but its only one boy," you say, but no, this is the third boy with basically the same exit.
(also, let's pause here. Did you catch the part about religion being black and white? Can we agree that it is NOT true and a pretty damaging assumption? He said that you either do what you are told or you don't, thinking about things is inappropriate...We are all supposed to find out things for ourselves, wade through the gray and find the light. If someone thinks differently or isn't blindly following, they are not automatically on the "black" side.)
Now, getting dumped this time was not a total shock to me. The breakup was the world's longest, hovering at about two weeks--and religion--well I have known for a long time that I am much darker than most. But even though I knew this boy was going to break up with me because I, a very round peg, do not fit in the perfect Mormon square hole, it has not been easy. Being told that you are not righteous and doing things wrong--things that you know in your heart you cannot feel differently about, makes you feel pretty terrible and hopeless. Terrible that somehow this should make sense and it is unfair that it doesn't, and hopeless that you will ever find someone who wants to be with you.
Here's the thing, in Mormonism there is a right way to do things, a very specified order of how and when. You are baptized at 8, if you are a boy you start on the priesthood track at 12, you don't date until you are 16, boys are expected to go on missions after high school, and then you get married in the temple. We believe heavily in personal agency, but sometimes I feel like we are so focused on how things are supposed to happen and the time frame that we forget that some people use their agency to do things differently or slower. I, am one of those people.
I am wrestling with major issues (like the church's recent policy that bans children with gay parents from being baptized and says homosexuality is one of the worst sins and can result in excommunication--among other issues). I want to be part of a church that embodies love and isn't so much about policies and orientations and laid out plans for when things should be done in your life. I want honest and sincere, nonjudgmental agency. And if you think that disagreeing with a SINGLE policy isn't a big deal, it is literally the sole reason I was dumped. Apparently it is not acceptable to disagree (meaning you feel like it is a crumby thing) with a policy even if you literally cannot obey or disobey it because you will never be a bishop and have the power to say if a person can get baptized...
I spoke with my bishop about my dating situation during my two week break up. I asked him if it was wrong of me to date members of the church since I am not what the men are taught to want to marry (questioning things, feminist, not endowed, the list goes on...). He said that he loved having me there and that of course I was welcome and wanted, but he also told me that he would never counsel someone to get married outside of the temple (because I have doubts and don't think it is apprioprate to go with how I currently feel) and that IF I find someone who is similar to me that could work. IF is one of the saddest words to hear in dating. If I find anyone I am lucky, if I find anyone in Mormonism that is okay with my (lack of) beliefs it is freaking miracle. I understand that the temple is important, I really do. But, it is frustrating to feel like all my good qualities are null and void in relationships since I take the temple so seriously that I don't want to go before I am ready. It feels like we preach that church is for the sinners and people struggling, unless you want to get married and then you had better get all your crap together by your early twenties so you can take part in the MOST important part of the religion and get married in the temple. We believe in a God that is full of grace, that promotes agency, that wants us to find the answers, and that will always give you another chance. Why are we so hard on our members to be on a certain timeline?! And why is it so inappropriate to date someone who is totally active (and completely supportive of the partner in all aspects of the religion, even them attending the temple) but struggling? Is telling me I am wrong and a bad member supposed to help me become a better one?
I know I am not the only one in the church that feels like this, but I feel alone all the time. I feel like I don't fit in anywhere. Mormonism is all I know, its how I met 89% of all the people in my life, it is a culture and religion, it is my background and my foundation, and it is becoming my demise. It is becoming a lonely hateful place where good people are told they cannot be members, a place where boys won't date you longer than 3 months (let alone get near marriage) because they don't want to understand that people see things differently. Its a place where I cannot attend a wedding ceremony. It is a place where I cry in my bishop's office for wanting to date the good people I meet but knowing that they are taught to want more than me. It is a place of social stress and anxiety. It is also a place of God and music and laughter and friendship. It is a place that should be totally about personal decisions without the fear of being judged and ostracized.
I was once told that I care too much about people, that I want things to be fair so badly that it hurts. I think this is true. I want people to feel love and acceptance everywhere that at times it gives me anxiety. I'm that person that hates farmer's markets because I want to buy EVERYTHING to show the people that they are doing a great job and not being financially able breaks my heart. I buy homeless people dinner and talk with them about their lives because I want them to know that they are not alone and that I too had to call the cops on my last boyfriend (true story, that lady and I BONDED!) I even left a card for the boy that dumped me because I didn't want him to remember us from our last, horrible and misunderstood, conversation (also, in my defense, I was on steroids for my knee and roid-rage is real people!). I want everyone to feel loved because sometimes I feel so little. So little from the boys that have told me that I have the wrong relationship with God, that cheated on me or used me. So little from the bullies in public school, from multiple teachers that told me my work was horrible and I shouldn't even try. From roommates that made my life a living hell. These are things that are sad and hard, religion should not be one of them. We should support each other ESPECIALLY when things are hard and people don't understand. We should encourage people to find answers for themselves and not follow blindly. We should not only preach that you can think differently and still be accepted, but act on it. And we should help people and not toss them aside.
Dating has been pretty terrible and adding religion has made is basically unbearable. It's a place where I never feel good enough, literally the only place in my life where I feel dumb. The only answer I have gotten through all of this--from having the most decent and all around good guy not want to date me because of religion--is that I need to break up with dating that is centered around religion. I want to date people because they are kind and funny and happy and hardworking, not because of their religion. I want to find value in others' beliefs and for them to respect my super confusing convictions. I want to love a person and not a laundry list of what they should hold near, dear and true.
And yes, I completely understand that is not fair for me to date a guy who may feel like he might have to compromise some of his convictions (like possibly a temple marriage). I just wish their was a place for me and that guys could see the good qualities, the qualities worth fighting for, and work through the hard stuff with me. I am not saying that I will never understand more or want to go to the temple, I am saying that at this moment, I need a lot of help to get there and every guy has tossed me to the curb instead of ever asking me how they can help, let alone even talk about the subject with me. I wish that is was okay to be a confused soul and still find a good, decent, Mormon guy. But it feels like we push marriage so heavily that things are checked off a list early on and people are disregarded because they might not be "marriage material" in one aspect, on paper, at that one moment in time... Do we realize that it takes time to get to know people and what they are really like?!
I have been so beat down by dating that sometimes I forget that I am better than this. I am smart, strong, independent, witty, successful, artistic, musical, generous and even keeled. I am a decent cook, master baker of miniature sweets, a conversationalist and debater, organized to a fault and a great gift giver. Yes, religion is important, but so is being a decent human being that can see the value in all people.
I will not change for anyone, but I would like the chance to grow with someone.