Friday, November 28, 2008

Mormon Weddings and Me

Thanks to The Faithful Dissident for the inspiration - this is a topic I've been considering writing about, but never really knew how to approach it until now. Thanks!

There's definitely a ridiculous marriage culture within the LDS community - agreed?

We all know of someone who has met someone, married, and had kids all within one year. Perhaps you've heard the stories of overly hormonal and stifled BYU students who marry, have sex, and then get an annulment. We know of the girls at BYU-Provo and -Idaho who joke about majoring in "M.R.S." (I'll admit I didn't get this joke right away. It's a groaner).

I've also heard stories of girls checking the guys out - not their butts or physique, necessarily, but for garment lines.

We don't send our daughters to college for them to get an education so much as we send them out to get married - preferably to a freshly returned missionary. The thicker the residual accent the better.

My husband's aunt stopped by our house the other day with a bridal shower invitation, relieved her daughter was finally getting married. She bemoaned the fact that it took her daughters so, so very long to marry. In fact, she still has one unmarried daughter who is probably 25 or so. She wants to know what she's done wrong?

I know another girl who is 24 who isn't married. Her mom won't leave her the hell alone.

We all know Brigham Young's famous (or infamous) quote that states any unmarried man over the age of 26 is a "menace to society."

Do we really think this helps our girls' out? Our boys? The pressure is absolutely immense. And yet...who am I to talk?

I was baptized on May 7, 2000. I was eighteen years old and already fluent in Molly Mormondom - We were supposed to lust (oops, I mean get googly-eyed) over fresh, Peter Priesthood return missionaries and get married. The sooner the better.

I mean, the hour after I was baptized some dude had his arm around me at a fireside. WTF?

Then I started dating a guy who was six years older than me. I'll call him "Mark." His family was on him hard about getting married, and once he introduced me to them the inevitable came out. "So, when are we going to Oakland?" they asked. He squeezed my hand and smiled.

I cringed.

We broke up soon thereafter.

Honestly, I didn't feel the pressure until my friends started getting married. The day it hit me really hard was the day I visited a newly married friend's house for dinner. I wanted to get married.

Fast forward to December 2000 when I met my now SIL. I think Mark and I recently broke up by the time we met. Anyway, she got it into her head soon after we met that her brother, who was on a mission at the time, and I should get married one day. I played along with it. The pickings were slim in our area. Sure, we had a few pieces of eye-candy coming home, but it seemed like a fabulous idea to be my best friend's SIL.

I wasn't very serious about it. It was fun.

Then I saw his picture.

It was like lightning hit me. He looked absolutely and undeniably familiar to me. It didn't hurt that, hello, he was gorgeous, but that was secondary. To use a tired cliche, it was like being hit with a ton of bricks. I knew. I can't explain it anymore than that.

It was over. It transcending knowing. I was committed. He was already mine.

Though other boys returned home from their missions before Eric came home, I waited. My best friend worried about my waiting. Suddenly her fun little idea was becoming far too serious for me. She said she still wanted it to happen, but she wanted to be realistic, too. It didn't help when one boy in particular came home and shocked the hell out of me by initiating conversations with me. It didn't take long for me to recognize when a boy wasn't merely talking to me, but interviewing me. This one boy, quite popular with the girls, was everything I'd ever been physically attracted to.

But I didn't want him. That worried my friend.

"You're not waiting for Eric, are you?"

I could only shrug. I was waiting, but I'd learned quickly to keep that to myself. Though LDS culture tends to encourage lightning fast courtships and engagements, they didn't react well to my never having met someone and yet knowing.

But I did. I still do.

Eric came home two months early from his mission on July 26, 2001. Considering what happened that September, it was probably a good thing. We already had one friend whose flight home from Korea was postponed because of the WTC attacks. As a quick sidenote, something that always seems significant to me for some reason, I was at his mom's house on 9/11. Sick. I'd never felt more at home than that day at his mom's house.

Anyway, our first meeting happened to be the day he came home. My best friend invited me over, and though it seemed rather stalkerish to me, I went. I'd had dreams. He was the literal first thing on my mind in the morning. I couldn't get enough of his pictures, of wondering why I wasn't there. I think I probably wasn't because, well, he probably wouldn't have gone on his mission.

So I was there. Nobody in his family looked at me weird for being there. I was there all the time anyway. I was already family. Other people thought I was stalking him, but whatever.

It took Eric a while to be able to even look at me, let alone speak to me, but in time it came. He says now he knew I would be at his Mom's house a lot, so he made a point to be there.

Oh, hell, everyone. You can go read it for yourself. I wrote a prose piece about it at writing.com. It's called Like Breathing. Go read :)

So I knew. I knew. We married in March 2002. Eric and I have been through our trials - hard times, not counting the three kids in 2 1/2 years or having him work the graveyard shift full time and go to school full time. It doesn't count the numerous apartments we've lived in or any of the regular crap all married couples go through. We've had our trials, and I've never wavered. I don't intend to, and I'm still as happy as I was when we first met and first married. Probably more so.

When we first married, though, he was my Peter and I was his Molly. I'm not afraid to admit it, though I am highly embarrassed. Through the years we've changed quite a bit. He says his mission changed him, changed his views about the church. For me it was witnessing a few people in my life fall from their pedestals.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here, but we have a connection that honestly and truly transcends time.

But it's so stereotypically Mormon to make us both cringe. I honestly believe we would've done this with or without the church - maybe we wouldn't have had three kids as quickly as we did, but we would've married. Without the issues of my non-member family and the Church, we probably would have married even sooner.

It's not something I believe can be compared with other Mormon weddings, those kids you hear about who meet, marry, and have kids all within nine months. Some of those are for real, but I hesitate and hardly believe all of them are. I wish they were.

I hesitate to speak too much because it would be ridiculous to try to convince people that my situation is different - but our culture of lightning fast marriages and procreation does worry me. The pressure put on those who don't marry as quickly, or on those who don't really want to marry as quickly, is unfair.

Because I don't have the time to look at the data right now, let's assume for argument's sake that LDS divorce rates are fairly low compared to the rest of the world. I would wonder at the happiness of those marriages. I know off-hand of far too many marriages that compose of two very unhappy people, a marriage mostly of co-habitation than of anything else. They know it's wrong to divorce, but the passionate love is gone. It doesn't seem like they even try anymore. If they kiss at all, they kiss each other like they would their mom or dad. Ew. Don't they know that's for before they get married? (hahaha)

That's probably for another entry entirely, though.

I just wish we weren't so driven to marry so quickly. It should be about the romance, and quick weddings are "romantic," but marriages themselves are far more serious than most of us realize. My family worried themselves to death over Eric and I, but little did they know that we'd already talked about all the stuff a couple ought to: will I work, how many kids will we have, what's your philosophy on discipline, you've got a good job/benefits, when will we start having kids, what do you think about sex (yes, you should have a sex talk beforehand that doesn't involve your parents), where are we going to live, school, debt, etc. He saw me at my absolute worst and my best, and I the same. It wasn't like with the other boys where it was more an interview than it was conversation. It was natural like everything else about us.

But this doesn't happen to every couple. We really ought to pull back the reigns on all this marriage talk, and I do believe it's more cultural than it is doctrinal. The official talk states that when you know, you know. When you've prayed and you know, then why wait? I agree.

But if it's just because you're "of age" and he's an RM and you guys are fighting to keep all contact "garment friendly" then...no. You shouldn't get married because suddenly you can and he's cute and you really like him - it feels like love. You shouldn't get married because Molly came along, you're turning 26 in two months, and you've gotta get moving because you're sick of all the questions people keep asking you. Though very few will admit it, I believe much of it is due to sexual freedom once you marry.

You also don't do it because your family is expecting something. Could I have married Mark? Yeah, sure, but to marry him would have been for the absolute wrong reasons. I wonder how many of our members have married for the wrong reasons and what it's meant five, ten, even twenty years later.

What is marriage without love? Commitment is vital, but a family needs love too.

4 comments:

Lula O said...

My mom's only piece of advice before I got married was this: When he says he just wants to cuddle, that's a lie.

I prayed I'd married a "dishonest" man. I did...

Laura said...

So cool that you are writing about this. My lil sis as at BYU Idaho right now and is getting all "the questions." By the way, she's only 20! She sees her friends getting married and wonders what's wrong with HER? Anyone see the irony there? We have had countless discussions about this very topic, and I always make it a point to tell her that normal folks don't meet and set a date within a month (she had a friend who recently dated a guy for all of 3 weeks and just knew that they were meant to be.) People outside the church think those folks are nuts! Heck - I think they are!

I have to admit that when I get these wedding invitations in the mail from one of the post young women in our ward, it makes me cringe. I try to get an idea from the picure whether or not she truly loves the guy. Maybe she does, but it's just hard for me to believe that she knows everything she should know about the person in the picture with her. The pictures seem so impersonal, so.... fake! I have to wonder if they are really in love. Because if they aren't, I feel really sad for them. Are we pushing our youth into loveless marriages? Are we telling them to look for Mr. Right or Mr. Good Enough for Right Now?

I actually was lucky like you, in the fact that I really and truly knew that my husband was meant for me. (We've been in the same ward since we were 12 yrs old so I feel like know him about as well as you can know a person - i.e. personal hygiene habits, annoying ticks, and other ESSENTIAL pieces of information), but I was STILL scared on my wedding day. I amazed at how quickly and casually young gals and guys are willing to enter into the biggest decision of their adult lives. To borrow a phrase from my favorate SNL skit..REALLY? You really know you want to marry a person after only 3 weeks? Really?

Great post!

nyn said...

I love this post. I have been following your blog for about two weeks now and I feel like everything you write is exactly what I want to say, but without my own "right" words to say it. I am in complete agreement with you on this topic. I have a brother who just got home ONE MONTH AGO!! He thinks he has already found "the one". It seems as long as she meets the Molly requirements any girl could be the one. I get so frustrated with this situation. I wish there were some better way to resolve this cultural issue. I too worry that more marriages will end because they "thought" it wasn't.

Lisa said...

Laura, Nyn: Yep. It's very scary, you do wonder, and yet I can't say much because...well, it does happen. I don't know about as often as it seems, though...

Is it the Spirit or the excitement? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Is it the Spirit or our eagerness to get married and have kids?

You get the idea. It is something that needs to be addressed. I wonder if it ever will be. Often a GA will address a cultural issue like this, but the message gets lost, an afterthought in a sea of the same ol' same ol'

Lula: haha, yeah. Guys :P They'll cuddle as long as it leads to something else ;) Not always a bad thing.