Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A thought on Men and Women: Part II

Continued from here.

She then went on the say that they really would love for me to come; that they wouldn’t mean to leave me out of the conversation, but that they would probably talk about those things; that she hoped if I came I would help steer the conversation to topics other than husbands and kids.

I appreciated her comments, and saw this as a window of opportunity to tell them exactly what I thought about the whole thing.

I then proceed to give them three reasons why I would probably never come to many (if any) of their girl nights:

1. I don’t think married women, and married women with children, realize how much their conversations focus on those aspects of their lives. Almost all of it does. Really, almost all. And this is perfectly natural, normal, and nice. It’s the way it should be. All of us unmarried, childless friends realize this and don’t mind listening because we LOVE our married friends and care about their lives. But, to a person who is not any of those things, and therefore, can’t really relate, it eventually becomes uninteresting if it’s the only topic being discussed. It’s like chatting with someone who has a hobby that consumes most of their time—if you don’t share that hobby, talking to them about it, and only it, is a sure fire way to create boredom (even if the person you’re talking to is a friend).

Now, of course, marriage/children are not equal to a hobby. Marriage and children have eternal value (and consequences) that collecting porcelain replicas of two-toed sloths do not. And because of this greater weight (eternally speaking), this leads to reason #2.

2. Whether it is intentional or not, single people are made to feel that what they are doing with their lives is a great way to use their time “until” they get married, but that it is not on par with BEING married and having children. Single lives are “in the meantime.”

Let me put it another way: It’s like those who are unmarried are still in school working towards their degree, and those who are married have finished school and actually have a career. The problem with this perspective is that it leads to condescension, patronization, and pity. And this is especially true in the world of Mormon women.

We, women, have the belief that our only goal is to be a wife and mother. That’s it. And so any other derivative is either wrong (like a woman who chose a career over family), or sad (like a woman who never had the opportunity for a family). And this viewpoint colors our conversations with one another.

(Now before you married friends of mine protest that you don’t find us singles “sad” or that our lives are incomplete, answer me this: If you could wave a magic wand and have all of your friends be happily married right now, would you? If you said, “yes,” then why? I’ll answer for you. Because being happily single is second best to being happily married. And that means if you’re single, you’re seen as living a runner-up life. It’s that simple.)

And this leads me to reason #3 which you’ll have to wait for tomorrow.


************** Stay tuned for Part III**************

7 comments:

Andrea said...

You're absolutely right. I couldn't have said this any better. I'm constantly having this conversation with my sister. She "knows exactly what I'm going through" but I have to remind her that being single until your 23 is different than being single when your 27!

Andrea said...

P.S. - I have to wait till tomorrow?!

Johnna said...

I'd wave the wand and make my married friends happily married too.

I'd like to think I'm not like all these married mothers you speak of. I like to talk about books and religion and what adventures people have been up to, their trips and bike rides and home improvements. But maybe I'm kidding myself.

One thing I've noticed about women getting together to talk about their husbands and children, they usually end up slamming the husbands in a way no husbands would talk about wives, or talking about children behind their backs in a way that would embarrass them. Your latest project is much more interesting, and encouraging.

Johnna said...

I'd wave the wand and make my married friends happily married too.

I'd like to think I'm not like all these married mothers you speak of. I like to talk about books and religion and what adventures people have been up to, their trips and bike rides and home improvements. But maybe I'm kidding myself.

One thing I've noticed about women getting together to talk about their husbands and children, they usually end up slamming the husbands in a way no husbands would talk about wives, or talking about children behind their backs in a way that would embarrass them. Your latest project is much more interesting, and encouraging.

Wendy said...

It's funny - maybe because I got married relatively late in the Mormon world, but I feel more marginalized as just being the typical wife and mother than I did as single professional doing my own thing. It's like now I am just one of the pack - a goose in the gaggle - and people don't see any uniqueness or interest beyond that, whereas when you are single, all these hobbies and interests and abilities are given much more attention. Would I wave a wand to have all my friends be married? Sure - someday. I also know that I am so happy that I had those years as a single woman in the church. I wish I could explain myself better on this topic...maybe I'll try to some other time...

Liz said...

Johnna, I don't think you're kidding yourself. You're probably more aware of this issue, and therefore, make an effort to talk about different things. Finding balance is the key in keeping single friends.

Wendy: I was going to add a caveat to my post that women who were single longer usually have a better sense of what it's like and can continue to relate to their single friends easier.

It's also interesting to me that you mention feeling more marginalized being married. I've heard similar opinions from the sisters I visit teach which was an eye-opener for me. I guess I always figured that once you were married and had kids, the church world was your oyster.

Laura said...

We've talked about this so much, and you've really said this very well. These feelings of isolation and being less than married women and not being valued are at the root of why I find it far less painful to be out of the church than in it. Your Part III explains your valiant and faithful side, and I love you for that. Maybe I do lack faith that I can't see the eternal nature of things. Or maybe, feeling completely left out and pittied by people and an organization that should be all-inclusive is a valid reason to put it aside for a while. I love that you told them how you felt and that they didn't seem to argue with you.

Oh..and Andrea - I love what you said about your sister...so true! I've had that conversation with several friends, and they don't seem to get it. I'm glad you made that point. And let me add one more thing. Being single until you're 34 is a lot different than being single until you're 23 or even 27!