Sunday, October 07, 2012

Men don’t reach their thirties still single because they are good at dating (but then, neither do the women)

Funny Wedding Ecard: 'When I grow up, I want to marry a grown man addicted to playing video games.' Said nobody ever.

By way of explanation for my non-LDS friends. This past weekend was the LDS General Conference. Twice a year Mormons gather around laptops, TVs, radios, and sometimes even go to churches, for a whole weekend, and listen to “conference talks” from Salt Lake City. Some of our most beloved leaders give speeches or talks, on the subject of their choosing (but there is often an unofficial theme). Four of the sessions are “general sessions,” for the whole family to watch and listen. The weekend before conference is the special all women’s session, and Saturday night of conference is the all men’s session (known as the priesthood session).
For the most part, women don’t watch the priesthood session, or pay much attention to it. They can if they want (it isn’t secret), but they have to go out of their way to do so. I went out of my way this year and read the official transcript that was sent to the press for the male session.

The talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson during the priesthood session really jumped out at me. I was so affected by his talk that I’ve decided to share almost the full thing below.
You see, I’m tired and frustrated with the men I meet. I’m not referring just to the single men I may meet for romantic purposes (which almost never happens anyway). It seems that everywhere you look, men aren’t trying anymore. I’ve struggled internally, and even read magazine articles and books, trying to understand when men stopped caring about BEING MEN.
Are the women partially to blame? Did the women’s liberation movement, and ascent to equality, somehow make the men stop trying to carry the load? If so, that isn’t really the women’s fault. It’s like saying my neighbor mows his yard so well, that I decided to stop mowing mine because it isn’t as good as his. Stupid logic. And yet? It might be true.
I want a real man. I want a man who impresses me. I want to meet women who impress me. I have no tolerance for a pansy who doesn’t try to live up to his potential. (And the same goes for women as well.)
To quote Christofferson (who was quoting the book, “Manning Up”)-
It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that whereas girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, boys had to pass a test.  They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess, or mastery of the necessary skills.  The goal was to prove their competence as protectors of women and children; this was always their primary social role.  Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.
A few months ago I went to Duck Beach with a few thousand of my fellow Mormon singles. When I returned I went straight to a nannying job, for the same family I tended to last week. At that time I wrote a column for Meridian about my experiences. In it I said that after a week of “fake mommying” and a weekend of wild, and carefree single life, I had made some changes. I realized I could be a single mother, and I could handle it. If you’ve read this blog for many years you know how much I have wanted to be a foster parent and to adopt, with or without a husband. I took care of 4 children, by myself, for a week. I survived. I enjoyed it. And I learned that I am capable and able of being a single mother.
But my experiences also gave me second thoughts about some of the men I met at the beach. When I left the beach there were probably four guys on my radar. They were each fun, attractive, and interesting. One I lost interest in before I even got home. Two held my interest a bit longer, but I realized after playing “fake mommy,” that they were not the kind of man I want to have around. And the fourth one, well, wait a few paragraphs, you’ll see.
I learned I can do it all by myself. I have lived alone for years. I can change the light bulbs in the vaulted ceiling. I own my own power tools. I can change the oil in my car. I can earn an honest living and support myself. And it turns out, I can do it all while taking care of four children.
I don’t NEED a man to take care of me.
I WANT a man who will take care of me.
It is a huge burden and a lot of work to carry load alone. I don’t want to. I don’t want to do it all alone.
I don’t know when the tides of dating changed. There wasn’t a date marked in red on the calendar to let me know when it was time to move on to the next level. In fact, I may have only noticed today that the tides changed.
When I was in high school I often heard the advice, “Smile and be nice to the boys, and they will be nice to you.” I also regularly heard, “Friendship, not courtship, should be the relationship between teenagers.”
And then, still a teenager, I graduated from high school and went off to college. Suddenly it wasn’t about friendship, and it was all about marriage. The advice changed to “Don’t chase the boys. Let them come to you. That’s how you get a man!” Throughout my twenties that advice was repeated many times. Don’t try too hard! Put yourself out there, but let them come to you! In the cutthroat and often competitive world of singles wards, that was some hard advice to take.
One day I woke up in my thirties and the advice had changed again. “Don’t wait for a man to call you! Ask him out! How else will he know you are interested? The world has changed! These men don’t know how to date. You have to make it happen for yourself!”
I fear for the advice I’ll get in my forties! Can someone warn me now what I’ll be hearing then? I want to be well prepared (because I’ve always felt a little behind thus far)!
My mother likes to say, “Men don’t reach their thirties still single because they are good at dating.” She makes a valid point. I’ll admit, I don’t think many of the women are good at it either.
I confess, I am tired. I am tired of dating. I am tired of wondering which piece of advice I should take, and then second guessing, worried I applied the wrong one.
But what is most exhausting may come as a surprise to you.
I’m tired of meeting great guys.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m tired of meeting all of the Mr. Wrongs out there too. I’d rather meet a great guy than another loser.
But it is the good ones that let relationships dissipate or fall apart that I am tired of.
I used to be a big believer in the “He’s just not that into you,” mode of thought. It helped me accept a lack of action and move on. But I’ve discovered there is a new breed out there, a new problem. These are the men (and maybe women do this too, but I highly doubt it) who are good, who are interesting, and with whom there is an attraction and interest. But they do nothing about it.
I used to say, “It’s okay, he’s just not that into you,” and move on. After all, I’ve “not been” into plenty of guys. I can accept that not all guys are into me.
But I have learned that there are guys who are into you, who are interested. It isn’t always just in your head. They really are interested and inviting.
But there is a failure to launch, a lack of spark, or whatever you want to call it. And he just doesn’t pull his weight. The relationship fails because a woman can only do so much on her own.
That is what I am tired of. I’m tired of dating. I'm tired of being patient. I'm tired of waiting for him to figure out that's a brick that landed on his head. I’m tired of trying to figure it all out. I’m tired of blaming myself for not being cute/thin/smart/funny/spiritual/geeky/ditzy/whatever enough.
I’m tired of men not being real men.
I want a man who is not going to let his life pass him by as he plays video games, or pursues career advancement or money. The longer he does that, the longer he is passing by life with me. And quite frankly, I don’t appreciate that. I have stepped up and moved on. I have made a life for myself. I have traveled, experimented, grown, changed, and lived. Maybe I don’t have cash in the bank or a three bedroom house to prove my stature. But I have lived, and I am better for it.
I want a man who wants to live. I want a man who wants to be a man! I want a man like the one described in Elder Christofferson's talk (read it after the jump)!

Brethren, We Have Work To Do
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Brethren, much has been said and written in recent years about the challenges of men and boys.  A sampling of book titles, for example, includes, Why There Are No Good Men Left, The Demise of Guys, The End of Men, Why Boys Fail, and Manning Up.  Interestingly, most of these seem to have been written by women.  In any case, a common thread running through these analyses is that in many societies today men and boys get conflicting and demeaning signals about their roles and value in society.  The author of Manning Up characterized it this way:

It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that whereas girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, boys had to pass a test.  They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess, or mastery of the necessary skills.  The goal was to prove their competence as protectors of women and children; this was always their primary social role.  Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.

In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions.  They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female—that one must dominate the other, and now it’s the women’s turn.  Some argue that a career is everything and marriage and children should be entirely optional—therefore, why do we need men?   In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed.  This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.  In the United States, for example, it is reported:

Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school through graduate school.  By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading.  Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college. . . .  It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s, and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016.  Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys.

Some men and young men have taken the negative signals as an excuse to avoid responsibility and never really grow up.  In an observation that is too often accurate, one university professor remarked, “The men come into class with their backward baseball caps and [their lame] the ‘word processor ate my homework’ excuses.  Meanwhile, the women are checking their day planners and asking for recommendations for law school.”   One female movie reviewer expressed the rather cynical view that, “What we can count on men for, if we’re lucky and choose to have a partner, is to be just that—a partner.  Someone who stands in his own space even as he respects our standing in our own.”  

Brethren, it cannot be this way with us.  As men of the priesthood, we have an essential role to play in society, at home, and in the Church.  But we must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust.  In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting.  We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained.  We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world.  We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home.  We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God waste their strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world, while not being in the world).

Brethren, we have work to do.

You adult men—fathers, single adults, leaders, home teachers—be worthy models and help the rising generation of boys become men.  Teach them social and other skills: how to participate in a conversation, how to get acquainted and interact with others, how to relate to women and girls, how to serve, how to be active and enjoy recreation, how to pursue hobbies without becoming addicted, how to correct mistakes and make better choices.

And so to all who are listening, wherever this message may reach you, I say as Jehovah said to Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:6).  Take heart, and prepare the best you can whatever your circumstances.  Prepare to be a good husband and father; prepare to be a good and productive citizen; prepare to serve the Lord whose priesthood you hold.  Wherever you are your Heavenly Father is mindful of you.  You are not alone, and you have the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Despite our best efforts, things don’t always work out as we have planned, and a particular “wind of adversity” that can come into a man’s life is unemployment.  An early Church welfare pamphlet stated, “A man out of work is of special moment to the Church because, deprived of his inheritance, he is on trial as Job was on trial—for his integrity.  As days lengthen into weeks and months and even years of adversity, the hurt grows deeper, . . . .  The Church cannot hope to save a man on Sunday if during the week it is a complacent witness to the crucifixion of his soul.”

Of course, as has been repeated by prophets over the years, “The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.”  We have much to do to strengthen marriage in societies that increasingly trivialize its importance and purpose.  We have much to do to teach our children “to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28).  Our task is nothing less than to help our children experience the mighty change of heart or conversion to the Lord spoken of so eloquently in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 5:1-12 and Alma 26).  Together with the Relief Society, priesthood quorums can build up parents and marriages, and quorums can provide the blessings of the priesthood to single-parent families.

Yes, Brethren, we have work to do.  Thank you for the sacrifices you make and the good you do.  Keep going, and the Lord will help you.  At times, you may not know quite what to do or what to say—just move forward.  Begin to act, and the Lord assures that “an effectual door shall be opened for [you]” (D&C 118:3).  Begin to speak, and He promises, “you shall not be confounded before men; for it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” (D&C 100:5-6).  It is true we are in many ways ordinary and imperfect, but we have a perfect Master who wrought a perfect Atonement, and we have call upon His grace and His priesthood.  As we repent and purge our souls, we are promised that we will be taught and endowed with power from on high (see D&C 43:16).

The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men who are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation.  They are crying, “Rise Up, O Men of God.”   God help us to do it, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. I give you a hearty "amen" on this column. I was single for nearly 14 years (and effectively single for four more before that) before I married Beloved. Dating him was like dating Ward Cleaver. (Could I give a higher compliment?) There are other men like him out there. Not many, but a few, and a bajillion more with that potential. Rock on, my sister, and stick to your guns.

  2. The advice you will get in your 40's will likely involve voodoo dolls and dancing nekkid under a full moon. And live chickens. You should A) finally start that first Mormon nunnery or B) offer someone a green card.


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