It’s a lazy, sunny Sunday, and since I just got back from a long nature-walk with my family, it’s time for some relaxing fun. Let’s analyze the good and bad advice in this latest doozy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints: Sister Oaks’s Experience Dating an Apostle (+ 7 Dating Insights).
Right off the bat, I have a problem with the premise (which echoes a harmful message that women receive in LDS culture): a woman’s success is based on her husband’s status. If you’re a woman, there is nothing you can do yourself that comes close to the achievement of being the arm-candy of some really important dude. And BTW, I don’t just mean that this devalues women’s career accomplishments — I mean it also devalues their accomplishments as homemakers:
You can create the most loving, healthy, conducive-to-growth environment possible for your family, but if your husband is a blue-collar worker who never even made Bishop (or worse — he’s a non-member), then Mormons are not going to look up to you and ask your advice like they do successful Mrs. Apostle.
So she starts by quitting her lucrative job that she’s very good at. I’m actually not going to debate that part — it can very well happen that despite being successful at your job, you can get tired of it and want to try something else while you still can. And since she didn’t have debts or dependents, why not? (Though it’s a little odd that she then turned down a dream job at a competing firm.) Kudos to her at least for not saying that it was because she didn’t want to die an old maid.
But this bit kind of jumped out:
This meeting with a General Authority was extremely unusual for me. My exposure to General Authorities had been minimal, and I liked it that way. I had the utmost respect for them. I revered them, but I also understood the line of priesthood jurisdiction and felt confident that my home teachers and my bishop were sufficient to bless my life.
In other words, all of you plebeian ordinary members need to remember that there are layers of hierarchy between you and the really important people. So just because I became successful through my Mormon-royalty connections, don’t try it yourself.
Looking back, I would never have planned to meet an Apostle of the Lord and his daughter dressed so casually.
Um, why not? Oh, right, because they’re more important than everyone else.
On to dating insight #3: “Take Time to Develop a Good Friendship”. This one is actually pretty reasonable, and directly contradicts the terrible advice Mormon young people often get (namely to try to be married within a year of finishing your mission, and any two faithful Mormons can make a marriage work, so just marry the first available person you meet at BYU).
Time is a dear friend also—it mellows us and matures us. My wish for other singles is that they enjoy each and every day of their life.
Yes, Mormon young people — read that bit. Enjoy your life as a single person. Seize the day! Gain life experiences. Don’t sit around fretting about the fact that you aren’t married. And take marriage seriously by not just jumping into it when you’re not ready yet.
Don’t listen to this next bit, though:
Now that I am married, I do not feel that I have graduated to a higher plane. I do know that I feel more complete.
What does that even mean? I’m going to interpret it as “I don’t want to say that getting married is the most important thing a woman can do with her life (because I don’t want to hurt single women’s feelings), but… it is.”
Then comes the most popular pull quote from the article:
When I look back on my single life, my only regrets are that I spent too much time worrying about my future and too little time in the kitchen. I would do anything to be able to make better dinner rolls.
I don’t want to waste too much time on that one since it makes even less sense than the quote above it.
Then she gives a tip in which she has a friend act as a character witness for her — which was made possible by the fact that she’d done good work for her ward in various callings over the years. I’m not sure why she calls that one “Do Your Homework”. I would call it “Enrich your life with interests and experiences that build friendships and make you an interesting person.”
That’s reasonable advice that will help you to lead a full and happy life whether you marry or remain single. It’s certainly better than encouraging single women to spend all their time obsessing about getting married by, say, having them do wedding-dress fashion shows from the age of 12…
Then comes the real winner:
To help facilitate a successful dating relationship, it is usually wise to allow the man to be the initiator, no matter what age you are.
What the…? What does age have to do with it?
Is she saying “No matter how old and desperate you are, don’t try to rush your man.”..? Or is she saying “Even if you have been a fully-independent adult for thirty years, remember that the man is the adult in the relationship.”..?
She goes on to say:
If he makes the effort to contact you, arranges to see you, and takes care of the details, you can be fairly certain that he wants to be with you and has some idea of the basics. In addition, it is an interesting truth that the more self-initiated and independent effort a man puts into building a relationship with a woman, the more he comes to value her.
My issue with this is the gender imbalance. This absolutely goes both ways — or it should. I guess in Mormon-land of course a woman would value her husband, how could she not?
And this next bit is, I think, the worst part:
During my early acquaintance with my husband, I allowed him to make all the phone calls and appointments and contacts because I felt those were his prerogative until I knew him well. That entailed more than a few nail bites as I waited for him to call me. A confident woman does not need constant reassurance.
A confident, self-respecting woman does not sit by the phone, biting her nails waiting for a dude to call her. If she wants to talk to him, she picks up the phone and calls him or texts him herself because she knows that her own time is as valuable as his.
Sister Oaks’s tip here is excellent advice if for some reason you want to be with a man who wants his wife to be a total doormat. If, OTOH, you have a bit of self-respect and you want a husband who sees you as a full-fledged adult human being, I would replace that whole section with an improved section called “Don’t be a doormat.”
It’s disappointing, too, because all of that earlier good stuff about enriching your life with independent interests and friendships is suddenly right out the window if an apostle comes knocking at your door.
I also take issue with her naming that section “Don’t Smother or Pester”. “Don’t smother or pester” would be good advice — if that were actually the topic of the section. But with that title, the section advises women not to call their man at all or make any attempt to contact him. I guess that when a woman calls a man, that’s smothering and pestering (unlike when a man calls a woman)…? This title reinforces the misogynistic belief that there’s nothing more annoying to a man than a woman talking.
The last two bits are par for the course of Mormon dating advice. “Maintain the Lord’s Standards” (a.k.a. don’t have sex) is easy to say if you’re an elderly couple. It’s far more problematic for young people since it’s hard to treat the marriage commitment with the gravity it deserves if it’s placed right where it will be trampled by raging young libidos. And the part about feeling peace when you pray about the relationship — I’m not sure that’s really a good way to pick a spouse. YMMV. It’s nice that they like gardening together though.
And then there’s the eternal Mormon closer: “Anything less will be inadequate eternally.”
Well, I hope you’ll enjoy eternally sharing your husband with Sister Oaks #1…