Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dating in Mormon Mecca (i.e. Utah County)

Islam has Mecca and Medina. Mormons have Utah. And with the exception of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, no place is more Mormon-y than Utah County, home of Brigham Young University (the Lord's school) and the town I now live in. This is a great place to live and raise children. And it's also really weird at times.

The great part about living here is that it is so clean. The people, in general, are squeaky clean. On Sundays, most of the stores are nearly empty. Movie theatres? Empty, too. Best restaurants? No waits. Everyone helps their neighbors, dresses really conservatively, which means you don't see a lot of shoulders or kneecaps (this is extreme, if you ask me). But you also don't see crotches and pubic hairs and nipples either. There's very little bad language used. I probably have the sauciest mouth in these parts. The roads are in good shape. The schools are new and impressive. People value family and children, morals, honesty, and goodness. The average size family is probably five children, no kidding.

The weird part of Utah County begins with the dress code. I got dirty looks when I took Siena out Trick or Treating last year. Apparently my skirt was far too short, even though I had thick tights and boots with it.

And then there's the whole troublesome thing about my wearing spaghetti strapped dresses and my children wearing shorts that don't go anywhere near their knees and even wear (gasp!) two piece girls being told at church that showing their shoulders or knees to a boy may be the cause of his naughty thoughts. I don't agree with that mindset and I find it troublesome, actually. While I'm no fan of risqué clothing on children, I hardly draw the line there. 

Photo: New hair color for Morgan Nielsen

It is really odd to drive around the neighborhood on a Sunday and every single family in your entire neighborhood, is dressed up and heading to church or home from church. It's really Stepford. Are these people real? I wonder...

In the Mormon church, you don't pick a time and location and just be a member of that church. Oh, no, the church is far too organized for that. Members would church hop, find the best one, and that church would be so huge and unmanageable that it wouldn't work. So they spread it out by assigning you to which church based on where you live that you will attend. And attend we Mormons do because, above all else, we are obedient to Priesthood directives. We call these churches wards. And in our ward, I kid you not, there is one girl (yes, ONE) in the Young Women's program (ages 12-18) that doesn't go to church. Ever. So all the Young Women are trying to activate her. Well, except Morgan, who thinks this girl should be left alone and not shamed or cajoled (my word) into coming. But, good girls that she is, she complies. This month, they're dropping off Secret Santa gifts to her. Tonight was Morgan's turn. We put lotion and shower gel in a bag and left it on her front door step. I can't imagine how weird that must be for that girl. Every time someone in the ward is nice to her at school, she must be thinking they all just want me to come to church. I mean, it's nice, it really is. But if this girl really wants her space, it's just stalking her.

Which brings me to my point. Dating in Mormon Mecca Utah Valley is also really weird. From what I can tell, there is a ginormous group of Mormons who are super involved in these church or church-type dances. They go every Friday and Saturday and this same big group shows up at pretty much all of them. They also do devotionals on Sunday, Family Home Evening groups on Monday, line dancing lessons on Tuesdays, Temple work on Thursdays followed by religion classes, and back to the dances. I hear the scoop from my aunt, who is dating again, my cousin Jeremy, who goes for a few minutes to several activities and then cannot stomach it anymore and leaves, and my friend Michael. The stories are all cringe-worthy and very un-normal, if you ask me. From what I can tell, these people are looking for a wedding. If they don't feel that's going to happen very quickly, time to move on. Ugh! Forget about falling in love and enjoying the dating phase and getting to know each other and let it all developing naturally. Oh no, it's a race to the alter so you can "be married" and can then have sex. And, once married, I dare say that most of those women expect to quit their jobs and stay at home regardless of their age and earning potential. All great reasons to get married. Not.

And then there's the other group that goes to all the single's activities: They never plan on getting remarried and they just hang out. It's the same group of people going to the same types of activities. They talk about each other, there's loads of drama, certain people have reputations known by everyone. It's very high school, especially for people who are middle age and older.

And then there are those on the opposite end who decided that wasn't their path so they are just going to date a lot, have sex with as many women who will let them, and there you have it.

It's oftentimes one extreme to the other with little in between. Not there those in-betweens don't exist because, obviously, they do. But you have to look for them.

On Sunday morning, after our lovely weekend in Deer Valley, William asked me if I thought the reason we had such a nice, easy, "normal" relationship was because I wasn't from Utah and wasn't your typical Mormon girl. He has been single and living in Utah longer than me so that's an honest observation, I think.

I had to think about that one for a moment. What kind of relationship do we have? It is easy. We never fight. Ever. Two small fights that register about a 2 from what I endured from my ex husband. And no other tiffs. We are very much alike. We laugh a lot and do really fun things often. And that all is at face value; no strings attached. So, yes, I told him. I think that helps. I think the relationship we have is very normal outside of Utah County. Thank goodness!

I have met a few very cool guys up here that are "normal" in the dating world. William is one of them and I think he rocks. He knows me as well as anyone (maybe Julie and my mom being the exception). He accepts me, Myeloma warrior and all.

Dating in Utah is culturally bizarre. I still like these people out here, in general. How can you not? There all so dang nice and helpful. And I love Utah. There is so much to do. I have a huge long list and we try to get through it all. I mean, we really make a huge effort to get out and do and explore and experience. And every time I cross one thing on my list, I add four more. I absolutely love it here. I appreciate it. I see God here. I marvel at it. I'm awestruck much of the time. The theatre and performing arts rivals many very large US cities (with the exception of New York, LA, Chicago and maybe San Francisco). Other than that, they're par with the best. People are smart and educated (even though many will play at being simple and a little ditzy 'til you realize they have, like, four degrees and speak Mandarin Chinese, Farsi, English, and a Danish). While many are not "great" people, they mostly try to be better Every day. Their religion and culture requires it. And if you're going to be a good Mormon, you'll fall in line and be obedient and at least try.

Dating in Mecca is entertaining. And it's also a mixed bag. So far, I've been lucky. With the exception of the guy who met me for an afternoon soda. He had a side business where he would give couples coaching lessons on how to give each other sensual massages. Oftentimes, that meant he would get very sexually physical with one or both partners. A few times, he ended up having sex with the woman and watching the couple have sex during his sessions. He offered to give me a complimentary massage, just the two of us, anytime I wanted one.

I literally choked on my lemonade. Asked a few questions because I was absolutely amazed, and said I had to go and that I'd call him later. He texted me 20 times after that and I didn't respond to any of them. Nice enough. Cute enough. Too strange though. Did no one tell him to keep that business a secret to new dates? Yikes, he needs dating counseling but I'm not the one to do it!