Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dating 101: Be Approachable

Yesterday, I attended FHE (two weeks in a row! Hurray for me!), and naturally, as I am in a Singles Ward, there’s always that element of dating and marriage hanging like a used towel over the laundry rack of our lives. Because I’ve been in a Singles Ward for… Lord, love a duck!... almost 10 years, I’ve gotten used to this wet towel dripping over my head. We all have.  It’s what Singles Wards are for, after all, to get the masses of single Mormons good and married in a timely manner. Eternal families and all of that. And I’m totally okay with this! In fact, I’d say I heartily support it! I want to get married and have some wee ones and maybe even a puppy so sure, I’ll attend a singles ward if it helps my chances! Though, I guess the irony is I’ve actually only gone on dates with members of my same Singles Ward maybe… oh… 4 or 5 times? Over 10 years? And only pseudo-but-not-really actually considered “dating” someone in my singles ward once. Though, to be honest I did go through an “ugly period” circa 2003-2005 so we won’t count those rather unsightly years. Shudder. But I’m not here to talk about the mission and goals of a singles ward and if anyone has actually undertaken the task of measuring outcomes; i.e. marriages brought about by mutual Singles Ward attendance and dating (though because the Church is genius; I’m sure they have); it would be an interesting discussion to contemplate if Singles Wards are actually fulfilling its original mission and if not, why we keep them around. Perhaps the Singles Ward mission has changed and expanded over the years to include other noteworthy and amiable tasks such as missionary work, sense of community, a place where singles can gather with other singles and learn and grow with each other in this strange era known as 20 something’s; but regardless of the expanded purpose of singles wards, marriage will always be part of the ultimate foundational elements as to why they exist. 

Good thing I just told you I wasn’t going to talking about the value of Singles Wards just to go on for a paragraph about the value of Singles Wards. Hurray for tangents! Let’s move on to the purpose of my contemplations, shall we? Indeed.

The real contemplation I’m having has to do with a little advice given at my FHE last night by my sweet Bishop’s wife. I want to make it clear that I think the Bishop and his wife are adorable and kind and in every way have our best interests at heart. And as a single that’s been in the game awhile, I’m always open and even eager to receive advice from the good people who clearly got it right because duh, they are married and I’m not… yet. Hopefully, yet. Maybe, yet… gulp. I’m good at a lot of things; for example, Scottish and British accents. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been blessed with an uncanny ability to imitate a pretty decent Scottish brogue, “Ack! Pass meh thas-uh toob oov haggas laddy, end dunt beh sluh wit’ het, aye?” Ask me sometime! You’ll be wow’ed!  BUT! As good as my Scottish brogue is, my dating skills are not. At least, I don’t think they are cause I’m still pretty single.  So, I’ll always take good advice, accept blind dates, and generally just give it my best shot with what I know… and a lot of things I don’t know. And there are, I’m sure, A LOT of things I don’t know. Which every time something doesn’t work out, I learn something very valuable I didn’t know before. So that’s, good right? And I try and make those necessary changes to next time… NEXT TIME… I’ll do things a little bit… or a lot… better.

At any rate, at this FHE last night the good Bishop and his wife gave us some advice about dating. Most of it I’d heard before; make marriage a priority (check!), make yourself available (school over? DOUBLE CHECK!), flirt (see: Scottish brogue… what? That’s not sexy?), and for heaven’s sakes BATHE! Okay, that last one they hinted at more than outright saying “some of you smell like socks” but there you have it. Pretty straightforward.

But then, my dear Bishop’s wife said something to the affect of: “Be approachable. Don’t appear too independent or self-reliant; or you’re not approachable. Men need to feel needed. They want to be your hero.”

And this one I had to mull over for awhile. Let me tell you something about me. Turns out, I can be a little intimidating. I know! 5 feet 1.5 inches tall and running around speaking in Scottish brogues freaks people out! At least it’s not an Irish accent… that would be a little “pot ‘o gold” creeper, eh? Now seriously internet, I understand I can be a little intimidating I guess because I’m… what’s the word… sassy J, tend to have some er… strong opinions on certain things (Go to School! Don’t do Drugs!), and truly, I DID just become a MASTER of Public Administration (the gloating will never end I tell you!); all could put a few dudes off. But I used to think, I really didn’t care about those dudes because I just wanted to be me, and me was okay, and someone out there would like the me I am. AND, I don’t think this is what Mrs. Bishop meant. I think she still wants us to be us. Me to be me. And you to be… well… maybe not YOU!... but you over there… you can be you. 

Here’s my conundrum: I want to be approachable and maybe I’m not. I bathe. I smile. I hope that I am feminine and girly in most respects; but truth be told I am pretty self-reliant and independent. I really like being able to take care of myself from paying the rent to hanging a shelf to getting my oil changed. And the irony is, the longer I am single, the more and more self-reliant I am becoming. That’s the nature of it, isn’t it? You’re almost forced into self-reliance and independence whether you like it or not! This isn’t to say I’m not above asking for help – because I definitely will if I need help. But a lot of the times, there’s not someone there TO help so, I have to figure it out on my own. It’s the nature of singleness… it’s the nature of single women. We just have to “man-up” and do it ourselves because, well, who else is there to help?

I don’t think the Bishop’s wife intended to tell us to be less than we are. But I’m not sure how to maintain who I am if who I am is man-repellant because I’m appearing too independent. Does my having a decent job, some education, and the ability to pay my bills on time or utilize a stool to reach the top shelf make me less approachable? Less attractive even? I don’t think so. But, there is an “approachableness” perhaps lacking somewhere and I’m not grasping it.  I don’t subscribe to the accolade “I don’t need a man!” and then scowl and spit in all mens general direction… but hey, I sure WANT one sometimes. And its wanting the companionship and stability and family more than a issue with co-dependence or that I can’t do it on my own.  I DO need “him”, but maybe not in some of the more obvious traditional ways right at the moment. Doesn’t mean I won’t later. Those who know me know that when I get married and have children, I want to stay home with them because personally, I see that as incredibly valuable, important, and exactly where I can best use my knowledge, skills, education, and abilities to better myself and better the world. Not to mention doing my best not to raise serial killers, or worse, 40 year old deadbeats living at home working part time at Blockbuster so he can get free video game rentals which he plays every night until 4am just to get up and slobber down some cereal with his Mountain Dew and do it all over again. Shudder. You see my priorities here. And because I want to be a homemaker for awhile at some point, THAT is when I will need the “him” in my life to fulfill that financial/provider role that I don’t necessarily need right now. Does that make sense? Then there are needs like, I need him to be kind and loving and non-judgmental and understanding and accepting of the fact that I get weepy during those Humane Society commercials or love the X-Files. I need him to be a companion and share the load… help carry the burdens of this mortal coil… I need him to go to the movies with me and camping and be there when I need someone to check the pressure in my car tires cause honestly, tires freak me out. I always think they will blow up if I keep poking around. And I need someone to bring me Gatorade when I’m sick or at least pat my head and say, “it’s okay wee one.” That’s what I need. That’s how I need a hero. And I’d really love for him to be my hero. But this damsel can climb down her own tower sometimes; so maybe, he can take care of the dragon while I’m mapping out our getaway route. Eh?

So, here’s the question then, how do I, an independent almost 28 (WTF! When did that happen!) Single woman who would like marriage and family to be in her future, nay, would like a few more dates in the future (baby steps) still be true to herself and BE approachable. I’d like some man-pinions on this as to the difference between approachable and not. How can you tell? What separates and approachable girl from one who isn’t? I already know that I don’t have to “dumb myself down” nor should I go to the other extreme and chuck my “awesomeness” in men’s faces because I’m insecure and bitter (and a MASTER! Okay I’m done J). Naw. I’ve grown up and learned enough to know that nagging, bitterness, “men are pigs” attitudes don’t get you anywhere (though we’ve all had our frustrating moments… ha!). I’ve softened a lot since high school and hope, HOPE, have refined my character enough to edge out some of those other unseemly albeit immature flaws that may have held me back in the past. I also believe that a good man won’t mind that I have a strong opinion on the value of education or the fact that I really don’t like carrots. It’s true… I keep trying to eat them and I just don’t like them. 

I’m all about balance, equity, and of course, open to thoughts and opinions on how better to make the dating world a little more condensed and understandable. An impossible task perhaps! But, in the immortal words of High School Musical, We’re all in this together.  Let the man-pinions (and woman-pinions) begin!
Also note - I am pleased with myself and don't think I need to change "who" I am cause I like who I am. That's not the issue here - it's understanding and making good adjustments and adaptations to accomplish a goal - which in this case is marriage. I believe that "being yourself" is being true to the core you - but allowing yourself to change for the better. If you're an angry raging bag who hates people - THAT may be on instance where change is a good thing. It's for you and for the proverbial "him" - and I think we all know that. So I GREATLY appreciate the "be yourself" reiteration and I fully support it - but what I'm looking for here is a reasonable expectation of change and a better acquaintance with the male psyche that will help me and any woman with the goal of marriage and family be more marriageable while STILL maintaining her core self.


Annie said...

As a 32 year old who only got married 8 months ago, I feel like I have a bit of information to share on this here topic. Nothing like a well-intentioned comment about how to date mess up your psyche about if you are doing it all right. :) I won't disagree that men like to feel needed, and I won't disagree that women need to be approachable, but that also DOES NOT mean changing who you are or pretending to be something entirely different just to get a date. I think it means when you ARE dating a boy, allow him to help you out with things that boys are good at. It was definitely hard to get married and learn to depend on someone else to help me with things I was able to do and used to doing on my own. But it's so much better when you do have another person to depend on. But I digress, I say, just be yourself. And some men might be turned off by your sass and opinions, but some other men are gonna LOVE IT. And you don't want the turned off men anyway, you want the ones who will embrace how awesome you are and add to your awesomeness. You're doing fine, just keep the faith, hope, optimism and all that. And let a boy help you change that lightbulb that's really tall when you aren't, or ask for his help babysitting your nieces and nephews, or whatever comes up.

Andrea Jolene said...

Thanks Annie for the thoughts. And don't worry - I like myself just fine. This is a question on advice, adaptation, and technique, not catering to something I'm not! No way!

Jaime Van Hoose Steele said...

First: Single wards do work! I didn't meet Scott in our ward, but I met him through a friend I made at my singles ward. Plus within a month of us getting married 2 other couples, who had met int he ward, got married! So see, you just keep on keeping on!
Second: I think you're totally datable! You're totally SUPER fun!! I can see where a guy could be intimidated though, because you are the whole package.
Guys for some reason do like to feel needed and smart. I let Scott show me some complex math that I cared nothing about because it let him show off his smarts. So my advice...let the guy be smart in one area and give him a chance to show it off :-)

Andrea Jolene said...

Hurray for Singles Wards working! When they run the data someday; I bet they'll find they mostly workish. HA! And as for the advice - that is genius! There are many things I don't know and "insert boy" could show me. For example: car stuff. I hate car stuff. I know nothing about cars. What else... I know nothing about Math and don't care to. There's that. I also know NOTHING about investments or crap like the stock market. Ah yes! So much I don't KNOW! Hurray!

heidikins said...

A very good man-friend gave me a piece of advice that was groundbreakingly simple and clear, and also, something I'd never considered before: Men need to be needed. That doesn't mean you must be needy, nor does it mean that men don't like independent women. But at the end of the day, one of their basic needs is to be needed by the woman they love. The other half of this piece of advice was to make myself vulnerable enough to need a man. Again, not in a needy or co-dependent fashion, but enough that he can tell that I need him, and that I want to need him. (And, as you said in this post, ultimately you do need him, for love and support and companionship and kids, etc.)

It's hard to find that balance, it's a tricky line to walk, but--allegedly--the results are worth it.

Marisa Jean said...

My singles ward led to a ring on my finger, so I think they're still working okay. ;)

I agree with maintaining your individuality, but I also agree with the Bishop's wife. Men are natually competitive hunters. They aren't going to go for the tiger if there's an antelope nearby. It look me a long time to learn this, but once I started applying it, I was amazed at the dates I got.

I would say another key to being approachable is isolating yourself. So many women go to functions with a group, and stay huddled together with that group. If I was a woman approaching a man, I'd go to one that was alone--not up to a huge group of men who are laughing together. Same applies in any setting, not just the singles ward. I learned in my dating years to go places alone merely because it gives an opening to men.

I think another key is to put the idea of asking you out in their head. If anyone ever said "You would love (blank) restaurant" I'd say "That sounds delicious. Since you know the ins and outs of that place, why don't we make a date of it?" It then puts the ball in their court and allows them to agree or disagree. Easy enough.

And I hate to say this, but perhaps you should read the book "The Rules." While it sounds ridiculous, and I felt like an idiot reading it, the two times I did, and actually followed what it suggested, I had some seriously amazing results come. One of them is named Jonathan. He's my husband now. :)

Andrea Jolene said...

Marisa - EXCELLENT thoughts! I have a few books I enjoy that have said similar things you have - except the isolating part. That makes sense. Gaggles of girls would be very intimidating. "The Rules." Well why not! I will make a Barnes and Noble run this very day!

Nasher said...

Seriously? No male input? Alright, fine, I'll put my foot in to this bear trap.

I want to first start off by saying that I don't think this is your fault. I mean, yes I am sure that there is some part that is your fault because we all bear responsibility for our own lives. But the majority is squarely in our camp. I had a friend who after finally proposing to his girlfriend bore a testimony in church about the BBD: Bigger Better Deal. He said that he kept looking and looking and looking for the BBD. And he was "an idiot for doing it". As guys we just seem to do that.

But to answer your question fully, I would say that you can't stay completely who you are. You must change. We all must. Or else we risk waiting a really long time to find the "perfect" mate. I don't think there is anything wrong with you. And you shouldn't start thinking that there is either. We all need self improvement.

So we are further clear: I think you are approachable. But your Bishops wife is correct: men like to be needed. Somehow we have this ingrained thing that says: go fix/care for/protect/help that. My advice is to look for ways to make yourself need help from a guy. It will make him feel good that you asked for his help. And then you can shower him with praise in the form of whatever you do to show appreciation. I recommend tasty treats.

I hope that helps and that I didn't sound like an @$$ saying it.

Andrea Jolene said...

Dear Pete, You are a genius and your advice is so taken! Thanks for the thoughts! And yes, I've noticed the BBD is a epidemic particularly here in Utah were having a testimony is "common" but outside of Utah, you're actually appreciated for being a normal Mormon girl. You actually get points for it rather than "oh, who isn't? Next!" I think this is the case on both sides of the gender debate - but as there are exponentially way more girls than guys in most instances, it tends to affect the ladies a bit more. Alas!

Marisa Jean said...

I laughed out loud when I read your comment on my blog. My email is mjandjonny@gmail.com. I'm not gonna lie--I'm a little scared to read this bad-boy. Remember, I read those long ago and don't even recall much about them other than I dated seriously more when I applied them than any other time.

Kathy said...
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