As a young, single member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I will echo a sentiment felt by other singles: dating is the actual worst.
Single members of the LDS church between the ages of 18 and 30 have the option of attending a congregation in their geographic area aimed at helping them make friends and find dating opportunities. These congregations are called Young Single Adult, or YSA, Wards. Think of it like a mild-mannered season of “The Bachelor” where the Jell-O molds are in heaping supply and the caffeine-free Diet Coke flows like wine.
Dating within the church is not exclusive to other members of the faith but is set up so that those who want to build a family unit on similar religious principles can do so within a church setting.
Following this structure can mean a lifetime of joy with a significant other and, perhaps, several children, or it can lead to a salty cynicism where stumbling upon a couple’s love makes you hope for their violent demise.
Thousands of single members have found their significant others through a YSA Ward pattern successfully. Others, like myself, have found it to be a complex game of chess where the board is constantly shifting and the pieces are on fire.
I am not an “average Mormon.” I primarily listen to metal music, I regularly watch horror movies and I usually find more joy in incurring third-degree burns than I do in going on first dates.
My dating experiences tend to look more like an episode of “Punk’d” than “The Bachelor.”
I once planned a date with a woman I knew for a short time where we would have dinner, go to an arcade and get ice cream afterward. As we sat down at dinner, my date wanted to bypass the normal introductions and go for more controversial topics.
As I attempted to eat my food and learn about this woman I knew only briefly, she wanted to know my opinions on gun control, First Amendment rights, my 2016 presidential election vote, abortion, equal rights, student affairs at different universities and separation of church and state.
I was so uncomfortable talking about these topics with someone I hardly knew that I looked to a nearby knife to stab my leg and end up in the hospital rather than finishing the date.
Another date with a different woman went in the opposite direction.
While sitting down at a restaurant looking over the menu, I asked the woman I was with what kind of music she listened to. She loved country and folk music.
She reciprocated by asking about my music tastes. I said I listened to several genres of heavy metal.
After admitting she didn’t know what heavy metal was, she expressed her disappointment in agreeing to go on a date with me due to my music tastes. She didn’t want to carry on the conversation for the rest of the evening as we ate for a silent, awkward, agonizing hour and eventually left the restaurant.
I found it only proper to play the musical stylings of the band Cattle Decapitation on our drive back to her house. A feeling of spite may not have been appropriate for dinner, but it made for a sweet dessert.
For a different date, I planned an evening of dinner, attending a local art festival and a scenic drive. My date attended my YSA ward, and we had known each other for several years.
As we ate, I was excited my date wanted to engage in conversation. I was disappointed, however, when she only wanted to talk about other people that we went to church with and what new gossip she heard about them.
I tried to change the topic to movies. She mentioned her disgust with my love for horror movies and how I should change my tastes to be more appealing to women. I wished to say she should change her tastes in conversation to be more appealing to literally anyone, but that would have ironically proved distasteful to a gossiper.
After we finished dinner, walked through the art festival and concluded the scenic drive, my date looked at me and said, “Is that it? Did you not plan anything else?”
Utterly repulsed at her bitter dissatisfaction, I suggested we end the date there as I rolled my eyes so hard I could practically see my frontal lobe.
Please understand that I don’t mention these dates to play a victim or demean these women in any sense. I respect them and consider our time spent together to be learning experiences. However, these dates seem to be crafted by a team of sitcom writers, not by divine intervention.
My dating future may prove successful, or it may continue to be hellish anecdote fodder. I may call a florist to order a bouquet for my new love, or I may call a pizza restaurant and order takeout to drown my sorrows. I may fill out paperwork for a marriage license or a restraining order.
If I try dating someone and a strong relationship forms, then a lifetime of happiness may await me. If I keep trying to date and keep failing, then a lifetime of bitterness and cynicism toward love will become my happily-accepted fate.
Either way, I’m going to make sure I have that pizza restaurant on speed dial.