In the teen flick Bring It On: All Or Nothing Solange Knowles’ character Camille tells another that she is too hot to beg as she fawns over a cute male cheerleader on their team.
This quote has stuck by me throughout the years as I use it as my own personal mantra when tredging through the ruins of my love life.
Recently while hanging out with some friends, I cautiously mentioned that while in Utah, I had been dating a young man for a couple of weeks. Almost immediately, I regretted the words as suddenly the air was sucked out of the car and the space erupted into girlish laughter.
Normal conversation turned into a girly interrogation as I was bombarded with questions about our dates and my thoughts about him.
Before then, I didn’t have too many thoughts. We had a nice time. We laughed. In my opinion, any other thought process seemed premature especially since I was only visiting America for a short time and would be returning home following graduation.
Still, this conversation brings a very grim reality of being a young single adult to light.
Somewhere in LDS culture, it has been ingrained into the minds of young single adult women that our lives never truly start until we get married. Until then, it appears that we are to live in a perpetual state of limbo, jealously seething from the sidelines as friends, foes and floozies run off to the temple at the speed of light.
LDS culture directly or indirectly teaches young single adults to beg. It tells us that our singleness is a thorn which needs to be pulled from our sides as we try to navigate life. It puts a countdown on our lives, reminding us that we should marry quickly to avoid being a “leftover single”.
But for women in the church, this begging comes at a price.
Women are told to be meek, quiet and even subservient in hopes that it makes them appear more marriageable. Countless hours are spent picking apart their bodies, obsessing over the smallest pinch of fat between their fingers. Church voices are donned in hope that the quiet feminine tone of their voice arouses male attention. Seasonable blonde becomes a trend as every young woman channels a young Barbie doll in hopes of snagging their own Ken.
And when all else fails and none of these methods works, begging comes to the forefront.
Begging for attention …
Begging for validation.
Begging to be seen and accepted.
Begging to be considered…
Throughout the years, I believed that this need to beg was simply reserved as a Utah or American problem. Time after time, I had been on the receiving end of calls by girlfriends who throughout the years have struggled, won or had simply given up at the dating game as they vented their frustrations.
Somehow, they all seemed not to realize the power behind the beg. Still, I chalked it all up to living in Utah where marriage is at the forefront of every young adult walking around with a pulse.
It was only when I felt it myself while suffering through my own horrible dating experiences while still in Barbados that I realized too had fallen victim to the beg. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be seen as pretty and gorgeous. I wanted someone to tell me that I was. I craved the attention and needed to be validated. I wanted to hear that I was a good person. I wanted to hear that I was a good member. I needed to hear that I was a desirable person.
Most importantly, I wanted to be considered. I wanted to feel as though I was an option and not an afterthought. I wanted to know that I was someone’s first choice. And once I did, I wanted to know that I was the only one they wanted.
Now this toxic trend has been with me since the beginning of my membership where I was confronted by leaders who instructed me to return from trips with husbands or someone I could go to the temple with. It was repeated that I should make myself appeal to the male gaze so that I could slice off a piece of the celestial pie that everyone who was sealed in the temple would feast upon.
It was drilled into my brain that I would be nothing without a man. That my life would not start without a marriage or babies running around my feet. And at each failure, I was reminded of my unworthiness until my confidence was an evaporated puddle against scorched earth. I was reminded that I would never marry. That no one would care. And that if I wanted love, I would have to beg.
In the years since, I’ve been unlearning begging. Still, it’s difficult. My singleness is worn as a badge of dishonor each and every Sunday for all the world to see. Married friends now judge from the sidelines as I refuse to beg or lower my standards for the sake of celestial applause. The comments have been muddled, ranging from genuine concern to those who tell me I am a bad person for delaying marriage while I focus on my educational goals.
In recognizing my own strength as a woman, I surround myself with happiness in whatever form it looks like, living a life on my own conditions and rules while existing in a church that believes that marriage is the greatest joy in life and the one which should be pursued at all cost.
I trust myself not to beg…not to bow down for the sake of bowing down. I trust myself to live in the moment, holding on to those relationships that add value to myself instead of the ones who take value away.
I won’t give me up just to be the perfect LDS woman or to attract the male gaze.
Instead, I choose me, my happiness and whatever path the Lord takes me on to whatever destination he leads me to.