Tuesday, February 26, 2008

False Icons.

In the previous post, a lot of people (who don't know me or my background) made some pretty severe accusations and were unnecessarily defensive about something I assumed nearly everyone has experienced. In an attempt not to get my own feelings involved in their battle on Blogg, I'd like to recognize a pattern which I thought was made clear from the previous post:
How is it that we allow our cultural stereotypes to create assumptions that are directly contradictory to our reality?

Case in point- We assume that most people are married with 3 babies by the time they're out of college, and that something is wrong with us if we're not that person. But...more and more, I am seeing women and men over 27, with a successful career, rockin' bod, great personality, hilarious sense of humor, great testimony, and a life full of adventure and experience. So why do we still feel like a toaster that burns everything if we have such a full life, but not the 'expected' spouse and family to go with it?

I don't feel bad about who I have become. I like that I'm well-travelled and that I have amazing experiences and a great education and that I enjoy working. But somehow, when I walk through the doors of the chapel, I suddenly feel like maybe it's the one place I don't belong. How is it that this cultural expectation outweighs even my own sensibilities? I like to think I'm stronger than that- more rational and more stable than allowing myself to succumb to an insecurity from the one place I want to feel the most secure. And especially when I see what is around me- telling me that the times, they are a'changin'- but still...still...one of these things is not like the other.

When I was at BYU, I remember how everyone would rip on the ignorant, big-haired-bows floating around. And it was funny to think of those flowered-dress girls with their backward bubble-naivete and silly desperation for matrimony. We can all admit that image was a real icon. But when I thought about it----not one of my close friends was like that. And no one I hung out with was like that. And I didn't see anyone in my classes like that...yet that image hung around until the late 90s...How? How did that standard image of expectation somehow cloud over the reality that we were all college students out having a good time and getting a great education?

It's the same thing in a family ward. People self-consciously joke about not being married- as though that is the standard expectation- but there are more single people than families in these wards. We're getting older, more educated, and better in all aspects of our life. And we happen to be single. So why do we assume we should be anything other than that?

It's ten years later and the image is different, but the feelings about cultural expectations are the same. All I'm saying is- let's kill the image and see ourselves for who we really are today. With no explanation or apologies needed.


Krista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krista said...

I've always said it, Farrah....I love your mind.

barefootbex said...

Farrah, you make very good points. It shows character to express yourself so openly. Good on ya for that. And I agree with you on the fact that we all need to lose the 'image' mentality, but that's clearly easier said than done. I think it really comes down to seeing ourselves the way the Big Guy does (*wondering if it's really necessary to capitalize 'big guy'*). Point being, some days, when I feel a little more in tune, I love having the mindset of 'live in the now, and enjoy what I have while I have it'. Those are the times when I can really appreciate the point I am at in my life. Other times, I, just like anyone else, can get so easily caught up in whether or not I'm wearing the right color earrings for the season...I don't really even get that stuff, but you know what I mean. Best I've come up with to combat any negative feelings on my life is to have someone I look up to and aspire to be like. Someone realistic. I love that, because they are usually people that I know go through crazy crap in their lives too, and always come out smiling. Life is pretty awesome, when we stop complaining long enough to recognize its awesomeness. I think it's great that you love who you are, and awesome that you've accomplished the things you have. Take that and run with it.

Jared said...

I too have felt and often continue to feel tha way that you do. I have felt people pass judgement on me for being single at my age (as if it truly has been my choosing). The one thing that I have come to understand, that helps me sleep at night is that I only have to answer to my Heavenly Father ONLY! When I look at myself in the mirror, I know that I am doing all that I can to progress spiritually and even find a spouse....and that is alright with me.

jenmo said...

It's hard when you are taught to do something and it's just not happening, for whatever reason. Probably no reason, or at least no fault of ours. (getting married, having kids, etc).

I recall a recent broadcast where a prominent Sister said that when we're living righteously, we'll still have the desire for those things because they are God-given. It's hard to reconcile that with what our current situation may be because, frankly, it's hard. You want to be happy with who you are no matter what your life situation is. But then there's always that expectation that everyone has. Sucks sometimes. You feel like you're constantly living in this crappy realm of perpetually shattered hope. And i don't want to be defined as "single" or "doesn't have kids." I want people to see me for me, aside from my life situation, whatever that is. I think everyone goes through that though--single, married, married with kids, whatever--in different ways. Which is important for me to remember.

So i think you're right. We just need to look at people as people, regardless of their life situation.

Something that has worked for me, though it's hard and sucks sometimes, is to surround myself by people who I don't feel i have much in common with--or, more specifically-- who have what i want and don't get, for some reason. It helps me related to them as people and not just see them as different because they have what i so desperately want. Or they have what I am fine not having, (but should want to have..aaaghh) And the more I do it, the more sincere I am about doing it. :)

This might not make any sense, nor be what you're talking about at all, so I apologize. But i enjoy your blog and think you're swell.

f*bomb. said...

I know it can be a challenge to have a positive outlook when we don't get what we want...but let's be real here. MOST of our lives we're not going to get what we want when we want it. The difference with our secular lives and our spiritual lives is: I want to feel great about who I am secularly when I am in a spiritual environment, and the distraction of the culture saying I "should" be this or that...well...I just don't think any of us need that kind of voice in our head. Let alone when we're renewing our covenants to be more Christlike.

So let's stop beating ourselves up or laughing out apologies from the pulpit...You are fine as who you are, and the Lord is crafting you to be who He needs you to be...in His own due time. Not ours.

jenmo said...

I absolutely agree.

cropstar said...

Well said Farrah.
May I just submit that the Adversary (damn him to hell! lit'rally) has a lot to do with creating stereotypes and feelings of insecurity in a place where, as you said, we should have the most sense of belonging, regardless of our situation in life.
Hence, we ALL (married, single, whatever) have a responsibility to fight against these stereotypes, against passing judgement and view others just as they are- Children of God.
Recognizing how much God loves the individual will help each of us love the individual. Especially when that individual is ourself. (did that make sense?)

Jay said...

Farrah, I wanted to congratulate you for creating an incredible buzz around your blog...like none I've ever seen before! I've heard people from California, to Utah, to the East Coast talking about this bad boy. I'm a PR guy and I have to admit that I wish people will take notes on what it takes to get some publicity.

Nor have I ever seen such open dialog about a topic that is usually discussed behind closed doors. I feel like I'm witnessing a celebrity therapy session on MTV: never-before seen communication about topics that make you shake your head in disbelief.

I would now like to toss my two cents into the water fountain. Since when did we start caring what other people thought of us, as members of the church or not? The fact of the matter is that the church was designed for families, or at least that is what the church culture has turned into.

Farrah, Jay and anyone else who is single in this church is not alone. Why don't we just count our blessings that we aren't married at this stage in our life? Is marriage going to be the magic potion that removes the unicorn from your forehead? NOPE. When we're married people will look at us funny because we don't want to have kids yet, or we are forced to take a job on Sundays for a few months to get our feet set, or we watch Monday Night Football for FHE, or we spend too much time at work and not enough time with the kids. Let's just face the facts, life sucks, then we die, so we might as well not worry about what others think and live a life of silent service.

f*bomb. said...

I specialize in communication on topics that are a bit taboo (although I don't think "taboo" is quite the right word... "underacknowledged?")

What's always interesting to me is how you can tell by people's opinions where THEIR head is at...Clearly what I felt overly aware of (that I feel out of place to be single and happy about it), immediately conjoured up feelings of insecurity in others- whether it's just being an outsider who's new or wishing we had a completely different lifestyle with a spouse and children.

Either way, as long as people are being constructive with their comments, I welcome the new people. I hope their opinions help and support anyone else who happens to wander along on Blogg. You're all welcome here.

Unless you're ugly and stupid, in which case, go home.

Michael said...

Farrah, you keep on saying what you're saying. You know I'm a fan.

CoCo said...

Remember that part in Sweet Home Alabama when Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) says to Bobby Ray (Ethan Embry) that he should just go to a gay bar. She later admits, after selling him out to his friends, that she thought if everyone was looking at him (for his faults), they wouldn't be looking at her (for her faults). I think that happens a lot in life (including on Sundays).

f*bomb. said...

You. Only you could relate some cheesepuff chick-flick to the gospel. Just one of the many reasons I love to love you, baby.

Rachel said...

Farrah, I love reading your thoughts on "unacknowledged" issues. It is great to see authentic thought communicated so well. My favorite phrase from this whole topic was "scratch on the blackboard" - captured the feeling perfectly. Anyways, I also wanted to say I completely agree with what Jay says in his comment about marriage: "Is marriage going to be the magic potion that removes the unicorn from your forehead? NOPE..." Being married with 3 kids, it would seem that I should not be able to relate at all to your feelings. But it is so true that the church cultural ideal seems to be ever-just-out-of-reach or else it slips away fleetingly after you think you have reached it for a minute. I guess it is because perfection is not for this life, but the striving for it is. (except what we are striving for is clean hands and a pure heart, not some unreachable perfect cookie cutter mold life). So there are unending opportunities to feel like you don't measure up, or that other people feel that you don't measure up. And then you feel it from the outer world culture twice as much in the opposite direction at the same time once you have crossed over and are pursuing the work of a family (i.e. why are you bothering to take care of your young children instead of contributing to your own self-actualization and the greater economic good? You should be leaving them with someone else who has nothing better to do because you obviously should have something better to do... sorry for that angry rant). So my point is that as I read your feelings on not apologizing for being 31, single, and happy - well I related very well to my struggle to feel like I should not have to apologize for not pursuing a career other than the raising of my children at the present time. The circumstances are totally different, but the social pressure doesn't let up, it just changes to be more from without the church than within. hugs, Rachel :)