I recently attended a ward party with my husband and kids. On the way home my husband asked me, “Did you notice how the men were only talking to the men and the women were only talking to the women? It’s the kind of thing you see at high school dances.” I had noticed. And it’s not the first time I’ve noticed this pattern at ward social functions. At this particular party it was mostly the 30-something crowd. It happens a little less when the whole ward is there there’s more age diversity. I also think it doesn’t happen as much in small gatherings. But it’s definitely a thing. I would have enjoyed talking with some of the men at this ward party, but to walk up and join a conversation between four men just seemed too weird.
I wonder what could explain this phenomenon. Is it that most of the men are employed while most of the women don’t have paid employment, so women and men don’t have anything to talk about with each other? The conversations I had with women at the party were mostly about our kids, so I guess that’s possible. It it some antiquated sense of propriety? These are educated, modern Americans, so it seems unlikely they’d refrain from mixing between the genders out of propriety. Is it that we’re used to being separated in Relief Society and Priesthood? Is it some weird cultural thing like Jacob described in this post at BCC? Is it just my ward?
I don’t know, but it’s weird. And it’s doesn’t happen at non-Mormon gatherings. There aren’t any barriers between women and men talking to each other at any non-Mormon parties I’ve attended. It’s even OK to have mixed (some moms, some dads) playdates – something I haven’t seen among Mormons. I took my kids to the museum with a dad of one of my son’s friends, and it wasn’t weird at all. But somehow I can’t imagine doing that with a Mormon dad.
Anyway, I’m curious.