Twenty five years ago, Kay Senzee wrote an Exponent II article about what it felt like to be a single woman in the Church. As I read through it recently, I was struck by how current many of her feelings and observations seemed, even though the Church has certainly made more of an effort in the last quarter century to acknowledge single members. While there have been these concessions, I was wondering – do single members still feel like this? Does this resonate with those of you who are single or who married a little later in life? If it doesn’t reflect your experience, how do/did you deal with the unique problem of being single in a married church? What can married members do or say to help include single members more effectively?
Below is an excerpt from”Single Survival” by Kay Senzee , Exponent II, Winter 1981. If you are interested in reading the entire article, you can find it on the Exponent II website at
“…After several romances didn’t work out, I entered my Glare and Hostility phase. I would return to my Midwestern home with chin stuck out and withering phrase ready. “Go ahead,” I dared family and friends. “Just ask about men and marriage!” After Glare and Hostility came Pleading and Bargaining: long, tearful episodes on my knees making every deal I could think of with God just so He would send me a live, semi-willing male body. Sometimes, even now, I get mad at God and think that just as I will have to explain my life to Him, he will owe me an explanation or two.
Pleading and Bargaining was short-lived. I entered the It’s My Fault phase. Obviously my personality or my body or my mind was at fault. I started taking advantage of the self-help classes the Church periodically offers for what I had previously considered life’s losers. I learned about hair and face and weight, played countless games of volleyball, and attended so many exercise classes that my body gave out, automatically putting an end to this phase.
Next, I lost myself in Good Works. If I couldn’t make it to the Celestial Kingdom with a partner, I would saint myself in. Only when I had given up looking, narrowed my roommates to one, and settled in, did I move to the Bitter and Cynical phase. I had a hard time facing the disillusionment of the unfulfilled promises of marriage and children that were in my patriarchal blessing, a blessing that has to be received from an eternal perspective because it isn’t happening now.
Currently, I am in the Detachment and Logical Assessment phase. There are simply too many women for the men in our Church. I laughingly suggest that “the one for me” – if there is such a thing – was killed in some war or that I am destined to be the 56th wife of some dutiful servant of God. I really believe neither. Sometimes I even secretly feel relieved that whatever kingdom I do earn in the next life, I will have earned it on my own. I do not have to take the added responsibility of either pushing my partner or being pulled by him. I also have a strong support group of men and women, married and single, who help me accept myself without the shadow of waiting for Mr. Right that has followed me for so many years…
Yes, I feel deeply guilty about not being married and having children. I was raised with those expectations. I was thirty before I stopped defining “women” as “married, with children.” Somehow, I had felt that the married seventeen-year-old was a “woman”; I, as a girl. She had an edge on me with her secret knowledge and her automatically assumed role that did not have to be justified. I, on the other hand, had and still have to justify my very being. I have to define myself in roles other than wife and mother. I usually do it by my vocation or my current avocation – “Hi, I’m Kay. I take a photography class.” I have also tried to justify myself by providing myself with the accruements of marriage: buying a house, planting gardens, painting things, and pretending my house is a home.
In trying to justify my existence, I have not found much support in the Church organization. Although grateful for scraps tossed the singles’ way in recent conference talks when a sentence suggests that the Church remembers the singles, I note that with the exception of organizing singles wards and older YSI groups, not much has been done to actually confront the singles issue. The Relief Society Board, for example, still insists that the 150 single women in my ward have a Motherly Education class. I continue to feel angry and sadly disappointed that I will have to wait for the Church to expand its vision….”