Guest Post: A Shout Out to Single Mormon Men
by Suzette Smith
(Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works in non-profit public health. She serves on the executive board of Exponent II and in the Relief Society of her ward.)
In my single adult life, I’ve listened to plenty of criticism for Single Mormon Men (SMM). I’ve heard that they are selfish, lazy, irresponsible, and just plain weird. In “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” Nicole Hardy calls SMM “left overs: awkward, uncompromising, and unlucky”. (NYTimes, 1/2011) Everyone seems to have an opinion about SMM and I’ve read many unflattering theories for their singleness on Mormon blogs across the internet.
These guys just can’t catch a break. The prophet is on their case about being unmarried. Bishops keep the pressure on about dating. Parents are ever inquiring. Ward members eye them suspiciously. And single women (I am very sorry to say) seem to have free reign in their verbal flogging. There is a constant call for them to grow up, man up, career up, and get married, already.
The SMM response to this censure? To walk away. Jared Whitley writes “most single LDS males are probably not willing to complain … so they do the only thing they can do: suffer in quiet desperation [or] seek refuge elsewhere. [This] means leaving the Mormon Church, which compounds the imbalanced gender ratios among LDS singles.” (How Targeting LDS Males for Declining Marriage Rates Misses the Mark )
I’d like to see this change. (Both the harshness toward SMM and the leaving of SMM). I have positive experiences with SMM and I’d like to see other church members have good experiences too. Last spring, for example, I put together an Easter event and rounded up dozens of people to help and to sing. Half of those who said “yes” were SMM. Yesterday, I called three friends for a favor; the one who came through was a SMM. In my daily life, SMM are interesting parts to my email strings, intelligent contributors to my conversations, and fun companions at myriad dinners, outings, and road trips. They have given me blessings when I’ve been ill, brought me food when I’ve been recovering, reviewed my resumes, proofed my Exponent articles, and, along with my girl friends and married friends, have supported me in difficult times. In their wards, I have watched them camp with the Young Men, visit the needy, lead missionary efforts, teach lessons, and sing in choirs. In short, they are kind, genuine, engaging people and largely undeserving of the criticism they receive.
To be realistic, they do have problems. But these problems are no more remarkable than yours or mine. And, yes, they have disappointed me, just as my single girl friends, my married friends, and my family have.
I’d like to have more SMM around. I believe if they feel valued and loved in their friendships and wards – they’ll stay around. And we’ll be better for it.
What are your experiences with SMM? Can you share examples of successful ways to reach out and include them in wards and families?