Fish Out of Water

[Note: This is one of a series of posts about being single in the Mormon church.  Here's a link to the guest post invitation  Here's a link to the archive for this series.]
The 40-year Old Virgin was a comedy because of the absurdity that anyone could possibly be 41 years old and a virgin to boot. Well, it’s not so funny when you’re getting close to that age and it’s actually your life. “You should totally tell her, man…’Cause I watched this movie called, Liar, Liar and the message was ‘Don’t lie’ … And that was a smart movie.”  This overly simple, yet HUGE question from the movie hits way too close to my own experience to be funny. To tell, or not to tell. 
I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I’ve been virtuous and loyal to my beliefs.  But now that I’ve left the church and am dating in the “real world,” has this set me back?  How do I date and function normally?  I’m terrified of this new dating scene because everyone is filled with experience and knowledge that I lack.  Will I jeopardize any new relationships if I tell?  Will I send the man of my dreams running for the hills?  Do I lie about it…just a little white lie?  The longer I wait, the more embarrassing it becomes.
I believe I was warped from the time I was a young child, and I am giving Walt Disney part of the blame!  Seriously, I was probably about eight years old and I’d dance around the house singing these lyrics from Haley Mills in ‘Summer Magic.’
You must walk feminine
Talk feminine
Smile and beguile feminine
Utilize your femininity
That’s what every girl should know, if she wants to catch a beau
Dance feminine
Glance feminine
Act shy and sigh feminine
Compliment his masculinity
That’s what every girl should know, if she wants to catch a beau
Let him do the talking
Men adore good listeners
Laugh, but not too loudly (Haha)
If he should choose to tell a joke
Be radiant, but delicate
Memorize the rules of etiquette
Be demure, sweet and pure
Hide the real you
You must look feminine
Dress feminine
You’re at your best feminine
Emphasize your femininity
That’s what every girl should know
Femininity, femininity
That’s the way to catch a beau
Did you catch the line about hiding the real you? I was drinking the Disney Kool-Aid.
When I headed off to school in Provo, I was ready to date using my tips from Disney.  That changed quickly as I saw scores of women using these same strategies…primping hair and makeup for their early morning trip to the gym, taking that difficult business class with hopes of meeting a smart guy, enrolling in elementary education to show guys that they are nurturing to children.  Finding a husband seemed to preoccupy everyone around me.  I remember inviting my roommate to the ward Halloween activity, to which she responded, “Why would I go to that?  I already have a fiancé.”  I rebelled.  I put my head in my books and did what I came to do…I got my degree. And then I got the heck out of Utah.
Later I moved on to the dating scene of a popular singles ward in the Bay Area…in many ways, it seemed to be the polar opposite of the Y.  The women of the ward were beautiful, smart, educated, building careers, and didn’t need the attention of a man to feel worthy.  They in no way, shape, or form hid their authentic selves.  But they were also never asked out.  I turned to online dating to get in the game.  I was shocked to find out that I kept getting matched with the men from the ward.  Why did they need to date online?  Were they worried that dating in the ward was too public?  I’m still baffled.  These guys were looking for women who shared their beliefs, who didn’t smoke or drink, who would be a great mother…but they couldn’t find that in the ward, where odds were 3:1 in their favor? 
I’ve tried a few online dating sites, and I never put a religious affiliation on my page…when asked, I write that I’m “spiritual, but not religious.”  And even though I don’t like the taste of alcohol much, I mark that I’m a “social drinker.”  I don’t want to scare men away when I haven’t even met them yet.  I keep thinking, “If you just got to know me…ME…you’d like me…and then I can tell you the truth.”  But is that being authentic?  I’m caught between two worlds, and I’m a fish out of water in both of them.  But for now, I’m trying to figure out how to be me, the authentic me. Everything else is just bonus.