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Friday, June 14, 2013

Guest Post: The Misperceived Notion of The Modern RM

YSA Eddy Morris share some thoughts sparked by the release of the song and music video She's Going On A Mission, which placed first in his ward talent show. You can watch the video at the bottom of this post (Eddy makes an appearance getting a ridiculously over-exaggerating back rub in Sacrament Meeting).

Image by Taylor McBride

I would consider myself a typical male LDS Young Single Adult ("YSA"). I am 23, have recently graduated from college, and am about to begin my graduate studies. I served a full-time mission and am active in my singles ward. I try to serve where I can and live my life in the best way I know how. I am seeking to work hard now, so that one day I can have a good career with which I can support a future family (hopefully). I would say that there are many returned missionaries ("RMs") in the same boat today.

The portrayal of the RM has become something of an enigma in the church. Members now seem to envision a bunch of guys sitting around a big screen TV on Friday night watching ESPN or playing Xbox, eating pizza and downing Mountain Dew (gasp, not a caffeinated beverage!!). He has become the somewhat irresponsible college student who spends his summer selling pest control or security systems and then spends whatever remains after tuition is paid on nice cars and expensive toys. He is afraid of commitment and flees in the opposite direction at the sign of a relationship that has the potential to "get serious" – right now they just want to have fun. I am not saying this guy doesn't exist. When I hear that description, there are even a few people I know who come to mind. And I won't deny that the pizza and Halo scene may have occurred in my apartment a time or two. That being said, in my experience the aforementioned RM is the exception and not the norm.

With so much pressure on the YSAs of the church to move along and get married, it has almost become the assumption that the only reason there are so many YSAs in the church is because those darn RMs are just too busy playing and not willing to get down to business. If that is truly the case, then why are most of the guys I know all dying to find that girl and get married? Is there an extreme disparity in the number of single men to single women in the church? Are we all really that bad at dating?

I happen to live with several guys that I have known for years. We went to high school together, served honorable missions, and attended college together. While a few of our posse have managed to graduate from the singles ward, most of us are still wading through the treacherous battle ground of dating. Having traversed the post-mission dating scene for the past two-and-a-half years, we have had plenty of experience dating all sorts of girls and having all sorts of relationships. All of us have either graduated from college or are close to it, and realize that the opportunities for social interaction with the opposite sex is about to quickly diminish in quantity as we head into the workforce. We are getting to the point (and some of us have been there for a while), where, to put it bluntly, we want to get married. Please don't misinterpret – this has not turned us into the other extreme stereotype for single men in the church, the "marriage hungry RM." We don't try to date anything that breathes, talks, and has two legs, but we wouldn't mind meeting a great girl and moving forward to this next phase of our lives.

Yet, despite all of our best efforts, we are still single. Now don't get me wrong, we have had some relationships of varying success, but nothing that has panned out quite the way we hoped. For a group or relatively intelligent, athletic, driven, funny, and somewhat attractive guys that seem headed for successful futures, this seems paradoxical. We are all active in the church, and do our best to live our lives the best way we can. In short, we are everything a good LDS girl should be looking for ... right? But upon dating, it seems that some girls (not all) are equally as wary of commitment as the men are, and sometimes worse.

This year we all have put a little more effort (it being the final year of college for many of us) into dating. In fact, a few of us got to the point where we were dating girls that we really could see something happening with. And that is when another hurdle appeared in the form of an announcement at the October 2012 General Conference - the reduced mission age for young women.

Don't get me wrong – I am a strong advocate of missionary service. I know that my mission forever changed me, and know that it can do a world of good for somebody who goes and stays for the right reasons. I know many men and women who have identified their missions as one of the turning points of their lives, and it is a great thing that so many more people now have the opportunity to experience this blessing at a younger age. However, there is one side effect to this announcement that has gone largely overlooked, though it has impacted the demographic of LDS RMs like a nuclear bomb. I have lost count of the number of relationships that I know have ending because a girl decided to go on a mission, not least of which include me and several of my friends.

The last thing I want to do is to get into a discussion of whether or not girls should date someone rather than go on a mission if the opportunity presents itself – that is a different matter entirely. However, I would like to point out that many RMs are standing single and alone, not because they want to be single or because they are apathetic about dating, but because circumstance and adverse timing turned against them. As someone once said about difficult situations in life, "You can either laugh about it, or you can cry about it." In an effort to treat it in a humorous way, one roommate took inspiration from our situations to write a song entitled She's Going On A Mission.

Dating is never easy. It involves putting yourself out there, and when rejection happens, it is almost impossible not to take it personally because, well, it is personal. In the LDS community, dating is even more heavily weighed because when you play, you play for keeps ... eternity is a long time. Young men could probably, and should probably, be more proactive and make more of an effort when it comes to dating, and not all failed relationships are because girls aren't committal and decide to go on missions. But the next time you see a RM and think to yourself, "He needs to get on the ball, why isn't he married by now?," just remember that he may not be single because he spends his nights eating ravioli out of the can and watching re-runs of The Office.

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