A little while ago, TIME published an article about the dating demographics of Mormons and Jews titled, “What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis.” It bothered me, but I didn’t write a response because (1) I wasn’t sure why it bugged me and (2) I got engaged 5 days before it was published, so I didn’t really care.
Yesterday, one of my good buddies, Brett Winn posted his thoughts on the article and I’d thought I’d pass them on. Not only is it a great piece, but so is he. Enjoy the read and cheers to you, Brett!
I finally found the time to read the above article. Some of it I agree with because it lines up with perfectly with what I have observed in the real world (like the outrageous number of Mormon women that have had cosmetic procedures). That being said, this is not a very scientific study. The author performs no experiment, makes several non-sequitur leaps and, worst of all, arrives at his conclusion upfront and then goes searching for data to support his bias. I am quite disappointed that Time magazine would hold it up as a reputable study. This is not science. This is propaganda. For some unknown reason the author wants to persuade Mormons and Jews that the plight of unmarried women is basically hopeless and driven solely by demographics. I strongly disagree and am prepared to counter his non-scientific study with one of own.
Let’s follow a case study – single, Mormon, Male, 40-year-old virgin (and never seen the movie). Hey, wait… that’s me! I have quite a few male friends in a very similar boat – older, single, Mormon, don’t sleep around and are genuinely, sincerely looking for the right woman.
Here are the facts (anecdotal, but factual from where I stand) —
(1) Dating preferences shift slightly over time, but I always been drawn to women with the same basic qualities – humorous, kind, intelligent, attractive, outdoorsy, artistic, Mormon women. Perhaps I am still single because these qualities put such women squarely out of my league. Perhaps, but for purposes of this informal study, all that matters is that the selection criteria has remained consistent. And it has.
(2) Mormon women (as a group) are similar to what they have always been. I arrived at this conclusion because the relative ratios of women that fit Fact #1 have remained the same. Yes, finding a woman that makes me so excited I am scared to pick up the phone is rare, but it was equivalently rare back in high school. Mormon women are still made up of all different shapes and sizes and types – from Molly to rebel, sweet to sarcastic, and crazy to unicorn. Some of my contemporaries lament that “all the good ones got married early.” To which I fire back, “Good news. Thanks to the knuckleheads that divorced them, many of the amazing women you might have missed in your early 20s are now available again!” So no complaints, gentlemen. There really are lots of fish in the sea … and by that I mean, lots of quality Mormon ladies to date.
(3) When I honestly look back 2 years or 5 years or 10 years or even 20 years, nothing has changed for me socially. There are still plenty of women who brush me off, want to hangout in the friendzone or are just not interested. That is fine. I am used to it. Those have been the social realities since I started liking girls in the 2nd grade.
Here’s the problem. If the above three statements are true (and they are true for many Mormon men I know), it completely derails the article’s conclusion. The author leaps to the idea that there is a purely demographically-driven, social “buyers market” for men because it supports his predetermined paradigm. But when I compare his conclusion with the last 20+ years of actual experience, there is a giant, glaring error – namely fact #3. There has been no real change in the way women act and react to me. If the article’s conclusion were correct, shouldn’t there be a clearly perceptible change in “social success” for eligible, sincere Mormon men?
Answer: Yes. Absolutely, there should be.
If the odds were really ridiculously stacked in my favor, shouldn’t I be seeing an obvious reduction of selectivity among women? Shouldn’t there be a lot more “yes” and a whole lot fewer “no” than there used to be? Shouldn’t large numbers of amazingly well-qualified, affection-reciprocating women be throwing themselves at me and other single Mormon guys? If the article were correct, they would be. But truthfully, they aren’t. And good for them! Despite the reported man-shortage, far from panicking, Mormon women are holding to their position and standards with grace and dignity. No begging. No desperation. Maybe demographics explains why Mormon women are opting for “surgical enhancements”, but from a purely pragmatic standpoint everything is still the same. Women still turn me down with roughly the same frequency they always have. Meeting a truly engaging and interesting woman with reciprocal interest is still the exception. As near as I can tell, eligible women are just as choosy now as they have ever been. And the vast majority of my male peers are having the exact same experience. My former singles ward bishop was fond of saying “the problem is 80% of the guys are chasing the same 20% of the girls and 80% of the girls are chasing the same 20% of the guys.” It was true then. And its still true now.
Some might say “you are just playing around and delaying marriage just like the article says.” And though that is patently false, it does not affect my argument. As more men leave the church (another of the article’s claims) it should add to the epic, eligible-man shortage and result in mass desperation among Mormon women. Every Mormon guy who is hanging out waiting for a bigger, better deal should see his options improving year-by-year. But that is not reality. This is not Isaiah 4:1. If it were, I am pretty sure I would have noticed. The author didn’t take the time to ask, interview or even consider the common Mormon male perspective in all of this. Or if he did, he certainly didn’t choose to include it, because the real story destroys his case for Mormon matrimonial hysteria.
There is an old saying “any difference which makes no difference IS no difference.” If there has been no appreciable change in the dating scene for Mormon men like me, that calls the author’s entire conclusion into serious question – no matter what the demographics say. The 80% will go on chasing the 20% and the dating landscape will remain, for all practical purposes, unchanged. Do demographics affect the dating/marriage market? I believe they do on a certain level. Are demographic changes the major reason Mormons are marrying later in life (as the article asserts)? No. From all the evidence I have seen, it is a small piece of a much larger puzzle.
BOTTOMLINE: Ladies, no need for panic. There are still lots of single, Mormon guys out there, so keep flirting and friendzoning until you find the right one!