Ministering Angels

"They neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those what are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Wedding Receptions and Timbuktu: Run, Singles, Run!

By Sarita

I am a Slate addict. Just can't get enough.

This week, the agoraphobic middle-aged Cynthia Barnes is exploring Mali: you know, land of Timbuktu, camel treks through the Sahara, and one of the poorest populations in the world. On attending a wedding in this mostly-Muslim country, she writes:

"There have been a couple of times when I've endured the hell that is a nonalcoholic wedding reception, and they were colorless and constipated affairs."

Ha! I haven't made it to Mali yet, but I have managed to endure dozens of nonalchoholic wedding receptions. If you're a typical Mormon, and went through millions of roommates at BYU, you probably have too. Although "constipated" may be true, I find "colorless" rarely is.

One of the most exciting parts of a Mormon wedding is, of course, being single and fending off inquiries about marital status from strangers and family alike. "So, when will it be your turn?" "Why isn't it you getting married?" and "I have the greatest nephew/old roommate/neighbor's sister's best friend's brother: can't I set you two up?" (Actually, I like this last one. Call me a masochist, but I think blind dates are great.)

Some people ask this question because they really care and don't know how else to express it. Some people ask this question because they don't really care and they're being lazy. Some people ask this question because they're socially inept. What do you say to them?

I mean, what do you, specifically, say to them? I'm not terribly smooth, and so I usually try for a self-deprecating, "Well, the boys just don't want me." People who know me well play it off as a joke, and it embarasses the people too lazy to think of any cliche-free conversation starters. (The socially inept keep forging ahead. "Oh, honey, you're not that bad! I had a friend twenty times uglier/smellier/stupider than you, and she still managed to get married." At this point I find it best to shove my mouth full of after-dinner mints to stop myself from yelling an ancient Bedouin warcry, leaping the table, and throttling the dipstick. By the time I'm done chewing, they've usually moved on to speculating about other guests' marital hangups. Or they offer to set me up with their neighbor's sister's best friend's brother, at which point I swallow my pride and my mints, and graciously accept.)

I have a friend who has started answering the wedding questions with, "I'm lesbian." Another friend starts sobbing wildly about ex-boyfriends. A third friend goes to funerals, tracks down the elderly relatives who ambushed her at weddings, and says, "So when's it going to be your turn?"

OK, I made that last one up. But I think it would be pretty funny.

What are your real (or made-up) responses to the wedding questions?

And next time you go to a Mormon wedding reception, just think of it as expanding your cultural boundaries. Imagine yourself in Timbuktu.



at 8/04/2005 8:49 AM Anonymous Naomi said...

These are real responses, although not mine.

One friend, when asked when she was getting married, would say, "April 13, 2006," or some other random date two or three years off. The lines of questioning that resulted got to be pretty funny, as you can imagine. ("Who's the guy?" "I haven't met him yet." "Then how can you know when you're going to get married?" "If I can't know that, why are you asking me in the first place?" Etc.)

Another friend said that the best answer to "Why aren't you married?" was "Why are you fat?" I don't know if she ever actually used it, but at 5'8" and 120 pounds, she certainly could have pulled it off.

at 8/04/2005 10:28 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...


When people would say, "You're so pretty/smart/accomplished--why aren't you married?" I'd say, "Thanks, but you're not any of those things, so why are you?" or just "Why aren't you divorced?"

Eventually they stopped asking.

at 8/04/2005 11:35 AM Blogger Sarita said...

My big hangup is that people automatically assume that they know exactly why I'm not married. After the your so pretty/sophisticated/fun/spunky/whatever comments, they proceed to tell me that I don't flirt enough. That I don't get guys a chance. Or ask, are you going to church dances? Maybe you should. Dangit, that's what I'm doing wrong. Nevermind that when I do I spend my entire night literally running from the 40+ hispanic men that my friend so conveniently pointed out to that I, a tall blonde gringa, speak spanish. Or the personal space invading sweaty boy who asks me to dance and then apologizes for his shirt literally dripping with sweat. Or the guy wearing a spiked collar and one long earring who spends all his time drawing portraits of his obseesion Sarah Mclaughlan, and then follows me around all night because I do after all share her first name. I really should get back into that scene.

Come to think of it, the above is pretty much my exact answer to such questions. Only I keep going like a mad woman until they get scared and slink away.

at 8/04/2005 12:35 PM Blogger cat said...

I've always imagined telling people that I'll get married as soon as the convict I've been writing gets out of jail.

Or, when asked "how's the love life?", especially when by some married person that doesn't even know me, I'd like to ask back "How's the marriage? Sex still good? Not getting divorced anytime soon? See how this is inappropriate?"

at 8/04/2005 12:41 PM Anonymous Barb said...

I have a Baptist friend who was married to my dad's best friend who passed away. She told me at one time something to the effect that she would not rest until I got married. She has three children of her own and are all married, but I am not sure if that was the case then. I hardly talk to her so I was surprised she had such a vested interest in my marital status. She said that she thinks that I would have so much to offer a man. Well, she only knows in brief my level of anxiety problems. :( It really touched me though. I have related to her that I do not have to have a man to be happy. The most recent time that we talked and we got off on the subject of people getting odd as they get older, I related how I am going to be one of those strange old spinsters. She said in a calm way that I could be married if I wanted to. Well, I guess I am to the point now that I am flattered by the marriage. That gives me hope that at least somebody thinks I have potential in that area. :)

at 8/04/2005 2:01 PM Anonymous Barb said...

edit: I have come to the point that I am glattered if people ask me about any prospects for marriage. That gives me hope that somebody thinks I still have potential in that area.

at 8/04/2005 2:42 PM Blogger Sarita said...

I have to admit, I find it flattering as well. At least when they find it so odd that I should be single. I just don't like the pressure of some situations. Such as the last incident. A recently married couple made up of two mission buddies asking me (on video camera) if there was a lucky man in my life. And then, "why" and so on. What makes it harder is the fact that they are just a ridiculously happy and cute couple.

at 8/04/2005 6:33 PM Blogger Andrea said...

I've had a few guys ask me this, which is not actually as bad as nosy middle-aged wedding attendees. Once, on a second date, I gave a guy my best deadpan look and answered levelly, "because I'm a psychopath." Which was clearly (I hope) absurd, and made him feel sheepish.

With the older people, a shrug, smile, and "I just haven't found the right guy, I guess" usually does it. Especially if you change the subject right afterward.

at 8/04/2005 8:50 PM Blogger Laura said...

Ha! Great responses so far! They made me snort out loud. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything at the time.

Sarita, those are excellence Mo-dance stories. I especially like the Sarah McLaughlin obsession.

Cat, I think I'm trying the convict line next time I get a chance. Or maybe Andrea's "because I'm a psychopath." Fills my heart with glee.

at 8/05/2005 4:35 PM Blogger Melinda said...

I was on my way to Relief Society when a sweet old lady asked me what time it was. I told her. She took my hand and asked me if we had met yet. I told her no, I was in the singles' ward, so we weren't in the same ward. She squeezed my hand, smiled beatifically, and said, "don't worry, dearie, I think you're just beautiful."

I was all the way down the hall before I realized the link in that total non sequitur. She figured only ugly people would be in a singles' ward. Oh well, you can't get offended by a sweet little old lady who is just offering a compliment.

When people who irritate me ask why I'm single, I tell them it's because I'm intimidating and men are so easily frightened. Strange, Dirk didn't get frightened. Hmm, I may keep him around for a while . . .

at 8/24/2005 4:39 PM Blogger Mikie said...

Seems like some single siblings and I came up with a few replies at one time. One of them was along the lines of "I'm a lesbian":

"So when are YOU getting married?"

"As soon as gay marriage is legalized!" (of course this is just funny to me because of how conservative my mom's side of the family is).

To be honest, I've made myself pretty unapproachable. After a number of years of getting these questions, people have stopped asking. I guess they finally figured they'd find out if something changed and that it was getting old to ask the same question over and over and get the same answer. The only comment I got at the last reception I went to a month ago was a light-hearted offer by the bride and groom to set me up with one of the girls there at the wedding (probably all 19-20 year olds).

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