I have dreamed of getting married since I was a young kid. I used to imagine what it would be like to finally meet the love of my life and start my very own happily ever after. I played games about getting married and held ceremonies for my Barbie dolls. At one point I even forced my family to come watch my wedding to an imaginary friend of mine named Arthur. I have this vivid memory of planning what age exactly I would get married. I don’t recall exactly how old I was at the time, but I decided that 21 seemed right and began to count down.
I’m just a few days away from being 21 now and marriage is the last thing on my mind. I’m currently single and have been for two years, minus the occasional short fling. In Utah that means I’m practically an old maid.
I’ve lived in Utah my entire life. I grew up in Bountiful, an area with a very strong LDS presence. I had a lot of friends who were part of the LDS church, so despite the fact that I was raised Episcopalian, it was something I was surrounded by.
This bizarre culture of marriage isn’t without cause. LDS beliefs encourage people to begin families to grow their church. The creation of families is a huge core teaching of the LDS religion. This can be great, and I have seen that it often encourages families to spend more time together. However, this can also be problematic when it pressures young couples to start early, possibly before they’re really ready for something as big as marriage.
LDS youth are not allowed to start dating until they’re 16. There’s huge pride in being VL (virgin lips) even after that, where someone will brag about how they have never kissed anyone. Acts like making out, groping or intercourse are extremely frowned upon. Members of the LDS church aren’t supposed to have sex until they get married and if they do they’re shamed and seen as less. Of course, if waiting is what you want to do as a matter of personal choice, that’s great. But many people don’t want to do that. Sexuality is a natural thing and when people are shamed to such great extent over it, it builds up to become yet another reason for these early marriage ages.
For people who live in Utah, LDS or otherwise, the idea of marriage and especially young marriage is very present. However, it does pose some problems. Those who are LDS haven’t had a lot of time to explore what they want in a relationship in the few short years between when they begin dating and when they are expected to get married. People my age (and younger) may not have developed enough mental and emotional maturity to make a serious marital commitment.
I honestly couldn’t imagine getting married right now, let alone after knowing someone for just a few months. I have too much to do before I can settle down. I need to graduate, travel the world and find a career for myself. I feel like it’s important for me to establish my own individuality and gain the confidence that I can take care of myself before I can become part of a partnership.
Despite this, I still feel the pressure of Utah dating culture. This comes with a specific sort of loneliness as I watch my peers fall in love. Sometimes I even feel ashamed. I can’t help but ask myself what is so wrong with me that I am still single. Logically, of course, I find that ridiculous. Emotionally, I can’t help but be entrenched in the ideals that I’ve grown up surrounded by.