11 June 2008

In Which My Darkest Suspicions Are Confirmed

Last night I attended a baby shower. There were no games and wonderful food, so all told a pretty good shower as such things go. Except for one disturbing conversation that took place around me. In the last couple of weeks several families I know through church have had loved ones pass away. And one of the ladies at the shower hadn't heard of the most recent passing.  So three ladies were discussing the details:

Lady 1:  I have just had to send out too many sympathy cards lately.

Lady 2:  What?

Lady 3:  So-and-so's sister passed away.

Lady 2:  Sister A or sister B?

Lady 1:  Sister B.

Lady 2: Wait I thought sister A was the one that was sick.

Lady 3:  No, it was sister B

Lady 1:  Which is just so tragic.  She is leaving behind a 10 year-old daughter

Lady 3:  No, she is 15.  The same age as my daughter.

Lady 2:  Oh, how sad.

I have long had the sneaking suspicion that single people are looked at as second-class citizens in our conservative, religious culture.  Single people aren't the norm in most congregations and are often expected to pick up extra slack because we don't have a husband or children.  It also happens to married women without children, I suspect. But to hear a conversation in which some participants intimate that it is somehow more tragic for one 40-something woman to die than another simply because one has children is awful.  A life ended is a life ended, regardless of circumstance.  It is appalling to hear that people think otherwise.


esperanza said...

Wow. I agree, that is awful. Single women are kind of a "minority culture" in the church, not that you can really compare it to being a racial minority, but nevertheless, I am rambling. :)

aquamarine said...

This conversation makes me feel a little sick. Everyone single or not is connected to loved ones.

katharine said...

don't you think they meant "how awful to lose your mother when you're so young?" rather than that one death was more tragic? that's how i would try to see it, at least.

and i think most active members in the church end up feeling that way at some point (about 'picking up slack')- isn't it frustrating?! we all go through times when we are super busy, why do others always assume they are the busiest? and thus they can't serve?

a visitor said...

Yeah, it looks to me like they are saying it's sad because she's leaving behind a daughter, not that it's MORE sad because this sister had kids. That's how I read that dialogue.

Heather said...

I think that people for the most part have good intentions and it makes life a little easier to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think that everyone is hurting a little in their own way. I'm sorry that it hurt you though, I'm sure that the conversation could have/should have come out better.

I also don't think that they meant that it would have been better had the other (single) sister been the one to pass away.. I think it was a completely different thought.

Another thing that I have to frequently remind myself is that people in the church do not always represent "THE Church". Individuals choose to interprit things in different ways, and if ever someone treats us in an unkind or unthoughtful way.. It is their untruth and wrong-doing, and not a statement of how The Church stands on the matter.. remember What our Prophet and leaders have taught us about each individual's importance, and what our Savior has also said about our worth. The Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ teach us that we are all so VERY valued, and anyone that suggests otherwise must not be in a very good place themselves. That's my opionion anyway. I'm sorry for the soap box, but it pains me that it made you feel bad.

And if anyone tries another stunt like that.. just go for the eyes.. remember: The eyes are the groin of the head!

thank you Dwight :)

Spinster in the City said...

I have often felt like a second class citizen in Mormon culture because I am a single woman. The problem is there is really no place for us in the culture, especially if you are over 30 years old. Alas, it is nice to have a little online community.

Scully said...

Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive or maybe there was something in her tone, but it really disturbed me.

i i eee said...

I think depending on the situation and the speakers, hearing such things can be quite offensive.

At events like bridal and baby showers, we're probably more on our guard, perhaps even expecting to find something said that could possibly cause offense.

I definitely see your point though. Regardless of whether or not these ladies meant to place value on one life above another, it is a common assumption made by many that persons who have more roles/labels in life -(mother, daughter, grandmother, wife, friend, etc.) -are contributing more to society and community, than just your average selfish singleton. Therefore she who has most labels has more to lose.

I think as single women, we should try our best to not take offense... although at times it's impossible not to... but the fact of the matter is, there are more of them than there are of us. Yes we can try to promote more compassion, and teach others to not treat us like second-class citizens. However, it's a losing battle, which doesn't mean it's not worth fighting, but sadly I see too many singles crossing over to the martial side, and how quickly they lose their empathy for remaining singletons. It's as though they have finally joined the "winning" team, and they'd like to forget that they were ever "losing."

I'm totally rambling, and I apologize. I think the point I'm trying to make is: they (being a lot of married people) already believe we're terribly bitter and angry and whatever ugly adjective you can think of -that's how we're perceived. There's a huge cultural rift between us and them, and we tend to make married people uncomfortable. We have more "freedom," we have more opportunity to do other things because unlike them the cultural norm has rejected us. When at the same time we are also to pitied, being that we remain barren virgins in a sexualized world, alone, knitting pink booties for our cat-children, eating frozen meals of shame while watching crappy rom coms where we relate more to Kate Hudson's sidekick than Kate Hudson herself.