It's a role I don't know if I can play, which makes me an outlier in my own religion.
As I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, my high school best friend announced today she was celebrating her 15th wedding anniversary and declared her husband "the best decision she's ever made." The post accompanied old Kodak camera images snapped by guests at their reception, causing me to reminisce about the days when we looked that young.
Her splashy affirmation of the love she felt for her spouse stung for a moment, as it always does. Not in a typical way, like I wanted what she has, but in a fearful way.
As the years tick by and those anniversary numbers continue to rise, I find myself afraid that I'm unable to become a wife. It's a role I don't know if I can play, which makes me an outlier in my own religion.
I'm Mormon and in this religion, starting at grade school age, we are told we need to rise up and get married — to not get married is to deny oneself the most precious blessings on this earth. I even heard Mormons go as far as to say, "Anyone unmarried after the age of 25 is a menace to society." (This seems extreme to me.)
When I attend church on Sundays, which is increasingly less, I hear the whispers of people saying, "What's wrong with her? Why isn't she married by now?" and "I feel sorry for her. Her life seems so sad." No one asks me why I never got married, and I'm treated differently because of my single status.
To say it makes it challenging to attend church is an understatement.
My invitations to Mormon wedding and baby showers get "lost in the mail" because people don't know what to do with me. I cannot join in their conversations about the exploits of their husbands and silly escapades of their children; it's simply easier to not ask me to join the party.
In Mormonism, they don't pay for clergymen to lead; the services are given by the members themselves. And more than once, I found myself in front of church goers giving lessons on how we can prepare ourselves for marriage and how we should strive to become wives and mothers. I feel like a hypocrite.
Personally, single life suits me better and I worry that at my age (38), I'm incapable of marriage — or at least a successful one, which will leave me as an outsider in my religion for the rest of my life.
On a trip I took recently, I met a woman well into her forties who said once that her biological clock ran out, she stopped caring about marriage or children. I find myself already there. Does this make me selfish? According to my religion, yes.
"Marriage makes you closer to living like God," I was told at church. "Your life becomes more about living for someone else than living for yourself. Staying single is a selfish act. Your life stays all about you."
But after nearly four decades of having life all about me, I don't know how to change it or even want to change it. I don't know how to put someone's needs before my own, as I have never needed to compromise on anything. I fear this is something I'm incompetent at doing and would be an abysmal wife by this stage in life.
I fully admit I'm stubborn. I sleep diagonally, taking up the entire bed; I prefer quiet evenings at home alone; I would rather book trips where I want to go in this world without factoring anyone else into the decisions. These aren't good things.
I worry that every stepping stone I jump to in life — one more career advancement, one more solo travel trip, or one more new hobby undertaken — I move myself on a different journey away from marriage, away from my religion and away from achieving what I should as a Mormon: becoming someone's wife.
Whenever I attend church, no one asks me about my work or newest vacation. Instead, they ask me if I'm close to getting married. I never answer yes.
I wonder if I ever will.