Utah Mormon Socializing

November 22, 2004 | 31 comments
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I thought I’d put up a slightly different kind of post and get at a pet peeve of mine from back in the days when I was single. (i.e. only a year and a half ago) The big question is, outside of Church, where does a single Mormon go to socialize? The problem is, of course, that Church culture orients our socializing around Church activities. But if you are cursed to be in a ward where you “don’t enjoy the company” or they don’t have good activities, where do you go? Further, Church activities are primarily focused around a kind of extension of the youth programs that seem fine until you hit about 22 or 23 when they start seeming immature or boring.

Here’s the problem. Non-Mormon have the advantage of all sorts of social places to go – most oriented around bar-hopping or related activities. Perhaps its the inebriation, but it tends to be easy to meet people, get invited to parties, and so forth. Those of you outside of the Utah area know what I mean. And outside of Utah there is always that tension of “do I hang with my non-member friends or do I do a Mormon-only socialization.” That is a hard choice, but the point I want to get at is that even within Utah with its thousands or tens of thousands of singles, it is hard to socialize.

Recently the advent of online services have changed that somewhat. Nearly every single person I know is on LDSSingles. Back when I was single I did it a bit, but honestly didn’t like the experience. I’ve dated people I’ve met online, even people from various mailing lists. (Obviously this was from the pre-blogging days) However I usually screwed things up as that kind of cold-shock dating just lends itself to misunderstandings and problems for a whole slew of reasons I won’t get into. Further I know lots of women who’ve had problems with such services due to “creepy” people or even married men looking for affairs. (Lying about it through their teeth obviously)

Back when I was single, I met a lot of people through sports, whether it be climbing, kayaking, skiing or so forth. But while I dated a few people met directly or indirectly thorough that, it often never quite works that way – if only because (frankly) a lot of women don’t get into sports of that sort.

Now I know there are a lot of singles out there. So I thought I’d throw the question out for discussion. (Especially since some think T&S is getting too academic in theme) Where do you go to meet people? Especially in a more laid back and casual way as opposed to that “leap right in” avenue of online services. I honestly can’t figure out why there aren’t “hang outs” that are the Mormon equivalent of bar hopping. You’d think in a place like Provo there’d be a ton. But surprisingly there are more Mormon standards kind of hang-outs in non-Mormon cities than in Provo. In fact Provo has a dismal night life.

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31 Responses to Utah Mormon Socializing

  1. […] ience and Mormonism, the importance of Thanksgiving, and much more, including a rant about dating in Provo. Many thanks Clark, and keep up the commenting!
    Permanen […]

  2. CJ on November 22, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Great post. I’ve pondered over this exact same question many a time. Outside of my singles ward, I have no idea where I would go to meet people. I was in Provo while at BYU (obviously) and now live in Salt Lake. It’s nice being around people that have jobs and are a little more motivated, but still the ward remains my soul chance at socializing. What are we to do?

  3. clark on November 22, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    One point I should add is that meeting people in class is rather common. Study groups and all that. Indeed I think many people I knew in college, if they didn’t marry a person from their wards married someone they met in a class (or the roommate of someone in a class). However if you’re not married when you graduate that doesn’t work too well.

    Further there are two other opportunities around Provo. One is the ubiquitous dances that places like UVSC has. It’s a mix with a fair number of wild-childs but then more normal people. Indeed these dances had become common enough that it was rare to hear of ward or stake dances. However most people aren’t exactly socially inclined to “pick up” a member of the opposite sex at a dance. I know I certainly wasn’t in my younger years. For those who came from areas with few Mormons, some of the dating social skills were lacking and the more casual meetings were always better.

    The other opportunity are the ever-popular “published parties.” There’s usually one or two a weekend with hastily made signs on 9th East or 7th North. However my experience was that it was often the usual suspects you met, once again with a large component of the wild-childs. (One roommate met a girl who was a total coke head) I don’t want to make it seem like they all suck. I had a blast at a lot of them – especially the beach parties. But I suspect that isn’t quite the environment a lot are looking for. Also, to be frank, it appeals once again to a certain social personae. (i.e. lots of random hookups or people who just make an appearance.)

  4. clark on November 22, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    One other quick comment. I don’t know if it is still going on, but the whole roving hot tub party thing was big a few years ago. You’d go “crash” some apartment’s hot tub. Of course it had its share of problems. First off I think it didn’t exactly elevant one’s instincts, appealing to shall we euphamistically call more base desires. (i.e. it was about the hard body and for women the bikini) Secondly most apartments, probably under pressure from BYU, really started cracking down on these, even calling the police on people who weren’t living in the apartment. (I remember running in barefeet down a gravel walkway because the police were coming to ticket anyone at the hot tub after 10:00!)

  5. Rusty on November 22, 2004 at 7:26 pm

    Great question! For my thesis project I was strongly considering the development of a dry-bar here in New York City. Like you said, the bar scene is where EVERYONE that is single socializes. I thought it would be great to have a place like a nice, hip bar but without the alcohol. It would have all sorts of virgin mixed drinks, juices, shakes, etc. There are plenty of people (even non-Mormons if you can believe it) that don’t drink for various reasons (religion, pregnant, want to stop drinking, etc) and would love to be in a social atmosphere without the inebriation. I always thought Provo needed a place like that, but I think part of the problem is that single Mormons are cheap (as was I) and wouldn’t pay $4.50 for a glass of juice.

  6. CJ on November 22, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Clark, are you the same guy that commented about lds.org on doctrinal.net a few days ago?

  7. Maren on November 22, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    A few comments. First, yes, many Mormons pay that much for a juice. Ever heard of a place called Jamba Juice? Anyway, meeting single people is a pain outside of Utah, especially if you live in a Family ward. I moved into a family ward in Queens in the beginning of the Summer, and the only singles were women. I then moved to Brooklyn. Hardly any singles there. I would go to a few activities, but nothing seemed to work. I would meet people at work, but of course they would not be Mormon. Others at work would be shocked when I would tell them I did not go to the bars. They asked me how I ever met anyone. Lucky for me, it turned out there was a single man in my ward, and we are now getting married. He had actually spent some Sundays ward hoping throughout the New York area since he moved here, trying to meet people. He did that so much that he had to convince the bishop that he was not inactive. It is very difficult to find people your age, male or female. Especially in New York where people are always so busy. I find that I usually meet people through work or through friends. Sometimes I meet someone at a play or a book reading, but most of my new friends have come from old friends.

  8. ccobb on November 22, 2004 at 8:41 pm

    Well, here’s one out of left field–get a dog and take him/her to a dog park. You will suddenly be introduced into an entire subculture of people who have at least one similar interest, have at least one instant topic of conversation, have at least one activity that they like to do together, and who know how to committ to another living creature. Sure it means you have to commit to one living creature too, but consider it a good first step.

    IMHO you should go to the same park regularly about the same time of day. Most dogs will give you lots of encouragement to follow through. Before you know it, you are one of the regulars, and will know quite a few of the other regulars. You may think I’m joking but I have met some of my best friends at dog parks. And my newly married brother-in-law says that if he would have listened to me and got his beagle 5 years ago, it wouldn’t have taken him 34 years to get married.

  9. Davis Bell on November 22, 2004 at 9:06 pm

    I’d love to comment, but have to get to the pet shop before it closes.

  10. Sarah on November 22, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    It’s even trickier in areas with very few LDS people at all. If “LDS Standards” aren’t enough for you, and you want to actually date actual members, and you’re in Ohio… well, the best thing I can say about it is that everyone already knows both you and the person you’re dating. We can fit almost all the active singles in the quad-stake area here in Columbus (we finally got a South Stake, so I’m using the term “quad-stake” as much as possible), in the Gateway building chapel (it’s the meetinghouse next to our temple — it’s only a little bigger than a branch building; the basketball court is carpeted and so forth).

    Lots of people try to use Institute for that purpose. Our Institute has a ton of people in it; almost as many people are there on Tuesday evening as are at the YSA dances. The most popular class by far (30-45 students?) is the Dating and Marriage prep class, because everyone wants to “meet people.” There are six people, including myself, in the Church History class. ^_^

    All I can say is that having dated a guy I first met online (not on a singles’ site — it was a group writing project), it’s not much fun, and it’s not anything approaching an optimal solution. I don’t know what is.

  11. Trevor Henderson on November 22, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    When out with non-member friends – and these friends sort of epitomize all that is non-Mormon – it’s usually just a relaxed chat at the local music/coffee house. Around here that seems about the only outlet which doesn’t center around the inebriation that you mentioned.

    But I understand you’re talking about socializing with the intent of casual dating (or if you’re like the youth in my area, marriage). Besides bars or clubs, where else do you really turn to if ward Theme Mystery Dinners make you cringe? I guess the solution’s easy for me at least. I’m starting college, soon.

  12. Clark Goble on November 22, 2004 at 9:30 pm

    I don’t know. I wrote about how much I loved lds.org sometime this week. I find it an essential resource. One of the best things the church has done of late.

  13. Jason on November 22, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    I hated those Jr. Woodchuck security guards. So I’m in the hot tub after ten. Big deal. I study all day, work all night (no checks from home, bubba) and that is the only time I can use it. So shave your POS goatee and go harsh someone elses mellow. Whenever I did relent, sure enough, 5 minutes after the security guard left the deal was re-occupied with a half dozen other people. But I’m not bitter…

  14. ronin on November 22, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    Well, being single and LDS in , say, a state like Michigan , and if you add to that the fact that you are over 30, and that is just a recepie for frustration. First, there are almost no singles in that age group available around here, so, looks like, in my case at least, my life partner will probably be someone who will be someone I meet outside Church circles. Sucks bigtime, but, unless, I want to remain single for the rest of my life, that is the way it probably will have to be the way things work out.

  15. Jason on November 22, 2004 at 10:34 pm

    If you escape BYU bride-less or groom-less the old adage holds true for any ward you are in thereafter: The odds are good but the goods are odd.

  16. Rosalynde on November 22, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    I’ll date myself here, but we used to go dancing at a club called The Edge–apparently it’s gone through various incarnations during the time since, and is now (I believe) defunct. We didn’t go to meet people, though–we just went for fun (although once we did end up at Denny’s afterward with a bunch of guys…. ewww). We also went to lots of concerts, where we met people, though we never dated any of them. I met people at the various jobs I worked.

    My sister is single in Washington DC, and while I was visiting her recently I listened to her roommates harangue the men in their ward for not dating–I’ve heard some of the same themes over at Celibate in the City. So apparently even large, thriving singles wards with scads of attractive, intelligent singles can be unsatisfactory dating grounds.

  17. Ben Huff on November 22, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    The concert scene in Provo is kind of cool, and there are a couple of clubbish places that host bands regularly; it’s a certain crowd, though.

  18. D. Fletcher on November 22, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    I’ve actually met way too many people. It’s time I dumped some of them.

  19. chris goble on November 23, 2004 at 12:07 am

    I actually like meeting people at the local climbing wall. Luckily there aren’t any egotistical hot shots where I am, so things are pretty laid back. Also the whole set up is pretty conducive to meeting new people. Usually picking out the members is also pretty easy. Of course it is no evening hang out spot. For that, I am at a loss. I find the time I spend running local clubs has, overall, been the best way to meet interesting people. Of course the time commitment is problematic.

  20. David King Landrith on November 23, 2004 at 12:17 am

    Perhaps I’m simply purveying popular prejudice, but in my experience many of the people (especally men) who aren’t married by the time they’re about 35 aren’t married for important reasons.

  21. Mark on November 23, 2004 at 12:17 am

    Clark:
    If you think its hard to socialize after the mid-twenties, try when you’re over 31! Personally, I have given up on trying to meet people at dances. It just doesn’t lend itself. There is a multi stake singles committee in Utah County that sponsors firesides on Sundays, Temple nights on Wednesdays, Dances on Fridays and a Super activity once a month on Saturdays. Unfortunately, it caters mostly to the over 45 age group.
    Recently, an understanding stake president started an 8-stake consortium for singles 31-45. I have really enjoyed it. Once a week, we have an “institute class� with a speaker for an hour, then volleyball. FHE once a month. Potluck before the 1st Presidency devotional. And the proverbial Halloween, New years dances.
    As far as I can see, that’s about the best one can expect.

    BTW, Clark, I’d be interested to know where you and your wife met… In fact, I’d be interested in knowing where everyone here met their spouse. I once read that most people meet their spouses through friends and family members…

  22. Clark Goble on November 23, 2004 at 12:57 am

    Just for the record, I got married at 35. So trust me, I know what it is like over 31. (Although truth be told, I was actually most social between 31 and 33)

    As for David’s comment, you’re probably right there are important reasons. The lack of social places to meet. However some might take your comments to imply something about the people.

  23. David King Landrith on November 23, 2004 at 3:04 am

    Clark Goble: some might take your comments to imply something about the people.

    Uhm. I am implying something about the people, particularly the guys.

    I realize that I’m making a sweeping generalization here. It’s kind of like saying that chicks are generally taller than guys—it’s true, but we all know chicks that are taller than most guys and guys that are shorter than most chicks.

    That said, it seems to me that older single people (barring widows and widowers) are more likely to be relationship challenged. There’s a very good prima facie reason for this. Namely, that relationship challenged individuals are less likely to get married, and thus the lower the concentration of unmarried people, the greater the concentration of relationship challenged individuals. And my gut (along with a lot of anecdotal evidence) tells me that its the guys with most of the problems.

    Lest anyone think that I’m saying that all single guys over 35 inbred retards, let me say that there are a variety of very common things that can make it difficult for someone to carry on a relationship aside from lacking places to meet. For example, I tend to work an awful lot of hours (more than most lawyers bucking for partner at any rate—though I’m not a lawyer). This probably has a beneficial effect on my marriage (you’ve read some of my comments, so you probably have a pretty good idea why). Nevertheless, I met my wife at BYU (and yes, I know how cliche that is). If I hadn’t, I may well be single (and without prospects—again, you’ve read some of my comments) to this very day.

  24. Jonathan Green on November 23, 2004 at 8:28 am

    David KL: “Relationship challenged?” I though you were implying that they were all gay. The phrase ‘confirmed bachelor’ has a certain wink-wink nudge-nudge history to it, you know.

  25. SFW on November 23, 2004 at 11:16 am

    Clark:

    Are you suggesting that hanging out with Jason, John, Mark, Courtney and others* was not sufficiently exciting? You know, Jason remains single to this day (much to his mother’s disappointment). Perhaps he ought to comment about his current Provo haunts. On second thought, maybe some of those places are best left unnamed.

    * I think Candy and I were married by the time you arrived on the scene, so we had vicarious exposure to the raucous escapades of that group — thank goodness!.

  26. Clark on November 23, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Actually Candy and you had just started dating back when I met you. But I was sort of leaving out the wild days of Belmont as best I could. (grin)

  27. clark on November 23, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    David, I suspect that while there are reasons for people who don’t get married before 24 or so, i.e. shyness or simple social ineptness, after 25 things really do change. I’ve no idea when you married, so perhaps you are aware of that. However by and large it ends up being like night and day. That’s unfortuante since I honestly think that waiting to get married is a very good thing. Just looking at my own marriage I can see how maturity and experience helps it a great deal. Had I been in many of these learning situations while younger it would be much, much more difficult. Just looking at some of the problems with the other couples in my ward and surrounding area makes me think that often we marry too early.

    So I think you have a point. However here’s the problem. Let’s say there are lots of opportunities out there for the charismatic person who knows how to “work the system.” If you aren’t like that, but are more the quiet shy type, how do you learn those added skills? It is often a catch-22. Further, if you are in situations where you aren’t meeting many people with only your ward providing opportunities, perhaps you won’t date that much simply because you don’t feel much in common with the women you meet.

    So I think things are more complex than it appears.

    One thing that I found frustrating and that many of my single friends have commented on is that people working with singles over 25 who married earlier think that the older people have the same experiences they did. But there is such a difference between how things are at 21 from what they are at 26. Especially in Utah where people are rather age conscious.

  28. David King Landrith on November 23, 2004 at 12:37 pm

    There’s definitely a weird Utah age awareness thing always going on. And people do tend to make knee-jerk judgments about the older-unmarrieds (I wonder how many “bachelor” prophets we’ve had besides President Hinckley). When I attended BYU, all of my close friends but one were married. It was pretty odd. Oh, and their wives hated me!

  29. Laura on November 23, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve been in the non-Utah “older” singles scene in several states, and found a handful of fun places to meet other singles that haven’t come up yet.

    One of them, since I love hiking, was the local Sierra Club chapter. Group hikes or backpacking or other adventure trips a couple of times a month and you get to know folks you actually have something in common with. Since SC members tend to be health-conscious as well as environmentally aware, I never found any who had problems with my WoW standards.

    Another place to meet fun folks – at service clubs/projects. Volunteer at the local food bank, library, Special Olympics meet, children’s shelter fundraiser, etc. If you’re not afraid of meeting folks with kids, there’s always soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and football teams needing coaches and referees.

    A friend of mine really likes theatre and she’s met lots of great folks while doing local community productions, and another one plays in a local orchestra.

    The thing is, that as you get to know people who share interests with you, you get to know their friends as well. It was always surprising to hear, on a regular basis, “Oh, I know this guy who’s Mormon – you’ve got to meet him.” And sometimes, the meetings went quite well. But even if they didn’t, I still had lots of fun along the way, doing things I truly loved and making a difference for good in the world around me.

  30. Clark on November 23, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    Mark: BTW, Clark, I’d be interested to know where you and your wife met… In fact, I’d be interested in knowing where everyone here met their spouse. I once read that most people meet their spouses through friends and family members…

    Interestingly I met her at church. Admittedly I was over 30 and thus not supposed to be going to that church. And, when I tried to get a recommend I was told that. Fortunately before I was cast out into the outer darkness of a regular ward I met Nicole who was the most attractive of the regular people in the ward. Also fortunately she was the family home evening mom with my roommate which worked out well. There was a party some people in the ward were having up at a cabin in the mountains so my roommate and I went and did the playing around bit, managed to get her and her friend to come over to watch movies, did the cuddling bit, and the rest was history.

  31. David King Landrith on November 30, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Laura: One of [the fun places to meet other singles], since I love hiking, was the local Sierra Club chapter

    The only problem with socializing at the Sierra Club is that you end up surrounded by a bunch of wacked-out, left-wing nut-jobs.