Dear Ann Cannon • I have been dating my boyfriend for a long time. Almost six years. That might not sound crazy to some people, but in the LDS community we belong to, it’s practically unheard of. I get a lot of questions about why we aren’t married yet, or why I haven’t broken up with him.
I never know what to say in these situations. I don’t want to feel like I have to defend or explain our relationship. How do I gracefully craft a retort that is kind, but also gets the asker to realize the question is a bit intrusive? Is that even possible?
— Witty Wannabe
Dear Witty • Anyone familiar with Mormon culture knows that marriages can often take place in a hurry due (in part) to the church’s proscription against premarital sex. Sometimes these hasty marriages work out and sometimes they don’t. You know. Like marriages in general.
By Mormon standards at least, your situation IS somewhat atypical. But you know what? As long as you’re comfortable with it (and even if you aren’t), you don’t owe anyone an explanation — not even your nearest and dearest who, unlike the nosy casual acquaintance, are probably asking out of genuine interest in and concern for you, right? But still. The status of your relationship is your and your boyfriend’s business. Not theirs.
I’m afraid I don’t have any witty responses for you — just some standard replies that I hope will get the job done. If you want to be kind, just smile and shrug your shoulders, then leave it at that. Resist the temptation to over-explain — or explain at all. If you want to make someone feel mildly (and perhaps deservedly) uncomfortable, respond to the question with “Why do you ask?” And if you’re in a certain mood and don’t care about giving offense, say “It’s none of your business” or possibly even “It’s none of your damn business.”
Good luck with your relationship. I wish you and your boyfriend the best.
Dear Ann Cannon • I’m a Baptist girl from the South. I’m outgoing, friendly and nonjudgmental. We’ve lived in Utah for almost two years and I have no friends. I try to make friends at the park, in our neighborhood, in checkout lines (Southerners talk to everyone anywhere), etc., and as soon as it’s revealed that I’m not LDS (usually the other person will ask), the conversation is halted (sometimes politely, sometimes not). Am I doing something wrong? I just want to not feel all alone out here and to make some friends.
Dear Lonely • Ugh. I hate it when I hear stories about the cultural clannishness some people experience here. I’m sorry this has been your experience so far. I’m not sure where you live in Utah — some areas are definitely more diverse than others, thus making it easier (hopefully) for newcomers to form friendships with LDS members and nonmembers alike. At least that’s how things seem to generally work here in my downtown Salt Lake City neighborhood.
But what can you do if you live in a neighborhood where you are in a clear minority? If your schedule permits, think about becoming involved in organizations like the PTA. Or let your interests and hobbies open doors for you. Do you like to hike? Bike? Read? Knit? Play bridge? Train dogs? Do Jazzercise? Then join a group where others have similar interests. Shared activities can be a powerful bonding agent.
I hope this helps. Meanwhile, don’t give up. And do stay friendly. The world definitely needs more people like you.