A reader recently pointed me to a curious and fascinating document online with the puzzling – to me – title “Confessions of a Ward Hopper.” The author, it turns out, is an unmarried Mormon lawyer in his early 30s, and he isn’t happy about his single status. The “wards” he’s referring to in his title are Mormon singles wards, essentially congregations designed to give, well, Mormon singles the chance to meet and marry (and then to move into one of the Church’s regular home wards). Such is the theory, in any case. But our “Ward Hopper” has had no such luck, and he’s been flitting from singles ward to singles ward in a so-far fruitless search for a mate.
I have attended every LDS singles ward that has existed in the last decade from Provo to Ogden – and a few in Vegas, California, Washington and St. George. …
I hate singles wards — and so does everyone who attends them — but we all keep going to them, pretending we like them, pretending like we belong, only because we all want to get married to someone who’s LDS and we believe the wards are a necessary mine field in our lives. … There is no where else to go to meet LDS singles in person and no other way to get to know them
So what seems to be the sticking point? At first glance, Ward Hopper seems like quite a catch, at least for a certian kind of woman. He makes a good living. His faith, he says, “is solid as a rock.” He owns a small fleet of vehicles (four cars, two motorcycles, two boats). As he describes himself:
I’m 6’2, and fairly slim. I used to body-build, but now I just drink Coke and watch FOX News. I have thinning brown hair and blue eyes that are so piercing that sometimes I find whole rooms of people falling silent and staring at them as I enter.
I think we’re beginning to see just why Mr. Hopper hasn’t quite clicked with anyone yet: his self-descriptions veer wildly between grandiosity (those piercing blue eyes) and hypercritical self-loathing. Hopper continues:
I like to think I’m attractive and smart; but, in moments of pain and failure, I realize that I am not as attractive and smart as I’ve convinced myself I am. I am constantly stressed about cases, clients, being single, money and my habitual disorganization. My apartment is a disaster, and so are my cars.
Maybe he’s trying to pull a Costanza here, throwing women off-guard with his radical honesty. (“My name is George. I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents.”) But this strategy works better on sitcoms than in real life.
And here we come to another of Hopper’s less endearing qualities. If Hopper judges himself a bit harshly at times, he’s even more judgmental of others. Walking into a new singles ward, he sizes everyone up at once with those “piercing” eyes of his. And he doesn’t seem to like what he sees – or, rather, imagines:
I can tell within thirty seconds of meeting another priesthood holder whether that Elder is addicted to porn by watching which women he glances at. I can tell from the response I get to a single smile whether any young woman is from a small town, whether she is spoiled and stuck up, and whether she is a democrat.
As you have probably begun to suspect, Hopper is especially judgmental when it comes to women, none of whom seem to live up to his exacting standards. All he wants, he says, is “someone beautiful who’s LDS, who’s not spoiled, who needs me.” But, alas, most of the singles ward ladies are fat fatties:
Two thirds of the young women are overweight. These girls all think that because they have good personalities, or good jobs, or are well-educated that guys should care more about who they are than how they look. Someone needs to make them understand that young men will never want to be intimate with them if they’re even a little heavy, and they’re doomed if they don’t lose weight. If these girls understood the world and men, they’d all quit their jobs, drop out of school, and devote themselves soley to losing weight. It’s that important. While beauty isn’t the only important thing in a girl, it is the gateway to the other qualities which no man cares about exploring without the attraction. No amount of makeup will cover a size fifteen dress size. Like men, women have an obligation to be happy, to procreate, to start a family, to experience humanity and love — which means they’ve got an obligation to lose some weight to accomplish that. Nobody would have wanted to kiss Sleeping Beauty if she were a fatty with a Ph.d.
What about the singles ward ladies who aren’t overeducated cupcake-munchers? Apparently they’re all New Age flakes, into “exotic fruit-juice cleanses,” astrology, and gay civil rights:
The other third of the girls who aren’t overweight have a different problem. … We sit down at a nice dinner, and they begin to talk about somebody who’s suffering some medical or emotional problem. They then begin to extol the virtues of holistic/herbal medicine and animal rights, which apparently this person who’s suffering doesn’t understand. I nod in increasing frustration as they begin to praise vegetarianism, then proceed to pontificate about liberalism/feminism/homosexuality from mental notes they took in a humanities class being taught by some gutless, godless, gay, liberal hippee freak at the University of Utah … It seems like many LDS women who aren’t married seek to identify with bizarre belief systems, as if these beliefs have become their spouses … .
And get this, ladies – he’s still single! The line forms on the right.
Despite all this bitterness and blaming of others, I don’t think Hopper is completely hopeless as a human being. He admits to some of his human frailties, talking about his struggle to free himself from a gambling addiction; perhaps this experience could give him a bit of empathy for others who don’t live up to his very specific standards of perfection, or who otherwise have motes in their eyes, as it were. And he does have occasional moments of self-awareness:
I try not to break the Sabbath, but I do buy food on Sundays because I don’t know how to cook. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. I’m the kind of guy who walks into Walmart on a Sunday night and looks around in dismay at all the Sabbath breakers who are wandering the store, and wonder how dare they be there.
From such tiny acorns of self-awareness, mighty oaks can be grown. Forgive yourself for some of your many flaws, and forgive others for their flaws (and all the flaws you simply assume they have). And you might not have to keep hopping forever.