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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Kissing History

[Dear Readers,

Over the years I've gotten emails, comments, and other input that is . . . well, let's just say it's from people who aren't big fans of your's truly!

Can't say that I blame them.  As you all know, I can rub people the wrong way.  Lots of different reasons that happens, of course.  I just accept that as part of what I do here and part of who I am.  And, let's face it, I sometimes give some pretty blunt answers to some pretty personal things.

Sometimes I worry about it . . . how people feel . . . some times not.

I honestly don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but I care too much about my readers and young people to sugarcoat everything.  The thing is, when you share honest feelings and opinions, even if people have asked for them and for you to be honest, if they don't like what they read or hear they can lash out.

So some people are cruel, personally attack, are critical or argumentative.  Sometimes I let it go . . . and sometimes I don't.

Today's post is from a reader who was openly very critical of me and some things I had posted.  She took strong exception to a poll I ran once where I asked why people thought some LDS Guys aren't married before a certain age.

In this instance I reached out and tried to build a bridge.  I thought we might find that, despite our differences of opinion we actually shared some common ground . . . at least on some subjects.

I invited her to share her story with me.  And she obliged.  It follows.

I should mention that since then, while I wouldn't say I'm her favorite person in the world, and we certainly don't agree on everything, I think we do see eye-to-eye more than we did at first, and there's more understanding and mutual appreciation than there once was.

And I'm glad about that.

Hope you enjoy the post!

God bless,

- Bro Jo]

Dear Bro Jo,

Here is my story.

When I was in middle school I was pretty boy crazy. I can admit that now, even though I wouldn't at the time.

But middle school was a rough time for me.

In seventh grade I was bullied / harassed by a couple of girls at school over a period of many months.

I took a huge blow to my self-esteem.

In eighth grade I slipped into pretty severe depression.

You don't need to know much about that except that it had a huge affect on my life for years, even when I was out of the thick of it.

By the middle of my freshman year I was starting to learn to love myself again, but I felt a huge need to be loved by others to feel of worth.

I still could not rely on my own love, because quite often I found me disliking myself.

As soon as I turned sixteen, I started pairing off.

There were two big factors that led to this:

First, in the area I grew up, if two people liked each other, they paired off.  Sometimes it wasn't even by choice, but other people would stop trying to date either of them, and so pairing just happened.

Second, having a steady boyfriend meant always having someone who loved (or at least liked) me.

It meant always having someone to take you to the movies or the big dance.

I really liked my dating style even though my parents and Church leaders disagreed.

I kissed each boyfriend that I had (which nearly accounts for the nine).

A brief history / summary of them:

Boy #1: March to June (nonmember)

Boy #2:  a short-lived summer fling (nonmember. this one didn't last long, because I decided his standards were too low - good for me!)

Boy #3:  August to June (11 months minus one day - a really good decision to date him. his mom and I are still friends. He just left on a mission.)

Boy #4:  July-ish and some of August . . . I think. (nonmember. we were never actually a couple. he was probably my biggest bad decision. He liked kissing way too much and I didn't like that.)

Boy #5:  That summer I also went on dates with Boy #5, and by August I realized he was the one I wanted to keep in my life, not Boy #4.  September to April.  My best decision ever. He left on his mission that April. I write him often. He is 1 year my senior. His sister is my best friend; she is one year my junior. I practically lived at their house that year (but never slept over). I am not waiting for him, but I sure wouldn't mind if things work out when he gets back (8 and a half months!!).

I wrote a personal narrative about my relationship with Boy #5 for a class a few months back. I will attach it (keep in mind that it needs some revising. I sent it to him and he sent back corrections, details, and his own memories; I haven't had a chance to add them in satisfactorily yet).

Boy #6:  After I graduated there was an new boy.  July.  Nonmember. the summer after Boy #5 left and I graduated.  He and I were the only two in my group of friends who were still in town. We decided to date out of convenience. He's my neighbor and there really was no one else around to spend time with. Sometimes I regret dating him, because looking back, I don't think I really liked him all that much, I just disliked being single.

Then I came to BYU determined to remain single, but go on lots of Casual Dates. I was successful for a whole semester.

Then there was a semester I was chased by this guy who was head over heels for me.

I was uninterested.

However, when I went back to school after Christmas break I got a really strong prompting to give him a chance.

I was really confused about why I was getting the prompting when the Lord and I had talked about me not dating anyone my freshman year. I prayed really hard about it for several days and finally accepted the prompting and let Boy #7  into my life.

Boy #7:  While the relationship did not last, the blessing we both received from being together did last. When we started dating he was not worthy to serve a mission. I didn't know this or I might not have dated him, but I was unknowingly his motivation to get his life back together and put his papers in.

I learned a ton from our relationship.

He also recently got me in contact with a girl struggling with the same depression issues I got over and I have been able to help her begin to piece her life back together (this is a really good story and I feel like a modern miracle, but too off topic to tell here).

Our break up was really easy:  I simply stayed at BYU and he went home for the summer. He will leave on his mission soon. So even though I was reluctant at first, this was one relationship I really don't regret.

I have learned to enjoy being single while I wait to find the right guy and get to the right maturity level to be married.

I had a NCMO with a guy - big mistake, decided not to do that again (Boy #8).

I also had a relationship with a guy (Boy # 9) for about a week (and after a few dates), but I got a really strong prompting that pairing off wasn't what I was supposed to be doing with my life right now.

I told him, and we broke things off, but remain friends.

I guess a week isn't quite long enough to ruin a friendship in this case.

So here I am single and happy.

FYI, I emailed about your poll before I dated Boy #9. At the time I was pretty angry about dating life at BYU but I was spending a lot of time with a guy who has been really faithful at following promptings, especially about girls and relationships, and who really wants to find the right person and get married, but still has not found an eternal companion at age 29 - probably why the poll answers didn't sit well with me. I felt like it was God's fault he wasn't married yet.

Now I just know it's not my place to make judgements about why anyone isn't married yet.

Feel free to give feedback or ask questions.

I would love to provide more details about any of these.

Also, in writing this to you I have been able to reflect and realized a few things.

When I started dating Boy #5 I was following very subtle promptings, but I am quite sure they were from Heavenly Father because they couldn't have just been my good ideas.

With the exception of Boy #6, I have continued to follow promptings about relationships since that time. This is something I asked Heavenly Father to help me with when Boy #5 left and again when I came to BYU.

Boy #6 obviously was me getting back into old habits instead of really trying to follow the Lord.

(Also, Boy #8 was not a relationship, so he doesn't count in this realization.)

Heavenly Father really does know what is best for each individual, and following individual promptings is better than reading a relationship advice column.

Prayers and questions can, however, be answered through the mouth of another person ("it is often through another that He meets our needs" - I want to say Boyd K Packer, but I am not certain).

I am quite sure that you have sometimes been an answer to some youth's prayer, whether they asked in their heart or out loud.

- Kissed Every Boyfriend

Dear K,

That's quite the history.

So . . . now that I've got the back ground, what do you want to talk about?

I don't know that I'd personally say that you "kissed too many guys"; there are a few I imagine you regret, and you probably should, but that certainly doesn't make you alone in the universe.

Heck, Little Sister, I dated 65 different girls from the time I was 15 until I started dating Sister Jo.

Okay. 63. Number 65 was during the one week when Sister Jo and I broke up, and Sister Jo is number 64. 

And number 66 I suppose.

I get accused of being "judgmental" all the time; I'm certainly opinionated, but I'm not as judgmental as people say.

Those that claim that are really operating from the standpoint of not liking something I said (isn't THAT judgmental???) but, despite the jokes and lashing out, I really like just about everybody.

I have a much more diverse group of friends than I think anyone would guess. The point is, I'm not going to sit here and tell you I think you're a bad person for any reason, and certainly not because you kissed a few guys.

One thing I'd like to get your feedback on is why do you think girls (could be so with guys too, but I notice it much more in girls) feel the need to gain external validation in the form of relationships?

What is it that we're teaching or not teaching our Young Women that has so many of them thinking that they need to have a boyfriend to prove that their beautiful, talented, and valuable?

And where is that coming from? Media? Their parents? Guys? Other girls?

This is not just a Church thing, either. You've learned a lot at a young age, but I get lots of emails from girls, 13-30, that are convinced that their worth is tied to whether or not a man (and all too often ANY man) is in their life.

This concerns me because I believe so strongly that the value of every person comes from God, not from each other, and because of the things it seems some girls are willing to do to get and keep a boyfriend, and (perhaps most importantly to me) because I have two daughters.

Your thoughts?

Oh, and thank you for the kind words, too.

Both here and elsewhere.

I just read one of those "Bro Jo's a blankety-blank" pages . . . Sister Jo is right, I think, when she tells me I shouldn't bother.

But your email was a nice re-focus.


- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I've been thinking a lot about your question: Why do you think girls feel the need to gain external validation in the form of relationships?

I wanted to give you a good answer and I still haven't figured it out fully, but I think there are several factors. 

One thing I thought of first is how we are taught from the time we are in primary that family is important, and as we enter young women's we are taught to prepare for eternal marriage.

We are taught that we need a celestial marriage in order to be exalted.

And so girls feel a pressure to work for that companionship, which creates a stronger desire to be in a relationship as soon as possible.

Another thing that influences girls' desires for a boyfriend is definitely other girls.

Right now I have 3 roommates. Two of them are in serious, steady relationships, and the other is in an open relationship.

I'm the only single one.

At first it was super hard, because I felt awkward and alone.

However, I'm really starting to enjoy my station in life (who knew being single could be fun?? And like I said, 2 jobs and school - I've got no time for a man!).

Pressure can come indirectly, like that, or it can come directly.

For example, when I was a freshman in high school (15ish?), I had a crush on a guy.

My friends (non-members and members) knew it, and they encouraged me to act on my feelings. His friends (especially other female friends) also pressured me to give in and start dating him. 

Finally, I think low self-image has a lot to do with it.

When you don't really love yourself - whether it's body image or internal characteristics - it feels so good to see that it is possible to be loved.

It feels so good to have a guy tell you you're pretty and that you have worth, especially when you don't really believe it, because the more he says it, the more you do start believing him. (Which makes the break up that much more painful.)

And it doesn't feel the same coming from parents or friends.

Parents tell you that you have worth because they have to, they're your parents.

Other girls tell you you're pretty or awesome, but half the time you know they're giving you empty compliments or flat out lying that they like your outfit, whether it's because they pity you or are just rude, or whatever.

So those types of compliments lose meaning, until the only ones you will listen to are the compliments you get from the guys.

It's true that worth comes from God, but some girls have a hard time seeing it.

- K

Dear K,

I think you're on the right track with reasons #2 & #3.

But reason #1 misses one point, I think: namely that girls OUTSIDE of the Church feel this way, too.

I find the complaint that the Church and her members push marriage and family on the youth a bit too trite and sweeping.

Sure, when you're raised in an atmosphere that promotes Eternal Marriages and Happy Families, there's a certain bias, hope, and leaning; but this stuff is not LDS exclusive.

And, to be sure, even kids who come from completely non-religious backgrounds find themselves seeking validation in too-early and too-physical relationships.

So a big part of what we try to do here is to help, as you say, girls understand that their value and worth comes from God, not from boys.

Or men. And I don't think you should so quickly dismiss the words of your parents.

There are TONS of people who have parents that don't see or comment on the great worth of their children.
Those parent's aren't present, aren't supportive, and aren't helping.

To have parents that know your worth, and who work hard to help you see it, feel it, and know it, is a sign that you're a lucky person, blessed with parents who love and care about you.

They may not be perfect . . . heck, of course they're not.

But it's no easy job, you know.

Great to hear from you; keep working hard on your studies and in life.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

By the way, just shared your "guide to kissing" with my little brother (he's 17).

I really like the way you have it organized.

And I really really agree with it.

- K

Dear K,

Thank you, very kind.

- Bro Jo


emily said...

I honestly believe that girls/women seek relationships too young because they lack a solid understanding of their eternal self-worth. I think we all could do well to understand our self-worth better, that despite our mistakes and short-comings we are still of such great worth. If a young girl doesn't understand and have a personal testimony that she is daughter of God with value disconnected from her mistakes, flaws, etc., she is more likely to seek that feeling of value and worth from a relationship elsewhere. I think a strong relationship with God is key to preventing too-early relationships. I also think a rough home-life can drive girls to seek love elsewhere. That's my opinion at least ;)

Bro Jo said...


I think your opinion may be fact.

- Bro Jo