Mariah Proctor is a junior at BYU.
I was sitting in church the other day (specifically the other Sabbath day) and as I glanced over, I saw the guy next to me had a whole sheet of doodles that he was fiercely scribbling at, and I saw that he had drawn a stick figure version of me (neatly and usefully labeled with my name). I was a little shocked to see as I compared the stick figure me to the picture of me that I keep tucked away in my mind, that he drew me with bangs. Stick figures’ defining characteristic is their hair–and mine had bangs.
Admittedly, I do have bangs. They feel like a fairly recent style choice, so I still don’t really think of myself as a bearer of the holy fringe. That’s an understatement. I continue to choose to cut bangs each time that I go to my budget-friendly, style less-friendly barber of choice, but I often pin them back if I’m going on a date or getting my first introduction to a new group of people, because that’s not me. I don’t have bangs. I’m not about to have someone create an inaccurate image of me in their head from first introduction on.
People gather a lot of interesting perceptions of me, and it doesn’t always match my perception of myself. Sometimes, knowing someone thinks I am a particular something actually enhances the person I thought I was, sometimes the opposite is true. Funny to live in a household of 13 (on average) in a house with paper-thin walls. I often go to sleep earlier than some of the others, and my ears perk up in those few moments before deep slumber as I hear an observation or two about ‘the girl that just went to bed.’
The most frequent comments I hear made about myself in the assumed privacy of our living room up the stairs are about how I am the perfect candidate to be the sole single in a house of five engaged couples, and one couple not engaged, but unmistakably in love. The quiet of my room is interrupted by muffled conversation of how any other girl at BYU would be an emotional wreck or have gone crazy by now with six couches and six couples and nowhere to sit and no one to love.
Hearing their comments gives me strength to hang on tight to the fibers that remain of my emotional composure and resilience and internal validation. They think that it doesn’t faze me, but being a person who’s natural state is one of loving, who is then surrounded by loving that she can have no part of is rough.
I’ve learned a lot living with five engaged women and their men. I’ve learned about bridal showers and how no one understands the concept of RSVPing anymore. I’ve learned about what makes a classy wedding invitation and where you can get one cheap. I’ve learned about crazy mothers-in-law and that even two families from the same town present a clash of cultures. I’ve learned that weddings involve more than just two people showing up and that even if the bride doesn’t care a whit about centerpieces or whether her sister’s kids are dressed to match the bridal party, the mother of bride does. I’ve learned that engagements aren’t as romantic as they’re cracked up to be and once you know you want to marry someone, you should probably just go ahead a do it and not wait months of months, because that’s the part that tapped into your natural inclination toward insanity.
The BYU culture of planning, paying, and permanently pairing off breeds bitterness in a lot of single people and though I’ve strived to remain untouched by that bitterness, I have often been first to peanut gallery the meat market and its effect on people. In my early time here, it always appeared to me that everyone was just getting married because they saw that everyone else was getting married, and it was this intense and consequently eternal peer pressure at work. I thought that people were off finding a spouse because they found themselves in a circle where everyone had an orange, so they felt like they had to go get one too.
Now I am sitting in that circle, not on the outside of it. Everyone’s got their orange, but the resulting yearning I find in myself is not a ‘I wanna be like you (doo–bee—doo),’ it’s more of a ‘what’s happening?! Suddenly everyone that’s got an orange only wants to be with their orange, only seeks support from and gives support to their orange. Suddenly all the girls I’d like to room with are marrying and moving in with the men in their lives, and the only person I’ve got to live with or talk to or love is my own two empty hands where an orange should be. Even this girl (yours truly), who is perceived as a rock where no one else could possibly be a rock, feels the absence of a wingman when everyone turns to their wingman for fulfillment and the life they will have. Single life meant we were each others’ wingmen; now single life isn’t a shared experience anymore, but my hermitage.