“Did you have a boyfriend in high school, Sister Cruz?”
I froze. I can put on a smile, tell a lie that makes me look perfect or — be honest.
She looks at me in anticipation.
“Yeah, I did,” I say with hesitation. “I had my first boyfriend when I was 15. And some more after that. I kissed too many boys. Most of them were dumb.”
“Well, not literally dumb — just not the best idea for me to be with them, dumb. I hurt myself in the process. I focused on all the wrong things.”
I awkwardly stumble over myself as I try to explain how it can be hard in high school if you don’t have a boyfriend — feeling left out and all — but how waiting is just as good of an option. And how not kissing until you get married wouldn’t be so bad. Wait, back up, how if that’s what you want to do it’s not so bad. But uh, well, it’s okay to kiss someone if you feel like you want to kiss them — just don’t go crazy.
She smiles. She laughs. And I feel like an idiot.
When I was asked to be the second counselor in our ward’s Young Women, I was immediately excited. Then I felt terrified. I’m 22 — I don’t have the answers. I certainly don’t feel like a role model. Shoot, I could have been a Laurel when this girl was a Beehive. That’s scary.
I don’t know this girl very well, but conversation flows easily. We chat about everything — school, growing up, her ambitions, family, what marriage is like — whatever.
She is freely asking me questions, and though I’m answering honestly, I find myself constantly hesitating. I’m analyzing. Is this appropriate? Am I projecting the right image? Is this what an adult woman in the church is supposed to be?
Then the topic turns to the Young Women broadcast we just watched.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “but I don’t like listening to the sisters of the church speak.”
I laugh, surprised by how forward she is.
“I just feel like they’re being fake,” she says. “They’re so cheesy. Even when they’re talking about something sad, they’re smiling. Why do they do that?”
I don’t know. And that’s what I tell her. Maybe they smile because they’re ugly criers.
Dumb answer. But I don’t care. I feel relieved. I can abandon being overly self-critical. Fake smiles are not a requirement to quality church leadership.
I think back to myself at 17 — the same thing bothered me, too. I wondered if I had to fit a certain mold to be considered a faithful, strong woman. Now I realize how wrong that is.
There is no requirement that we be duplicates of each other. Individuality, even in righteous womanhood, is real and good. We demonstrate our divine attributes differently, but each is just as beautiful as the next.
How do you define being a faithful LDS women? When it comes to being a woman, how do you decipher the difference between godly expectations and cultural expectations? What do you think God expects from us as righteous, individual women?