I was sitting across from this incredible twenty-year-old girl at coffee last week and felt that bafflement once again when she told me she’s never dated. Not because she doesn’t want to date. It just hasn’t happened. And let me assure you this girl is not homely. She’s not one of those girls you have to get to know to see her beauty. She’s just beautiful. Big blue eyes, cute figure, great smile and the fact that she’s actually got a great personality, loves God and her family, and is funny should be icing on the cake. She’s totally dateable and yet I’d venture a guess hardly anyone’s asked her out- ever. Because, unfortunately, she’s grown up in this weird Bible-belt culture we’ve created where asking someone on a date is a foreign concept.
I feel it is necessary to add a disclaimer upfront:
1. This is something I’ve been thinking about for years, like 10+ years, basically since I was of dating age.
2. I am not fishing for dates.
3. I know I’m not the only one out here thinking this, so I thought I’d join the current social commentary.
4. This is just me rambling. I’m just putting this out there, not trying to bash a particular school of thought.
5. Mainly, I’m writing this because this is something I wish I’d known at sixteen. What I wish had been okay when I was sixteen.
I’ve always loved anything set in the 1940s. I love the clothes, the history, the WWII era attitude. I adore the dances. Big band + boys that know how to dance = swoon. I think, though, one of the things that struck me as wondrous was the dating culture. The concept of casually asking a girl to a dance or the picture show without all the drama. How incredibly appealing. Back when a date was just that, just a date. I’m not saying there wasn’t drama or heartbreak involved- but I think for the most part people accepted that just because you asked a girl out to the diner didn’t mean you were asking for her hand.
And this was also fairly true in the 60s- 80s. So, what happened? Please, someone give me a clue? How did we go from the accepted casual date to what it was for me in the early 2000s- if you went out on a date it was something way more than casual. You had to have prayed (and possibly fasted) to be sure of what you were doing because essentially a date equaled a relationship. I know that wasn’t always the case, but that’s how it felt.
When did dating become so serious?I think the movements of True Love Waits, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Lady in Waiting, etc. all had a hand in it. Sure, these books were done with the purest of intentions. At their heart they just wanted to create a culture of abstinence and above all for us to make Jesus the center of our lives. I think they may even wanted to help normalize relationships with the opposite sex and maybe try to eliminate some of the hormones. But in my little corner of the world, that’s not how it played out. Instead highly hormonal teenage girls were now convinced that not only did they have to date Jesus but that every guy they ever interacted with had to immediately pass The Husband Test or they weren’t worth getting involved with at all. (For those of you unfamiliar with The Husband Test, it’s not a real test, just a series of questions like: Are we compatible? Can I see myself married to him? Do I like his family? Is he good with kids? What does he want to do with his life? Is he more in love with Jesus than XYZ? Will a relationship with him strengthen my faith or harm it? Is he ready for marriage) Now, these are all great questions- when you are actually at the point of shopping for rings. But does anyone know a sixteen-year-old-guy who could pass that test? Not the ones I’ve met. Nor should we expect them to be husband material. I certainly wasn’t wife material at that age.
So what happened was, for the most part, we gals had a fairly serious outlook on dating. And in turn, well, those great guys, for the most part steered clear of us. Or, if they did try to date us, it wasn’t allowed to be a casual ask out. Because once the culture of casual dating went out the window what was left was “talking” and group hang outs. Basically, you had better decide if you wanted a relationship because when hardly anyone just went on dates, if you asked a girl to the movies it was a BIG deal. Most seventeen-year-old guys do not want that kind of pressure so they asked less-serious, possibly even non-Christian girls out on dates. Which was great for myself self-esteem, let me tell you. And not just mine but the girls around me. There were far too many tears shed by us girls wondering what was wrong with us. As bad as the whole, “Am I not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, funny enough,” bit is what is even worse was the toll it could take on your relationship with God. Because somehow I think we internalized this movement to mean that once you were a-okay with “dating” Jesus, then you’d be blessed with a mortal guy to love. About that. . . Which meant naturally, if you were single, then not only was something clearly wrong with you, but there’s a good chance your singleness might indicate unconfessed sin or that you hadn’t truly sacrificed your desires on the altar. That means lots of soul-searching and asking God were you screwed up or why He’s withholding. That’s messed up theology at its finest. I’m not saying that’s what was taught, per say, it’s just the message we received into our poor confused hearts.
And it’s not just me. I grew up with these girls. My sister and I have talked about this repeated. Lately I’ve seen more articles written about it. Here are a couple of good ones:
My husband is not my soulmate
10 Lies Christians Believe About Interacting with the Opposite Sex
The second is probably my favorite, especially:
Lie #1: “Let’s get lunch” = “let’s reproduce one day!”
I think if this was just me, I wouldn’t type these words. I’d stuff them down in my heart a little bit longer. But I see it carrying on to the next generation. I’ve been blessed to work with these great girls over the years. I’ve watched them cry the same tears I cried with my classmates. My awesome eighteen-year-old cousin, Eric, one of the nicest, coolest guys out there was talking to me about dating recently. Lamenting how he wished he could just go on a date. He’s headed to college, I know he’s nowhere near ready to settle down, but he just wants to be able to spend time with a girl. Get to know her outside the group. I told him he should bring dating back.
I’m not encouraging Riding in Cars with Boys. I think dating can be done with class. I remember talking to a youth leader about how she and her girlfriends back in the day used to go on a date with a different guy every weekend. The trick if you had a date back-to-back, was to make sure you were home from the first one before the next guy came to pick you up. But this gal was not loose and she knew how to be classy while dating. She told me another story about one time when she was at the drive-in and a guy refused to open her car door, so she said goodnight right then and there and got a ride home with her friends. To me this was always an example how casual dating doesn’t automatically equal poor morals.
So, could we do it? Could we as a society bring back dating into the Christian culture? If not for our sakes, then for the current teenagers and our future kids. Can we raise them with high morals and values but not with the pressure to find your husband or wife at age sixteen? Can we let them go on dates and not automatically assume they are boyfriend and girlfriend? Leave the DTRs for when they are more appropriate- like months in rather than on date one or two. Spare them the awkwardness my friends and I discovered at trying to learn how to date in your twenties. Could we make sure to instill in them that singleness does not equal wrongness with God anymore than a relationship equals rightness with Him?
Because as a teenager, I didn’t want a husband. I was far too selfish to consider being wife-material. I had plenty left to figure out about me and my life. I just wanted a date to the dance, someone to sit next to at the football game, at most a hand to hold walking down the hall. Basically this:
Gentlemen, it’s what girls want to do. Hang out! Go to the movies. Dance at the Court. Laugh over chicken parm at Commons. Get pretty for you because frankly we think you’re cute! Ultimately, we just want to get to know you beyond the fact that you’re a Christian and a male. ~Courtney Gabrielson
Maybe it starts small. Maybe it’ll take being up front at the beginning to avoid confusion. Maybe it starts by saying, “Hey, I think you’re a great girl and I’d like to get to know what you’re like outside of the group. Want to grab lunch with me sometime?” And maybe as a girl, instead of making a pro-con list or seeing if he matches up with all the ideal qualities we’d like in a husband, we just ask ourselves if we want to get to know this guy better because we’re attracted to him on some level. Maybe it’s simple saying, “Yes.” And maybe if that happens enough we won’t have to decide if it’s worth risking the friendship. Maybe there will be less people getting friend-zoned because simply going on a date or two to see if anything’s there won’t cause a bunch of drama for the group or each other. Maybe we’ll stop using the line, “Don’t worry. You’re just not the girl a guy dates, your the kind a guy marries.” And maybe we will give someone a chance that may not match up with all the silly ideals we (guys and girls) have and find out they’re better than we ever imagined. Maybe it could be quite simple. Maybe it could be just a date, and we’ll see where it goes from there.
So, Eric and all you wonderful, crazy, daring teenagers out there, I triple dog dare you to bring dating back. If any generation can do it, you can!