The other day I wrote a lengthy post about why I think teenagers today have lives that are more materially abudant but not as fun as the lives led by generations of earlier teens. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the relationships they have, in my opinion. You can read the whole thing here.
When I was a kid, there were cultural mores that governed how we acted and what we did. A lot of those traditions have broken down. You can argue about whether or not they were good or bad or restrictive. I don't want to get into that. The one thing about traditions and social mores (more is prounced MOE-ray. It is a large scale social expectation, belief or tradition that governs the way people do things in a society) is that they guide you. As Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "Because of our traditions everyone here knows who they are and what God expects them to do" (ok, ok I changed a few pronouns. Sue me.)
I learned to date at least partially from watching TV and movies. It was a part of popular culture--everywhere you looked. I think that's changed now as the hook-up culture has replaced the dating and courting culture. I don't think you know the rules that govern happy dating.
If you are not ready or wanting to date, by the way, then don't feel pressure. What follows is only for those who have decided they are going to date.
Note: in my day, a boy asked a girl out. I know that's not how you do things anymore and girls ask guys out. I'm fine with that. However, guys, I don't think you should abrogate all responsibility to the girls. You can ask them out, too--and should. Shoulder some of the responsibility.
First of all, the guy or the girl who is asking (hereafter referred to as the ASKER) should do this either by phone or face to face. Texting is great. I'm not anti texting and I LOVE email. But that doesn't mean every human interaction should be done via those media. You say, "Would you go to the football game/dance/play/movie/chicken rodeo with me?" IMPORTANT: Give them details. They need to know what time and where it is. "It's Saturday at 5:00." If you are going with other people, then mention that two. "My friend Sally is asking Jake to go, too. I think it will be really fun."
Yes, this is awkward. Yes, it feels funny. Yes, you should still do it in person. Your date will be in person. So should the invitation.
Secondly: if you are asked, please be gracious!!!! If you don't want to go and you can't stand the person then say, "Thanks for asking. I am afraid I can't make it." You are not obligated to go. You are not obligated to explain.
At the same time, this is not a marriage proposal. It doesn't mean the person is in love with you. It just means they think you are cool and fun enough to want to spend a few hours together having fun. It's not a commitment. Will it kill you to go? It takes a lot of guts to ask someone out. But if you just can't go and be happy then say "no, thanks."
Don't agree to go and then be a pain and unhappy and ruin the night for everyone else. I did this once and honestly, it's one of the top three or four things I'd go back and change in my life if I could. Someone did it to me once and I still feel the sharp sting of embarrassment as I realized over the course of the evening how much she did not want to be out with me. I could have saved a lot of money if she had just said, "No."
LISTEN UP: Do NOT under any circumstances say, "Let me check my schedule and get back with you" in an effort to buy yourself some time. If you don't want to go just say "No." Don't leave them hanging. If there really are scheduling issues then be decent and considerate and let the person know as soon as possible! They thought enough of you to ask you out. If you don't want to go, fine, but show them some respect and decency by giving them an answer soon. This is a living, breathing human being with feelings and emotions just like you.
If you are going to say "no" just do it quickly. It will not get any easier for you or the asker the longer you wait. It will just get messier and more difficult. Trust me on this.
Here's the rule: you are not obligated to go out with anyone you don't want to go out with. You are obligated to return their consideration and respect by giving them a prompt, polite answer.
It should go without saying that agreeing to go on a date is not an agreement or commitment to kiss or have other physical contact and you should feel no pressure to do so.
Third: Assuming you asked and they said "Yes" or vice versa, then great! Have fun. Go off and do something. Yes. DO something. Go play games or see a movie or whatever. Put your phones away. Don't talk to or text other people during the date.
I found breaking a date into different segments helped a great deal in terms of the flow. Go eat. Then go do or see something. Then go get ice cream. That breaks it up and if things don't go well, it makes it easier than if you plan a six-hour rock climbing marathon. Keep it simple and short. The rule in theatre is to try to leave the audience wanting more. If you have a great date and it ends all too soon, fantastic! You can go out again. Better than than a really long night.
If it goes badly--and some will--just be a good sport. Be gracious and kind. These things happen. It's no one's fault. Sometimes people just don't click. End it as quickly and considerately as you can.
Once you are home, don't get on Facebook and say, "OMG! That was so boring" and then when people say, "What was boring?" say, "Can't say--but text me." Chances are the person you were out with will figure out pretty quickly what you are alluding to. If you have a bad date, just let it die a quiet death. It doesn't need to be talked and gossiped about and recounted. Just let it go and move on.
Main thing: be considerate. Be kind. Be thoughtful. And have fun!
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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