Regular readers know that my wife and I take a dim view of dating, which is a topic that’s been addressed here several times. It’s nothing personal we have against any young men in particular who are in the vicinity or who might even arrive on the scene, but a belief that there is a better way and a desire for our daughters to approach things in ways that will lead to greater happiness.
Of course, if a guy shows up without an appreciation for the things we hold dear (especially our daughters), well, it could get personal real quick. Our philosophy isn’t all that complicated, but it does take some explaining, as illustrated by the medley of posts below.
While I haven’t kept a hard count, the first “best of” post below is without a doubt the most read and linked to post I’ve ever had. A year after it appeared I still get half a dozen visitors a week who have Googled their way to it, many from as far away as the Philippines, South America and even Saudi Arabia.
… this got me to thinking, however, about the far less titillating but every bit as devastating romantic tragedies that happen all around us. Even, dare I say, in our own lives. My wife and I have been very blessed and happy in our 17-year marriage, but we both experienced emotion-searing, even mind-altering damage in our single days (stories for another day, but don’t count on it).
As we look to what may be ahead for our daughters, we’ve come to realize that the dating culture of serial monogamy and mini-divorces is not a good way to find a mate for life. And that’s based on our experiences from 20 and 30 years ago in the more idealistic days of the sexual revolution. With our oldest being of “dating” age, my wife and I naturally want better for our daughters than what we subjected ourselves to when we were their age.
Back then, at least, the culture expected couples to adopt the appearance of having a relationship. Now even the minimal commitment to someone else needed to simply make a date is optional in today’s hook-up culture among teens and older singles as reported here and in the New York Times, and even among ninth-graders [Sorry, links no longer in effect. NW]. Somewhere along the line “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” went from being the height of selfishness to the point where merely throwing in the “thank you” passes for gentlemanliness. The glorification of sensation has ironically desensitized a significant part of a generation, and I can’t even picture how much “enlightenment” is required to make this look like a good thing.
Even in evangelical circles the challenges are severe for parents with an eye to preparing their youth for healthy, happy marriages. The book “Best Friends for Life” by Michael and Judy Phillips includes several case studies of kids who grew up in “churched” families and dated other “churched” youth and eventually married – and then crashed and burned. Though each example had different characteristics, the common thing I saw in each was the parents really had no vision of what they wanted for their kids or what was acceptable – or if they did, they didn’t communicate it. In many cases they gave in to the predominant dating model and were simply glad that their son or daughter was dating another Christian. As a result, the youngsters also fell into self-centered relationships in which they may have been physical, but they were far from intimate.
Is there another option? Well, I admit that the locking them in a tower until they’re 30 plan has its strong points, but that doesn’t do anything to prepare them for a strong marriage either. Our plan is the opposite of isolation, both the isolation of the tower where they are separated from others and the passion-induced isolation of being a couple where they separate themselves from others. We’ve encouraged our daughters to have a group of friends they can count on and do things as a group. Boys can be a part of this group, and are even encouraged, but no pairing up. The idea is to determine who can be trusted to be a friend – and not who just wants to get friendly.
What are the standards for friendship? The Bible lists some good ones (New Living Translation):
- Friends are few (Prov. 18:24) – “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” We know the traditional concept of what a brother is, but think about what a brother is to a woman. A brother is someone who will stand by you and stand up for you because he wants the best for you, not because of what you can do for him.
- A friend lays down his life (John 15:13)— “And here is how to measure it–the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” A friend puts your needs and well-being above his own.
- A friend loves unconditionally (Prov. 17:17) — “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”
- A friend speaks the truth in love (Prov. 27:6) — “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” A friend will tell you what you need to hear, again because he wants what is best for you. Someone caught up in infatuation or what he thinks is love will keep quiet so as not to jeopardize the physical aspects of the relationship.
- A friend encourages you and is sensitive to your needs (Prov. 26:18, 19) — “Just as damaging as a mad man shooting a lethal weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, ‘I was only joking.'”
If true friendships can be established in a safe environment where the emotional stakes are not as high, then the ground is prepared for a possible courtship with an eye toward marriage. In a true courtship, both partners learn to trust the other with more and more of their innermost thoughts, wishes and emotions. This relationship is the key to a successful marriage. Most modern marriages fall short of genuine intimacy due to a distorted cultural image of romanticism that expects immediate intimacy. Too many want to jump right to the courtship stage simply because the other person is cute or a “hottie.” This might make for lovely wedding photos (or great tabloid covers) but is not much of a foundation for a lovely marriage.
I may appear pretty smug and overconfident seeing as how our oldest is just entering this dynamic time, but the rules and expectations have been set down and discussed for several years prior to this, and we do have wonderful examples in the lives of other parents and young marrieds we know who have crossed these waters ahead of us.
Truthfully, I don’t expect it to be easy, but right now the relationship my wife and I have with our children is still the most important in their lives aside from the relationship they are developing with God. And part of our responsibility in this relationship is to prepare them for a relationship with God and for a loving and godly relationship with their spouse – and ultimately their own children who they, in turn, must train. It won’t be the easiest course, but given what else is out there, I know it is the safest.
For a more light-hearted look at the situation, check out the following application I discovered (but didn’t write):
Some readers may have gathered that I have a teenage daughter. A few days ago I posted my theories on dating and requirements for friendship. The reactions I’ve had from this post – and ensuing discussions – have reminded me of something that Joe Soucheray read on his great Garage Logic radio program several years ago: his “Application to Date my Daughter.”
I’d love to link you this useful and intriguing document, but it doesn’t appear to be on the Garage Logic site any more. I did, however, have the foresight to download this years ago for future reference and I include it here as a follow up to my previous post and in appreciation for the great job Mr. Soucheray does. If dating were an option for my daughters, this application would be the one I’d use.
APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO DATE MY DAUGHTER
NOTE: This application will be incomplete and rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, lineage, and current medical report from your doctor.
DATE OF BIRTH:
SOCIAL SECURITY #:
DRIVERS LICENSE #:
BOY SCOUT RANK:
Do you have one MALE and one FEMALE parent? If No., EXPLAIN:
Number of years your parents have been married:
Do you own a van? A truck with oversized tires? A waterbed? Do you have an ear ring, nose ring, belly button ring, tattoo or pierced tongue? (If “yes” to any of these, discontinue application and leave premises.)
In 25 words or less, what does “LATE” mean to you?
In 25 words or less, what does “DON’T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER” mean to you?
In 25 words or less, what does ‘ABSTINENCE” mean to you?
Church you attend:
How often do you attend:
When would be the best time to interview your father, mother and priest/rabbi/minister?
Answer by filling in the blank: please answer freely. ALL answers are confidential (That means I won’t tell anyone – ever – I promise.)
a) If I were shot the last place on my body I would want to be wounded is:
b) If I were beaten, the last bone I would want broken is my:
c) A woman’s place is in the:
d) The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is:
e) When I first meet a girl, the first thing I notice about her is her:
(NOTE: If your answer begins with “T” or “A”, discontinue. Leave premises keeping your head low and running in a serpentine fashion is advised.)
What do you want to be IF you grow up?
I SWEAR THAT ALL INFORMATION SUPPLIED ABOVE IS TRUE AND CORRECT TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH, DISMEMBERMENT, NATIVE AMERICAN ANT TORTURE, ELECTROCUTION, CHINESE WATER TORTURE, RED HOT POKERS, AND HILLARY CLINTON KISS TORTURE.
________________________________________ Signature ( That means your name, moron)
Thank you for your interest Please allow four to six years for processing. You will be notified in writing if you are approved. Please do not try to call or write (since you probably can’t and it would cause you injury). If your application is rejected, you will be notified by two gentlemen wearing white ties and carrying violin cases. (You might want to watch your back)
So how is this working? Well, despite my best efforts, a conspiracy was hatched and my oldest daughter ended up going to the Prom last spring. It’s quite a story of passion, betrayal, boys — and me wielding a bloody butcher knife:
Regular readers of this blog know that my wife and I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to our teenage daughter, Faith, dating: No. Therefore you might be surprised to hear that Faith went to the prom last Saturday night. And yes, there was a boy involved from an unrelated gene pool. How did this happen? One word: conspiracy.
Faith has a female cousin just a few months older than her and they’ve been best pals from the playpen. They both think that boys are nice to have around, but what really makes their hearts beat fast right now are prom dresses. I think we were still taking down Christmas decorations earlier this year when they hatched a plan for the spring dance.
The boy part was easy. The cousin has a boyfriend. The boyfriend has a best friend. The best friend wasn’t doing anything the second Saturday in May. The deal was proposed and closed directly: the girls would buy the tickets, the guys would rent tuxes and buy dinner. Now – on to the Mall! It was about this point where my wife became a co-conspirator. I’m not sure how this was accomplished, exactly, but it may have involved lattes.
All I know is I was standing innocently in our kitchen a couple of months ago with my lovely wife and lovely daughter – two people I trusted implicitly – when Faith casually mentioned something about going to the prom. “Hmm,” I said, “let me think about that a minute. No.”
“I already told her she could go,” my wife said, albeit sheepishly.
“Wha-,” I said, as the floor began to open beneath me. I began to splutter: “Prom? Boys? Dark cars? Boys!”
I knew I was going down, but it didn’t mean I had to make it easy for them. It was pretty clear that fashion, not passion, was behind the conspiracy and I knew that three of the four kids involved were more than trustworthy, while the fourth was new to me but appeared as if he valued his life. Nevertheless it was worked out that my wife would be one of the volunteer parent chaperones at the event, which would require her staying up well past her bedtime. It was also arranged so that the four youngsters would come to the house for a cook-out in advance so I could get to know the new guy better.
When they arrived for the cook-out we all visited for a little while in the living room, and then I went into the kitchen to prepare the hamburger patties, which required carving them from a tube of partially frozen ground beef. I cut a couple of patties with my heavy-duty 10″ chef’s knife when I realized I needed more information. Walking back into the living room, I motioned to the new guy with the slightly dripping point of the knife. Contrary to Faith’s report of the incident, the knife was nowhere near his face. I was easily three feet away. Two feet, at least. And besides, Faith can’t be a reliable witness because she hid her face behind a sofa pillow when she saw me walk into the room. Nevertheless, knowing something about teenage boys, I had to ask an important question.
“How many burgers can you eat?” I asked the kid.
“How many do you want me to eat?” he said.
“Good answer!” my wife said.
“Kill me now,” my daughter said.
Anyway, we all lived through the evening and the weeks leading up to prom seemed to fly by. On Saturday Faith went to her cousin’s around noon to begin hair and make-up preparations. At 4:30 I joined the other parents and close family at my sister-in-law’s house for the photo op. Altogether there were 11 adult paparazzi and half a dozen cameras flashing the four elegantly dressed youth. It looked like a Hollywood premiere. Faith was especially breathtaking with her hair exquisitely styled on top of her head, long sparkly earrings and an elegant dress that could have used another yard of fabric if you asked me, but no one did.
Then it was time for them to be off, and time for firm handshakes with each of the boys. “Drive wisely,” I said, and my voice didn’t crack a bit.
The evening went marvelously, and the youngsters were only a little late getting home after stopping to pick up late night tacos and wow the crowd at Taco Bell.
My wife also made it home from her chaperone assignment without falling asleep, largely due to the startling effect of watching what passes for dancing these days. You see, there’s this thing called “freak” dancing – because it “freaks” parents out, I think – that involves a young lady(?) placing her fundament against her escort’s crotch and both of them vigorously gyrating (music optional). It appears that girls have finally found a way to get the boys out on the dance floor. My wife felt as if she should get out on the floor as well, but with a bucket of water or a garden hose. She settled for prayer instead. It kind of makes the old notion of a guy hoping for a goodnight kiss seem a bit quaint, doesn’t it? I mean, after three hours of something like that with teenaged nerve endings a peck on the cheek would be – oh, shall we say – anti-climactic?
Fortunately, the little flock she was most interested in appeared to be having a very good time but at more discreet distances. She does, however, admit to being discreet herself, letting them out of her sight for long, long stretches at a time.
As for the rest of you kids, though, be warned: she’s calling your mothers.
Finally, let it be known that Faith, aka The Mall Diva, and I went to a gun show at the State Fairgrounds a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing – a huge room full of thousands of guns and hundreds of people and NO ONE GOT KILLED! Hard to believe, but not a single gun leapt up off of the table and attacked someone. Anyway, the always fashion-conscious Diva found a special edition Taurus .22 caliber with pearlescent handgrips that matched her purse.
I know what you’re thinking, punk. Did she really buy it? Well, considering everything else that’s been written here, I guess you really ought to be asking yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”