I have not -- thankfully -- had to date in many, many years. But my kids -- and many of their friends -- are at the dating stage of life. Heck. I guess any age could be considered the "dating stage" of life, if you are single. Anyway, watching and listening to my kids and their friends has caused me to think a bit about dating -- even if I don't have to do it, myself. Most of these thoughts have been arrived at by comparing and contrasting my own (and my friends') dating experiences of yesteryear with what I see going on nowadays.
So, here we go.
(Please note: I am not actually professionally qualified to give dating advice, so proceed at your own risk.)
First of all, don't make too big a deal about dating. Dating is really not that big a deal. Some people seem to think that if you agree to go on a date with somebody that it means you are willing to consider marrying that person. Or sleeping with him/her. Or making out. Or that you have decided that you actually like that person.
It does not mean ANY of those things. It can, if you want it to. But, you don't have to want it to; and that is perfectly fine.
All going out on a date needs to mean is that somebody who is maybe a little bit intrigued by you wants to go and do something with you -- like have lunch or dinner or coffee or go for a hike or a walk in the park or catch a movie. And all it means for you to accept this offer of a date is that you are at least a little bit intrigued by the person who asked you. And you should feel safe being with that person. I don't mean that you shouldn't feel nervous and jittery before your date -- that is PERFECTLY NORMAL and nothing to be worried about. But, you should feel safe -- like, maybe, the person shouldn't be involved in criminal activity or investment banking. I guess it's not always possible to know if a person is involved in criminal activity, but that's why you should proceed with caution and use common sense.
I will give you a couple of examples, using myself.
I was ALWAYS nervous before first dates. I used to get butterflies. And -- sometimes -- these nerves would cause me to act kind of stupid on the date. Even when I went on a first date with the guy I married, he basically had to tell me to stop talking because I was so anxious that I just kept up a running monologue. Thankfully, I did not choose to take offense at him. I could have chosen to, but I decided not to, because he had a cool car. Yes, that was basically it. The cool car is the reason that my three kids are alive today. So, as you see, feeling all jittery on a first date is not something to be worried about.
On the other hand, I did -- at times -- use questionable judgment about guys. Like the time I got a crush on the butcher at Lucky Market because my mother used to take so dang long to pick out her meat. I mean, the meat she chose was always first-rate, but it took her, like, half an hour to choose the ground beef and the chuck roast. So, there was nothing better for me to do -- as a teenager -- than flirt with the cute butcher through the glass partition. After many weeks of flirting, the cute butcher asked me to have lunch with him, as his break was starting while my mother was choosing the chicken. So, I said, "Okay." I'm not sure why my mother allowed me to take off with the butcher, but she did. She was cool like that. Anyway, we drove in his old car (with the passenger door that was duct-taped on) to the local park. He didn't bring any food, and I didn't have any. So much for lunch. So we talked. And he told me all about laying in bed with his girlfriend and how mad his mom was when she found them. Quite intriguing, really. Then he drove me home. End of butcher crush. BUT -- it was a good learning experience for me. And -- I guess -- who can you trust not to rape and murder you, if not the local butcher?
As you can see, I sometimes used good sense when dating. And sometimes not. I would advise that you should always use good sense, what with all the crazy people out there, nowadays. The thing is, though, that in neither of these cases did I make a big f-ing deal about going on these dates. I liked the first guy because he was cute and had a cool car. I liked the second guy because he was cute and I was bored. The thing is, in neither case did I have any ideas about marrying them or having sex with them or making out with them. (Okay -- maybe the third thing.) I was just intrigued. And that was enough. And I think it should be for you, too.
And why should it be enough?
First of all, it helps you keep things in perspective and not get all crushed beyond repair if somebody you are dating decides he/she doesn't want to date you, anymore. It. Is. Just. Dating. Nobody is committed. Frankly, you're not even committed if you're engaged. So, feel free to date. Just use some common sense. And don't expect too much, too fast. And if things don't work out, you are free to go find another hot, intriguing person. And that can be fun. And exciting.
Secondly, dating people helps you learn lots of stuff. About yourself. About other people. About life. About what you really want in life. And sometimes you learn the most from situations that go sideways on you.
Thirdly, if you don't take any chances and date people, how will you have good stories to tell your kids? The best thing -- in the aftermath of a less-than-ideal relationship -- is all the stories your mom and dad can tell you about their own dating experiences. Because it gives hope to your kids that life does, in fact, go on.
Now -- of course -- there is the big ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Pssst. I will tell you what it is. It is *sex*. People worry a lot about it. Parents worry a lot about it. Like, what if your kid goes out on dates and has some? Well... There are many approaches to this. Some parents don't let their kids date, at all, until they are second-semester juniors in college and are expected to go husband-hunting and/or wife-shopping. Some parents arm their kids with birth control pills and condoms. A lot of parents just cross their fingers and close their eyes and hope for the best. Some parents display their gun collection. All of these are viable alternatives, I suppose.
But, I kind of like what my parents and their friends did. Within a month of getting my first boyfriend, my parents had a party at our house with all the relatives and close family friends. One of the close family friends -- an older Italian broad, full of earthy wisdom -- came over to my new boyfriend and I, stood up in the most erect and formidable fashion possible, raised her hand in the air with her finger pointed to the sky, and loudly announced, "IT ONLY TAKES TEN MINUTES. TEN MINUTES!!!" "It" -- of course -- meaning losing your heads and having sex and getting pregnant. This announcement made quite an impression on me. I never once forgot it, during all of my dating tenure. And it kept me out of A LOT of trouble.
Seriously, though, if you don't want your kids having risky sex, TALK to them about it. Talk to them about situations and what might happen and how to be smart. I'm not saying to make them feel all guilt-ridden if they want to make out a little bit. I'm just saying to teach them appropriate boundaries so that they stay safe. And set situations up so that they stay safe. Like -- for example -- make sure that the only sofa in the house which is appropriate for making out is located in a room that must be traversed by anybody going from one place in the house to another. And then make sure that there are always lots of people in the house who need to go traversing.
I don't know if any of this has actually been helpful, or not. Maybe it has amused you. Or not. Whatever. But, this is the thing. I see WAY too many young people who are afraid to date. Who get all awkward about it. Because they make too big a deal about what it means. All it really means is that you are interested in a particular person, attracted to a particular person, and you want to spend some time together. Maybe spending a little time together will lead to something more. Maybe it won't. And nobody should feel pressured, either way. Just treat each other with respect. And be honest with each other about what you want for your lives. And don't get all offended if somebody decides you aren't right for them. And don't feel guilty for deciding that somebody is not right for you. And be safe. Because -- remember -- IT ONLY TAKES TEN MINUTES. So, have a little fun. But, not too much fun. And only on the family room sofa when the whole family is at home. ;-)