The Old-School Date

Here is the latest announcement from Facebook cause- Dads Protecting Daughters:

“Dad I’d like for you to meet my date tonight”

I think that really big problems often have lots of little causes. It is obvious that there is a big problem in the way boys and men are inclined by our dominant culture to regard women as challenges to be conquered, objects for sexual gratification. Of course, we do also get healthy doses of romanticism thrown at us, which soften some of the Brave New World realities. A man can feel really proud of himself if he “stays faithful” to his girlfriend- by that I mean he has sex only with her. We have long ago departed from the ideal of the good guy who protects his girlfriend by being dedicated to waiting until marriage for sexual union with his love. And here is where the trouble really starts.

What to do if nearly every signal in our culture is how foolish one is to remain a virgin for any extended period of time? It is one of those unchallenged assumptions that if one is attractive enough they should be having sex- especially when they are young and “hot”. It’s an easy target, but how many TV shows and movies play some variation of the punch line that you have to be having sex to be enjoying your life, to be normal, to be socially normal. This pressure comes from above, in the major media and beside us in the form of peer pressure. It is decidedly “cool” to be able to hook up with good-looking women and bragging about it can be subtle or very crude.

If we can agree that this is the general state of things, then what can be done in practical terms? Protesting Hollywood? Well maybe yes- but I offer one easier way to begin taking back the dignity of human sexual relations. Of course, this is going to involve getting word out to dads and to daughters.

To all daughters, talk to your dad and tell him it is “cool” if he can have a chat with your dates when they come to pick you up. I’m not certain how this would have played out for me in my younger years, I might have moaned about it or feared it as a young guy- but not all fears are bad for you!

Now Dads- this is your big moment in the cultural wars- you have a product of Playboy and internet porn, walking into your home anxious to take your daughter out for the night. If your daughter hasn’t approached you to ask you or offer you the chance to have a little chat with the “boyfriend”, then you had better take the initiative and set it down as a standing rule.

When you get that time alone with the “guy”, I’m not sure I would try anything outlandish like brandishing a firearm, and start cleaning it during your little chit-chat. You don’t want to put all guys off on your daughter by making everyone think you are psycho-dad. My plan is to try to size up the younger male, and get down to some serious eye-to-eye explanations of what expectations you have for that beloved girl he is about to take out. I would appeal to his better angels, with just enough fire and brimstone for him to realize that this dad is a serious Christian, with absolute values, and a lion’s heart for protecting his kids.

Of course, prior screening for all dates is commendable, like having some conversations about just who this person is that your daughter is interested in enough to want to go out as on a date- or near occasion of a date. But if we can just start spreading the word to all daughters and all dads, to restore this healthy link between the world of dads and the world of young male suitors- I believe we can do a whole lot of good in restoring dignity to the pursuit of love and romance- and taking down some of the terrible damage that premarital sex causes to young hearts and young bodies.

8 Responses to The Old-School Date

  • Better yet, raise your daughter(s) in a Catholic household and your daughter(s) should be able to filter out the MTV-tarnished date.

    In fact, don’t go on dates, but go in large groups, that way the two can get to know each other better without the daughter being pressured into sex.

    And then when she is ready, she has her guy friend ask permission from the father to court her.

    Dating isn’t supposed be about having ‘fun’ only. IT’s to discern your possible future spouse.

  • Yes Tito- I like your advice- I have a few years to go before I have to set these ground rules for real. I did want to offer some practical advice to get some momentum behind the general principle of going back to some of the old-school ways of courtship. So old-school, I have to look well past my generation to find a time period where the societal norms were more conducive to the postponement of sex until marriage.

  • While dating is sometimes courting, there are high schoolers from families that I know at church who are dating and for whom I have a great deal of respect as Catholic young people. (I’m sure I wouldn’t have objected to dating as a high schooler, but I didn’t run across the right women till college.)

    I think there’s a place for simple fun dating among the young, and Tim’s advice sounds pretty good. Indeed, somewhat more restrictively, in high school I would want to know a young man _before_ he dates my daughter and know that he’s a decent sort of guy. (Preferably from a family I know from church.)

    Right now it’s all theoretical, but since I have three daughters within three years (currently 3, 5, and 6) I’m sure that I’ll be dealing with these issues a lot in ten years.

    Whether I resort to cleaning one of the guns remains to be seen. But I’d be more well disposed to a young man if he wants to go shooting with me first and make sure that I know him and trust him.

  • think there’s a place for simple fun dating among the young

    I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on the definition of “dating”. If it means a boy taking her somewhere in a car alone and bringing her back 4-6 hours later after activities in unknowable locations with no chaperon or oversight, I think that’s a serious mistake. If it means going out in groups and holding hands or going to a chaperoned school dance, well that’s a different story.

    How do I know this? Because I was a teenage boy.

    ps. I like the gun cleaning approach, sounds like a perfect excuse to justify picking up that nice little AR-15 I saw the other day at the gun show. If you’re going to freak out the boy, why not do it with something more serious than an old .22

  • think there’s a place for simple fun dating among the young

    I respectfully disagree with you on this.

    I agree with Matt though on depending on what you would call a date.

    If it’s going alone with a boy to dinner and a movie, then their courting without your permission. Boys and girls mature in different ways and approach many activities differently.

    As far as your good Catholic friends are concerned, I would frown upon that. There is just no excuse. It’s succumbing to the zeitgeist of fun at all costs. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.

    And the cleaning the 5.56 caliber M16 approach, I think it’s ok, but it would be more effective if you had several magazines lying around and spent cartridges on the coffee table.

    That’s if you’re asking.

  • I am putting forth a “baby steps” approach for the general culture- which includes many Catholics who are living and acting very much according to the general norms of our society. When I am facing the dating years with my daughters, I will probably take a much harder line myself, but my girls will hopefully see it as a continuation of the high standards we are setting in the family already- not some surprise hardcore “got religion” move that I come up with when my oldest daughter starts asking if she can go out with so and so.

    My article was in part inspired by my own memories- now that I am on the other side of the fence- the married guy with daughters, and not the single guy desiring someone else’s daughters, I am shocked by the realization that at no point in my dating past could I remember any father requesting a sit down chit-chat, or any girl asking me to talk to daddy before dating casually or even seriously. Now that I am a daddy- I can’t believe it! Where were the Dads? I think that the term “Deadbeat Dads” can be used more broadly than just as a description of Dads who aren’t paying child support.

  • I think for a mainstream audience, where the status quo is that one’s daughter goes to public high school and is going out on dates with guys her parents have never even met, this would unquestionably be a good step towards taking better responsibility as a father.

    I’m sure that I’ll be tweeking my ideals as my daughters get older, but right now (thinking back on being a teenager and watching families in our parish who I think are or are not getting things right) I’d say that starting at 16 I would allow my daughters to go on dates so long as:

    1) I knew the boy and at least slightly knew the boy’s parents (know meaning, he’s been over to the house with the full family enough times that I have a clear idea what sort of guy he is) and considered him a trustworthy young man.

    2) I knew where they were going and when they were coming back (and approved of both).

    3) The daughter in question had proved herself trustworthy and morally well formed.

    Of course, if the failure is on the third point, 16-18 is rather late to try to do anything about it — and when your kids move off to college they naturally end up in charge of their own dating lives — so I would certainly hope not to see failure on that point.

    However, I do think that there would be rewards for being a trustworthy teenager, with freedom to date in one’s older teens being one of them. And I also think it’s important not to develop an adversial, prison guard relationship with one’s children — which to be honest I have seen some very well intentioned Catholic parents do, seldom with good results.

    (Though if you boys want to clean a gun, you need to work up into a higher calibre than .223. The AR-15 is basically a muscled up 22. You need a Garand, boys.)

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