Monday, January 14, 2013

Between hookups and courtship

So there's a recent piece over at The New York Times describing the end of courtship.  And actually, I say three cheers to that.  Courtship is not my scene.  I do not want you to call my father to ask his permission to take me out, I do not think that a cup of coffee = an implicit marriage proposal, I like issuing invitations and don't feel like you need to pay for me all the time.  And I will leave for another time all the invective I have prepared against a Certain Book which, I'm pretty sure, helped screw up normalized male/female relationships for the entire generation of people who went through youth group when I did.

But the hook-up culture described by the Times is just utterly disheartening and a very depressing alternative.  Loads of people whose fingers never leave their smartphones, who don't know how to have a conversation, who take what a friend once called the "carpet-bombing approach" to online dating: contact a whole bunch of people and hope somebody says yes.

It's not even the hooking-up part that I find distressing -- I just give that the mental flip-off and move right along -- but it's the haphazard, sloppy, informality.  I like hanging out.  I do.  I like hanging out in groups.  I like spontaneity.  But I also like feeling like a person, a living, thinking, feeling creature, not something to mitigate boredom or to fill space.  What about showing some basic courtesy to the people with whom you're spending time?

So really, I'd like to bring back dating.  Not in an artificially stiff way, but how about something like this:  He calls me several days in advance.  He asks if I'd like to go to a concert/have a glass of wine/meet for brunch.  I say yes.  We both wear real clothes, not pajamas masquerading as clothes.  We go.  We have engaging, funny, sparkling conversation, and the concert/wine/brunch is good.  We listen to each other.  He is not rude, and I am not prickly.  I offer to buy, but he does.  I say thank you sincerely, because I actually have had a lovely time.  He gives me a hug/kiss on the cheek and walks me to my car, because the town I live in can be rough at night, and he knows that.  Maybe he asks me out again, or maybe I ask him out.  Or maybe we don't go out again.  But that's ok, because we had a nice time, and it's only a glass of wine.  This does not seem like a lot to ask, but if the Times is right, it's profoundly counter-cultural.  It certainly feels that way.


  1. Josh Harris and his dumb book pretty much ruined the dating scene at the small, Christian college I attended as an undergrad. I wanted to put a contract out on him, but between me and my disgruntled friends, we probably only had about twenty bucks and some change.

  2. Ha!

    You know, when I first read that book at 15 or 16, I thought it was pretty good. But then, I was also known for deep, abiding nerdiness and poor fashion choices at that stage, so...

    But really, a big part of the message, as I recall, was "Trust God. Be polite." And hey, I can get behind that. It's the gender essentialism stuff that I find creepy these days, as well as the whole idea that every. single. interaction between two people has to be significant. It's just so much pressure; it sounds totally exhausting.

  3. Even at the time I read it (I was about 15 or 16 too - though I had to go find the publication date to say for certain!), all I could think of "Isn't that asking a lot? To assume that God would make the right guy for you read the book so he'd know to follow those rules?" I thought it was halfway decent for the guy - maybe the girl would think he was crazy, maybe not, but how in the world was it supposed to work properly for the girl? I could never figure that out. Not that I don't have great faith in God - but (especially since I'm not a Calvinist) I wasn't so certain he was going around making people read specific books!

  4. At the Catholic college where I went for undergrad, this "counter-cultural" approach was being spearheaded by two feminists on the faculty -- one in theology and one in sociology. They started doing several events each semester called, "Bring Back the Date!", specifically designed to foster a respectful and mutual dating scene that left behind both the asymmetries of "courtship" and the nonsymmetries (if I may call them that) of "the hook-up culture" and all of its baggage that you describe here.

    (Thank God my Anglo-Catholic upbringing was left unscarred by the Harris book you mention!)


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