A radio listener recent wrote me about an interview I did on EWTN Radio with Barbara McGuigan. I mentioned that I had been doing a teaching on dating and modesty at a Theology on Tap session. At that session I charged the men not to leave that night until they had asked a woman out on a date.
This intrigued the listener, who wanted me to expand on this just a bit and what if anything she could do to get the twenty-somethings in her family (both male and female) to start dating again. Here is something of the response I penned:
Yes, I suppose it was on EWTN Radio’s Open Line show on Valentine’s Day that you heard me. As for what to say, it is difficult. The culture of course is dismal today when it comes to meeting someone and doing something we used to call “dating.”
I was telling the young people at that Theology on Tap meeting that, back when I was in high school and college, we used to do something called “dating.”
This strange and currently little-known behavior involved a young man picking up the phone, or perhaps asking a girl in person, to go on something known as “a date.” This involved an actual activity such as the two of them having dinner together, or going to a movie together, or perhaps some other function together (as in just the two of them).
He would ask her and she would either agree to go out with him or not. If she accepted, he would actually get into his car, go to her house, and ring the doorbell. He might even meet her parents if she still lived at home. Then he would actually take her somewhere, such as to dinner, and he would spend money, his own money, on her. He was then supposed to bring her back to her own home at a reasonable time. Perhaps if it went well, she might even give him a quick kiss, and agree to see him again.
Of course I say a lot of this in jest, but what makes it strangely funny is that although most young people have heard of the dating I’m describing, many seldom experience it with any real frequency. Back when I was in high school and college, the goal was to have a date every Friday or Saturday. Frankly, very little was on T.V. on Friday nights since it was presumed that most young people would be “out on dates.”
We are living in a very strange world. At any rate, the first thing I think we can do is to tell funny stories like these. When I do so, I hope to tweak the young men into some change of behavior such that, instead of just hoping to see certain women at group functions they actually seek to court a particular woman, and even more, search for a wife.
As a priest in Washington DC, I talk with a lot of young women and am shocked that so many of these very beautiful women are seldom asked out by men. It’s just crazy! What’s wrong with young men? If I were still young and dating I’d be asking them out!
Some folks blame pornography and surmise that many men prefer fantasy to real women. Others blame the breakdown of the Church and family that used to help facilitate meeting and dating through dances and other socials. Others blame the hook-up scene (hooking-up is NOT dating) wherein men and women gather more in groups, arriving independently and “hooking-up” with whomever. Promiscuity also devastates marriage, since there is very little incentive for men to commit to marriage when they get one of its central motivators (sex) for free. And if marriage isn’t a real priority, why court a woman? And if marriage and courtship are unnecessary, why date?
Perhaps you can state other reasons. I don’t want to be unfair to men. These are complicated issues. But traditionally it was men who took the initiative and most traditional Catholic girls still feel as it that is how it should be.
But frankly, I also have to tell a lot of young women today that, like it or not, they’re going to have to take some initiative. For example, if a young woman sees a young man she would like to have ask her out, perhaps she can go right up to him and say, “It’s alright to ask me out.” or, “Ask me out you fool.” Or, “When are you going to get around to asking me to dance?”
Back when I was in school, I had several young women who wanted to signal me that they were interested. They would often send word through one of their friends who would then say something like, “She likes you, ask her out.” And in many cases, I would oblige!
My college sweetheart got things started with me that way. I was really surprised she wanted to go out with me; she was so very, very pretty, I didn’t think she’d be interested in an ordinary guy like me. I also figured she probably had lots of other suitors. So this was important information for me that she was interested, and I acted on it immediately. I practically ran up to her and asked her out.
I am interested in your thoughts, especially if you’re a young adult. What’s going on here? Ultimately I think it’s pretty serious since it is tied in with the cultural demise of marriage and also the rise of promiscuity. Help me, nearing “codger” status, to understand the causes, and also venture some solutions. .