Dating, “going out”, “seeing…” it’s so confusing!

When my niece was a teenager, I couldn’t tell which (or if any) of the boys in the roving gang she hung out with was a guy she was actually dating. Turned out there was one fellow who was “hers” and we had a long confusing chat about how no one “dates” anymore. People “went out”, which was different from “seeing each other” but that didn’t mean they were dating, which apparently was completely passe.

I never could get a handle on the new language, but I remember feeling sad that she and her friends seemed to be missing out on old-fashioned romance, anticipation, or the idea of a Friday or Saturday night being worth dressing up for, instead of being just another day to roll with the homies.

Michael W. Hannon writes about this, and wonders if it’s not time to re-introduce the concept of “dating” to a world where every day is too much like the one before and the one to come.

In ye olden days, there was an established social script for this kind of thing. Once upon a time, the lovely lady in waiting extended an invitation to her potential courters, who, if they so desired, could call on her when she was in and then do their best to woo her to their cause. A generation later, the norm changed, the new expectation being that the gentleman would approach the lady who caught his fancy, and then, oh so suavely, request the opportunity to take her out on Friday night.

The relative merits of such customs are, of course, highly debatable. My point is not to hold them up as universal ideals worthy of our eternal emulation. But, love them or hate them, at least in our parents’ day they had a set of customs, any set of customs, surrounding the dating game. We really don’t. Our generation lacks any coherent social script for this kind of thing, and as a result, our attempts to start the dating process can be a little, ahem, messy.

Put yourself in the girl’s shoes for a second. Today, if a guy you know comes up to you—or worse, texts or “Facebooks” you—and asks if you would like to grab dinner on Friday, what would you make of it? Especially since, in all likelihood, y’all grab dinner pretty frequently anyway, just hanging out as per usual. Does it even cross your mind that you just got asked on a date? Maybe.

But are you sure about that? Doubtful.

Sometimes I wonder if the trend for overdone weddings isn’t a kind of compensation for the excessive casualness of our dating-or-whatever-it-is culture. If the whole dating processes has become unmarked by romance, if the dating (can I say courtship?) has lacked markers, perhaps the wedding becomes the marker?

It’s also interesting to note the trend toward “destination” weddings, whereby you bring your friends and family with you, and turn the whole wedding/honeymoon into a giant gang-vacation.

Thirty years ago, when my husband and I married, the whole point of the honeymoon was to get away from everyone and be alone together — a time of sealing intimacy that makes you feel like you’re “one flesh” and also a kind of “nation of two.” But I guess if you’ve been getting busy for years or have been living together, you’ve moved past all that?

Except, I don’t think that’s true. A marriage still needs intimacy, and even after years of living together it’s possible to rekindle that first “nation of two” experience. And it’s actually a really beautiful thing when you discover that it still exists between you. Some of us rediscover it when the nest empties, and it’s a great renewal. When a couple is honeymooning with family and friends, are they saying they don’t need or want that intimacy, or that they’d rather just keep hanging with everyone — be “intimate” with everyone? But we can’t be intimate with everyone, can we? I know I can’t.

I don’t get it. It’s all beyond me.

Meanwhile, how many winced at “ye olden days”? They weren’t that long ago.

Read the rest here. What do you think about Hannon’s idea, and the whole question of dating, specialness, intimacy?

Image courtesy of

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Nancy

    David and I did a “destination wedding” in France with our best friends and family. It was the best option for us for a variety of reasons. Then, we moved to NYC where we didn’t know a soul except each other.

    I think it was GREAT for our marriage….

  • Victor

    (((What do you think about Hannon’s idea, and the whole question of dating, specialness, intimacy?)))

    Well as far as I’m concern for me anyway, the old style dating and intimacy ended in the mid to late 80′s when our oldest daughter started high school and was a cheerleader. When I over heard her asking a boy out and then spoke to her about “IT”, the big “D”, she politely gave me a little lecture of how those days had passed and “IT” was perfectly normal to ask a boy out nowadays.

    I honestly could write a book telling people where the real problem is but instead, I’ll simply say that when I was young, I respected my parents and society’s views when I was told that I was not an adult until I reached the age of twenty-one. It was not easy but I followed the rules put in place thinking that “IT” would all pay off when I started raising my family but long story short, boy was “I” wrong! :(

    Longer story short, sinner vic has changed a LOT of those rules and the way “I’ve” learned to see “IT” today is that GOD (Good Old Dad) is not a liar and call me crazy if ya like but He’s quietly told my heart of heart that each and everyone of my spiritual reality cells who listen to His Son will have Eternal Life with a joy that not even human’s so called LSD could compete with! Go Figure! :)


  • CHSmith

    I think we need to re-introduce the concept of courtship. I’ve never thought a series of short term relationships is a good training ground for marriage. But intentional dating would be a step up from the hang out culture. However, I can see where the hang out culture would make sense if you are trying to avoid commitment.

    And of course, no one can be intimate with everyone. For that we must wait for Heaven “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” I Corinthians 13:12 NKJV. I believe the knowing that we strive for in marriage here will be standard issue in Heaven. :)

    That’s probably the saddest thing about the hang out culture–they don’t even know what they are missing with their pseudo-intimacy.

  • Tommy R

    It is curious how as the secular understanding of the meaning of marriage has sunk to an all-time low the extravagance of wedding “parties” are hitting an all-time high. The better the wedding party…the better the marriage…because in the secular mind the party re-presents the only meaning it ever had. How sad.

  • CV

    I blame Mark Zuckerberg. I think it’s ridiculous that people now feel compelled to list the “relationship status” (not to mention their sexual orientation) on Facebook. Who needs that kind of pressure, especially teenagers!?

  • Sarah

    I like your point about increasingly elaborate weddings compensating for lack of formal “courtship.” People like to formally mark relationships in one way or another.

    An interesting flipside of this is the trend of including childhood amusements at otherwise formal weddings – trinket favors, photobooths, candy buffets, circus-y fonts on invitations. Have the adult rites of passage lost their charm since everyone splits the rent before marriage? Do people subconsciously long for lost days of innocent romance? Either way, this drives me nuts as I plan my own wedding for next summer. I’m celebrating a sacrament and my new life with my husband, not putting on a third grader’s birthday party.

  • Ryan Haber

    And a sabbath. A day or rest, preferably on the Lord’s Day, is also crucial. Why? To slow us down and give us a chance to just BE with each other.

    This lack of intimacy, clear markers, clearly identified relationships, is all a manifestation of the *heresy of formlessness*. This error believes that there are no bright lines, no clear categories and distinctions, but only fifty shades of grey.

    Without distinctions and categories seen as built into nature, marriage only between (and not within) the sexes makes no sense because the distinction between sexes is trivial. Likewise, cohabitation before marriage, going out without going anywhere (in any sense of those phrases) all make sense because none of it is different, none of it means anything.

  • Mary

    It must be very confusing out there with no structure. Probably part of why the marriage rate has dropped so significantly. But destination weddings, I think, are about people dis inviting God from their weddings. And really, if what is happening is not a sacred event in the Presence of God Almighty, then what remains seems pretty small. Not much different than getting married in front of the judge at the courthouse. it takes a lot of work, and a lot of money, to make up for it.
    My grandmother says her wedding was grand, even though it was only planned in three weeks. A High Mass in a Cathedral, it impresses her to this very day.

  • Gina

    Be careful with the “courtship” thing. Josh Harris tried that and gave us a generation of Christian men and women who are afraid to go near each other. In its own way, the Christian courtship movement that my friends and I grew up with messed up our chances of finding intimacy just as surely as the secular hookup culture did for mainstream kids.

    [Well, I have no idea what you're referencing, but I refer to my own time dating my husband as "courtship" - I mean it in a pretty normal way. -admin]

  • Marilena

    Once upon a time, most couples did not sleep together until they dated each other a long time, until they fell in love, or even until they were married. Because of this, dating new people could be casual. Males and females could get to know each other one-on-one without undue complications. It might proceed to courtship and it might not. Parents actually encouraged their kids to “play the field” and they tended to worry about kids “going steady” too soon.

    This getting-to-know-you dating provided a convenient intermediate between being part of a group and being part of ‘a couple.” But today, when chastity or even reticence are assumed to be absent, the minute a boy and a girl go out alone together, this is invested with great significance. Just dating someone is regarded as “serious,” a commitment to being an exclusive couple — at least for the time being.

    In other words, I think the hang-out culture is a natural complement to the hook-up culture.

  • Nony Mouse

    I think there is at least an insidious inverse relationship between the wedding’s extravagance and the general perception of the sanctity of the marriage vows. If just saying, “I do” isn’t enough for you to consider it important, then perhaps going into debt and throwing money at the idea will at least make you think it’s important.