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Dating – Then and Now -Part I

by on June 30, 2015


(This is long so maybe no one will read it.)

This is about dating. Or courting if you wish. It is more about then than now because I was a participant then and I am not now. I understood dating then. I do not understand dating now. Even though I have invested most of the last 30 years teaching young people, I do not understand the current dating scene.

What is a date? “A date is an appointment with a person. It has a plan and a beginning and an end.” Thus spoke a Mennonite Bishop in the 1960’s. You make a plan to spend time with a person and you make the appointment and you keep the appointment and be as good as your word. You, the young man, tell the young lady what time you will be at her house and what you are planning for the date. If you are going somewhere together you tell her what time you will arrive at her house and what time you will bring her home again. You do exactly as you said you would.

Many times the young man was met at the door by the girl. Sometimes he was met at the door by one of the parents – typically the mother with one or more little children peering out from behind her apron. Oftentimes cheerful words were exchanged. I can still feel the nervous excitement of driving in the lane and walking to the door and knocking and waiting to see who would answer the door.

The girls were pursued – in good and healthy ways. We, the young men, wanted to date the young ladies. Had I not acted on my interest in dating the young lady who is now my wife, someone else would have dated her. I wanted to marry her so I pursued her and asked her to marry me.

What is/was a date. A date could be as innocent as going out for a milk shake with a girl. It could mean going to a Sunday evening singing or a ball game. It could mean offering to take her home from a church service. It was a fun time. It was not a marriage proposal. It did not mean we were dating. It was an opportunity to get to know a person in a natural setting for a good time of fellowship.

Those experiences allowed us to get to know the other person without the commitment of long-term relationship. It was understood that it was a time to get acquainted. If the experience was mutually enjoyable it could be repeated by planning another date. If either person was not interested in pursuing that level of friendship, it could be discontinued without further emotional bonding.

Of course, then as now, the girls have the last word. If they say, “yes” it is yes. If they say, “no” it is no. That is the reality of being a young man in the dating scene. And, of course, there were guys and girls who did not behave in Godly and wholesome ways. That will never change. Those are personal decisions. Dating processes do not change those types of decisions.

Dating then had clarity. If I asked a young lady to accompany me somewhere, she had the privilege to say “yes” or to say “no.” We both had clarity. If I asked her for another time then she knew that I was interested. If I did not ask, she knew that I was not pursuing the relationship.

It worked. More persons married younger than are now. Most (not all) persons had opportunity to date. Some chose to not date. It was a good social time. We typically double-dated – two couples going somewhere together. We would come “home” to the home of one of the girls. She would have made some preparation of snack or treat. (This is beginning to sound idyllic. That is not an accident. In my opinion, it truly was a blessing.)

Were there improprieties? Of course. There always will be. That is the fault of the persons, not the fault of the methods. “Casual dating” for the purpose of wrong behaviors did occur. I lived then. I dated then. Many of us dated and had a good time without engaging in sinful behaviors.

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