*Note: This post was edited 8/23/15. I removed a section about the Duggar family (19 Kids & Counting), which I originally included as a lighthearted example of the benefits of courting. Given the recent scandals regarding their family, my opinions about their family & relationship values have changed. I am not, nor was I ever, in support of the Duggars’ reprehensible anti-LGBT agenda, forced early courtship/marriage/child-bearing, or flippant attitudes toward child molestation within their family.
When I lived in Nashville, I taught outside of the city in rural Cheatham County. I endured an intense case of culture shock for the first few months (or for the better part of three years), but as soon as I became accustomed to all the cammo, tobacco barns, and phrases like hangin’ in there like a hair in a biscuit, I thought I could finally feel myself settling into the South. I was fresh out of college, ready to make my mark on students’ lives as a teacher, and there was just one question everyone had for me: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
It was like I was breaking some cardinal rule of southern southernness by walking around as a single girl all over the place. Hospitable country ladies meant well when they expressed utter shock at my being unmarried, unengaged, and unencumbered whatsoever by a man. And that was when I was in my early 20s.
I don’t live in the South anymore, but now, at 30, I’m frequently asked questions like: “Are you seeing anyone special?” or “Do you have a serious boyfriend?” (Once I answered, “No, and I don’t have a non-serious one either.”)
It’s not that I’m completely cynical or hate men or dislike the idea of being in a relationship. In fact, it’s actually the opposite! I’d love to find the person I’m going to spend my life with. I mean, that sounds pretty great. What doesn’t sound great to me is dating. Dating is dumb.
Just hear me out on this one.
Thanks to plenty of popular rom coms, 4 out of 5 shows on The CW, and a set of adopted social norms, we’ve been made to believe that all unmarried adults should be “dating.” That there are endless amounts of eligible, datable strangers we’ve yet to meet, but DO meet in some adorable way like bumping into each other on the stairs or serendipitously sharing a taxi together. Beautiful, thriving, exciting, attractive characters make it easy to believe that dating is fun and exhilarating.
But have you ever been on a first date? Chances are, it was none of those things.
The reality is that first dates are exhausting. The idea of going on a series of first dates makes me want to curl up in a blanket and watch a Real Housewives marathon for 24 straight hours in between naps and sandwich breaks. I cringe at the thought of all the energy it takes to meet a new person and gauge, after an hour and a half, whether he’s “the one.” (Christian ladies, don’t act like you’re not putting that kind of pressure on yourself. You’re not fooling anyone.)
Ok, so I haven’t been on hundreds or even dozens of dates, but I’ve been on a handful, and most of them have been disasters. Let me just sum up the last three dates I went on:
1. My friends talked me into creating a profile on the free dating site PlentyOfFish.com (red flag #1). This guy’s first message to me was that he thinks we’re soulmates (red flag #2). I let him pick me up at my house. This person, who could have been a murderer for all I knew, picked me up at my HOME RESIDENCE. And when we arrived at the diner (THE DINER), I realized he was wearing sweatpants and slippers (red flags #3 & #4). He spent the entirety of our date explaining that he found God on a drug trip and that he continues to do drugs because they enhance his creativity. We did briefly connect over some classic 90s DC Talk tunes, but it was short lived. I never contacted him again.
2. On an impulsive whim, I signed up for Match.com. (Everyone has a story about so-and-so finding her husband on Match.com, right?) I agreed to meet this guy for a lunch date, on which he flirted more with the waitress than with me. He insulted my sunglasses, asked me maybe 3 questions about myself (TOPS) and spent an inordinate amount of time making sure I knew his views on homosexuality and what was Biblical and what was not. ON A LUNCH DATE WITH A STRANGER. Oh, he also asked me to go camping with him and showed me his trunk full of camping equipment. He was definitely prepared! We never spoke again.
3. A few months ago, I was set up on a blind date with a friend’s brother who lives in Chicago. We went out to dinner in Indy while he was here visiting family. We were having a great conversation about music, when all of a sudden, I felt an arm around my shoulder and heard a familiar voice in my ear. “Bet you didn’t want to see me tonight!” It was my ex-boyfriend, who then proceeded to introduce himself to my date, knowing it was causing me more embarrassment than I knew how to recover from. THEN we left dinner to stroll the canal downtown, and as we walked along one side, he pointed and said, “There’s my family.” The group of people across the canal (thankfully) walking toward us were his family! Including his parents. (We waved.) I honestly can’t think of people I’d prefer to casually encounter on a first date less than parents. And my ex. We haven’t spoken since.
Dating is just not fun for me. But I know this about myself. I know I’m more likely to develop feelings for a friend or acquaintance. Someone I already know. I could write 50 blog posts on that topic, but for now I’ll just say that it’s an unfortunate way my heart works. I don’t want to go on lots of dates with lots of maybe-great / maybe-total-creep guys. I want to go on lots of dates with ONE guy of my choosing. Is that dating? Maybe I’m a fan of courting?
I get the feeling that courting isn’t going to catch on like wildfire anytime soon, so my guess is that I’ll have to go on a few more first dates in my lifetime. And maybe I’ll even collect a few more funny stories along the way. But I probably won’t like it, and it’s ok if you don’t like it either. You have my full permission to dislike it, swear it off, or fully embrace it.
My best friend tells me all the time that she’s praying for my future husband. She says she knows he’s out there, and she prays for God to prepare him to meet me. There are plenty of days when I’m tempted to believe she’s wrong, but I don’t. I believe her. I desire to be married someday, so my prayer is that when I meet him, I’ll be ready, too. And even if I never go on another first date again, I have faith that we’ll still find our way to each other. That faith is one of the more fortunate ways my heart works.