“You should date,” Mom said, “so you can learn what you like and don’t like in a guy.”
I was standing in my family’s kitchen, home for the first time from my freshman year of college, and my mother’s words caught me by surprise. After years of telling me that I wasn’t allowed to date because it would distract me from my studies (which did nothing to stop me from obsessively journaling about dudes, talking to them on the phone and IMing them for hours, and talking and IMing about them with my girlfriends for hours more — so much for no distractions), she had abruptly changed her tune when I left for college. When I called home during Welcome Week to tell her about all the fun things I was doing, her first response was, “Have you met anyone?” (What? When was I supposed to learn how to do that? The answer was decidedly no.) But the complete 180 aside, her words to me in our kitchen that evening were perfectly normal advice for a woman to be giving her 17-year-old daughter.
I, however, was having none of it. Because you see, I had already seen the light about relationships: I had kissed dating goodbye. Like scores of other young, impressionable Christians who came of age in the late ’90s, I had read Joshua Harris’s missive against dating before one was ready for marriage and taken it as gospel — and all the more readily because it provided a theological affirmation for what I was already doing at the time, which, thanks to Mom, was not dating. So I received her new advice with what can best be described as amusement at her unenlightened thinking.
“I don’t need to date,” I said, with a combination of pride and condescension that only a college freshman can muster. “I can learn everything I need to know about a guy by observing him in group settings.”
I don’t know how she kept a straight face.