Dating is something that most teenagers wants to talk about.
If I want to get all of my student’s attention – I just need to say – “like when you go on a date”… then… silence – I will have their undivided teenage attention. However, something that may not be in our adult awareness is that when we say dating, we think about a boy asking a girl out, picking her up, taking her to a planned activity with other couples, and then taking her home. This is not what current kids think of. That definition fits for school dances, but not necessarily for a random friday night. Kids today don’t date like we did.
When I talk about dating – they think about relationships. Boyfriend, girlfriend stuff. And when I say don’t date until you are 16, they think that means that above definition they don’t do anyway. Its ok to have a boyfriend when you are 13 or 14 or 15 – but they aren’t dating, with other couples, like their parents did. They are just “together” or even better, “hanging out'”, – so its ok. And I say to them – NOT DATING BEFORE YOU ARE 16 MEANS NOT DOING DATING THINGSBEFORE YOU ARE 16 WHICH MEANS NOT HAVING A BOYFRIEND OR GIRLFRIEND AND PUTTING YOURSELF IN SITUATIONS YOU DON’T HAVE THE MATURITY TO HANDLE SO CHILL OUT! Then I smile and say, lets memorize scriptures now, and don’t make me cry cause you are falling for the same traps teenagers fall for everywhere.
Except for some. Some really get it.
They understand the wisdom and the promises behind the guidelines the prophets gives them. They see that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet does exactly what the title suggests: it gives them “strength”. They will have more choices, more confidence and more freedom than others. They get that they will never ever EVER regret living those standards. Never. They will only regret notliving them. And some kids get that – they are wiser than many of their peers, and their peers desperately need their examples.
Once I was teaching in my class about what the pamphlet said about dating.
The part where it tells them not to date until they are 16. And about the punctuation mark that followed that standard. Its a period – not a comma. It doesn’t say: Don’t date until you are 16, unless you are more mature than your friends, or unless that really cute guy asks you out, or unless you are younger than all of your friends and the school dance will be really fun. Trust me – I get it – I couldn’t go to any of the school dances until my junior year because I was a summer birthday – and I do NOT regret waiting. I am so glad that I can, for the rest of my life, know that I did not compromise that standard. I observed it fully. Which influenced me and let to my observation of other, bigger standards. I never steady dated in high school because I lived my standards. And it started before I was 16.
So – I was telling my class about this,
and right after I finished, the bell rang, and the students all filed out except for one girl. It was one of my youngest students in that class and she was beautiful. I had my personal concerns about her and wondered how she was handling the attention from the boys I was sure she was getting. “Are we really supposed to wait until we are 16 to date?” she asked. “You read what it said,” I said, “What do you think about that?” “I’ve never heard that before,” she said. “Really?” I asked, but I was really thinking “REALLY??????” “No, I’ve never been taught that”, she said. “Do you have a boyfriend”, I asked. “Yes”, she said. “How old is he?”, I asked… I had a feeling…. “He is out of high school”, she said. Gulp. “What should I do?” she asked. “I am not going to tell you what to do,” I said, “Except for one thing…” “What?” “Go home and pray about it. Really pray about it. And pray for the strength to do whatever you feel is right.” “I can do that!” she said. “Ok – see you Monday. Come tell me what happens” So the next Monday she came in to tell me what had happened in her life over the weekend. “So I did what you said,” she reported. “And??? Tell me what happened,” I begged. “I broke up with him,” she said. “Really?” I said, acting surprised, but proud. “Yep. And he hates me,” she explained. “Why? Because you are doing what the prophets want you to?” I asked her. “Yep. And he doesn’t want the same thing for me they do”, she wisely said. “I could have told you that. I am really proud of you.”
Well, years and years later I had been asked to speak at an Institute fireside one Sunday night.
I don’t remember what I spoke about – I just remember the chapel was full of darting eyes belonging to young return missionaries and eligible ladies. And I remember a young couple sitting on the very front row, and I could see that they were very into each other. No darting eyes there – their eyes were committed to each other! So, after the fireside ended, I was chatting with some of the young people who had come up to talk to me, and I noticed that this couple on the front row was waiting for everyone else to be done so that they could speak to me after. When it was their turn, I finally took a good look at the girl – and it was her. That young girl all those years ago who decided to live that standard. And I recognized her, and we hugged. And she expressed, “When I saw that you were speaking, we just had to come!” Then the young man stepped forward, put his hand out and said, “I just wanted to thank you in person.” “For what?” I asked. “For telling her to break up with that guy. You see, we are getting married in the temple next week, and that was such an important decision for her to make in her life way back then. Who knows how her life may have taken a different path?” “Well, you are welcome, but she made the choice.” I said. “I know,” he said. “I love her so much, and I am just so glad we are ready for each other right now.”
That is the message I wish every young man and young woman understood.
That they are choosing what their future family looks like with every choice they make right now. That they are living their love story right now. Their future spouse is out their right now, what kind of choices do they hope they are making? Do they care if they are living the standards? If they are preparing themselves for their future? If they are going to church, to seminary, and to their young men and young women activities? Do they care if they are steady dating? Or keeping the word of wisdom or keeping themselves pure and virtuous?
Some of the best advice I received when I was a young girl was this:
“If you are a 10 then you will marry a 10”. That phrase imbedded itself into my young teenage-girl brain. And it made sense. I knew what kind of a guy I wanted to end up with, so I knew what I needed to do – I needed to become that girl that guy would choose. And so it wasn’t time for me to go chasing after any boy that made my heart flutter – it was time to work on myself, to have casual dates, to make good friendships, and to gain character and strength. I didn’t know my husband when I was in highschool. But even if I did, I wouldn’t have needed to claim him way back then. We could have been friends. We could have gone on dates. And we would look back at our wise choices and be so very grateful.