Monday, 23 May 2011

Auntie Seraphic & Dating vs Courtship

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Some time ago you expressed cautious disapproval about 'dating', proposing 'courting' to be the better option. As someone not even understanding the object of 'dating', probably never having done it, I am quite curious how you would define and contrast those both concepts (in terms of aims and practical behaviour; I don't think that, Jonathan-Lindvallesque, 'parental consent' is the main distinguishingly element for you - ?). Thanks for the clarification!

Dispassionately Curious

Dear Dispassionately Curious,

Dating is when men and woman ask each other out in a spirit of experimentation. For example, one or the other might contact a complete stranger they like the look of on a Catholic dating website. After a few emails back and forth, and maybe a phone call, they arrange to meet at a cafe or restaurant. That arrangement is a date.

Blind dates, when a third party sets up a date between her male friend and her female friend, because she thinks they would like each other, are also dates.

A woman with a huge crush on a man and finally working up the courage to ask him over for dinner is just making a date, as far as he is concerned.

In dating, the goal is the date and maybe a pleasant open-ended boyfriend and girlfriend arrangement or--for the promiscuous--a chance to have sex soon. There is quite a lot of unhappiness around competing expectations.

Dating is more common in America than in Europe, and amongst working folk than among students. Volker told me that there is no dating in Germany. He said men and women friends just hang out in groups and then one day one of the men and one of the women find themselves alone, kiss, and move in together. This may have more in common with courtship.

Courtship is when a man realizes that he is smitten--either by a pretty girl he sees across the room or by a female friend or acquaintance, and then moves heaven and earth (if necessary) to spend time with her.

He calls her up, he takes her out, he pays for her dinner, he gives her little gifts for her birthday, Valentine's Day, etc., and (after a great deal of angst and wondering when the exact right moment is) kisses her, desperately hoping she will kiss him back and not slap him. If he remains smitten, he hopes that she is smitten too and eventually risks his entire ego by asking her if she ever thought she might like to marry him.

The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic (or sexual) partner, and that this person looks pretty good (or easy). The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him (ever or from now on).

Readers will be quick to say that women also court men. Yes, we do, and I am not sure that is a wonderful idea. It may be important for men to have the grand, exhilarating, humble-making, heart-risking adventure of finding, courting and winning Miss Right. It is probably bad for them to have women flinging ourselves at them from all directions. In fact, I am sure of it.

Meanwhile girls occasionally write to me of their longings to "give themselves" to someone, and this, I think, is the principal and most dangerous desire of thousands of young women. Giving too much or too soon is a terrible (and peculiarly) female sin. Ponder the films of silly Baby Boomer teens shrieking and wailing before the Beatles, and clips of silly Baby Boomer oldies throwing their underwear and hotel keys at crooners in Las Vegas. This is what happens when you remove the ropes of female inhibition. It ain't pretty. And only two women ever married John Lennon, and only two married Paul McCartney. Okay, it will soon be three, but you see what I'm saying here.

All this said, a woman often realizes that she is in love with a man before he realizes that he is in love with her and tells her. Jane Austen was very funny about this uncomfortable reality, and I lived it for a whole four days. All I can say to this is pray, look your best, keep your mouth shut and don't grab the hottie. (I think in the end I patted B.A. on the head to show I liked him. Thank goodness you can do that in Scotland. In Thailand it's a terrible insult.)

The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic partner, and that this person looks pretty good. The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him from now on.

I hope this is helpful. Just thinking about dating freaks me out now. If I am ever a widow, I am so never dating again. Uh uh. No way. If anybody wants to marry (hopefully) elderly me, they'll just have to dance like a blue-footed booby bird or bring me valuable stones like a penguin because I am never dating ever, ever again.

Grace and peace,

P.S. Bird courtships are AWESOME. Women birds just do their thing, dressed in protective colouring, and the men birds go nuts with bright colours, dancing about, offering bribes, you name it. It seems so relaxing from the female perspective. Female birds don't have to DO anything. They just have to BE. The downside is that female penguins (at very least) are amoral and will cheat on their mates for presents.


Ginger said...

Thaaaank you for posting this! It helped a ton. You're right-- courting sounds way better than dating.

Alas, dating seems to be my lot right now as I don't have anyone falling over themselves trying to marry me, and just a lot of experimental "Hmm, maybes."

Seraphic said...

You're always allowed to say No, you know. You are also allowed to cancel your dating website membership, if you have one. And I hereby free you from any idea--if you are burdened with one--that it is your responsibility to ask men out on dates.

not a minx, a moron, or a parasite said...

Thank you for this. I find dating slightly terrifying - wish I could be a female penguin at times, haha!

I'm still not entirely settled on the idea of dating vs. courtship. The description of courtship you provided is the one I'd use to describe Christian dating, though I see that the other description of dating can be true, too.

Kate P said...

Thank you for redeeming the word "courtship," Seraphic. I normally just shudder when I hear it, because all I can think of is the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" book where the only option seemed to be sitting on your parents' porch, drinking lemonade. (Not an option for those of us who do not live with our parents anymore!)

Christine said...

@not a Minx - I think what Seraphic meant was to show what a courtship-like process looks like. It goes by other names (ie, Christian dating, like you mentioned) and I agree.

Thanks for the post, Seraphic, for reinforcing my belief in men working to win the woman over.

Alisha said...

The only difference I see in the definition is level of intensity/length of time and more clear intent - the actual nuts and bolts of it don't seem too different: ie. both require spending time exclusively in the company of another. Or is it that courtship means exclusively seeing one person? Because you can also have a problem with people who just are serial monogamists or serial courters where they focus on one person for awhile, realize they are not the one, and move on etc etc. I'm not sure why this is better or healthier than dating - i.e. meeting with several people and narrowing down your options..
In any case, at the beginning, courtship would normally have to start with something resembling a date. Nobody should begin interacting with someone with the declaration that they are pursuing their hand in marriage...if someone did that to me, I'd say they were crazy and should go get their head examined because they don't even KNOW me yet.

Christine said...

Kate brought up a good point. I'm going to be moving out of my mom's house (again) into my own apartment this summer, and I'd love some tips for social conduct whilst having mixed-gender get-togethers and also the world of dating while living on one's own. Any thoughts, gals?

Sophie said...

I have to say, I agree with Alisha and also wanted to note that 'dating' in Europe seems to mean what courtship is described as here (although obviously not in adherence to the Church's teachings on sex and marriage). There is no such thing as dating unexclusively - you pretty much go on a few dates and then you are a couple, exclusively and committedly. Now, certainly, there is a big problem with these couples not marrying before living together and more often now not marrying at all (I just met a Portuguese couple who are not married and told me they never will because they feel married now, which is a sad state for one of the formerly most Catholic countries in the world). But nevertheless, I think lumping all dating in together isn't especially fair, particularly if the objection is a lack of committment/serious intention, which is present in European daing.

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