Dear Auntie Seraphic,
First of all, thank you so much for your blog! Love it! It's a breath of fresh air sometimes.
So here's the deal:
Small school, Christian student body. Most students take dating fairly seriously- as something that should lead to marriage. (Hence- "ring by spring") While this is quite an appropriate outlook, it seriously hampers the dating scene here. Making it pretty much non-existent. Guys don't ask girls out, even for a "you're kinda cool, let's get to know each other over coffee" kind of date. It's as if going on a date meant you were getting married (since many couples tend to date very seriously and are engaged by graduation). My friend at another university was very surprised to hear that I had not gone on any dates at school. It just doesn't happen here. To be fair, we end up with some great guys friends (who are definitely friend-zoned), and most of our serious couples started off by being friends.
Given all that, I [recently] had a conversation with a male acquaintance at a school function [...] [My] radar started going off as the conversation progressed- mostly small talk, but still. We have some [...] interests in common, but I'm just not interested if he tries to pursue. (Though I do give him credit for picking up a conversation. I am told I can be somewhat intimidating, or at least appear very poised and confident- just so you know what the guys have to deal with. "Approach with caution or a lot of confidence.")
Anyway, this got me thinking: how do you navigate these types of situations if they arise in college or later in life? On one hand, you don't want to shut guys down right away because they had the guts to ask a girl out or talk to her, which is what we'd really want happening on campus. I figured that, unless they're obviously on a "wife hunt" or total creepers, it wouldn't hurt to go on a date, give the guy a shot, and enjoy it. But on the other hand, if you're not really interested, would that just be leading them on? It's just really confusing, especially in this super serious dating environment.
Sorry if you've already covered this on your blog- you could just send me some links.
Dear Fair Chance,
I stand by my "It's just coffee" position. Whatever the courtship culture looks like at your college, the experience of every girl and guy there is going to be unique. And I don't like this "ring by spring" attitude because it suggest couples feel pressured to get engaged and marry. Disillusionment will bring divorce, and I am all about preventing disillusionment and divorce.
I have written many times that the most attractive qualities are joy and confidence. Well, part of confidence is saying "Yes" to what you want and "No" to what you don't want. Therefore, if a man asks you out for coffee, and you want to have coffee with him--for ANY reason (you're cold, you need a coffee, he's funny and you could use a laugh)--then have the coffee. If the same man wants to hold your hand, but you don't want to hold his hand, give his hand a friendly squeeze and let go.
I do not think there is anything wrong with spending time with men you like because they are friendly and nice to talk to, as long as you do not feel this means you HAVE to do something else. You don't. You should, however, make a mild protest when they offer to pay, and insist on paying sometimes, especially when you intuit that a guy has a crush on you. That way he won't feel used when he gets over it.
Above all, you are not a failure if you don't get "a ring by spring". Sorry to diss your college culture, but what nonsense! That kind of attitude can ruin lives. Some people just aren't ready or called to be married right out of college.
I hope this is helpful!
Grace and peace,
Now that I'm 39+, my brain synapses are totally done joining up, I went to therapy for five years and I have a diploma in Lonergan Studies, it is all too easy to wonder why 20-something girls jump from "we had a conversation" to "he'll ask me out" and from "he asked me out" to "he'll force me at gunpoint to marry him." When I was 20-something, my brain zipped from A to Z too.
Too many young women make up their minds about their future with a man in fifteen seconds. Either he's cute, so they're getting married one day, or he's not so cute, so they aren't. It's like shoe shopping or, worse, skimming through faces on a dating website. I am personally a big fan of cute, but let's get real. Not all good guys resemble actors and not all cute guys are good.
In my experience, guys think girls are pretty or they don't, whereas girls either think a guy is cute, come to think of a guy as cute, or stop thinking of a cute guy as cute when it turns out he has the personality of either a dust-mop or a hyena. And this is why I think women should go out with a guy for coffee before dismissing him as "Meh. Not interested." Nice boys are usually uncomplicated and ask girls out for coffee just because they think the girls are attractive and kind. (Bad men are often complicated, too complicated for this post.) Being thought attractive and kind is flattering. Personally, I like best those men who think I am attractive and kind. Men of such sophisticated and discerning tastes are rare. Their value is beyond that of rubies. Did I mention the young Bangladeshi chef who tried to chat me up on the bus that Sunday? Oh, I think I did.
At the same time, of course, I am for women doing exactly what they want to do, as long as it is not against God's laws. There is no divine law saying "You should not have coffee with a near-stranger you're not prepared to marry." If a man seriously thinks a woman has agreed to marry him because he bought her a coffee, he's either insane or doing that girl thing of going straight from A to Z instead of, like most men, just plodding along from A to B to C to D.
Men don't like being "led on"--that's true. But on the other hand, they want to be given a chance. So for heaven's sake give the ones who have the good taste and the manly courage to actually ask you out a chance. It's just coffee.