Candy Cooper McDowall
This is a Facebook post from my daughter that I wish to share with you (with her permission). I am sure you will love it as much as I did. No author/writer lessons here today or Author Interview. But I think you will find some wisdom and humor.
posted August 22, 2014 at 4:51pm
When I was a teenager, my father told me I was not allowed to date until I was 16. Yes, you read that right. 16. That’s not to say I didn’t hit the occasional basketball game with a “friend” or double-date for the movies (that we walked to). But for a legitimate date, one that involved alone time between me and A BOY, I had to wait until that magical age of teen maturity. Sweet 16.
I remember pretty distinctly sitting at the dinner table telling my dad that I had been asked out for my first date, and having to ask his permission to go. He tried to be funny. He failed. I will leave the out the details.
However, this was 1982 or thereabouts. There were rules. Some of them were imposed by my dad. Some were just, you know, how it was done. But there were guidelines we pretty much all knew ahead of time. It never occurred to me they might be variable. They just… were. Which, I suppose, was fairly naïve considering dating in the 8Os was not very much like dating in the 50s, which is equally not like dating in the 20s. Still, these were the times I knew, along with the rest of my contemporaries. We were trying to act all grownup in our awkward bodies with our rampant hormones and having no idea what we were doing, guessing at societal norms in order to know how to proceed. Whether we followed them or not is not the point. They were there.
Fast forward 30 years…or so…
Stepping back out into the world of dating as a single woman in her 40s, with almost grown children watching, has been daunting. I’ve changed. The world has changed. But the one thing I did not expect is that DATING HAS CHANGED. Caught me totally off guard with that one.
I was scared enough as it is, with my previously unscarred heart now battered and slightly bruised. But at least, I thought, this time I had experience. This time, I knew what was coming. This time, I am all grown up in my not-too-shabby-for-my-age body, possibly with some raging hormones (which are likely menopausal), having some idea of what I am doing, because this time I KNOW the societal norms that tell me how to proceed. Whether I follow them or not is not the point. THIS TIME at least I know the rules.
Hah. Ahaha. Ahahahahahahaha! WRONG.
I give you…online dating.
If you had said the words “online dating” in the 80s we would have wondered what laundry had to do with your love life.
And so at this time, I would like to enumerate for you lucky souls who are NOT negotiating this newly-laid digital landmine, or maybe those of you who are jumping into those waters again, what is it like to be a teenager of the 80s dating in this new millenium. For those of you already doing it, high five for bravery.
80s Rule #1 – If a boy asks you out, he probably likes you.
I mean, he had to get up the nerve, look you in the eye (or write you a note), get made fun of by his friends, and then wait nervously for you to say yes. You don’t do all that for somebody you aren’t really interested in. It’s too nerve-wracking.
2014 Version – If you see a picture of someone you find interesting, and he sees yours, you might start a conversation. You will probably be emailing or texting for awhile. This might lead him to ask if you possibly want to get coffee or something. Maybe. He might just flirt. Or be cautiously distant so that you aren’t sure if he is interested or just bored from sitting home alone. And then right about the time YOU are ready to ask HIM if he wants to get coffee or something, because, you know, you are a modern confident woman and he already said he likes coffee, he will suddenly disappear and delete his profile. Likely in the middle of the conversation you were having and probably right after he just asked you out for that coffee.
80s Rule #2 – Your date must pick you up at the door.
There was no way in hell my father was going to miss out on the chance to terrorize any potential suitor of mine, even while being polite. I think it was the smile that threw them off. The anticipation of meeting The Father was likely much worse than the experience of meeting The Father himself.
2014 Version – Your date must not know where you live for a very long time.
It’s very possible you don’t have a good idea of what your date really looks like, since those pics he uploaded were from when he still had hair. (Side note: Beware the naked bathroom selfie. That would have gotten you arrested in 1982.) And since you are a single woman now, probably alone in the house in the primping hours prior to any first date, for safety’s sake, a new guy can’t get within 100 yards of you without a room full of caffeinated strangers, who may or may not be looking up when you walk in, but could at least call 911 if they heard screaming.
80s Rule #3 – Your date pays for dinner.
His dad probably slipped him a 20 on the way out the door, and reminded him to tip the waiter.
2014 Version – You get there early enough to buy your own coffee so there is no awkward reaching for your wallet as he reaches for his, not knowing if he really wants to buy your coffee or just feels socially obligated. Or he buys his own coffee and leaves you standing there feeling like a dolt for assuming those were together.
80s Rule #4 – If it is a nice date, he might ask you out again before the night is over.
I mean, you like each other. It was fun. Why not?
2014 Version – If it is a nice date, he will likely wait until he gets home, and then text or email you a day or two (or 5) later to see if you would like to go out again.
I had a guy say to me in all honesty, “I never ask a woman out for a second date while we are still on the first date, because then it avoids the whole awkward refusal thing.” Because truthfully, the chance of being turned down for the second date is much higher when you don’t know each other to begin with. I can’t exactly fault the guy. So you might be waiting for awhile for that second request. Or it might not be coming at all. Hard to say.
80s Rule #5 – If it is a nice date, there might be a goodnight kiss.
There might not, if one or both of you is shy. But there was little chance of more happening on that first date than a bit of awkward groping in the driveway. Not to say that more wouldn’t happen later, but much first date action was unlikely.
2014 Version – You have to state in writing on a public forum whether or not you are willing to have sex on a first date.
I wish I was joking.
80s Rule #6 – Once you are a couple, it is ok to slide across the bench seat and sit next to him while he is driving.
2014 Version – First, you probably aren’t even in his car for awhile. See Rule #2. But if you have made it that far, the bench seat is long gone. The best you can do is try to hold hands over the console between the bucket seats and hope you don’t lose feeling in your wrist.
80s Rule #7 – If your friends like him, he’s probably ok.
2014 Version – If he’s ok, your friends might like him. But not necessarily.
80s Rule #8 – If things don’t work out, there is probably an emotional breakup in person, but if he’s a real heel, it might be over the phone.
But if he did that.. COWARD! Couldn’t even look you in the eye. (spit) And then all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.
2014 Version – If things don’t work out, a text message is a convenient and efficient way to get out of a potential relationship without having to bear witness to the other person’s heart breaking right in front of you.
But then, all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.
Some things don’t change that much at all.
80s Rule #9 – If it all goes well, you gaze happily into each other’s eyes, put your picture in the newspaper, and start planning that over-the-top wedding with the giant cake and people from your dad’s office you’ve never met.
2014 Version – If all goes well, you slowly introduce each other to your respective children, quietly move in together one dresser drawer at a time, and maybe sneak off in a private little ceremony to tie the knot at some point. But not necessarily. Let’s not move too fast here.
Wish me luck. At least now I know the rules.
Candy Cooper McDowall ©2014