October 25, 2013

Advice for A Yong Man's First Date

I can still remember my first kiss. It was on a first date of sorts when I went to a movie with a GIRL! I might have been 13 or 14, I don't know exactly. In truth, I was so uncomfortable (in a good way), I can only come up with a few of the details. I can tell you the name of the theater, that I borrowed the money for the tickets, we sat near the back, she smelled like a goddess, and that I had to dig deep for the courage to put my left arm around her shoulders.

It was about halfway through the movie and my left arm falling off from the cramp, when we somehow turned to look at each other. In that instant, a sweet but oh so brief kiss just happened. I don't know who kissed who, but I doubt I was the initiator. Nothing was said about the kiss after the movie and I have no recall of my life for the rest of the day, only that I had a happy feeling.

That was a long time ago and life was simpler then. The degree of my innocence back then is astounding compared to what young men see and know today. In 2013, young guys are inundated with media images and music lyrics about sex and relationships. They often get advice about women from their equally uninformed peers, most of which is not especially helpful and sometimes just bad data.

Today our young males have the likes of Google and Bing search engines, which can provide enough information on gender biology for guys to become gynecologists. With all that information, it's still easy for too many of our young guys to be confused about what it means to have intimate connection to another person. We see it in the papers when it goes tragically off track and we wind up with victims, perpetrators, and lives in ruins.

If a young man comes from a home with good relationship role models, or an adult willing and able to have the important conversations, they are very lucky indeed. For the rest, like so many aspects of manhood, too many young males are left to just figure out the notions of love, sex, intimacy, and relationships with women on their own.
. . . too many young males are left on their own
to just figure out the notions of love, sex, intimacy,
and relationships with women.
I loved it when my brother in mission, Andy Roy, sent along a link to a website offering young men "10 Things a Boy Must Know Before His First Date." Andy and his partner, Stephen Halsall, run the very successful Powerhouse Programs in Australia. They do Rite of Passage programs for young men, parent training for raising young males, and great school-based training for teens (including workshops on sexuality). Like Andy, those of us who work with young men know they (still) need a lot of guidance on even the most practical and mundane parts of a young man's life. The first date is no exception.

Here are the first five of the list of 10 first date suggestions from the website, Helene's Legacy. They describe what the author believes a boy should know prior to his first date with a girl (or change the language for your romantic partner of choice). The whole list is great, and I'm sure you could add a few more:
  1. The goal of this evening is to spend time with a nice girl. It's not a notch in your belt, or the first step on the road to going steady, or even necessarily the night you'll have your first kiss. Take your expectations down a peg and you won't be so nervous.

  2. When trying to decide between dressing cool and dressing casually, go with dressing clean. She wants you to smell nice. That means you need to shower too.

  3. When you go to pick her up, don't wait in the car for her to come out. Go right up to her door and be ready to introduce yourself to her parents. If her dad answers the door, shake his hand. It won't hurt to call him "sir" either.

  4. Hold the car door open for her, and make sure to ask "all set?" before you slam it.

  5. As you leave her house, smile, make eye contact with her, and tell her sincerely that you're glad she is there.
To see all of Helene's ten suggestions you can visit her website.

In response to the list above, Andy said, ". . . it has some really lovely points, but it is written by a woman, and some boys will pay it zero heed. Perhaps a man’s voice to compliment the list and say the same things in a different way would help boys understand or ‘get it’."

One man's take on the same advice for young males is from Alan Smyth. Alan is a dad with a daughter and a Young Life Regional Director trying to reach lost kids in LA. He is also the author of the book, Prized Possession - A Father’s Journey in Raising his Daughter.

On his blog myfatherdaughter.com, Alan wrote 10 Rules for Dating my Daughter. While it was written in jest, it definitely has a more aggressive take on the "first date" list. Alan was quite surprised at how many responses came back that he actually put the rules on a tee-shirt and offered it for sale. While the list and shirt were meant to be humorous, Alan says he's glad, "This light-hearted shirt is bringing thousands of Dads further into the important conversation of their role with their daughters."

Now that you're in that teenage frame of mind, can you bring back the memory of your first date? What age did it occur? Were you prepared for the experience, and did it go well? What feelings did you have during and after the date? Did anyone other than your peers talk to you about how to handle yourself on the outing or were you "just figuring it out" on your own?

Most importantly, there just might be a young guy in your life somewhere who'd benefit from a conversation about your first date experience, if you're willing.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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1 comment:

  1. Earl, I have a different take on the T-shirt advice. I love that the mothers words are considered and from her heart, helping him to understand some basics about girls and to feel comfortable … and regardless of what happens, to be respectful of her and proud of his conduct.

    The male advice on the T-shirt is too much of a joke for me. Things like get a job and a lawyer are bad advice that show little trust in a young man who can be naturally good young man if encouraged rather than disciplined or threatened.

    A male voice I would feel good about would be something personal, caring, and respectful from an older man to a younger man. Support for this important moment which would express experience and wisdom as well as clarity and understanding. It could be something a young bloke would actually want to hear.

    I would like to see a fathers advice to his son on a first date rather than something from the girl's father. Something like . . . "My two brains had a constant struggle and it was a tough to be honorable and do what I know was right, when this primal urge seemed so huge and relentless . . . . And if I had my time again . . . .” Maybe even a story of how he got it wrong on his first date and how he felt about it later, even 20 or 30 years later.


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