By Pastor Paula Burchill
I’m not sure if you are aware of a trend among teens these days. Apparently you can’t just ask someone to a dance anymore. It has to be a big production–chalk on the sidewalk, a decorated car, balloons, a life size bear holding a sign asking you to go to the dance. I’m sure if I was in high school and I had a boy make such a romantic gesture toward me, I would have loved it. [well, maybe not the bear….what does one do with a huge bear???] And had I been able to post on social media to tell everyone, I definitely would have done just so. But I can’t help but feel bad for our teens. This is a lot of pressure.
I had one teen tell me that they haven’t even asked anyone yet because “you can’t just ask, you have to do something special.” My suggestion of going “old fashioned” and saying, “will you go to Homecoming with me?” was met with a look that suggested I’m not only old, I’m entirely clueless. These are looks I’m getting much more accustomed to than I would like these days!
This trend gives me pause for a couple of reasons. For one thing I think it sets kids up for disappointment. If you think that the only way to get asked to a dance is through a huge production, it might give you the idea that relationships are all about the highs. Yes, new love, new attraction, they are full of highs and wonderful feelings. But friendships and dating are about learning to deal with regular people, warts and all. This prepares you for a long term relationship someday. And anyone who has been married knows that if you depend on those high romantic gestures to keep your marriage going, you won’t be married long.
I get it. It is fun. After the last football game I attended, a woman I didn’t know and I watched a player run to get roses and a sign and then run to catch a girl to ask her to the dance. The woman looked close to my age, and she told me she thinks the trend started in Idaho, because everyone did that when she was growing up. But there is a difference. I had no idea that was happening in Idaho. The first thing this couple did was take a picture, and I’m certain that was posted to their social media sites.
I also get that that is how kids communicate with each other. But I can’t help but wonder if the grand gestures aren’t a bit of a competition. And not so much about the gesture, but about getting attention for the gesture.
Someone will always be more romantic, always have a bigger proposal, always have something better than you. And when that is always in your face through social media, it must be so hard. I think for a lot of our kids, it is paralyzing. It makes them feel inferior and un-creative and not cool. I’m not going to say stop making the gestures, but do stop assuming that is how you have to get asked. Or that if you get asked in an “old fashioned” way it isn’t just as romantic. After all, if it is just someone’s mom who went and bought the balloons, is it really all that romantic? Life is not about the highs. Life is about the everyday. The relationships we have with real people who often disappoint us, sometimes surprise us, but are just people, doing their best.