‘Wow, I can’t believe what you’re telling me,” I said to my friend after a very long phone conversation. She had to break up with her boyfriend because he seemed too young, immature, and cheap for her.
“He was getting on my nerves, you know what I mean?” she said. “He dropped out of high school and now he wants to get his GED…”
“Um, yes … of course, I totally understand what you are saying,” I answered back … as if I really had a clue.
As my friend continued to unravel every detail of her “dating life” I could not stop thinking about how miserable this girl was. All she could think about was boys!
I still don’t understand why my friend chose to speak about this to me — a girl who is completely against teenage dating — and no, it’s not because I attend an all-girls high school. By the way, did I mention that my friend just recently turned 16?
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those anti-boys, anti-socializing girls. I actually have a great group of friends that includes both girls and boys. I also hang out with my friends; I go to the movies with them. They are all really great.
I just think that dating is such a beautiful thing and can be so special if it is done at the right time. Unfortunately many teenagers, even in our Jewish community, seem to be taking advantage of the beauty of dating.
A girl will date a guy because she likes the way he looks or the way he dresses, and a guy will date a girl and simply move on to another girl if he doesn’t like her. Teenagers should not date at such a young age, they should wait until they are more mature and serious and ready to only date for marriage. Do I sound crazy? Read on, I do have a point in this.
Many Jewish teenagers might argue that it is very hard not to date other people when everyone grows up in an American society where dating among teens is considered perfectly fine. It is so encouraged that there are even books such as, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating for Teens” which actually teaches teens how to date. Suddenly every teenager wants that special someone, everyone wants a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Movies and magazines also affect today’s teens.
Notice that all of the teens who I interviewed are only mentioned on a first-name basis. This is because most of them did not want their full names or the names of their schools written here. I think that they were afraid or even embarrassed to show how they feel about dating. It just goes to show that even if teenagers don’t admit that dating is inappropriate, they know that it is bad and that is why they chose to keep their names confidential.
“Movies and society in general do influence us and it is harder to resist because you see everyone else do it,” says Leo, a 16-year-old sophomore at an all-boys high school. Everything today is so open, so exposed that even “love” has lost its significance. I cannot blame Jewish teenagers for behaving this way, but I can blame them for acting like everyone else and forgetting about our Jewish values.
Dating is not a toy or game which we can use when we feel like it and throw away when we are tired of it. Judaism teaches that dating is much deeper — it involves a spiritual relationship between a man and a woman. In his book, “The Sacred Trust,” Rabbi Pinchas Stolper writes, “Life, love … are too important to be fooled around with. The media as a whole has created a moral climate which would lead us to believe that the sole aim and goal of life is pleasure and fun, a life where morality, responsibility, God, His Torah, its goals and ideals, are ‘dead’ issues.”
When Jewish teenagers date and go out “just for fun”, they become just like everyone else. They become just another teenager, another statistic. We are not only losing our uniqueness, but also wasting our time on “fun” stuff, which will not lead us anywhere in the long run.
Still don’t see my point? Well, let’s consider the effects of dating in high school. One of the first things that dating has an effect on are the emotions. When boys and girls are still at such an early stage of their lives, they tend to be very emotional. They love the idea of having someone so close to them. This might seem nice, but it really is not.
One of my teachers once said that teens, especially girls, should not date because during their teenage years they are so open to other people, so full of emotions and love to share. If they spend all their feelings and love on someone they will probably break up with, then they waste so much love which they could give to their future spouse — someone they will truly love, appreciate, and respect. Teens are not in the frame of mind to date seriously, and dating just for fun will hurt them and end up affecting their future relationship with the person to whom they are really meant to be with.
We also cannot ignore the physical feelings that come with dating. Whether it is holding hands or even just walking side by side, teens are prone to do things that they might regret later. “It [dating] ruins your ability to have a special relationship with your future spouse, because you will most likely have done many things with your boyfriend/girlfriend, and it’s the most special the first time,” says Gila, a sophomore at an all-girls yeshiva high school. When teens do things that they later regret, it causes a lot of emotional problems and stress, which is not healthy for any person.
The main reason that I think teens should not date is because the teen years are the years for a person to build his or her personality. Girls and boys discover who they are, how they feel, what they want in life, and what kind of partner they are seeking. Worrying about a boyfriend or a girlfriend and obsessing about someone else will alter this special time in life. It is much wiser to get to know yourself while you are a teenager, so that once you become an adult and really want to find that special someone you will be able to give of yourself and share your life with someone confidently. We must know who we are, before we search for someone who we can love.
I am not telling you to lock yourselves at home and not see anyone. It is the complete opposite — you should go out with your friends, enjoy life and have fun. Get to know yourselves better, but save your feelings and emotions for the person with whom you will share your life.