November 1, 2007, - 12:26 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Add high school homecoming dances to the list of victims of the end of courtship and the ratcheting up of hooking up. That’s what my friend, Detroit-based Wall Street Journal columnist and reporter Jeff Zaslow says in his column today. And it’s of interest because it’s a symptom of a larger picture, the upgrade of ho’ing around in America and the downgrade of traditional courtship which has been all but erased for some time.
Why act like humans with minds, when you can act like all the other animals on basic instinct? This great column makes all the necessary points, which Zaslow and his wife experienced through his 16-year-old daughter. If you have teen sons and daughters, he provides some great advice (he was a nationally syndicated advice columnist):
Some Date: How Homecoming Is Losing Out to Hanging Out
By Jeff Zaslow
Last month, a boy asked my 16-year-old daughter to his school’s homecoming dance. She agreed to go, bought a new dress and made a hairdresser appointment.
The boy never bought tickets to the dance. Neither did his friends. They decided that attending homecoming wouldn’t be cool, and instead planned to just dress up that night, go out for dinner and then hang out with their dates at someone’s house.
My daughter was disappointed, as were her girlfriends. They would have loved to have been taken to the dance, to show off their dresses, to see and be seen.
At 6 p.m. on the night of the boycotted dance, about a dozen of these girls and their dates gathered in one boy’s backyard so a mob of parents could photograph them. I found it dispiriting. My heart went out to those girls — all dressed up with no place to go. Couldn’t we, as parents, have demanded that the boys take our daughters to the dance? Why did we stand there, clicking our digital cameras, saying nothing?
I live in suburban Detroit, but this phenomenon is playing out elsewhere in the country, too — a telling example of the indifference with which young people today view dating, chivalry and romance.
Studies, of course, show more young people skipping romantic relationships in favor of “hooking up.” As teens socialize in packs, forgo one-on-one dating and trade sex nonchalantly, it is no stretch to find that boys are asking girls to homecoming and not bothering to take them there. But with so many young people ignoring once-sacrosanct dating rites, how can we respond?
At some schools, students are boycotting dances to protest bans on sexually suggestive “freak dancing.” At others, dances are just falling out of favor. Southeast High School in Wichita, Kan., canceled its homecoming dance last February after just 27 tickets were sold, half to members of the homecoming court. At Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., class of ’06 homecoming queen Cathy Caramanico never got her big moment at the dance. It was called off due to lack of interest.
Readers, how does dating among today’s teenagers seem different from when you were a teenager? Are there any changes that have taken place for the better? What are the changes for the worse? Share your thoughts.Many teens today prefer to gather in someone’s basement because it’s easier to pair off in dark corners. “There aren’t as many chaperones in basements as at dances,” says Ms. Caramanico.
Meanwhile, 60% of 125 college students in a new study by Michigan State University have had a sexual “friends with benefits” relationship. Nine out of 10 “hookups” didn’t lead to dating relationships, the study found. More ominously, after casual sex, females are more likely than males to show symptoms of depression, according to a study reported last year in the Journal of Sex Research.
“Young women are longing for romance,” says Laura Sessions Stepp, author of “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both.” She interviewed girls who considered it empowering to be dismissive of romance and casual about sex. Later, many were beset with regrets.
Obviously, boys no longer have to call girls on Wednesday for a Saturday date. Now, college boys seeking weekend hookups send girls “U busy?” text messages at 2 or 3 a.m., and girls routinely rouse themselves and go, according to Ms. Stepp’s research. Many girls spend the next day clutching their cellphones, waiting in vain for the boy to call.
While visiting a high school students in McLean, Va., Ms. Stepp was approached by four girls seeking advice. They wanted to start a “dating club.” “These were gorgeous girls,” she says. “I told them to print up T-shirts: ‘Ask me for a date.’ ”
Family advocates say we should ask our daughters, point blank, about hooking up. “Does it make you happy?” And we should explain that it can be helpful for teens to start practicing relationships — learning to listen, to trust, to consider someone’s needs.
My wife and I debated insisting that our daughter’s date take her to homecoming. Our daughter asked us not to do that. The boy, a nice kid, wanted to go to homecoming, she said, but was following his peers. Because there was parental supervision at that night’s gathering, we bit our lips and let it be.
As the father of three daughters, I wish that more parents of sons would talk to their boys about being respectful, and about the thrill that can come from holding hands. Those of us with daughters need to tell them that empowerment is less about sexual freedom and more about recognizing their true feelings.
It is too bad that my daughter and her friends didn’t demand that the boys take them to homecoming. Yes, they risked being dumped for easier girls. But maybe the boys would have gotten the message and, as promised, graciously escorted their dates to the dance.
I think the problem here is that too many parents do not teach their kids the lessons Jeff Zaslow and most of you teach yours. Then, they find themselves in the minority and the object of scorn for having traditional values.
But it’s always good to be different, especially if you are different AND right.
Tags: America, Cardinal O'Hara High School, Cathy Caramanico, columnist and reporter, Debbie Schlussel, Detroit, hairdresser, Jeff Zaslow, Kansas, Laura Sessions Stepp, Michigan State University, nationally syndicated advice columnist, Pennsylvania, Queen, Southeast High School, Springfield, the Journal of Sex Research, Virginia, Wall Street Journal, Wichita