As soon as you begin to go out, you will face the question of how often and how late you should date. Such questions as the following are asked by high school and college boys and girls in both large and small communities everywhere.
How many nights a week should a teen-ager go out on dates? Should a teen-ager date on school nights?
What should a girl do if a boy wants to go out every night? How can a girl and her family agree on an hour for her to get in at night? How late is too late for a date? What about all-night proms?
The answers to these questions depend upon the circumstances, and the people involved. Here is what teen-agers and adults usually have to say about them.
Parents and teachers point out that when young people date on school nights, they find it hard to get up in the morning and get off to school. Also they do not get enough sleep to maintain good health, and they neglect their homework. Adults generally feel that young people should restrict their dating to week ends when they can catch up on sleep Saturday and Sunday mornings.
When young people themselves discuss the question of how often they may date, they tend to agree that dating is best on week ends. Responsible fellows and girls feel that their homework comes first, and that everything works out better if they limit their evening dating to Fridays and Saturdays. They point out one important exception though. If there is a special event on during the week that both the boy and the girl would attend anyway, they might just as well enjoy it together. A special school night, a regular band practice, or a play rehearsal which John and Joan must both attend becomes something of a date when it’s done together. Even so, there’s a general feeling that such weekday affairs should not be late, and that some provision should be made by young people to get their homework done before they start out.
Sometimes you see a couple who are constantly together. They seem to date every night in the week and spend as much of their time together as they can. Such practices are a concern to many parents and teachers, who point out the dangers of so much close association and the likelihood that one or both members of the couple are neglecting studies or other interests.
A girl dating a boy who wants to go out more frequently than she feels is wise is in a difficult spot. She’s afraid to turn him down lest he find some other girl to date. And if she’s fond of the boy, she doesn’t want to lose him. She may find it especially hard to curtail his dating demands because she, too, enjoys their being together.
One solution for a girl is to invite her boy friend to spend all or part of an occasional evening at home with her. She may suggest that he bring his books over so that they can do homework together. They may try to finish their assignments in time to watch some favorite television show, dance to records, or have light refreshments.
The success of such an alternative depends a great deal upon how responsible and sensible the two persons are when they are together. Some couples can get as much or more studying done together as they can do alone. Others clown around and gab so much that neither of them gets anything done.
Watch Your Welcome
On the other hand, if a boy hangs around a girl’s house all the time, he may be getting her in bad with her family and neighbors. Neighbors are prone to be critical of a teen-age girl who entertains a boy too often. And even the most patient family may tire of a boy who is always underfoot. A fellow who comes to a girl’s house two or even three times a week may find a warm welcome, but if he shows up every evening, that welcome may wear thin. For both his sake and the girl’s, he’s wise to limit the number of calls he makes to her home. In general, it’s recognized that an engaged couple, or a couple going steady, will see a great deal of each other. But even these couples find that their relationship is more acceptable to parents and friends if it’s not a day-in-day-out affair that cuts out all other interests and people.
FREQUENCY OF DATING
Lowrie’s study of the frequency of dating among high school and college students found several factors determining how often a given person dates. First is the factor of age. In general, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, the older the person, the more frequently he or she dates. Young beginning daters go out less often than those who are well established in dating patterns.
A second closely related factor is whether a teen-ager is going steady or playing the field. As might be expected, those who go steady date much more often than those who are in circulation. College men who go steady date about twice as much as fellows who go out with many different girls. Among college girls, those who are engaged or are going steady date much more frequently than those playing the field.
A third factor is that of the age at which the young person began to date. In general, the earlier university students began their dating, the more frequently they dated in college.
Other factors affecting frequency of dating are: (1) absorption in vocational or a vocational interests; (2) responsibilities for educational progress (such as is felt by the student in exacting professional training); (3) pressure of family obligations (such as care of younger sisters and brothers); (4) degree of acceptance among other young people (the popular person goes on more dates than the boy or girl who hasn’t won the full acceptance of his peers); and (5) how much the particular individual cares about dating activities per se. There are some fellows and girls whose interests and values are such that dating is not the only thing that matters. These individuals may deliberately limit their dating so that it doesn’t interfere seriously with their other interests in life.
THE QUESTION OF HOURS
Young people, as well as those who are responsible for them, are deeply concerned about what time they should return from a date.
Why Teen-agers Stay Out Too Late
People stay out late because they’re having fun. They think that the longer the date is prolonged, the more fun they’ll have. What they fail to realize is that a date may prove less exciting as time goes on. It’s better to end any social activity while it’s still at a peak than to wait until it fizzles out.
Some young people fail to recognize this need to limit themselves. Throughout life we all face limits to our freedom. If we fail to respect these limits in adolescence, we will have even greater difficulty later in life. Recognizing where individual freedom starts and ends is a mark of maturity.
Sometimes, oddly enough, teen-agers stay out later than is sensible, not because they are really having fun, but in an effort to prove to themselves that they are having fun. If you’re not happy on a date, you may try to prolong it in a desperate attempt to salvage some fun. Usually this effort is unsuccessful; it would be better to end this date and plan your next one so that it’s more satisfying.
How Late Is Too Late?
When should a fellow bring a girl home from a date? Who decides what time a date should end? These are typical questions asked by boys and girls—and their parents.
There is no magic time by which all dates should end. The Cinderella story with its midnight curfew makes dramatic telling, but it doesn’t make much sense in real life. For some dates, midnight would be too late; for others, it would be too early. How late a date should end depends on many factors, such as:
—how old the two people are (younger individuals get in earlier)
—how responsible the couple is (the more responsible, the more leeway)
—how the parents feel about the hour question (strict or lenient)
—where the date takes place (a neighborhood movie or a distant dance)
—who else is going with the dating pair (the more to be picked up and taken home, the later)
—what time the activity will be over (no one expects to leave long before the end)
—how long it will take to be served some refreshment (is “The Greasy Spoon” always crowded after a game?)
—how far the couple has to travel to get the girl home (the farther, the later)
—what is generally considered a reasonable hour in the community
With at least nine factors determining the lateness of a date, it’s hard to find any one definite homecoming hour to suit all dates. Therefore, many girls find that they need to discuss each date with their parents. Then they can weigh the different factors involved.
While Jane is helping to set the table, she talks over her date plans with her mother, and together they agree on a reasonable time for Jack to get Jane home. This is decided on in the light of the kind of date it is, the confidence the parents have in their daughter and her date, and their realistic estimate of the hour by which the date should be over. If the hour is later than Jane’s dad feels is sensible, then Jane and her mother may need to interpret to him just why this particular date will take so long. Most fathers are reasonable if they understand the factors involved. They get excited when they fear that their children are “chasing around” in an irresponsible way too late at night.
Clearing with the Boy
The hour question is further clarified when Jack comes to call for Jane. Of course, she invites him in for a casual chat with her folks before they start off on their date. At that time Jane may say something to this effect to her boy friend: “Jack, I told the folks that we’d probably be home by eleven o’clock. Does that seem right to you?” Or she might turn to her date and say to him, “Jack, what time shall we tell my parents to expect me home tonight?”
Either way, Jane is letting her date realize that her parents are concerned about her homecoming, and that she is taking some of the responsibility for getting home at a reasonable time. This not only reassures Jane’s parents, but it may make Jack feel easier too.
Some boys complain that they don’t know when their girls expect to get home, and that often they feel they have to stay out longer than they prefer because the girl seems to have no clear-cut time in mind. A fellow who has to get up early to go to work will not long appreciate missing out on his sleep. Eventually, he will just have to tell his girl that he has to work the next morning and that he is taking her home early. A sensible girl will understand his position and co-operate with him.
When young people themselves take responsibility for keeping reasonable hours, they avoid the embarrassment of parental scenes when they get home too late. If a girl wants to circumvent a trying episode, with her father treating her like a little girl, she should act adult enough to return home as promised. If teen-agers themselves assume the responsibility for getting home at a reasonable time, parents will not have to take over and make a couple feel like “a pair of kids.”
A Community Understanding
One of the things that makes the hour question difficult is that some young people are allowed out until all hours and others are carefully supervised.
A girl may complain to her parents that “all the other kids stay out much later,” when actually only a few have this much latitude. Neither she nor her parents really know how late other young people are allowed to stay out. The only way to answer such a question is through some collective action in which the various interested persons in a given neighborhood get together and determine a reasonable homecoming time.
Many communities are developing just such agreements. Groups of parents, teachers, and young people get together at an arranged time and decide at what hour a ninth-grade party should be over. They arrive at reasonable standards for all the other grades. Not everyone will abide by such decisions, that’s true. But if everyone concerned knows, in general, what to expect, then school, church, and private affairs can be planned to terminate in conformity with the community code. Responsible young people generally try to do what is expected of them, and so this kind of code is usually honored.
THE SENIOR PROM
Some high schools have established the pattern of a great big wonderful senior prom that students “will remember for the rest of their lives.” Some of these proms are planned to end officially around midnight or a little later. Then frequently, seniors drive across the county to an exciting spot for food and dancing or entertainment and prolong the evening as long as possible. In some communities the all-night prom has become a tradition.
The All-Night Prom
The all-night prom can be a gala event, or it can be a nightmare. The difference lies in how well it has been planned and how responsibly it is carried through. If it’s not well organized, it may get into the hands of the most scatterbrained members of the class, who then use it as an opportunity to drive recklessly, drink, carouse, and destroy property as well as their reputations. The wild night ends up as anything but a pleasant memory.
If the all-night prom night is planned in detail by those who want young people to have a good time, it can be a huge success. In some towns one of the men’s service clubs offers to work with the senior class in programming the night’s entertainment. There are various possibilities for safe fun: They can all go on to a community hall for a series of acts with imported name entertainers as well as local talent. There may be a splash party at the pool. Sometimes a bowling match is scheduled for part of the night. Or folk dancing follows an evening of ballroom dancing. Whatever the activities, they are planned well ahead of time, with responsibilities allocated for keeping the fun rolling rather than degenerating.
The all-night prom usually ends with a big breakfast before everyone goes yawning home to bed. In one town, the church women got up at four in the morning to prepare sausage and pancakes for seniors as the grand climax to their night of fun. The ladies of the church preferred this to having their teenagers roam the country roads late at night looking for a place to eat.
Planning the Prom
Planning the senior prom should be the responsibility of the seniors themselves. Adults may help, but they should not take the party away from the young people if it’s to be a success. Seniors and adults in charge have a responsibility to plan the kind of party that will be of interest to every member of the class. If, for instance, there are some boys and girls who don’t enjoy dancing, alternative activities should be provided. Otherwise only certain members of the class get to enjoy what all are entitled to; and there’s a danger then of the bored guests wandering off into the night in search of fun elsewhere.
In any given community where the senior prom is up for discussion, the questions of how long it should last and what activities shall be included must be tackled. Finding and eliciting the help of interested men and women is the first step in attempting to broaden the scope of the senior prom. With their help, and with the permission of school authorities, the whole town will welcome the affair. But without the encouragement, assistance, and supervision of respected and respectable adults, the after-prom activities may turn out to be a great disappointment or a community headache.
WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Late hours are not the only problem in dating. One group of kids may stay up all night singing around the piano or folk dancing at the community center and have a wonderful time. Another group may be home before midnight, but with memories that shame and burn the rest of their lives. The difference is not in the hours that were kept, but in what happened and how the persons involved felt about it.
Hours that young people keep are important—for their reputations, if for nothing else. Other people besides the dating pair are concerned with late dates. Teachers have a right to be disturbed if students fail to keep up in their work. Neighbors are usually critical. Parents certainly have an interest in their children’s activities and hours. It is a concern for teen-agers too. For the youngster who is not having much fun is usually the one trying to prolong the evening in a desperate effort to make it a good time. If he gets too far out of line, he may give the whole crowd a black eye in the community.
Fellows and girls who want to earn and keep good reputations get home at reasonable hours. They recognize that the adults responsible for them have a right to know where they are going and what time they may be expected home, and they then make a real effort to get back as per agreement. A telephone call home in case of emergency will take care of an unexpected delay and secure help if it is needed. Otherwise getting home at a reasonable hour from dates just makes good sense.