“What shall we do tonight?” is a frequent question asked by dating couples. Teen-agers are always looking for something to do that’s different, that’s fun, and that won’t cost too much money. Social opportunities for young people are limited in many communities, and those that are available are often not as wholesome or varied as they might be.
Even young people who live in large metropolitan areas are often concerned about what to do on a date. They may be surrounded by hundreds of possibilities and yet be unaware that they exist.
One of the responsibilities that goes with dating is knowing how to use available resources for wholesome dating. Until your interests develop and your horizons widen, you may not be fully aware of the possibilities open to you in your own neighborhood. As you become accustomed to thinking in terms of dating resources, you will become increasingly able to find ways to have a variety of satisfying dates. The next time you are faced with the question of what to do on a date, you might consider one or more of the following possibilities.
GOING TO THE MOVIES
Regardless of where you live, there probably is a movie somewhere in your vicinity. If you live in a small town or in a rural community, the selection of movies may be rather limited. If you have already seen the show, or if your partner has, or if it’s not particularly worth seeing, it would be better to look for some other activity. As you become aware of other dating resources, you will find yourself going to the movies only when something especially interesting is playing. And as you become more selective, you will find yourself enjoying these choice movies much more.
There is an etiquette for movie dates that both young men and women should know. Briefly it is this. While the fellow buys the tickets, the girl steps aside and looks at the stills outside to avoid the boy any embarrassment he may feel at the ticket window. Once inside, the girl follows the usher to their seats, and the fellow follows the girl. If there is no usher, the boy precedes the girl down the aisle, finds two seats, and steps aside so that the girl may be seated first; he then follows and seats himself beside her.
If the girl is wearing a coat or jacket, the fellow helps her out of it and arranges it comfortably over the back of her seat. Then he removes his outer coat and hat and scarf and either places them under his seat or holds them in his lap.
During the film, the two people enjoy the picture without annoying those seated near them. Loud talking, whistling, giggling, calling across to other couples, is kid stuff. Similarly, throwing popcorn or paper, and otherwise behaving like a nuisance, is rude and crude. It may lead to your being asked to leave the theater. Expressing more familiarity than is suitable for a public place is apt to annoy people seated near you, and may be embarrassing for your date.
In many theaters there is an intermission when refreshments may be purchased. At that time the boy may ask his date what she would like, and then excuse himself while he gets it. (Sometimes refreshments may be purchased before a couple go to their seats.) If his budget doesn’t call for this extra, a boy should come prepared with some little offering to take the place of the purchased refreshments, such as a candy from a roll of mints or a stick of gum. The girl accepts the offer graciously without hinting that she would like something else. As the guest of the occasion, the girl waits for her host to make the overture. It’s also all right for the girl to open her purse and offer him some simple little morsel, but she shouldn’t make a production of it.
The boy may hold the girl’s hand if she has no objection, or place his arm over the back of her seat. Such actions do not go beyond socially acceptable behavior. They may whisper their reactions to the picture or comment to each other about the characters or the plot, so long as they neither embarrass each other nor annoy their neighbors.
When the movie is over, the boy helps the girl into her wraps, and waits in the aisle until the girl emerges and precedes him out of the theater. Then, the boy may suggest stopping at a soda fountain, if he wishes, or if it’s early, the girl may invite him to her home for “cake and milk” or whatever she and her family have agreed upon for an evening snack.
How About Drive-ins?
Going to a drive-in theater poses a somewhat different problem than going to a regular movie. Whereas almost everyone approves of young people attending movies together, behavior at drive-ins is viewed with suspicion and outright disapproval by many adults and young people. The difference lies in the extreme privacy available at the drive-in—a privilege that some couples take advantage of with irresponsible behavior. In some places, drive-ins have such an unsavory reputation that they are known as “passion pits,” a designation that reflects the general recognition of what goes on in some of the cars.
Going to a drive-in movie can be a real hazard for a girl who is out with a boy she does not know well. He may turn out to want more than she should consent to. Because the couple have complete responsibility for their behavior together at a drive-in, a girl has to be relatively sure that she can trust her date. This can be ensured by going to a drive-in only with a date you know. Two people who know from experience together what they can expect of each other can enjoy the opportunity for private conversation which the drive-in movie offers, without abusing the privilege.
Parents and school and college authorities are apt to disapprove of drive-in patronage on the part of their young people for understandable reasons. If they rule against it, young couples will have to comply, unless they’re out to defy authority. If adults can be given some assurance of a safe situation by the presence of older persons in the car, or by their confidence in the integrity of their children and the dating partners involved, they may possibly allow drive-in viewing.
Double dating may be a protection, but it may also add to the problem. If the other couple go in for more intimacy than you feel is appropriate, you may be in for a miserable evening. But if the other couple share your standards of conduct, their presence is a real advantage.
Whether you live in the country or in town, there are interesting sporting events somewhere nearby. Ball games of all sorts, skating, tennis, golf, bowling, and swimming all are date possibilities. Whether you’re interested in spectator sports, or the “do it yourself” variety, you’ll find sports increasingly rewarding. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have a professional team nearby. Have you ever seen a big league hockey game? Have you attended a college football game recently? How about your high school basketball games? Such spectator sports are fun and usually not expensive.
Often it’s more fun for you to play than to watch a game. Tennis, swimming, and skating, as well as many other sports, are good dating activities. Perhaps your date would be willing to help you learn more about some sport in which he is particularly active. Stop and look around you. What sporting opportunities are available in your neighborhood?
School events can be especially rewarding date experiences. Many teen-agers have great fun at school dances, parties, and other functions. If your date goes to a different school, he will probably enjoy getting into a new campus atmosphere for a change. It might even mean a return invitation for you to his school and the possibility of new contacts. If your school seems lacking in social functions, then maybe it needs a little prodding from people just like you. Perhaps there is a social committee you could join. Remember, school is run for you, and you can (and should) help it develop a social program that will be popular and interesting to all.
Does your church have a youth group? If so, you have probably already experienced some good times there. Maybe your date will enjoy going to the youth meetings with you. If you enjoy them, why shouldn’t he? Don’t forget that enthusiasm is contagious. Even if you’re dating someone of a different religion, he may be interested in attending your youth group with you. Then on your next date you might visit his.
What if your church has no youth group? Then you might want to talk with your religious leader about helping you start a group. Maybe some friends from your Sunday school class would like to get together and discuss the formation of such a group. You could plan a varied program of the kind you know would interest young people. As your group gets started, you may find that you are drawing back into the church those teen-agers and young adults who felt they had to look elsewhere for entertainment.
What youth-serving organizations are in your community that could provide dating fun? Is there a Y nearby? What type of program does your local community center have? The 4-H, Grange, FFA, and FHA programs often offer rural youth opportunities for dates. In cities there are many places offering entertainment at little or no cost which too often are overlooked. For instance, can you recall the last time you visited the local museum? Or went to the zoo? You may find them even more enjoyable now than when you were a child. A little detective work may turn up many other unusual and stimulating opportunities in types of dates right in your own backyard.
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
A large number of young people don’t have to wonder what to do when they’re together because they’re already engrossed in mutually absorbing activities. Young people who belong to an orchestra, band, choral group, or Hi-Fi club find enjoyment together in practicing, getting ready for concerts, going to other musical events, and generally exploring together the wide, wide world of music. For the young person who has had few opportunities to develop musical talents, it’s never too late. He can always join a beginners’ group or course or take private lessons. Such activities not only bring a sense of personal accomplishment but also lead to acquaintance with other persons who find joy in music.
Belonging to a drama group offers rich opportunity for enjoying others and trying out your abilities in a variety of situations. You find out if you have talent in acting, or in designing scenery or costumes. Maybe you turn out to be a lighting expert. Interest grows with experience, and you will find yourself becoming more aware of the special spell of the theater and enjoying plays more and more with your new associates.
In fact, all hobby groups are rewarding. Young people who belong to a camera or craft club, a nature or hiking group, find that they not only enjoy their interests together and learn a lot about them, but also get to know one another. When they get together over hobbies, it can be as much fun as a more formal date.
It’s safe to say that the girl who does things goes places. As she increases the number and variety of her interests, she increases the number of people she knows and enjoys. As a result, she gets invited to more and more activities taking place within the interest group, and also on dates with individual members of the group. The same holds true for a young man. As he matures and discovers talents along a number of lines, his world expands, his acquaintances multiply, and he finds himself at home with an increasing number of groups and individuals. There is nothing quite like getting out of yourself and into activities and interests that can be shared with others.
FUN AT HOME
Many teen-agers who complain that “there’s nothing to do on dates” overlook their own homes. There are countless ways of turning your home into a happy dating place for yourself and your friends.
Your parents, as well as your friends, will probably be glad to help you with the planning. Why not give a party, for a change? Playing the host can be fun if you approach it with a little imagination. Your radio or record player can provide the music for dancing. Party books and articles will introduce you to novel games. Your friends will pitch in to help supply refreshments—and even records.
Making your parties a little different is a sure way to make them successful. You may tire of parties where you only dance and eat. But if you put a little time into planning a party, your guests may rate you host of the year. Your library carries books on party preparation which are full of novel ideas. The idea is to give a party with a “theme.” How about a scavenger or treasure hunt? Or you could plan a progressive party in which you go to each guest’s house for another refreshment and another activity. Holiday parties are always festive—so are celebrations after school football victories.
It Need Not Be a Party
What else can you do at home besides throw a party? Maybe your parents have saved the records they collected in their younger days. Your friends may enjoy hearing these quaint discs as much as you do. Maybe there’s an old-fashioned ice cream freezer in your attic. It might be fun to get some cracked ice and other makings and freeze ice cream yourself. Is there also a trunk full of old clothes there? Then how about playing charades or improvising an old melodrama? An old table in the basement might suggest an evening of crafts. Imagination, innovation, and a willingness to suggest activities that your friends might enjoy make for good times together.
Young people who live in apartments also have many fun-filled opportunities at hand. Most boys and girls love to cook. Why not try your hand at making some foreign dish? An old-fashioned taffy pull lends itself to hilarious, if sticky, informality. You might even like to prepare a simple meal together. It’s fun to work and plan together, especially if you are carrying out your own ideas. And think of how your date’s eyes will glow when your parents compliment him on the pizza he made! Whether you plan your evening at home for twenty, or just for two, it can be one of the nicest dates you’ve ever had.
WHAT TO TALK ABOUT ON A DATE
Carrying on a pleasant conversation on a date need not be the torment that many inexperienced young people fear. The boy who talks about his interests and encourages his girl to talk about hers won’t have time to worry about conversation —he’ll be making it! The girl who cultivates the art of listening as well as talking and gives her date undivided attention will never seem like a dull companion.
The general principle is: Talk about your likes and interests on a date. What specifically could some of these appropriate topics be?
Activities in the community, on the campus, or at school Current sports events News stories of popular interest Personal experiences and plans
Prevalent fun-talk (riddles, “slanguage,” anecdotes, jokes, puns)
If you feel inadequate about conversation, you may want to go through such magazines as Reader’s Digest, Coronet, Pageant, Compact, or some similar resource for amusing and interesting stories that might be shared on the date. As you get more and more experience, you won’t need to prepare yourself so specifically. You will be able to suit your talk to the mood of the moment and use your own resources for being pleasant, entertaining, and at ease.
You should express your feelings on a date, as well as your interests. The girl who says, “I feel so happy dancing with you,” is sharing with her escort a mood that is important to both of them. The boy who brings his date to her door saying, “You’ve made me feel wonderful tonight,” does much more than just say he had a good time. He lets her know that she is something special. Spontaneity adds charm to a personality as well as to a relationship.
If this is the first time you are taking a certain girl out, it’s a good idea to plan an activity that will give you a chance to know her better. At the same time it will be easier if you don’t put yourself into a position conducive to awkward silences. Especially if you feel insecure with your new date, it helps to plan something that won’t depend entirely on your ability as a conversationalist.
If you are taking her to the movies, try to arrange for a few minutes before or after to get acquainted. If the movie is not too far away, you might walk there. This will give you a chance to talk together, and any silence that does come up won’t seem quite as deadly in this situation. Perhaps there’s a ball game coming up at school. If she would consent to go with you, it might serve as a talking point until you feel more at ease with her. Maybe a mutual friend is giving a party. If you take her there on the first date, you will be with friends whom you both know and neither of you will feel too ill at ease.
When you are deciding where to go on the first date, it’s a good idea to get some notion of the kinds of things this girl likes to do. If you are walking her home after school, you might express your interest in baseball and see if she responds before you issue an invitation to a game. Maybe she is fascinated by some particular movie star. Inviting her to a movie in which he appears would be a good start.
Keeping Dates Interesting
The more you go out with a girl, the more trouble you may have finding new and different things to do. If you get into the habit of going to the same place every time, you may find yourselves losing interest in the place and perhaps in each other. So try to plan for something new and different the next time you go out. What have you especially enjoyed doing in the past? What opportunities are available that you haven’t tapped? It’s your job to keep your dates interesting if you want to keep your date interested.
Double and Triple Dates
You may want to double date with another couple—or with two or three other couples. In such a case the decision on what to do is not yours alone. Everyone involved will want to have some part in deciding where you go and what you do. Regardless of how much you want to attend a particular place, you may be outvoted. Someone may have seen the movie you suggest or have gone bowling only last night.
If you’re spending the evening with other couples, it’s best to plan something that will give you all a chance to become better acquainted. Barbecues, picnics at the park, and trips to local places of interest are often more fun in a group. There is no point to a double date if each couple keeps exclusively to themselves. So try to plan things that will involve everyone and that everyone involved will enjoy.
If you’re going steady, you should be even more eager to keep your dates interesting. By now you have probably gotten to the point where your date helps decide what you’re going to do. A regular Saturday night date need not become routine and ordinary. In addition to the movies and evenings at home, plan something special once in a while. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You and your steady might visit a nearby flower show, a bird sanctuary, or a museum. You might take an afternoon hike, or a bicycle trip to explore nearby surroundings. Walking and talking, or singing together, are excellent ways of getting to know each other better. You might like to guess about the people you see, or make up stories about houses and scenery on the way.
You and your steady date should be at the point where conversation comes easily. Having occasional dates which provide the opportunity for long talks will lead to even further understanding.
WHOSE DECISION IS IT?
Does the boy always decide what’s to be done on a date? Most boys will admit that the answer is “No.” In fact, many complain that their dates give them little chance at suggestions about date activities. What to do on a date can be a real cause of friction between a couple. Maybe a hockey game is in town, and the girl insists on going to a movie. If the boy wins the argument, the girl may spoil his evening by pouting and complaining. If the boy gives in to the girl, he might withdraw into his shell and be a bore all evening. Who should make the decision?
Usually if you and your date discuss the various possibilities, you can reach a decision that will please both of you. If, however, either of you approaches the discussion with your mind already made up, it can prove difficult. There are many things to consider when deciding where to go. You will want to ask yourself how important it is to your date to do what she wants. It’s not wise to insist on having your own way to prove that you can do it. Your date will only resent it. If you each try to see the other’s point of view, you can reach a mutually satisfying decision more easily.
Ask yourself if you can put off your preference to another time. Maybe the hockey game is in town only tonight, whereas the movie will be playing through all next week. It would be the logical and mature thing to realize that the game is probably very important to your date or he wouldn’t be insisting on seeing it. So why not plan on the movies for the following date?
Any mature decision is made co-operatively between the persons involved. The decision can also be of concern to the parents, or dorm mother, as well as to the couple. As you go further and further into dating, you will learn to recognize the invitations that are generally approved, and those that you had better decline.
Whatever you decide to do, the important thing is how you decided. If you both had a part in the decision, after reaching an understanding you both have a satisfying feeling. Consideration of another person’s values and desires and a willingness to talk things over leads to a mature understanding.
PERSONAL APPEARANCE ON A DATE
The way you look on a date is important. In a nationwide poll of thousands of teen-agers, Dr. Christensen found that when both boys and girls listed what they considered important in making or accepting dates, “pride in personal appearance and manners” ranked third. This doesn’t mean that a girl has to be a beauty queen or that a boy must be handsome. It does mean that both sexes expect a date to make an acceptable appearance and behave in a socially acceptable manner.
There is a fashion etiquette as well as a movie or eating etiquette. Dressing to suit the occasion is part of fashion know-how. You will feel silly in high heels at the basketball game if the other girls are wearing saddle shoes. Your date may resent having to help you up and down the stands continually so that you don’t fall. To a sports event you should wear casual clothes, just as to most parties you should wear dressy clothes.
When your date invites you out, he may give you some indication of the type of dress which would be appropriate. If he doesn’t, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask a boy if this is to be a casual sweater-and-skirt affair, a dress-up or a really gala formal affair. If he tells you what he’s wearing it may give you some indication of what outfit you should choose. Girls going to the same event frequently clear with each other on what they will wear.
Boys, too, need to dress appropriately. You will look and feel out of place if the other boys are in sport shirts and you are wearing your best suit. You might be embarrassed if you show up for a party in Levi’s and find your date wearing a fancy dress. The best thing is to check with your date ahead of time about clothes. Find out what is expected of you, and let her know what is expected of her.
Neatness Does It
Regardless of what you wear, you want to be well groomed. A handsome suit will be wasted if your nails are dirty and your hair uncombed. A girl may manage to look attractive in an old skirt and blouse because she’s neat and well groomed. But even the most beautiful girl looks unattractive if she’s grimy.
When young people all over the country talk about what they consider important in a date, cleanliness and neatness rank high. Girls are not as interested in fellows who show up for dates with dirty T-shirts or uncombed hair. No boy wants to escort a girl who is sloppy. Recently the young men on one college campus openly revolted against the trend among certain coeds to appear unkempt. They protested that they wanted girls to look feminine. Certainly this isn’t too much to expect of a date.
ENJOYING A DATE
You and your date have mutually decided where you are going. You have taken care to be dressed appropriately. You have taken pains to be clean and neat. But even these precautions don’t insure success on a date. A date is wholly satisfying only when each person is considerate of the other. Dating is not fun if either of you:
—flirts conspicuously with others
—brags about previous conquests
—gossips about other dates
—clings too closely to members of your own sex
—avoids participation in the activities
—makes an issue over minor mishaps
Such behavior is essentially a lack of courtesy, and it can really keep you from enjoying each other. Often one or more of these breaches of etiquette can lose you a second date with your escort.
Courtesy Is More Than Manners
It may seem out of place to bring up courtesy here. You may feel that, of course, you are naturally courteous to all your acquaintances. But it might be a good idea to take stock of yourself to see just how courteous you really are. Mary, when was the last time you thanked your date as he held the door for you? John, when was the last time you helped your date out of the car instead of leaving her to fend for herself? Do you always remember to thank your date’s parents for “that wonderful dinner”? How often do you tell your date how much you enjoyed the evening? All of these things are just common courtesy. It seems, however, that the more we date a particular person, the more we take him or her for granted.
A fellow may say to himself, “Of course I enjoyed the date; she knows that.” Yet think how good it would make her feel if he told her once in a while. How much more her parents would think of him if the boy stuck his head in the door and told them how much he enjoyed the evening. Such courtesies go a long way toward making a boy a good date and a pleasant companion.
Sincerity Is Honesty
Some boys seem to be naturally courteous. They’re quite suave about giving a girl the impression that they are genuinely interested in her. Some girls fall easily for a fellow’s line. They like to hear that they’re beautiful, wonderful, and first in his heart. If a fellow is genuinely friendly and likes a girl, he doesn’t need a “line” to make her believe it. He can show her in his manner that he likes her. Many girls are leery of boys who “pour it on.” They steer clear of boys who tell all the girls the same thing.
Kidding, punning, flattering, and teasing all are fun on a date when both the fellow and the girl recognize what game it is they are playing, and when they mutually enjoy it. When it is exploitive or one-sided, usually one person is being amused at the expense of the other.
Sincerity is an attractive quality. If you feel your date hitting close to home when she says, “I’ll bet you tell that to all the girls,” now is the time to reconsider. In feeding a line you’re not only “buttering up” the girl, you’re not being honest with yourself. Girls also want to be careful to say what they mean, and mean what they say. If you are dishonest about one thing, your date may get the feeling that you can’t be trusted at all. But if you are sincere in what you tell your date, your whole relationship will be on a higher plane.
Girls are sometimes accused of putting on an act when they’re out on a date. Boys are not favorably impressed when a girl tries to act sophisticated or put on airs. Neither are girls pleased by boys who strut and brag and pretend to be more than they are.
We often feel the need to put on airs because we’re unsure of ourselves. If we act naturally, we may find that people like us as we are, and our feelings of inferiority will diminish.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you are, try to relax and be yourself. Your richest satisfaction comes when you realize that your date and others accept you as you really are.