It's stupid and destructive. It damages kids, teenagers (I could cite the stats, but we all know, don't we...we remember), it damages people who would just plain like to get married and stop all this idiot messing about. It damages people who fail in the 'dating game'.
In fact, the term 'dating game' is pretty appropriate. It's playing games with your heart and with your future.
And it's vulgar. Quite frankly, it's undignified and should be rejected on those grounds alone.
So where does that leave those of us who would like to be married but find the 'dating game' repellant? I think we are in a pickle. The old rules, and the structures are pretty much eradicated. It used to involve families, and other interested parties. But we don't have those anymore. In fact, the tidal wave of divorce, that hit the West Coast just about at the time my mother was getting into her encounter group lifestyle in the early 70s, has made it extremely difficult for people even to believe that getting married, let alone staying that way, is even possible.
When I was going into grade five, I had come out of a hippie 'free school' ("Sundance"... I kid you not) and my mother noticed that I didn't know anything. The hippies were so busy encouraging us to express ourselves that they forgot to teach me the times tables. (Thank God I already knew how to read, and lose myself in a book). When she panicked and realised I needed to be sent to a real school, I asked to go to a Catholic school. It was rather a new environment, I'll tell you. I went from a place where nearly all the kids came from single-parent "families" to one where nearly all the kids came from normal homes, two parents and one house in which they had lived all their lives. (I didn't exactly fit in...)
I think that was about 1975.
By the time I left St. Pat's and went into junior high, three years later, nearly all the kids' parents were divorced.
It happened that fast.
Is it any wonder most of the people I knew, out there in the secular world, before I managed to climb out of the mire, regarded marriage as some kind of sick joke? The idea that people get married and stay married, that they take it seriously like in the Olden Days, would make most of my old acquaintances laugh. No one even knows how to do it these days. I mean, apart from the whole "getting together" and "having a relationship" stuff, what else is there to do?
The Jews have an idea. I have one Jewish friend: Rabbi Yehuda Levin. He lives in New York and has nine kids. He's a pretty young guy, by modern standards, to have kids who are old enough to get married, but the last time he was in Rome, he told me he had to get back to New York to arrange his son's wedding. He asked me, as he has done every time we've met since the first time nearly ten years ago, when I was getting married. It's a big thing for Jews, I guess, and they still know how to do it, because their social system hasn't been blasted to smithereens by the Asteroid.
And they also think "dating" is stupid. Spiritually and morally dangerous.
Traditional Jews lead a modest social life. Teenagers don't date or go to parties, and boys and girls don't spend time with each other socially. While we're growing up, we don't get into emotional entanglements worrying about how popular we are, or who is more popular, or who we're going to go out with.
None of that happens at all in our community because we think it's unfair. It's not nice, and it doesn't do any good. The result is that when we're ready to get married, we're not playing any games. It's not a popularity contest and we're not trying to impress anyone.
When we're ready to get married, we go about it honestly and sincerely. We don't marry the wrong person because we might have been trying to impress somebody or compete with someone. All that is eliminated. We find somebody to marry, we get married, and the marriages last. Divorces happen, but rarely.
We start to date when we're old enough and serious enough to think about being married. When we do go out, it's with someone who has the same values we do. Usually, we come from families who know each other, or we have a mutual friend who thinks we're compatible and introduces us.
After we are introduced, we spend time together, and we consider marriage. We want to get to know what's on the other person's mind, what kind of life they want to live, what kind of life they have lived, things that have to do with being married. We wouldn't go to a movie because we want to get to know each other, not a movie. We don't want to waste time doing a lot of activities; we prefer to spend the time talking. We're not looking for a thrill; we're looking to get married.
It's a good system, and a considerate system. It takes into account that people have feelings.
For example, in our tradition, while a man and woman are dating and thinking about marriage, the dating is kept completely secret. They don't talk about it and they don't go where people are going to see them. If it doesn't work out, nobody knows. [And there are no breaks in the social sphere everyone has to continue living in...good idea.]
If it were public, people would wonder, "Why didn't you marry him? Is something wrong with him?" Or, "How come he didn't marry you? Is something wrong with you?" This way is more discreet.
If it works out, everyone is thrilled. If it doesn't work out, no one knows and no one gets hurt.
This seems like a pretty sensible system. It assumes that everyone has the same goal and works in a compassionate way to helping people attain the goal.
So, where's ours? What are we doing about this as Catholics? As "Trads"?
I had thought that in the Trad community there was more or less consensus on the "dating is for marriage" thing. I had assumed that the people who called themselves Trad Catholics had, more or less, the goal of living like normal, sane, grown-up people. That they rejected, along with the idiocies of NewChurch, the parallel rubbish in the secular world of "dating" and courtship.
Nope. Turns out not.