Want to get fathers of daughters quickly engaged in a passionate conversation? Just ask them: “When is your daughter old enough to date?”
There’s always someone who answers “30,” and only half jokingly. But after that, the dads will be off to the races, arguing over what constitutes dating these days, with most insisting that for a boy, dating has only one purpose—sex. I recently listened in on one of these conversations, which included a few exchanges on how to resist the temptation to hunt down the boy with a weapon (“Go bowling, and pretend each pin is him”).
Then one father piped up with his story:
“My daughter began wanting to date a boy her age earlier this year (she was 14). Having no established rules for this, my response was, ‘Oh boy, Kiddo, I can see this is really important to you. It’s too big a decision for me to make without some thought and support from the parents I trust.’
“The feedback I got confirmed my need to understand the high pressure adolescents are under to be sexual. So many girls are out there ‘servicing’ their boyfriends with oral sex, and believing that it is somehow not really sex.
“Talking to my daughter, I realized that having a boyfriend was a status symbol for her—and that aspect was as important as experiencing the relationship. After a week or two of listening to her tell me that she is the only kid in her whole school who can’t date, we finally reached an agreement. I told her that I believed that she isn’t ready to date, and that there’s too much pressure on kids her age to do things they’re not ready for. I said that I respect that she really wanted to spend time with this boy, and that we could invite him over for pizza and a movie so that she could do so in a family context.
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