As promised (forgive me if it rambles) :
I've been talking a bit about this with a few of my friends; I think the whole thing really originated last December as I pondered about last year, and I realized that I hadn't dated any girls all year. I had gone on dates (boy had I), but none of them had really led to anything. So that was sort of disappointing. I've also had several friends in my life that have impressed me very much with their ability to really talk to people and care about them rather than have shallow and superficial conversation. Anyway, to get to the point:
I'm bad at dating.
I'm not saying I'm terrible at relationships (although that may or may not be true, as mentioned, it's been a while), or even going on dates. Maybe people who have been on the receiving end can vouch for that (or correct me), but I feel like I can plan activities, pay for them, and pair off with the best of them, and two years of inviting myself over to people's houses has given me this no fear setting that I can turn on when I need it. What I mean by that is that I am basically useless when it comes to turning a date into a relationship. I have a very hard time being at my best on a date, and there's so much pressure to figure out if you're interested in a person and want to keep spending very precious time and less precious money doing things with this person.
In a lot of ways, 2012 was the year of going on dates. I didn't really keep track, but it certainly felt like i went on a ton of dates, some of them with people who I was really quite interested in, and many in whom I wasn't. On one of these dates I somehow got on the topic of the friendzone, and my date explained that guys fear the friendzone at their own expense, and that every relationship she had ever had was with a guy she was friends with first. This was an ironic and somewhat unfortunate conversation to have with a girl who I had barely known before asking on a date. This seemed strange at first, and then I realized that was true for me as well.
In fact, in 2011, when I was fresh off the mission and not yet acclimated to this whole Provo thing, I naturally wound up in a few very nice relationships, one with a girl I'd had a crush on for almost a decade. Each of these were people with whom I was friends and got to know and ended up dating. And then I thought of all the dates I had gone on (including the date in which I had this conversation) and how they didn't go anywhere.
So to return to the point, dates are pointless.
Now, before you go quoting Elder Oaks to me (because that's the thing to do around here), I think there is an important place for
A caveat: There are people who are good at dating. They are completely able to develop relationships, and get to know people, and be themselves, and fall in love through dating, and that's great, I'm happy for them. I don't know very many of them, probably because most of them are now married and don't hang out with me anymore. In any case, I'm not those people.
Sometime ago, I was talking with one of my friends (who I had taken a stab at dating, but it didn't quite stick) about whether or not it was a good idea to date friends. I made the point that you will essentially lose all of your opposite gendered friends to marriage. Sure you might stay in touch, but it's not going to be the same, and it shouldn't be. So you might as well go for it, since all that you have to lose it what you'll lose eventually anyway, sooner or later. A bit later she proposed the question:
Are guy-girl friendships worth it?
After thinking and talking about this for some time, I can definitively say, "Yes." And I will tell you why:
First of all, there is value in being a friend. From a christian point of view, being a friend is really the highest calling we have. From a more sociological perspective, friendship makes us happy, it defines us, it keeps us sane, it extends our life. There's a lot of value in friendship for it's own sake. If there were no other reasons, I think that we be enough. I don't think I can express this as well as I'd like to, but I think being a good friend is about the best thing we can do. But there's more!
I've decided, limited experience that I have notwithstanding, that being a friend is much better preparation for successful, longterm relationships than dating. Dating is all about judging the other person, presenting your best self, and being what they want for a couple hours so that you can get what you want. [Some people might object to this analysis of dating, but that's what it is in my experience, at least in Provo.] Friendship is about caring about people all the time, helping them, and supporting them, not because you're looking for something but because you want them to be happy. [Again, some people might not view friendship so positively, but oh well] I suspect marriage will be a lot more like friendship with romance than long term dating.
And lastly, as discussed, friendship really is the best way to find people to date. Over the past semester I've gone on almost 0 dates (I went on one, which definitely didn't go anywhere), mostly because of time and some lack of interest. I have spent a lot more time becoming a better friend and developing better relationships with people. I didn't set out to do this to start dating, but I've realized it's been much more successful in meeting and getting to know people who I'd want to date and has been a lot more enjoyable.
I think Provo has developed this very harmful dating climate which encourages dating for it's own sake and this objective view of friendship--that there's no reason to spend time with a girl unless you're going to marry them--which ironically has resulted in a lot of very good, attractive, and successful people who remain single a lot longer than they would prefer to.
All of this to say, for me at least: there is value in hanging out, and very little value in going on blind, or nearly blind dates with people I don't really know. If I want to get to know someone, there are much better ways to do that (I'm a fan of making bread and inviting people over). I suspect I've ruined many a relationship by asking them on a date before I really knew them at all. Also, importantly, there is value in friendship. Because it's Sunday, I'll even throw in some scripture on this one:
"And the hour and the day [of leaving] is not given unto them, wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good." (D&C 51:16-17)
So if you've made it this far, and you're single, I think it's wise to live as though you'll be single for years. Make friendships, do good things, be who you want to be, and I suspect things will work out, probably faster than they would otherwise. That's the theory anyway, I am, as it happens, still extremely single. So maybe check back with me on this one, I could be completely wrong.