Don’t Be Afraid to Have Standards: Dating Advice for Young Women

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Dear Ladies,

You are not as clever as you think you are.

You think you’re hiding your struggle well, but you’re not.

And, though you think no one sees, we do. You’re in a tough spot, and I want to tell you why.

THE PROBLEM

The degeneration of our culture has given rise to some pretty nasty girls. The combination of media that glorify celebrity bodies, an overall ethos of materialism, the devaluing of fathers and the encouragement of sexual incontinence have come together to produce scads of young women who are shallow, entitled, vapid and cruel.

You know who I am talking about. These women, in spite of their shortcomings, get a lot of attention, capturing stares with their attitudes and appearance. You probably spend a lot of your time being jealous of them.

You are one of the others. See, the crumbling of traditional institutions charged with molding you and the boys you’ve known into decent people has created a divide between types. On one hand, you have small-town Kardashians devoted above all to the cultivation of the ego and the pursuit of the luxury they are convinced is their due. On the other hand, we have you.

You are just trying to make it. You and all the other women in this group certainly have your flaws. But, these flaws are  common, not the outsized moral failings of the celebrity role models and their wannabe fans. Your flaws can mostly be improved by hard work, the cultivation of character, and time. In spite of this, you wonder if you are good enough, whether you will ever find a man who loves you, a man worth loving.

Contrary to what you might think, the problem isn’t you. The problem is that people who should have known better have abandoned you. You’ve been left bereft of guidance for how to pursue fulfilling the desire for love and family that is more evident on your faces than they know. You are full of desire and clueless about what to do with it.

Add to this another unpleasant fact: your prospects aren’t so hot. The same crumbling culture that split you from the entitled divas, has divided young men into either passive cowards or uncouth barbarians. Finding a man with the maturity to begin a family and the character to keep it together must seem an impossible task.

The intensity of your longing makes you vulnerable to bad choices. You want so badly to be loved and to love, to find safety and security and a future that you accept too easily what is on offer.

You probably know this. At some point or another, you’ve gotten involved with a guy who has either wimped out or been abusive, a guy who has made his character, coward or barbarian, clear only after you got tangled up with him. Even though he wasn’t what you hoped for, you held on, telling yourself he was good enough but fearing, at a deeper level, for your future.

THE SOLUTION

The solution is not to be afraid to have expectations. I know, this is harder than it sounds. Having and hanging onto expectations for how the men in your lives will behave requires courage. Holding the line on these means not accepting whatever is offered, but insisting on accepting only men willing to meet reasonable expectations. Turning down not-so-good offers when you are are sick with longing for something, anything, is scary.

You need your mom. You need your grandma. You need your sisters. You need some decent friends, if you can find them. Their job is to remind you of your worth. Their job is to tell you to hold out for a man who is on a path to maturity, someone capable of building a family; someone equipped to found a home. But, who knows, maybe they have failed you too.

You are not to blame for the condition of men, but you have a part to play in helping us recover. When you are confident enough in your value to hold onto your expectations, you raise the bar for everyone.

Let me give you a single example. Dating has pretty much disappeared. Time was when a man would call you up and ask for a date. Now, it’s all just hanging out and hooking up. Stop doing that. Value yourself enough to expect that if a man desires your company, he will speak to you like a grown up and issue an invitation that you may accept or decline. When you hang out and hook up, you reward the kind of behavior that makes your life more difficult than it has to be.

This isn’t to say you ought to beat yourself up. It’s to say you are worth more than you think. Because you are worth more than you think, you have a role to play in reversing the cultural disintegration around you. Holding out for a man willing to move toward mature masculinity might be frightening, might be lonely, but frightening, lonely things are the things adults do.

The reward for doing this frightening, lonely stuff is the chance at a home. One that is stable and loving, the kind that only can be built by people who love one another enough to have standards, and, in striving to meet them, grow one another up.

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4 responses

  1. “The reward for doing this frightening, lonely stuff is the chance at a home.”

    Maybe. Or she just might end up alone, like my younger sister.

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