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What My Teen Taught Me About Dating


Attention, single parents: You can gain some romance insights by watching what your teenagers do. Below, what one mom learned from her son.

By Jodi Seidler

always thought that once my 16-year-old son Sam started dating, I would wow him with words of wisdom gleaned from my own experiences. After all, I had decades more relationship experience to draw from, especially since I’d divorced and jumped back into the dating pool. However, as the phone rang more for Sam than for me, I realized something: My son didn’t need my dating advice. Come to think of it, maybe I needed his. So, to see what I could learn about dating from a different perspective, I observed (and yes, occasionally spied on) my son and his friends. And you know what? I gained a lot of insight from watching these young Romeos. Here are the specifics.

Love lesson #1: Do something fun on a date
The first thing I noticed is that Sam didn’t really go on “dates” in the classic sense — meaning, drinks and/or dinner during which you size each other up until the check arrives. His idea of a date was just to go to the mall and hang out with a girl, wandering
What I’d forgotten in my quest for the perfect romantic candlelit dinner is that dating should be fun.
from store to store. Or, he and his date would head as a group to go bowling. To me, none of this sounded very romantic. But after one particularly dull dinner date, I decided to give it a try. “How about we go bowling?” I suggested. He agreed… and suddenly we were having a blast. The reason, pure and simple, is that bowling — or miniature golf, laser tag, or the zoo or even just wandering around an electronics store checking out the wares — is fun. And while I’d forgotten this fact in my quest for the perfect romantic candlelit dinner, my son was right: Dating should be fun.

Love lesson #2: Chuck your must-have checklist
When I first started dating after my divorce, I had (I kid you not) a three-and-a-half-page checklist of things my future mate had to be — between 5’8 and 6’1, an entrepreneur and a full head of hair. He loves his mother and is not too obsessed with sports, among many other criteria. Sam, however, has only two criteria: “She needs to be pretty and smart,” he told me. No wonder he was going on so many more dates! It’s not that he didn’t have standards, he just didn’t have so many as to rule out 99 percent of dating prospects before he’d gotten to know them. Over time, I’ve whittled down my date must-haves to seven or eight qualities, and as a result, I've come to realize that many of the “imperfect” men I once never would have considered were actually great catches.

Love lesson #3: Face-to-face isn’t the only way to bond
Even when my son is kicking back at home, that doesn’t mean he isn’t working hard at wooing women. The bleep, bleep of his IM alert is constantly going off. At first, this seemed a little ridiculous — didn’t he want to save some sweet nothings to deliver to a girl in person? — but I started thinking maybe he was on to something. Instead of waiting for my next face-to-face meeting with a man, I began sending flirty email messages and IMs and received plenty of flattering missives in return. In doing so, I got to let a love interest know that just because he was out of sight didn’t mean he was out of mind, and that allowed us to bond much faster than we would if we stuck to our once-a-week rendezvous.

Love lesson #4: Lighten up a little
Granted, my son is all of 16 years old, so he’s not raring for a commitment anytime soon. And while I’ve often assumed this has kept him from really getting to know a girl and developing deep feelings for her, I’ve come to realize that just the opposite is happening. Since he’s not sitting there obsessing about the future of his relationship, he gets to stay in the moment — flirting, horsing around, talking about anything and everything under the sun. He’s less guarded, too, able to genuinely express whether he likes a girl. This is a hard lesson for people my age to absorb. We’ve all gotten hurt, have our share of baggage and are often obsessed with “playing the game” just right in the hopes that it’ll lead to a serious relationship. But the path to true love isn’t a chess game, and there’s no single “right move” to make. Sam knows that when the time is right, love will happen. It’s that easy. It may seem innocent and naive, but I think a little innocence and naiveté are great qualities to have at hand when you’re looking for love — even at my age. Especially at my age.


Jodi Seidler is a freelance writer and the author of 55 Things Every Divorcing Mom Should Know.
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