All the current uproar over Christian speaker Justin Lookadoo’s controversial dating message and speech to a Texan high school reminded me of a yet another reason why I write: I once owned his book back in 2008 or so. It’s interesting to look back and see the subtle influencers in my life and how in many ways, I had to completely abandon them in order to be mentally & relationally healthy today. Christian dating books were bad influences in my life–maybe I read them too young, but they molded my mind and heart in unhealthy, incorrect ways.
EDIT: To learn more details (albeit biased perspective) about the current Lookadoo vs. Texas/the Internet debacle, go here.
Growing up in a conservative (although on the scale of 1 to Duggar, we were probably a mere 4, equating to a strange paradoxical system of TV shows we weren’t allowed to watch [no Harry Potter, but yes to “Bewitched”?], True Love Waits rings, and many, many modesty talks [unfortunately even the most concealable of tops from Khols still showed that well, I’m in fact a girl]) household, the idea of “dating” was strange and almost exotic, like a marsupial or the state of Wyoming.
I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, a birthday that came & went without really doing anything to change my relationship status. (It’s not like 12:00AM on my birthday a godly and wonderful (but never “hot,” because as my friends and I would say, a person is not a temperature) boy showed up to profess his sudden interest in courting me. Nope. I was a laaaaaateeeee bloomer.)
But no matter. I wasn’t 100% sure if I was even allowed to date at 16 anyways, because when I’d broach the subject to my dad, conversations would always be a little like:
Me: So Dad, I’m almost 16 and all my friends are allowed to date then. Can I?
My Dad, the man who went to law school: Define dating. Define a boyfriend. Define a date. Define group dating.
But being excessively curious, I went to the only place I knew that would give me life-breathed, holy advice for this mystery called dating: the young adult aisle at Family Christian Bookstores.
Oh the young adult book aisle. Located conveniently next to Bible aisle, so whenever I’d be poring over the latest Christian dating
fad book like “Every Young Woman Needs to Know This About Men” or “Technical Virgin:How Far Is Too Far?” and some blessed little granny would walk by, I could NOT GET CAUGHT looking at a dating book! Me? The intended demographic for a book on dating actually seen READING IT!? NO. So with my lightning fast reflexes, I’d pretend to be looking at the spine of a random NKJV until the danger passed. Psh, me look at dating books? Who do you think I am, a boy crazy pop singer I wasn’t allowed to listen to?
Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco’s “B4UDate” was actually the first dating book I purchased (and is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle??), albeit still veryyyy nonchalantly. I felt awkward and unwanted, but I hoped by getting this book, I could suddenly learn how to be wanted. Being dateable was the ultimate accolade and proof of worth. (Oh how I wish I could go back and talk to 15 year old me.)
I read a lot of dating books back then (before I even knew very many guys beyond the three weird ones in my homeschool group.) “B4UDate” as well as the countless others (including “Dateable” by the same authors), employ very subtle fear tactics. I was convinced–thanks to these books–that boys were basically untrustworthy, heartless sexual sociopaths. They would use you and then lose you–and of course, as a girl, your most valuable asset was virginity. Once one of these boys/sociopaths tricked you into having sex with him, you were like a useless piece of construction paper pulled apart from another: messed up, void, and unwanted. So, boys were untrustworthy and suspicious. (Let me tell you, it took a really long time for that lie to be retaught into truth.)
One thing I definitely recall from the books that I tried super hard to replicate in my own life was consequently the big controversial bit today: being mysterious (aka shutting up.) Over and over again, I would read that in order for a boy to stay interested (presumably he’s not also trying to get in your pants) was to basically reveal close to nothing about yourself–ever. Be mysterious. Let him ask. Let him talk.
Anyone who knows me also knows this concept has never really worked for me. I’m the most open book, heart on my sleeve person out there. Even if I’m not talking, you probably know what I think just by looking at me. I’m NOT mysterious. And thus in being myself, I break the ultimate “dateable” rule.
R U Dateable? According to that standard, I sure am not.
And may I just say, thank the Lord for that. Books that hold impressionable young people to impossible (or in many cases, incorrect) gender standards and stereotypes are false teaching. As a society we ought to be better than that and as for the Christian community, come on. Enough is enough.
The truth sets you free. It set me free from that terrible mantle of relationships Christian dating books (here’s looking at you “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) established in my life and it continues to set me free daily.
Side note: I tried to sell my copy of “B4UDate” to a used bookstore a year or so ago…they wouldn’t take it at all. Hindsight’s 20/20…