Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hillsdating and Other False Realities

Week Three: Dating

"Hillsdating and Other False Realities" by Julie Robison
"Friendship That Lasts" by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
"Christian Commitophobia" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Where I went to college, there were three prominent types of relationships: there were people who dated, people who were “just friends,” and people who Hillsdated.

Hillsdating, as defined by THE Urban Dictionary dot com, is a “relationship where a guy and a girl who like each other, spend every waking moment together, but refuse to admit or agree that they are dating.”

Let's avoid this.
Hillsdating came about precisely because, unlike many college campuses, dating is looked at as a step towards marriage- not as serious as courtship, and more commitment than friendship. Dating, rightly understood, is getting to know another person more intentionally.

But a well-known side effect of Hillsdating is regular bouts of awkwardness. Awkwardness is usually caused by emotional limbo, which can only be cured by the boy acting like a man and acknowledging the amorous feelings to the girl’s face.

 Last night at RCIA, we began our discussion on the Ten Commandments. Matt, the seminarian leading the discussion, made an awesome point: God didn’t give us rules to restrict us from doing what we want. He gave us these laws to us out of love, so that we can have a loving relationship with him and with other people. Looking at the natural consequences of breaking the Ten Commandments, our actions would result in offending God and/or hurting the people around us, either emotionally or physically.

There are boundaries to every relationship, which protect the dignity of each person as a whole. Married people are faithful to each other; single people are faithful to God; friends are respectful of each other. In addition to these boundaries, God is just asking you to respect your fellow humans, so as to avoid any awkwardness (“er, sorry I lied to/ cheated/ stole from/ killed you”). He’s just being honest! Can’t fault the guy for being straight-up with his people.

Which brings us back to Hillsdating, which is not just a phenomena of my alma mater, but really, an extension of the hook-up culture. Even though most Hillsdating couples might resent me saying this, because most of them really are chaste relationships, emotional limbo can be worse than dating badly.

Fortunately, this is why my Father is the best man I know: he has always been completely honest with all his daughters about males. He set our expectations not to look for Prince Charming, or Mr. Charming, but just Char, who will make us laugh, and make us think, and love us for who we are, just as we will love him for being him.

Dad definitely knows best, and his wisdom and advice to his four daughters through my 23 years of existence has led me to pen these:

The Ten Commandments for Dating

The first commandment of dating: Like a person for who they are now, not who you’ll imagine they’ll be, or want to be, or aspire to be.

This means getting to know a person, spending time with them in different situations and around different people. Dating, in its purest form, is just getting to know another person. Wishing a person had different interests, or different thoughts, or did things differently means you're more concerned with the idea of that person, and not the actual person.

Evey Hammond, in the opening lines of V for Vendetta, says it best: "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot... But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I've witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I've seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them... but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it... ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love... And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a man... A man that made me remember the Fifth of November. A man that I will never forget."

The second commandment: Communication.

Gentle lads, let me clue you in: if you like a girl, I bet she knows. For example, I am a decently oblivious person. I can look back on my college experience and regularly face-palm myself for not properly understanding a boy’s motives for talking to me more than usual until the situation was at an extremely awkward place. Therefore, bring it up. Tell her you like her. Then ask her what she thinks and stop talking.

Yes, it really is that easy. This can only end well:
A) She likes you back. Hoo-rah! Y’all can now discuss pursuing a relationship.
B) She likes you back, but you’re not going to date for x, y, or z reasons. A happy, chaste friendship can properly begin if the boy can first honestly admit his feelings. If the girl is too immature for such a friendship, then good riddance.
 C) She doesn’t like you back in a more romantic way. Oh well! At least you’re able to start the healing process that comes with rejection and your confinement to Afriendistan.

I really cannot stress the importance of this enough. If the boy does not step up, some kind of awful awkwardness is going to happen. My sophomore year, a guy friend of mine and I were getting really close. I knew we weren't going to date, but the awkwardness was getting too obvious for comfort. After he finally brought up that "people say 'just friends' like it's a bad thing" (and I heartily agreed!), he admitted he thought I was going to cry. I told him he could cry, but I was fine. See? Communication, people. As the Godfather says, it's not personal, it's business.

I clearly love to talk.
Which leads to the third commandment: Be honest.

There is nothing worse, in my opinion, then when you’re out with a person and you can tell they are trying to say what they think you want to hear. But if I am going to actually like you, it is because of you and your own beliefs, not you and my-own-beliefs-repackaged. Also, it tells me that you don’t trust me with your thoughts. I’m not a delicate doll; be honest with me and we’ll have a nice conversation, regardless of how I feel about the subject.

Jack Kerouac, in On the Road, wrote, "Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk--real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious."

The fourth commandment of dating: Take it easy.

Don’t stress! Dating should be fun. Don’t think about whether or not you are going to marry this person tomorrow. I realize that the end of the world is scheduled for May 21, 2011 (and 2012?), but if you’re meant to be with the person you’re dating, you will, because it’ll be right in your heart and the other person’s too. If it doesn’t work out, that just means God has something else planned for y’all. It’s not personal. It’s not “what-could-I-have-done-better,” it’s “what-does-God-have-planned-for-me”! Marriage is a vocation, so take it easy and take it slow. Once you're married, it's for the long-haul, and there is no need to rush into that.

Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) says to his patient, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray), in the fantastic movie What About Bob, “Baby steps, Bob! Baby steps.”

The fifth commandment: Don't settle.

Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, "She's beautiful, and therefore to be woo'd;/ She is a woman, therefore to be won." Dating is a two-way street. Just because a guy likes you does not mean you have to date him, and the same goes for guys. There has to be interest on both sides, and not just out of convenience, but a desire to commit.

Therefore, again, this is where males will need to step up and act like gentlemen; if he is actually interested, he will. If he's not, you (the girl) do not have to put up with it. Even in modernity, there are certain boundaries and expectations, and not unreasonable ones either. Opening the door for you does not mean he thinks you can't handle yourself in the real world: it is just a nice and respectful gesture, as is paying for your meal. Not necessary, but certainly appreciated.

Also remember, as my parents said to me after I was lamenting accepting an invitation to a dance, "It's a date, not a wedding proposal." Give the person a chance (or two), but going on a date does not mean you are dating or in a relationship.

The sixth commandment: Give each other space.

In a poem called "Separation," America’s current poet laureate W.S. Merwin wrote, "Your absence has gone through me/ Like thread through a needle./ Everything I do is stitched with its color." Spending a lot of time with your significant other is a good thing, in the sense that you are able to observe them more and get to know them better, but don’t lose perspective.

Stay involved with things outside your relationship with that special someone. If it doesn’t work out, your entire world isn’t shaken up, for one, and two- who wants to be with a person who has no interests outside spending time with you? Not me. What would we talk about? What would we do?

Relationships should push you to better become the person God intends you to be, not be stagnant, and that means living in the world, not your own happy-cuddly corner. Too much time together can also be overload: everyone needs alone time to re-charge their batteries. Besides, as Clucky says to Maid Marian in Disney's Robin Hood, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder!"

The seventh commandment: Don’t date for the sake of dating.

Dating is a discernment period. If you’re dating a person just because you want someone’s time or affection, you’re wasting both your times. That person could be with someone who actually cares about them, and not someone who just wants a free meal. Elizabeth says you should know whether or not you want to pursue a relationship with someone by the third to fifth date, and I agree. Don’t drag along another person past that point! It’s not considerate to either party involved.

The eighth commandment: Be respectful. 

This includes in conversation, in actions, and in intimacy. If someone is sharing their thoughts and opinions with you, do not shoot them down, make fun of them, or be overly critical. Be grateful that they feel comfortable enough to talk to you about something personal.

Don’t disrespect people’s personal bubbles! Get to know them first, and observe their body language. My best friend from college, for instance, does not like being touched, while her sister gives the biggest and best bear hugs ever. I don't mind being touched, but I do get very uncomfortable when people start to overly touch me, especially when I do not trust them with my heart. For example, I freely hug my family, my friends who are girls, and my few excellent guy friends, but not most guys (if that makes sense).

Sexual ethics aside, chaste dating relationships are important because pressures from girls and boys can lead to disappointment and a break in trust. It also opens up more avenues to get to know a person, to pursue romance, and leaves the relationship free from complications which come with premarital relations.(Cue the Venerable Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body!)

The ninth commandment: Include others in the dating process. 

Family and friends is the obvious solution to this one. You and your "special friend" are not living on an island by yourselves. At the risk of getting overly attached before y'all can properly discern where dating is leading you two, it is important to get feedback from the people you trust most, which is typically family and good friends, especially since they de facto have known you longer and, ergo, better.

Besides, who doesn't want to get to know my quirky family? I mean really, let's just get it all out there:

After putting on Midsummer's Night Dream for our parents
If someone doesn't get along with my family and friends, I'd say that's a decent indicator that the relationship is not going to develop in a romantic fashion. We're a pretty fun bunch.

And finally, the tenth commandment: Include God in the dating process.

Dating someone makes me pray more. It makes me ask for help from God for wisdom. I ask that my heart be protected; I ask that the guy I'm seeing properly discerns where this is going; I ask for God's blessing and that his will be done.

He is, after all, God! Our God loves us and wants the best for us. Offering up your thanks, questions, discernment and sorrows gives due respect and honor to him. In trusting God, who knows and wants the best for you, you will be more easily lead by the Holy Spirit in your actions, thoughts and words. Involving God is the best way to give a solid foundation to any type of relationship. 

"Let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4:8-11)


  1. Brava, brava!! I'm actually going to print these out, laminate them, and hand them out to several girls I know. Hilarious, insightful and well-done, as per usual, J-bird.

  2. This is exactly right. And hilarious. (I love all the movie quotes!) Why didn't I have this list during my awkward college days? I'm going to pass this on to my little sister.

  3. Ok, "Char" made me laugh out loud!! I love you, Rob :)


  4. Yes! I almost forgot: excellent Ella Enchanted reference! I <3 Char.

  5. Ah, I was hoping that the Char was an Ella Enchanted reference!!

    Love all the literary references... and spot on. I think we've all been in that awkward spend every waking moment together with a person but not sure if we're taking the next step or not.

  6. Fab post. I do have an amendment to the first commandment though:

    Women, especially young women dating guys in their 20s, do need to learn how to have proper "vocational hope" as I call it. Most chaste, Christian relationships are a learning curve for men (as well as women.) We should take them as they are, but also use that feminine genius to encourage them to become better Christian men and ultimately better partners.

    It's kind of a nuanced point apart from wanting a man to change, but I've seen the truth of it in life. The awesome men our fathers and grandfathers are today took years of marriage and feminine encouragement to develop. :)

  7. Your point about including other people in the dating process needs a lot of stress. One thing I've noticed is that couples have a tendency to believe they're only going to marry the other person. WRONG! They're marrying not only the other person but their family and friends as well! (And, anthropologically, that's how it should be!) You really need the family and friends behind you for support, to give the relationship every chance possible; also, if anyone's going to present an obstacle—selfish friend, jealous mother, alcoholic father, etc.—the sooner it's known, the better you can prepare for it.

    Great post, Julie!

  8. A marriage is doubly blessed when you love your in-laws. I highly recommend getting to know your beloved's family and friends. Also, how do they speak about their parents and their mother in particular? How do they treat their siblings? Can they sacrifice for their family and do they serve in the home or have they been served their whole life. After all these years married to my husband, I always am so grateful to my in-laws for the man they raised. As the years of parenting go on our parents are our heroes and true patterns for holiness in this crazy world.

  9. Great advice for married couple too! I agree with Anonymous, make sure you know the relationship of a guy and his mother. If he loves and respects his mother, there is a better chance he will love and respect you.

  10. I agree with Mary! It is great advice for any couple. Thank you Julie.

    "Wishing a person had different interests, or different thoughts, or did things differently means you're more concerned with the idea of that person, and not the actual person."


  11. Wonderful post, my dear! I always love reading your blog. Very insightful too, I need to catch up on some of your other posts, which I'm sure will be just as wonderful. :)

  12. Rebecca - I love your suggestion!

  13. @Elizabeth & Sarah- Oh good! These are things I definitely would have liked to know when I was younger, too.

    @E, Lou & Liesl- YES. I love Char! After Gilbert Blythe, he is my favorite male protagonist/ leading man in a book.

    @Rebecca- great point! Thank you so much for adding it. I love the phrase "vocational hope."

    @Tony- Thank you! My parents say, when you marry a person, you marry their family. I completely agree with you on the friends front too! Which isn't surprising, since we're community creatures, and not radicalized individuals.

    @Anon., Mary & Stacy- I'm so glad to hear that! No experience in that field, obviously, but I am the oldest of six kids, and most of this is gleaned from years of wisdom from Mom & Dad, as well as observing them. I think most of these can apply to relating to people in general, but it is amazing how fast the gloves can come off just because someone is romantically interested in another. Thanks for the comments, those are great points and thoughts!

    @Vivy: Thanks dearest! I should dedicate this blog post to you, after our many, many conversations, late-night walks through the graveyard and around campus, discussing the highs and lows, philosophical, religious, and happening aspects of our lives. I love you!

  14. Great post, but I do have a question: Will you go out with me?

  15. hahahahahaha. Well-played, Peter.

  16. Finally read the whole thing! Julie, this post is amazing. Stunning! Fabulously done! Cue my geeky gchat smile! I'm shouting "YESSSSS!!!" after every graf.

    "Which brings us back to Hillsdating, which is not just a phenomena of my alma mater, but really, an extension of the hook-up culture. Even though most Hillsdating couples might resent me saying this, because most of them really are chaste relationships, emotional limbo can be worse than dating badly." TRUE, TRUE, TRUE. Thank you saying this. I've been struggling to figure out how to word it, and bam! you've done it for me.

    Spot on, m'dear!

  17. Loved this post, Julie! All the commandments are good.
    I just want to add a caveat to commandment #9, which a few commenters have mentioned, agreeing that you marry not just a person but also that person's family and community. It's definitely true, but some people really are not direct products of their families. If my mom had judged my dad by his family (deceased father, mentally ill mother, mostly bitter and non-religious siblings), she would not have married him. And their marriage has been strong these 24 years; my dad remains very different from his siblings.
    So be careful when someone's family is totally different than yours... but don't let it be a total turn-off in all cases.

  18. I stumbled upon this post while searching through Catholic theology blogs. Great content! I'm just starting RCIA -- coming from a strongly Protestant background -- and I have to say it's nice to know there's a community of Catholic bloggers who take their faith seriously.

    P.S. I'll admit that Char is pretty awesome, but have you read Austen's "Northanger Abbey"? Henry Tilney puts him and every other man to shame. :-)

  19. Anna, that's a really great point, and I agree with it. We definitely need to consider each person on a case-by-case basis. A person can come from a devout family too, and not be stable, and vice versa.

    Publius, thanks for the comment! I'm so glad you found your way here (and to the Church!). I have not read Northanger Abbey (yet) but I have a soft spot for Austen's Captain Wentworth. :)

  20. this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today- you have no idea! Thank you, God, for creating Twitter so someone could post this and somehow I could find it.

    God bless you! St. Raphael, pray for us!

  21. This is fantastic! Absolutely fantastic.