Dating can be a pretty scary game. Adults trip through it every day. How much scarier must it be for teenagers?
Ben was nice, smart, and one of the better players on my street hockey team. He was sixteen, like me, and we got along pretty well as friends. He asked me out on my first official date in the middle of eleventh grade.
We didn’t go to the same school, but he wanted me to join him at a play that he was starring in at his school. I told him I’d let him know and then walked away knowing full well that I was not going to go. He seemed like a catch, but we were hockey buddies. I was not about to mess that up by going on a date with him. But when I told my friends and family about the invitation, everyone swooned for me.
“Oh, sweet Ben. You must go!”
“Why wouldn’t you go? It’s a play with a cute guy.”
But it was my family, my own flesh and blood, who dealt the final blow to my stonewall stance:
“You can’t say ‘no.’ You’ll CRUSH him.”
I had already cracked his tooth in hockey; I didn’t want to break his heart too. So I got all dressed up and even swapped out my friendship bracelets for my dainty silver watch.
When we got to his school, I couldn’t help but notice something seemed off. Ben didn’t say much to me, but spent a lot of time parading me in front of his classmates—letting everyone know that he had a date. He seemed quite obviously to be showing off, and everyone seemed quite impressed that Ben’s date was NOT from their school.
I suddenly realized what was going on. Ben hadn’t ask me out because he liked me, I was there to make him look good. He was using me!
He wanted me to take off my nearly floor-length faux leather coat (yeah, it was the 90’s). But I decided quite early in the evening that I was not taking off that coat. I had, if I do say so myself, a rather nice figure at age sixteen. I was determined to deprive him of any further opportunities to show off. The coat stayed on.
I sat alone for the next 90 minutes while his character of Robin Hood worked his way up to the final kiss with Maid Marion at the end of the play. I was not amused.
Sure, he probably went away thinking that he did something nice for me—”letting me” be his date for the night. But I went away feeling used. Ben and I were pretty good friends before the date, but I had a rather tainted view of him after the fact. Needless to say, at our next hockey game, I ended up in the penalty box for checking my own teammate.
And so at that tender and trying age, I realized that being used was not what I wanted in any future dating experiences. I did not want to simply be someone’s eye-candy. I wanted to go on a date because someone valued me, not just my body. When it was all said and done, I was really annoyed with myself more than Ben because I let others talk me into something I didn’t want to do in the first place.
From that date on, I decided to be much more deliberate about dating. I didn’t want to spoil any more friendships, and I didn’t want to be used. This system worked pretty well; I never again went on a date because of peer pressure. When I did go on dates, it was because I felt valued by the guys and I really wanted to be there.
As for Ben, he ended up okay. He’s a really great guy with a beautiful family. And you can’t even see the cap on his tooth.