Dating by the Book
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“Dating by the Book,” New Era, Aug. 2006, 42–43

Dating by the Book

At seven o’clock on the dot my doorbell rang and there was Ernie*. He greeted my parents pleasantly and promised my dad he would have me home by curfew. When we reached the car, he opened my door for me and introduced me to the couple sitting in the backseat.

I was surprised when Ernie Phillips, a shy young man in my ward, had asked me out. His request sounded like something from a dating etiquette book written 50 years ago, and now it looked like our date was going to follow the same stiff pattern.

As we drove, I reflected on our brief phone conversation from a week before: “Danielle, this is Ernie Phillips,” he had said nervously. Before I could respond, he hurried on, “I’d like to take you on a date this Friday night. We will be going bowling and then out to dinner with another couple. I could pick you up at seven. Would that be all right?” He spoke quickly, as if reading from a script he’d prepared.

“That would be fine,” I answered.

“Then I’ll see you at seven o’clock, Friday. Good-bye.”

Although Ernie and I went to school and church together, he was so reserved that we’d never spoken more than a few words to each other. I knew he had recently turned 16, but I couldn’t imagine why he would want me to be his first date.

For one thing, we didn’t have much in common. We hung out in different groups and participated in different activities. What would we have to talk about for an entire evening?

I was more than a little surprised when I found myself genuinely enjoying being with Ernie and the other couple. By the time Ernie dropped me off (well before curfew, of course), I could look back on a fun evening and appreciate the advantages to Ernie’s by-the-book style of dating.

Ordinarily, I spent the weekends just hanging out with my friends. I never knew who might be there or what the activity would be. It was hard to tell my parents what time I’d be back, because we never had set plans. But with Ernie, I wasn’t left guessing. I had thought his method of asking me out was old-fashioned, but I found I really appreciated knowing what we would be doing so I could plan accordingly. I liked the fact that he opened doors for me, made sure I was comfortable during our activity, and got me home on time. It made me feel special and appreciated.

Because Ernie planned our date in advance, I knew there wouldn’t be anything going on that would violate my standards. Sometimes I couldn’t be so sure of that when my friends called me to hang out.

I also realized that in a date setting, I was able to get to know Ernie a lot better than if we had just been hanging out with a bunch of other people. I saw qualities in him I had never noticed before. By the end of our date, I knew a lot more about Ernie than I knew about other guys I had hung out with several times.

Finally, I liked how being with Ernie made me think about more than if I was having fun or not. I tried to be especially thoughtful so he wouldn’t regret having asked me out. I asked him about his interests and tried hard to listen. I thanked him for the fun evening and for being a gentleman.

Even though I had expected such a “formal” date to be a boring way to spend my Friday night, I came home grateful for the lessons I learned from Ernie. There is safety and certainty in having a plan and sticking to it. There are benefits to spending an evening with a small group of people and getting to know them well. And most importantly, I was grateful that I got to spend time with an upstanding young man who had the courage to ask me for a date.

  • * Name has been changed.