Advice for teens on dating

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If you always put the other person first, and/or they never put you first, there’s a problem. You’ll have your whole life to learn to deal with necessary interactions that hold an inherent amount of power inequality. You, in some ways, have more power over the guy who brings you coffee and relies on your tip. Consent is not just about intercourse and it’s not just about not saying no.

And I’ll be the first one to tell you that plenty of people are more important and more powerful than you, and the sooner you accept this as part of life and just deal with it, the better. If everyone knew that 1) they had to be totally into it and 2) they had to check to verify that their partner was totally into it before proceeding, well, the world would be a better place. (This Laci Green video about Steubenville is NSFW and maybe not safe for younger teens, but I love her take on consent being mutual and enthusiastic no matter what the level of intimacy.) Personally, I dislike the oft-repeated sentiments about how someone is your “better half” or “makes me a better person.” You’re a whole, fascinating person without a love interest.

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It’s no coincidence that the creation story in Genesis builds in beauty and is crowned with the creation of Eve.Having a child who is dating is straight-up terrifying for a hundred different reasons, but I happen to believe there’s value in this (supervised! So we talked, and exchanged all of the observations and hopes and fears we can never express to our children, because them dating is practice for us, too—practice in letting our kids make their own choices and deal with their own consequences, even when the stakes may be high. Every now and then I fumble through a short “here’s something I think it’s important for you to know” speech to my kids, finding myself awkward and uncharacteristically at a loss for words. But with the benefit of a keyboard, I was able to distill it down to just a few points I hope my teens will be able to take to heart, even when those hearts are busy fluttering. If this level of checking feels unbearably weird, that’s a sign you’re not ready.

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