Earlier this month, blogger and concerned mother Becky Blackburn published a post in the Deseret News (I was hoping it was the Dessert News, but we can’t always get what we want, can we?) called “Why aren’t our kids going to church dances?”
Blackburn recounted a harrowing tale of the time she tried to strong-arm her 15-year-old son into having The Best Night Ever at his church dance. While that sounds like general “Parent of a teen” fodder, her article takes an odd turn right out of the gate:
I asked my son if he was going to go to the church dance, and he looked at me like I had asked him to jump over the moon. So I called one of his friend’s moms to see if she was making her son go, and a few hours later, a group of boys, some more reluctant than others, were on their way to the church without a basketball.
A miracle indeed.
Before my son left, my husband and I offered to pay him a dollar for every girl he asked to dance. He shrugged his shoulders and grunted, which of course means “yes” for a 15-year-old, and we were elated that we had thought of bribing our son to be a gentleman. Innovative parents were we.
As a childless person, I’m kind of struggling with this concept. I get that coercing kids to do, say, chores is pretty standard, but I’m not sure how I feel about trying to force an interest in the opposite sex through bribery.
After her son texted her about the ill-attended dance (“There are like 20 people here”), Blackburn seemed extremely concerned about the fact that the young’uns aren’t slow dancing enough. On one level, it sounds a bit like a woman lamenting the fact that something she so enjoyed in high school is no longer relevant to her own kids, which is understandable if not a little Grandpa Simpson-y.
But then she kind of begins digging a good-ol’-days hole that goes far beyond her own childhood:
Why don’t kids pair off for a dance anymore? Why is it so hard for boys to ask? Since asking a girl to dance is such a gallant thing to do, and since most 15-year-old boys are dying to be gallant, I don’t see what the problem is.
There are many words I could use to describe 15-year-old boys. “Gallant” isn’t on the list. (And where does she get her vocabulary from? Highlights for Children?)
What can we do about it? I have an idea that will solve this whole problem. Back in the times of Jane Austen, a lady was given a card that allowed fellows to reserve certain dances with her during the night. Those were the good ol’ days, when there were so many men wanting to dance with a girl that she had to make appointments. If a man asked a girl for the first two dances, then whoa! He was pretty into her. She could go home and put that card under her pillow, kissing his name to her heart’s desire!
How… quaint. What she sees as the “good ol’ days,” I see as a time when women had so little autonomy that they had to literally wait for men to come fetch them from their corners so they could enjoy the party instead of sitting quietly and being demure. At no point have I ever turned over my ability to select who I want to “dance with” (or talk to or date or marry) in exchange for gallantry.
Blackburn goes on to suggest a reinstatement of the dance card, but with a fun new coercive twist!
Maybe we need the dance cards now, but I think it’s the boys’ turn to get them. After a boy asks a girl to dance with him, she signs his card. Three signatures means he gets access to the refreshment table. Since his best friend Joe has been known to down six of Sister Brown’s famous peanut butter cookies in under two minutes, he quickly finds the girl closest to him, mumbles something unintelligible and points to the dance floor. She smiles at him and pulls out her pen.
Maybe 10 dances get him a free trip to Taco Bell.
How’s that for a pick-up line? “Wanna dance? If you do, I’ll be a tenth of a way closer to a burrito.”
Look, I understand that I come from a very (very very very) different background from Blackburn, but I don’t see what she’s trying to accomplish. Is she worried that because her 15-year-old isn’t slow dancing with girls, he has no interest in them? Or that the only way boys and girls can communicate (or court) is via the long-lost art of the slow dance?
Moreover, I’m not convinced that making social interactions a chore is the way to anyone’s heart. I mean, look at this:
Parents could be a great support. When the boy comes home, he better have 15 names on his dance card or it’s going to be 15 days before he sees his Xbox again. They may even have to call a few of the girls for verification, just to make sure the signatures aren’t forged by a few of the buddies who proudly claim they can write like a girl, but I’m pretty sure the system will work.
If the boy didn’t hate dancing already, mom’s phone calls to the girls’ homes should do the trick.
Can anyone with an LDS background/knowledge base shed some light on what the hell is going on here?
More interestingly, perhaps, is the fact that the title of Blackburn’s piece is never really addressed again: Why aren’t our kids going to church dances?
I have my suspicions. Perhaps dances outside of school are becoming antiquated, especially as young people have other means of socializing without the scrutinizing gaze of church leaders. I mean, the dances that she yearns for (forced slow dance after forced slow dance) sounds torturous to me, so I can’t blame the teenagers for wanting to avoid that mess.
One last thing to note is Blackburn’s summary of her own article:
Youth dances are becoming less popular as boys no longer ask girls to dance. Many youths are just sitting around at the dances or dancing in big groups, making dances less fun.
A) Nothing makes you sound older than calling young people “youths,” Liz Lemon.
B) Dancing in big groups is at least 50,000 times more fun than slow dancing.
Maybe kids aren’t going to church dances because their parents’ ideas of what’s “fun” hasn’t been “fun” since America gained independence. And I bet it wasn’t fun then, either.
(Image via Shutterstock)