Somewhere in our Mennonite history, perhaps overly-influenced by Bill Gothard (who was neither Mennonite nor Godly), we adopted a system in which men, when they wish to pursue a relationship with a woman, are expected to speak to her father before they even let her know that they like her.
I think 2020 is a good year to end this practice.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re a guy and you’d feel more comfortable getting some advice from her dad before you broach the subject with her, cool. Go ahead.
Or if you’re a girl and you want your dad to have somewhat of a gate-keeping role in your life, cool. If a guy asks you out, just use your words, and tell him you’d like him to talk to your dad first.
But I think the blanket expectation that guys will talk to the dad first is harmful for everyone. Here’s why:
1. It keeps women from learning how to articulate what they want
Look. I love my Mennonite culture, but sometimes I fear that we don’t teach our women how to articulate what they want, or say “no.” Which not only makes communication complicated and unclear, but also makes women resort to manipulation. And makes it easier for men to take advantage of women. It’s just not cool.
An adult woman should be able to say to a man, “no, I am not interested in dating you.”
An adult woman should also be able to say, “I’d like you to talk to my dad before we discuss this dating business further.” If that’s what she truly wants, she should be able to say that out loud using Clear English Words.
2. It often makes men have to jump through completely unnecessary hoops
I can see value in a guy talking to a girl’s dad at some point near the beginning of their relationship.
I see absolutely no value in a guy having a long awkward talk with a girl’s dad, only to end up never dating her at all, because she wasn’t interested.
If someone has no chance, they should’t have to talk to your dad about it. It’s pointless.
3. It makes things harder for women in the long run
When a girl is 20, having a guy talk to her dad first seems to have some advantages. She can ask her dad to turn him down for her, and avoid that awkwardness. It weeds out the guys who aren’t serious and just want to have a good time. And it feels romantic to think that this guy likes you so much he’s willing to jump through these hoops to get you.
But it gets worse for women as they get older. Once a guy has talked to five dads with zero results, he’s gonna be exhausted from fruitless dad-talking. He’s going to be much less likely to ask out a Mennonite woman. That’s just the sad reality.
4. Do dads even like having these talks?
Obviously a dad will be interested in knowing more about who his daughter dates, especially if she’s pretty young yet. He’s going to feel protective.
But like, if the guy isn’t going to date her…if she’s just gonna turn him down…surely that can’t be a fun situation for the dad either, right?
Is there something I’m missing here? Do dads just like chuckling to themselves about the poor blokes they got to reject for their daughter’s sake? Because to me that just sounds cruel.
5. The older a girl gets, the sillier the whole thing is
If a woman is in her 50s and single, is a man supposed to drive to the nursing home and yell into her father’s ear for a while? What if she’s a widow? At what point does the practice become ridiculous?
Maybe if the girl is 18, talking to her dad isn’t such a bad idea. But can’t we just nix the practice for girls over the age of 25? Or at least once she’s been independent for a decade or so?
6. We can switch up the order of operations and still keep every single one of the system advantages
I get it. There’s value in making a guy prove that he’s serious. There’s value in a father probing into a guy’s life, protectively looking for red flags that his daughter may not see. Especially if she’s still quite young.
But the guy can still talk to the girl first, and talk to the dad later if she says “please talk to my dad.” It’s not that hard, and it accomplishes all the same goals.
I don’t think a girl should ever make a guy talk to her dad if she has no intention of dating him. And I don’t think a girl should ever make her dad turn a guy down for her, unless he’s legitimately a creep. I think a lot girls, even if they are kindhearted, do these things because it’s just how the system works, and because it’s easier. But I think it’s cruel to the men. (Although men, I’m willing to be corrected if you’d rather be turned down by the dad than the girl.)
Also, I know that someone’s going to read this post and think, “but why does it always have to be the guy asking the girl out? Can’t girls ask guys out?” Honestly I don’t have enough data to tackle that one, but if you have a girl-asking-a-guy-out experience (positive or negative) I’d love to hear about it.
But it did make me think. What if we had a system where Mennonite girls started talking to the moms of Mennonite boys they had crushes on? Sort-of “hey I like your son, what do you think?” Maybe that would be less scary than talking to him yourself or waiting on him indefinitely, hahaha. I’m just joking around of course, but if you’ve ever done that, I REALLY want to hear that story.
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