When I was 14 I bought some ill-fitting dress to wear to the new years dance for church. I remember that it didn't stay buttoned very well. So I spent most of the time hiding out and wearing my new wool coat that my dad gave me for Christmas.
When I turned 16 a friend in the ward, whose boyfriend joined the church earlier that year, invited me to go on a date with her cousin. My mom dropped me off at her house and we waited for the cousin to show up. Calls were made and he was running late. So we went to dinner and the idea was that he would catch up. He didn't make it by the end of dinner, so we went to the dance at the ward building. More calls were made throughout. But he never caught up with us. That was the story. Did I mention this was to be my "first date"?
I never did go on any dates until I let a friend set me up with a friend for Valentines Day, during Senior year. We both wanted to have a date to prom. So we dated for a few months. I wish I'd just waited until college to date. Even in college I only went on a few dates before meeting P. The dates were always really awkward. It was always obvious that no further relationship would grow.
So when I met P and people joked that we would date, I'd had 5 years to figure out that I wasn't the sort of girl that tal-dark-handsome men were into. I was frankly mad at the idea. But it turned out that I was really lucky nobody had realized what a gem I was until P did.
We tell our kids that they can date in college. With our luck, and gorgeous kids, we'll have some trouble with that. But I hope to spare them the hope that they'll find "success" in dating when they should just enjoy being kids. And success in dating means what? Having them get into physical relationships that are inappropriate? Having them caught up in drama and heartbreak? Having them form their personality to fit some person who is themselves a child? Having them follow that person to college rather than pursue their own growth and independence?
The missionaries were over recently and gave a lesson on what ages various things happen for youth in the church, from baptism to mission. They included dating at 16. I told them that 16 is the age when a lot of boys would be wishing they could go on dates with M. But she'll tell them "Too bad."