When Will I Be Loved? by
(282 Stories)

Prompted By Dating

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I was first introduced to the idea of dating dos and don’ts when I was eight years old and my two older sisters, aged thirteen and fifteen, started dating. Apparently the biggest “don’t” was don’t be ready when your date arrives to pick you up, because you will look too eager. (Corollary: don’t answer the telephone on the first ring, for the same reason.) So it was my job to answer the door and then entertain the guys for anywhere between ten minutes and half an hour, til the sister being picked up decided she had kept him waiting long enough, and came downstairs. I actually enjoyed this a lot. I don’t know if the guys did or not, but it was probably much less intimidating for them to make conversation with me than it would have been with one or both of my parents.

I was first introduced to dating dos and don'ts when I was eight years old and my two older sisters started dating.

When I was twelve, my oldest sister got engaged to a guy who was going to law school in New Jersey, although she was at college in Cambridge. He was at loose ends while she was gone, and he would often come over and hang out at my house. He and my mother got along famously, as did he and I. A couple of times he took me to the movies. I felt very sophisticated being out with him, and wanted people to think it was a date. But since I was twelve and he was twenty-two, he wanted to be sure people knew it wasn’t. It hurt my feelings when he made a point of telling people I was his fiancée’s little sister.

I finally had my first real boyfriend my senior year of high school, when I was sixteen. (I’m not counting Vicente, whom you met in last week’s story, because dating in Mexico is a whole different thing.) Of course he did all the asking out, and all the paying for things. Mostly we just went to the movies, which wasn’t very expensive in those days, but I would never have dreamed of offering to pay. He drove everywhere we went, and he was expected to open the car door for me to get in and to get out. I can remember at least once when he got out of the car and started walking down the street, and I just sat there, not getting out of the car, until he came back and opened the door. That was the rule, so I was not going to open the door myself. I know it seems silly now, but that’s what everyone did.

After we had been dating for a while, he was no longer satisfied with a little kissing after the movie, and he started trying to touch various parts of my body. I would say “no” and take his hand away, he would say “why not,” and I would say “because.” He would keep trying every week, and every week we would go through the same routine. I knew the rule was that if I let him do something once, I had to keep letting him. You couldn’t go backwards. So it seems like we spent a lot of time tussling. When I graduated from high school and left for the summer, it was a relief to stop seeing him.

In college, dating was a lot less structured. For one thing, there were no cars involved, because we all lived on campus and walked everyplace. If we ate dinner with a date, it was in the college dining halls, so nobody had to pay. Other than going to parties, the main dating activity was going to the movies. And the guy was still expected to pay. However, at some point they expected to get something in return for spending money on a girl. And eventually it seemed to be the case that “dating” was just a euphemism for “going to bed with”. . . .

After I graduated, for the next ten years, from 1972 to 1982, I had some combination of respectful dates, where you went to an event and did NOT have sex, and casual dates, which were mainly about sex. Almost all of these dates, of both types, were with guys I met at law school or else through work at the Department of Transportation before law school, and the Attorney General’s Office afterwards. On two different occasions I was fixed up with guys by women who were mutual friends. With the first fix-up, we dated for a while (but didn’t go to bed) and then he broke up with me because he had met the woman he wanted to marry (and is still married to, 43 years later). With the second fix-up, I married the guy. (See So Much in Common.)

Since 1983 I have always been in committed relationships or marriages, so I haven’t needed to worry about dating any more. I have known a few people my age, widows or divorcées, who have found new partners through online dating sites, but I’m happy that I don’t have to learn to navigate that world.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Your descriptor “the rules” really took me back—so true! Fortunately, those rules changed, even if not always for the better. I hated “dates” with all the pressures. The pill really made a difference for women, since all that tussling had such grave consequences otherwise.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    A great history of dating in our generation, from both a general and personal standpoint, Suzy. I guess I am relieved to have you confirm that, even as a male, I was operating by the exact same set of rules as you females were. (Though I always thought the car door rule — which you’ve nicely illustrated — was really stupid. But I always obeyed it.)

    And yes; you are exactly right as to what we all understood “dating” to mean when we were in college. I wonder if our parents did, too.

    Finally, having myself been “committed,” one way or another, since 1974, I am also pleased never to have had to learn the new dating rules. Though, at my wife’s insistence, I never walk around the car and hold the door for her. After all, who has that kind of energy at our age?

    • Suzy says:

      Funny comment about not having the energy to walk around the car, John. That’s not where I thought you were going with the sentence that started “at my wife’s insistence”!

      • John Shutkin says:

        All I meant was that, as a liberated woman of our generation, Kathie made it clear that she thought such a “courtesy” was pretty silly. Now, Suzy, where did YOU think that sentence was going?

        • Suzy says:

          I expected it to say, “at my wife’s insistence, I do open the door for her.” In fairness to me, I have only met Kathie once, and don’t have a sense of what she is like.

          • John Shutkin says:

            Very fair point, Suzy. But I’d like to think that I would not be interested in any woman who, in this day and age, insisted on the car door being opened for her.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, reading your story reminds me how much the world has changed. I find it so amusing that your sisters had you entertain their dates for some period of time so they didn’t seem overly anxious when the guy showed up at the appointed time. It seems archaic now, but I’m sure turned you into a great conversationalist.

    Your early dates resonate with me. You are just a bit older and our dating rules were the same. I related entirely to the high school and college dating scene, though I married my last college boyfriend. I like how you differentiated between “respectful” dates and “casual” dates. Makes sense to me.

    I have a widowed close friend who has used a dating app to find a man to date (and others that didn’t work out), and my son and his beloved met on Bumble many years ago now. After their first few dates, they decided to “just be friends”, but circled back, became a committed couple, just bought a house together and are due to have a baby in December, so those apps can work.

    • Suzy says:

      Not surprising that our dating rules were the same, Betsy. I am only a year older than you, I don’t think things changed that quickly! Interesting about your son’s experience with Bumble, that’s not a site I had heard of. Now that I’ve searched for it on Google, I’ll probably be deluged with ads for dating sites.

  4. Marian says:

    Suzy, great earworm for the title. Now I will listen to the song in my head all day. Love learning about the experience of being the little sister and entertaining the others’ dates. How fun. Your descriptions of high school and college dating are spot on. At Brandeis, people just “hung out,” so it rings true. My sweetheart Dick relates how his youngest daughter also entertained the dates of the older two, and ended up “stealing” the middle one’s boyfriend.

    • Suzy says:

      Mare, Dick’s youngest daughter lived my dream! I had crushes on several of the guys I entertained, and fantasized about stealing one of them away. I would love to hear more about that story.

      • Marian says:

        I don’t know the details of the story behind Dick’s youngest daughter stealing the middle daughter’s boyfriend, but there is a three-year age difference between them, so I’d guess that Marcy (middle) would have been a senior in high school and that Lisa (youngest) would have been a freshman or sophomore. Marcy was the academically strong student and Lisa has a really bubbly personality, so I can envision a scenario similar to what you went through, although I think being deliberately late when your date picked you up would have been going out of fashion.

  5. Suzy, Your story is another reminder of how times and mores have changed!

    I remember in high school proms were a big deal, with dresses and shoes dyed to match and wrist corsages!
    Do kids even go to proms anymore?

    And whether or not to kiss a boy on the first date was a big topic, and now I assume it’s whether to sleep with the guy on the first date and no big secret about it.

    Was probably much more fun in our day when we did it all secretly!

    • Suzy says:

      My kids went to proms in the 2000s and 2010s, although maybe not with dyed-to-match shoes or wrist corsages. I think proms are very much alive.

      For my age group, kissing on the first date was the question in HS, and sex on the first date was the question in college, and there was no secret about it. I’m just enough younger than you that by the time I was in college, everyone was openly sleeping together.

      • Thanx Suzy, I don’t remember if my son went to high school or college proms in the 90s, will have to ask!

        I do remember at the time of the Cuban missile crisis the word at college was – sleep with your boyfriend now as the world may be coming to an end.

        I also remember my husband jokingly bemoaning the fact that he foolishly got married at the beginning of the sexual revolution!

    • Dave Ventre says:

      Dana, I remember seeing, within the last few years, a new story about how INSANELY expensive going to the prom had become. So yes indeed, they are!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your description of dating conventions for your sisters and later for you in high school. Why was that car door thing such a big deal then? Like you, I would also just sit and wait. Being the oldest in my family, my poor dates had to talk to my parents and be greeted by my dog, who often peed on them. I should have written about that because Checkers was probably a better judge of character than me.

  7. Suzy, I loved that snatch of dialog you wrote:
    “Why not?”
    Why does that sound familiar from some far away past?
    I got to entertain my big sister’s dates, too. The parents seemed to disappear and there I was. She was only three years older, so I got to see what an older guy might be like. She had a few interesting prospects: a disk jockey, a folk singer who was already performing in coffee houses, an MIT student who was very funny.

  8. Such a great song/ear worm, Suzy…especially the Linda Ronstadt version!

    Ah, yes, rules! I didn’t have any sisters (lucky you!), but I do remember all those early coming-down-the-stairs-after-the-door-has-been-answered-by-someone-else dates. Oh, and the never-ever-letting-someone-honk-to-pick-you-up-instead-of-ringing-the-doorbell dates, right?!?

    Another corollary all you long-time marrieds may not be aware of is the so-called three-day rule (as popularized by the movie “Swingers”) that says the guy shouldn’t call the girl until at least three days after the date so as not to appear desperate or needy. This of course can backfire, as can any of the variations of this rule. Or any rule.

    In terms of online dating apps, the most important rule has to do with common sense: For that first “date,” meet somewhere neutral…in most cases, it’s a Starbucks. After that, there are no rules.

    • Suzy says:

      Oh my goodness, impossible to imagine someone honking to pick you up in those days! Of course, now they don’t even do that, they just text to say “I’m outside.”

      Thanks for the tips on dating apps. And the three-day rule – I don’t think I would like that at all! But now can’t the girl call the guy instead of waiting?

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    Not having to date any more is such a sweet consequence of marriage….

  10. Susan Bennet says:

    Suzy, are you sure your 12-year-old self wasn’t moving in on my older “crush” George?

    I find it very interesting that your siblings were girls. I think the dynamic can be so different with brothers in the picture. Unlike you, I had no one to learn from, e.g., making a date wait, waiting for the third ring, how to act on a date, etc. On the other hand, what I did have, I think, was and is a compassion for the male involved. I wonder if dating still is a Mars/Venus paradigm?

    A great story!

    • Suzy says:

      Ha ha, Susan, I’m sure I would have been interested in George if I had lived in your neighborhood. But I never managed to get anything going with any of those crushes, I was much too young for them.

      I’m sure brothers would have given me a very different perspective on dating. I never thought about the male point of view at all.

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