So, let’s talk about dating

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I believe teenage dating is when you learn how to build relationships.

All the while, the adults who love you stand ready as a safety net, spouting wisdom like “Nothing good happens after midnight,” and “You are NOT wearing that out of the house!”

I don’t want to shelter my children from all interaction with the opposite sex, only to set them loose to find a mate as an adult. That would be like sending them out on a cross-country bicycle adventure before they master training wheels.

That being said, modern dating is not without surprises.

In my day, you were dating or going together. Dating meant getting to know one another. “Going together,” or the quaint 1950s counterpart, “Going steady,” indicated some commitment.

Dat — er, talking.

Now, as near as I can tell, “talking to” has replaced “dating.”

Teens, and young people in general, will spend hours — days — and unlimited data talking to each other. What they really mean is typing to each other on mobile phones. Worse, texting is being replaced by a smartphone app called Snapchat.

Hello, Snapchat

Snapchat is like an even-less-committal version of texting. You can send the same photo and very short message to as many people as possible without anyone being the wiser. The snapchat disappears, making it impossible to track. The entire thing seems to have been created for cheats and creepers if you ask me — I’m 100 though, so no one does.

Talking is kind of like a long screening process. I might like you, but I need to exchange a few hundred emojis before I know for sure. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what does a smiley face signify? If it’s winking, is that too forward, or somehow, just right?

Where’d they go?

All this talking is good if it leads to something more. Say, an actual, physical date.

It can also lead to one person dropping off the map without explanation. Did they die? Fall in a hole? Alien abduction? Just not that into you? The latter is always suspected, but only after all other possibilities have been considered and endlessly hashed out. If your friend really liked the guy, always go with alien abduction. Always.

Rules of talking

I also find the talking phase has a weird subset of rules. All parties are still technically available and uncommitted, but among friend groups, kind of claimed. So, a person can be Talking to you, and among his/her friends, has dibs, preventing any other (decent) friend from making a move — all without spending a dime or real time on you.

“Finders Keepers” is more of a playground rhyme than solid dating advice. It may work in retail and bargain hunting, but it really shouldn’t apply in dating. Particularly if one hasn’t even stepped up to the plate to sit down in front of a plate and have an actual date.

Finally, if young folks do deign to actually meet and speak in person, they don’t call it a date. They call it “hanging out.”

What is with all this hanging? Are we bats?

Boys, beware

For males, it seems like a sneaky way to do an end-run around meeting the parents, making a plan and paying her way. Call me old-fashioned, son, but you are not rolling up to my house, beeping your horn, running around with my beautiful daughter and going dutch like it’s no big deal.

I don’t care if I have known you since grade school, we are going to meet-and-greet, and you are going to walk her to and from the door. This is not a drive-through, and she is most certainly not the special of the day.

Girls too

Now, to be fair, I have known some young ladies to play the hanging-out card, too. Honey, when you know he’s so infatuated he practically has little cartoon hearts popping out every time he looks your way, do him a favor — either date the boy or cut him loose.

Unrequited love is pure misery when it goes on too long. The friend zone can be a traumatic hang-out if one person would prefer being more than friends. No one should be another person’s backup plan.

Texting doesn’t stop

So, you navigate the talking phase, make a commitment and start dating, which is what kids these days call “being a couple.” Still, you are required to be in almost incessant text contact. I love my husband. After two-plus decades together, we have lots to talk about. Nonetheless, if we had to communicate 24/7, one of us would end up in the loony bin — or jail.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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