Thursday, July 25, 2013

#234 Daddy-Daughter Dates

Christian culture is way into daddy-daughter dates. Yes. They're exactly what they sound like. To their credit, evangelicals have recognized that absentee dads are more or less a societal menace and they appear be taking steps to rectify this within their frame of influence. But the emphasis they place on the daddy-daughter relationship is wildly disproportionate to all other parent-child interaction, to say nothing of creepy.

Part of the discrepancy can be seen by the quantity of ink devoted to this concept. There are pages upon internet pages about daddy-daughter dates, while the number of pages on mother-son dates that I could find are under a dozen. I found even fewer on daddy-son and mother-daughter dates, but no shortage on the daddy-daughter front. These articles lay out details for how and why and when and where to "date your daughter" (that is really what they call it). This appears to come from a lovely sentiment and honest desire to help shape girls into women who know their worth and won’t settle for dodgy men when they’re adults. And yet an equivalent amount of emphasis is not placed on the mother-son / mother-daughter / father-son relationship, and the tone of fatherly ownership of daughters is remarkable. Christian culture does not appear to have a problem with this.

Not surprisingly, the chatter surrounding daddy-daughter dates is directly in line with Christian culture’s M.O. of Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship. Rather than learn about why your relationship with your daughter or son is important, rather than seek to understand why vulnerability is crucial to emotional health and that bearing each other’s burdens is where relationship truly takes place, lists are given and dads check them off.  If fathers were instead reading about female psychology and relational intimacy, instructions on how to facilitate bonding through dates wouldn't be necessary as they would be organically acting out of their desire to know their daughters and honor them. But we don't live in that kind of world. And so here is some actual advice from an actual Daddy-Daughter Date article

“Keep your eyes on her. Looking at your daughter and not cutting your eyes to what walks by takes a little practice. Sure, you can look up at the server once, but that’s it after you order.” 

Now this appears quite inoffensive and even commendable, but no one seems to be asking why this sort of instruction to grown men is even necessary. If he can't relate to his daughter organically, an article on how to go on a date isn't going to touch the root issue. And his daughter will be able to tell if he is doing what he was told as opposed to whether he is truly interested in her as a person. This advice continues: “Keep a few open-ended questions handy.” “Girls want you to pay attention when they’re talking.” (As if boys don’t.) "So here’s the core list of Daddy Dates ‘Dos’: Do call her up and formally ask for the date. Do hold the door for her. Do tell her she looks nice. Do have her choose the music in the car. Do give her a flower. Do talk to her."

And on and on. The exhaustive instructions beg the question: are dads interested in who their daughters are as people or are they more interested in completing a checklist in order to feel they’ve done the fatherly duties required of them? Why are mother-son / father-son / mother-daughter dates not given one-tenth the amount of attention in evangelical culture that daddy-daughter dates are? It's an epidemic within Christian culture: actual relationships are not emphasized, but instead guidelines are given of what would follow naturally from a genuine relationship. They've put the cart before the horse once again.