Dating rules

July 22, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

How young is too young? How late is too late? And do parents' opinions matter at all? These were some of the dating-related questions that Tri-State area teens pondered recently while hanging out at the mall, by the pool and near their homes.

At Valley Mall in Hagers-town, Brandy Brashears politely stepped out of earshot of her mom to discuss the dating guidelines she thinks are fair.

"You should wait until you're at least 15 to start dating because about then you're starting to realize what you actually want," said Brandy, 18, of Hagerstown. Dates should wrap up by 10 p.m., and dating partners should "definitely" be within three years of the same age, she said.


Samantha Smith and her look-alike friend, Brittany Neville, paused in the mall's Food Court to chew on the issue. The girls agreed upon 10:30 p.m. as a fair curfew for dates, and a minimum age of 13 to begin dating.

Samantha, 14, of Keedysville, thinks parents should check out new dating partners before letting their kids leave the house with them.

"I don't think you should let your son or daughter go out with someone you don't know," she said. "They might turn out to be a lot different than you think they are."

"Yeah," agreed Brittany, 14, of Sharpsburg. "You need to know the guy to see if he's nice, how he acts."

Evan MacKenzie, who was also spending part of a warm Wednesday in the cool mall, agrees. If his son or daughter - who would have to be at least 13 or 14 - was planning a first date, "I'd want to know what kind a person they were going out with to make sure they weren't a troublemaker." Evan, 17, of Hagerstown, said he'd make sure a responsible adult transported the young daters to and from their destination. He'd set a 10 p.m. curfew. And he'd ask his teenager to call home if plans changed. He now pays the same courtesy to his parents.

"They think I'm a good boy," Evan said.

Kelly Porell and her friend, Samantha Ritchey, think the minimum dating age should be lower than 13. The girls, who chatted at a table in the mall's Food Court, think casual dates to the mall and to the movies are fine for kids ages 11 and 12 - as long as parents are involved in the plans.

"When I was 11 or 12, I was more mature than my parents were when they were 11 or 12," said Kelly, 14, of Chambersburg, Pa. She went on her first movie date at 12 - after her parents met the boy, she says. Her dad served as the chauffeur.

Kelly doesn't think it's cool for young daters to hang out alone. If she was a parent, she wouldn't want her daughter going back to a boy's house after a date unless his parents were there and she had spoken to them first, she said.

Samantha, 13, of Chambersburg, would be a bit more lenient. As long as she knew where her kid was going, she wouldn't need to meet the date first, she said. And she definitely wouldn't make her child wait until 16 or 17 to date - the rule her parents set for her, she said.

"That's too old," Samantha said. "I should be allowed my freedom."

Lindsey Clipp and her cousin, Heather Clipp, took a break from shopping to talk about dating. Teens who have earned their parents' trust should be allowed more dating freedom than those who haven't, said Lindsey, 17, of Keedysville. In general, she thinks 15 is a fair minimum age for dating, and that 11:30 p.m. is late enough to be out.

Heather, 15, of Keedysville, added that parents should meet dates first to make sure "they act right."

Jennifer Hernandez also thinks it's a good idea for the 'rents to meet dates.

"I wouldn't want my son or daughter getting hurt in a relationship," said Jennifer, 12, who was catching some rays near her Halfway home.

If she was a parent, she'd want to know the exact location of the date, she'd set a midnight curfew, and she'd expect a phone call if plans changed, Jennifer said.

Phillip Shoaf and his girlfriend, Jessica Manning, would also set firm dating rules, they said. The pair took a break from swimming at the Claude M. Potterfield Pool in Hagerstown to splash around some of those guidelines.

"I think 15 or 16 is a good, reasonable age to start dating," said Phillip, 15, of Hagerstown. He'd set a 10 p.m. curfew, while Jessica would lower that time by one hour, she said.

"I think 9 p.m. is late enough. There's a lot of freaks out on the street at night," Jessica said.

Both she and Phillip think it's a good idea for parents to meet dates.

"The person might be doing drugs or something else bad," Jessica said.

Sunning poolside, Josh Farrell agreed that parents should check out dates "to see if they do drugs or drink or anything." Josh, 13, of Hagers-town, thinks 12 is a fair age to start dating, as long as parents provide supervision.

Forget all those rules, said Jared Shollay, 17, of Hagers-town. The pool lifeguard, who remembered his first date at a skating rink when he was 12, wouldn't set a curfew or a minimum dating age if he was a parent.

"I would have absolutely no rules whatsoever," he said.

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