The Older the Better
“Am I getting too old?” “Is he the one?” “I need a boyfriend.” Statements and comments such as these are persistently spoken and heard from the mouths of most American teenagers. Dating and constant interaction with the opposite sex is an immense somewhat integral part of the ultimate American lifestyle specifically in regards to teenagers and young adults. Television shows such as Gossip girl, Melrose Place, even Bones and magazines like “Cosmopolitan”, “Cosmo Girl” and “GQ” are constantly promoting relationships among young adults with headlines such as “6 Things Guys Notice 6 Seconds After you meet” (Cosmopolitan, 2009) or the “Flirt with Guys” sections in Cosmo Girl. When things such as these are consistently seen and read by young Americans, they are given the thought dating is what they are supposed to do.
Although, dating and courting are common and normal aspects in the US and happen to be quite valued, other cultures around the world view it in a completely different manner. In many African and Southwest Asian nations, people dated only in order to get married, the concepts of “playing the field”, “just having fun” or “weighing your options” do not exist. People dated for one thing and one thing only, to get married! In these cultures, most people actually don’t even date; their mates are found for and introduced to them through close family or business relations. This process is done very discreetly. Here in the US for example, if a guy were to realize that he is attracted to a girl, he might write her a letter, try numerous ways to garner her attention, talk to one of her friends, or just go ahead and ask her out. On the other hand, this would be considered taboo in many African and Asian cultures, where courting is something that is done privately between close families and friends, not in the middle of a busy high school hallway or at the mall. For a male to approach a girl in a romantic way and for her to respond would be considered “fast” and be seen as a disgrace and a sign of disrespect to their respective families. In their culture, if a guy is interested in a girl romantically, he’d first discuss it with the elders of his family in order to gain their approval. If the elders approve, they would then look into the background of the girl and her family and after deeming her appropriate, they’d check for a common friend between the two families and proceed to setting up a meeting.
Although statistics show that both Western and Eastern women get married at approximately the same age, between ages 24-26, the divorce rates between both societies are quite different. In the past year, 27.6% under the age of 20, 36.6% between the ages of 20-24 and 16.4% between age 25-29 (Baker). The US currently ranks 5th in world divorce rates with 50% of all marriages ending in divorce (US Rank, 2009). Whilst, India, a nation that is completely filled with three major eastern cultures has a divorce rate of 1.1%.
Some might say that the main reason why divorces are less apparent in eastern cultures is due to the fact the being divorced is considered taboo and shameful, which happens to be true. Some might say that dating is not a big thing in these societies because they’re forbidden to do so or because their marriages are arranged (Hoda Rashad, 2005). While both of these do have some truth to them, rarely are they so now in modern times. Take Turkey for instance, a nation that is more European than it is Islamic, Arab, or “old school” and also happens to have a very high literacy rate. 93% of all Turkish women are married by the time they are thirty, and a divorce rate of only 6% (World Divorce Statistics, 2009). It appears that the main reason why marriages and relationships last longer in Eastern society is due to the way that marriage is perceived.
Marriage is a lifetime bond, a union between two people who, usually, choose to spend the rest of their lives together. Getting married is a very significant thing to do and it’s something that should be done after a long and thoughtful process. By getting married, you are claiming that you are ready to be settled, start a family and devote yourself and time to your partner. Although some might see marriage as losing their individuality, independence and freedom because they now have to answer to someone else and be mindful of the things that they do, there are also many benefits to being married. . Marriage is more than just wearing a ring, signing a piece of paper or saying that you like someone. In many cultures, getting married is seen as a rite of passage, a sign that you are now ready to leave your parents’ home and venture into the world, which happens to be one of the reasons why dating is not done to the extent as it is here in the US.
I grew up in a family were dating was not accepted and still isn’t. My family, like many Nigerians, feel as if dating is something that should be when you’re older and more mature. My sisters and I were always told, “No dating till after college”, our parents were just telling us the same thing that they were told and I completely agree with them. To them dating is not a pastime, it’s not something that you do just because you’re bored or because everyone else is doing it. Dating and being with someone should be taking very seriously. Dating is not something to do just for the fun of it. I asked one of my American friends why she dates and her response was” just to be with someone, people date different people so that they know what they do or don’t want.” (Newson, 2009) Why is that you need to date many people before you know what it is that you do or don’t want. Obviously, if you start dating at the tender age of 16, the age that most American females start dating (with parental consent), you don’t know what you want in another person; you barely know what you want in yourself. Another big part of dating that is not evident in American society is the involvement of parents. American youth rarely like to involve their parents in their personal lives until they are for sure serious about the person. While this might sound like a good idea in the sense that you don’t want to keep bringing countless amounts of men to meet your parents. Alternatively though, if you proceed to date the way Easterners do, by waiting to get married to start looking and involve your parents right away, the issue of bringing around many guys will no longer be a problem.
By implementing this method of dating, many of the problems that are related to teens can be negated. If the teenagers don’t see dating at a young age or having a constant and sexual interaction with members of the opposite sex to be such a necessity they are less likely to date, therefore resulting in less teen pregnancy. The durations of marriage are also more likely to last longer due to participants being more mature, settled and mentally ready for such an important step in life.