A brief guide to romance for young men, or, burning Tinder

“Poster child for the Christian single, dumped on more than a birdhouse shingle.

Tired of the same old crowd she starts to mingle where she don’t belong.

All God’s bachelors hanging in a bunch. Wolves in Woolite beat’em to the punch.

Score another knockout; barely bought her lunch. What went wrong?” ~ Steve Taylor and Peter Furler

If my 18-year old self could see my 51-year old self writing about romance he would laugh himself silly. Never did a more awkward teenaged boy exist than this guy. If it had not been for my friends Charles and Porky I would never left the stairwell in our church fellowship hall to spend time with my future wife for the first time.

Over the years, though, I have learned a lot about the dying reality: romance. Romance is not sex, and sex is not romance, though guys often confuse the two. I suspect girls these days confuse the two as well.

Here’s a good definition of romance: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. The excitement part we get; it is the mystery part that is often overlooked. Our culture’s immersion into porn, sensuality, and the equating of the physical with the mystical has all but buried the idea of romance under a profusion of sweaty bodies. There is little mystery left.

A recent article in Vanity Fair (which, due to extremely graphic, coarse language I will not link) pulled back the lid on the “hook up app” culture in parts of New York City. The interviews of men and women, mostly from the professional ranks, reveal people willing to meet someone just to have sex, based on a photo. Predictably, the men felt like trophy hunters. Some of the women, in their reflective moments, felt hunted, trivialized and incomplete.

Young men who are followers of Jesus need to use a different strategy. Do not follow a pattern than turns everyone involved into little more than dogs on the street. The “hook up” is not the plan of God for your life, and there’s not the least reason to be jealous of those who dehumanize themselves is such a way.

The lyric of the hook-up culture should be the Stones’ “I can’t get no satisfaction, but I try, and I try, and I try.” Swipe, swipe, swipe.

You must be willing to jettison the culture around you, and bring back romance to a generation largely unaware of the ideal. Here are a few tips:

1. Talk to the girl. Not a DM or a PM or any number of social media tools. Don’t be a tool. Be a person.

It may sound old school, but conversation is still important. Many if not most women believe a relationship grows through talking. The average woman is more conversational than the average man. Get used to it. Sitting by the lake watching the sun set across the water may evoke silent wonder, but be prepared to talk about something on the way back to her house.

Related to this is ask her out! Don’t try to scheme your way into a “random” encounter in the Poptart aisle at Kroger where she suggests you try to attend the upcoming open-air concert where 20,000 of her best friends will be. Do not be ambiguous. Ask for her phone number, then call her.

I have a friend who’s a mid-20’s single woman. She told me, “I want a guy to call me up and ask me out. Not a Facebook message. Not a text. I’m worth the time and effort for a phone call. He shouldn’t take the easy way out.”

She’s not arrogant; she’s right. A woman who demands you call her might be a woman worth calling.

2. Buy a card. Write in it. Mail/give it to her. Use humorous cards that make her laugh or smile. Save sappy cards for the really important stuff like your one-month dating anniversary, your month and one week dating anniversary, death of her parakeet, and so on.

Don’t depend on texts. Texting does not tell the girl she’s unique since you text everyone including your Mom. Texting is for, “Hey, I’m leaving my house now. I should be there in 15 minutes.” Not, “Hey, you’re hot. Wanna go out?” Moron.

3. Compliment her, not her body. Write how much you enjoy being around her. Talk about her eyes. Talk about her hair, especially if she just got a new style. (Hint: the new style is always the best style ever.) Brag on her outfit. Keep your compliments above the neck. When you start talking about stuff below the neck you’ve gone to the meat market. She isn’t a side of beef; she’s a person.

Make it personal, not sensual. Any idiot of the street can talk about her body, and they will. If you’ve been paying attention to her, you can talk about her. You know her interests, or, at the very least, you are in the best position to learn about them. Leave the cat-calls to the dogs.

4. Learn the code. Females use code to see if you are in tune with what they aren’t saying. No; it isn’t fair. Get over that part now. (Women deny this, but it’s true.) Code is the test not of whether you are listening, but whether you are paying attention. Things said in code require mental acuity to interpret.

(Ladies, guys don’t speak in code. We generally just aren’t intelligent enough to say what we mean, so you have to figure it out. Not the same thing.)

The Code sounds like statements of fact, but they aren’t.

Code: “I’m out of mascara.”

Wrong answer: “You should have stopped and bought some on the way home from class.”

Right answer: “Where is the best place to get it? We can make a quick stop.”

Code: “It’s really cold in here.”

Wrong answer: “You should ask the manager to turn up the heat.” or “Why didn’t you bring a coat? It’s always cold here. God gave you that head for something besides a hat rack, y’know.”

Right answer: “Take my coat. It’s the warmest thing ever.”

You choose to freeze in that moment, and you’ll warm the relationship. Stay warm in that moment and you might as well be seeing Frozen.

5. Be chivalrous. Gloria Steinem and her bicycle may have put chilvary on life-support, but it isn’t dead. A woman will respond to a man who stands up for her. One definition has chilvarous as “being courteous and gallant, especially toward women.” Chilvary does not imply a woman is weak; it is a man’s attempt to use his own strength to respect a woman.

Opening doors, allowing her first passage into a building, taking care not to park where a water puddle is outside her car door, skipping a class to take her to a doctor’s appointment, calling to make sure she got home okay, walking on the sidewalk next to the street, indiscreetly putting yourself between her and any other suspected harm’s way, or deferring to her choice of a movie. These are chilvarous things.

6. Surprise her. The essence of romance is that you are thinking about her more than about yourself, and that you are thinking about her when she’s not around. (<–RED ALERT!) Plan things in advance that, upon the reveal, let her know you spent time getting it ready. Send flowers to her house, work or dorm. When she mentions a particular book she always wanted to read, or a movie she really “wanted to see but it’s not in theaters anymore,” buy it, wrap it in simple ribbon with a bow and give it to her. Present her with a single rose when you pick her up for the date. (A single rose is just as romantic as a dozen. And, I just saved you $25.)

7. Risk. Most women realize the male ego is more fragile than our biceps and bluster show. We don’t like to fail, or feel like fools. Being romantic is not always about looking like a fool, but it is about opening ourselves to the possibility. Taking the risk is attractive to a woman. Take the stinkin’ risk.

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Featured image credit.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.