Catholic Values Columnist
Last semester I wrote in my second dating column that dating is “endlessly complex.” This remains true — so, let’s get into round three.
The inspiration for this issue came from the one and only Dumb Ox debate we held here in Austria in the midst of the lockdowns. It was, of course, on the matter of dating in the context of a Gaming semester.
An argument that opened fairly early in the night and carried on through the next 90 minutes or so was the following proposal (I’m paraphrasing): men between the ages of 18-23 are extremely emotionally immature, and therefore dating ought to be done with the utmost caution, if at all.
This ruffled a few feathers but was a generally popular sentiment, hilarious to most of the guys and vehemently affirmed by many of the girls.
Soon after, another proposal was raised: girls can be a little immature when it comes to dating, too. This, of course, was shocking and disgusting. Some, including some of the girls, were deeply offended.
Despite the radical position of the latter, this got me thinking. So, hear me out: what if immaturity is … an issue for men and women?
Horrifically controversial, I know, but let me finish.
Actually, let’s go back to the start. Because of my vast understanding of human biology from having passed my science cores and talking to a bio major a few times, I am confident in the belief that human beings start life as babies, who then grow into children.
Besides my prolific scientific achievement, I also currently hold the status of “Former Child.” I can recall myself, at my worst, being a selfish, arrogant, greedy, envious, lazy, ignorant little dude — in a word, an immature brat.
Kids are the best for so many reasons. They are also the worst for a host of others. They are humans, after all, from the point of conception. Augustine has some particularly disparaging things to say about kids in his “Confessions,” and he’s right, but also a tad harsh. What makes the vices of children so singular? Why can’t they be judged so harshly? They literally do not know any better.
Immaturity, then, finds its origin in ignorance. A specific sort of ignorance: ignorance about human behavior, and about goodness. We are born alone; it takes training and experience to inform us that the world doesn’t revolve around us, and that we have to give up our passions and our appetites sometimes — more often than we’d like — to live peaceably with others.
That is maturity. It doesn’t mean stiff-necked, pretentious self-importance; rather, regardless of sex or age, it means having enough self-knowledge to regulate the tendencies of your mind and emotions, and enough knowledge about others and the world to act as a member of the community around you.
With all that down, let’s return to the debate, and how people responded to it. And, really, hear me out. It seems that the reactions of both men and women to the suggestions of their own immaturity is telling about the nature of masculine and feminine immaturity.
When confronted with any description of their immaturity, certain guys are inclined to grin and agree; certain girls jump to offended defensiveness.
Male immaturity is defined by complacency, a gradual backsliding into sloth, comfort zones and petty amusement. The world gets smaller, revolving around whatever provides the most stimulation and requires the least effort. I’m sure some examples come to mind.
Now, I’m not quite sure how to discuss female immaturity, given that I can’t see it from the inside, but from what I can see, it seems to express itself as a defiant, defensive exterior that poorly conceals whatever insecurities lie within this exterior.
Now, dating. A romantic relationship has absolutely no chance in the face of serious immaturity; that is, a serious inability to withdraw from the confines of one’s little world and embrace the objective reality of the world or the subjective reality of others. Simple as that.
So, finally: yeah, if you’re immature, you shouldn’t date. You’ll just drag someone down with you.
But if you have the self-awareness to recognize your immaturity, you have all you need to overcome it. Whatever vocation you want to pursue in the short or the long term, you ought to be striving for wholeness — and holiness — now.