by Allison McClintock
Lillian had never been interested in boys, but she always figured that her parents would let her date when she was sixteen. By thirteen, she had several "guy" friends from being home-schooled, strangely enough. She was interested in none of them. But how often are girls interested in guys which they have grown up with?
A new idea crept through the home-school movement, that was too old for Lillian to take seriously: courting. She hoped it wouldn't spread to her parents, but it did. The parents took the idea in with excitement and delightedness and decided that would be perfect for Lillian, since she was not that interested in the opposite sex and wouldn't care. But Lillian did care, since she was nearing fourteen. There was always the unspoken rule about dating by the time she was sixteen, that Lillian thought of.
Lillian was always conservative. While she did not have the "outrageous" (as some people called it) idea of not kissing someone unless she got married, she thought she would be fair to her parents and her future husband, by not kissing anyone until she got engaged.
Soon she met someone new, named Ned Heyner. She was impressed by the way he played guitar, but felt that was a stupid reason to like someone, so she didn't "like" him. Soon, after a couple weeks of seeing Ned at church, and at a party somewhere, and other places out of the blue, she got to thinking about him; then she "liked" him.
He was around so much, her mother got to talking about him. "Who's that I've seen around? Ned Heyner? He is weird. I don't like the way he dyed his hair black."
Lillian didn't think she should respond, because she might betray something. But she did. "I thought it was naturally black. If it's not, it looks like it is."
"No!" her mother said insistently. "It really looks like it's dyed."
Lillian did not have an ounce of courage of her, so there was no way on earth that she was going to face Ned or talk to him. She just picked up tidbits from other conversations about him.
"He's twenty-eight, I think," Katella Richardson, the assisting pastor's wife said. "He has a sweet heart, but he doesn't have any common sense."
Twenty-eight! Lillian thought. He just graduated from college last year, so he can't be that old.
Mrs. Richardson proceeded. "It took him years for him to graduate from college, so he's older than you would think," she said, unknowingly answering Lillian's question.
It took Lillian a little time, but she found out that Mrs. Richardson was wrong. Ned was only ten, instead of fourteen years older than her. But he was ten years older than her! Her parents would never allow her to court him. Besides, Ned was cool, and Lillian didn't think that he would like the idea of courting. His ideas of kissing were liberal, as she soon found out from a girl named Dawn.
"He kissed me," she said to a group of girls at the Bible study. She wasn't bragging, but rather wincing. "It was so uncomfortable, I didn't like it. But he kissed me, because I was crying, and he said that everything would be all right. I wasn't even dating him or anything."
Lillian thought she should be jealous, but then found she wasn't. Dawn had went on to tell that she had totaled her brand new car, and she hadn't gotten it insured so she had lost her investment. So Lillian didn't mind that Ned had kissed Dawn, but came to the conclusion that he probably kissed a lot of girls he hadn't built a firm relationship with.
One Sunday morning, Lillian had learned that one of the (many) colleges Ned had attended was in Montana, and that there was a woman visiting from Montana that he had known. It so happened that after church she sat next to her parents talking with a friend, and Ned and the woman were holding a conversation directly behind them. She could hear Ned clearly and held on to every word he said.
"Yeah, Carolyn, I really want to recommend a great artist to you. I don't think she's a Christian, but her name's Lucinda Williams. She's so rad, yet melancholy. I think you'll dig her."
Lucinda Williams. It wasn't the hardest name to remember, so Lillian promised herself that she would check out whatever Lucinda Williams had released onto CD.
The time passed, and soon Carolyn had to go. "Hey listen," Ned said, "my phone number is in the church directory. Call me before you leave town."
Carolyn promised and bid goodbye.
Later, Lillian called her best friend that had moved to Wisconsin who was finding more information about Ned as Lillian told her. "You'll have to send me a picture of him," her friend said, but Lillian said no.
"Do you think I would bring a camera to church? You'll have to come and visit me, and then I'll show you what he looks like."
Lillian would only talk about him to her best friend Addie, and another person who was "forced" to court, Phyllis West.
Phyllis encouraged her to talk to him, but Lillian felt she couldn't. What could they talk about? There was music, but she wasn't sure what type of music he liked and hadn't checked out Lucinda Williams yet. Addie wanted her to talk to him and just tell him that she liked him, or at least wanted to be friends with him.
Finally, Lillian received her last chance to talk to him. He was moving to Los Angeles because some big label was interested in his music out there. She would have to drive to his best friend's house where a bunch of people from church would be, but she would also have to cancel her agreement with her parents regarding babysitting her younger siblings, Joel and Irene. Lillian finally decided against seeing Ned for one last time, although she knew she'd never see him again.
"You'll regret it," Phyllis said.
"I'm sorry he's moving," Addie said, sympathetically. "But one day you'll be able to say you once knew the famous ‘Ned Heyner.'"
Lillian was steadfast to her original decision, and let him leave without saying goodbye. When his plane was supposed to be taking off, she popped in the new Lucinda Williams album that she had bought. He had good taste. He was her big, one and only, high school crush. Though she'd never forget him, she hoped she would meet someone that both she and her parents would like, and someone who wasn't too opposed to courting.
She was seventeen. There was a guy named Mike Reid at work, who was nice to her and eventually asked her out for a date. She didn't want to offend him by saying no, but she didn't want to explain courting. It was impossible, anyway, since he blatantly admitted that he wasn't a Christian. She finally decided to say no, but kept in touch with him when she left for another job.
Years passed and she enrolled into a Christian college. The guys there should probably be intelligent, she thought, and Christians. There was one history teacher, Mr. Dan Emberley that every girl had a crush on. He was there, fresh out of graduate school, and a girl named Genny Burnett pressed Lillian.
"You don't like Dan Emberley?" Genny shrieked.
But Lillian said no, saying that although he was the youngest teacher, he was still much older than her, and she didn't get along well with older guys. What would her parents think if one of her teachers wanted to court her, much less, date her?
"My mom said I should find someone to marry at college," Genny said. "But all of the guys here seem to be focused on finding their niche, a career, and not a wife. Mr. Emberley would be a perfect guy to bring home for my parents to see. He's single, cute, intelligent, has a steady job, and everything else good you can think of, Lillian. Oh well, one of the reasons it's so easy to get along with you Lillian, is that you're not at competition with any of us girls. You stay away from the guys. I mean, isn't there someone you like?"
After being hassled by Genny for months, Lillian told her about Ned.
"Oh, that is so romantic!" Genny said after hearing everything about Ned Heyner. I wish my parents wouldn't be so eager for me to be married and that I could have been in a situation like yours. Only I would have told Ned that I loved him and would have dated him behind their backs."
Lillian laughed. Genny was a little different than her, but she liked her company.
"You're not gay?" Genny asked cautiously.
"No, an emphatic no," Lillian responded. "I'm just shy, and there doesn't seem to be any guys with a brain for hundreds of miles around."
"You mean, the only guy you're half-interested in, is in L.A.," Genny sighed. "I know what you mean. I had a long distance relationship once, but those never work out. We even had e-mail, but the common ground we had began to shift and he met someone else. So I tried to also. Hey, don't you think you'll meet up with Ned again?"
"Oh, I've completely given the idea of Ned Heyner up," Lillian said, trying to believe it herself.
"Did he ever make it big in Los Angeles?" Genny asked.
"Oh, no," Lillian said, rolling her eyes. "No way. I bought his band's album and it really stunk, I hate to say it."
"Oh," Genny said. Spying Dan Emberley, she said, "Look who is coming down - the - hall!!"
Dan instinctively starting talking with Lillian, because he knew she was the only one who wasn't obsessed with him. "Hey Lillian, don't forget the history test."
Genny almost swooned. When he went away, she said, "I think he's interested in you."
"I don't think so," Lillian said. "You know, he might be trying to flirt with you by trying to make you think that he's interested in me. But he may not be interested in either of us. And I do think that the latter case is true."
When Dan Emberley announced his engagement to an old girlfriend of his, all of the girls were heartbrokened and all of the guys were relieved. Someone named Scott Bacon was taking Genny Burnett out.
"Don't you hate it, that you've never gone steady with anyone?" Genny asked.
"Well, yeah, but I guess I can't," Lillian said.
"You've never thought of defying your parents?" Genny asked.
"I have," Lillian admitted, "but then, no one, except this one guy I worked with asked me out for a date. I'm rude in front of guys, because I feel there's no hope for me to date one of them, anyway."
"Well, you have to stop that and become friends with guys that you like. Are there any?"
"No, all the guys here at college aren't cool at all."
"I wish you wouldn't say, all of them, Lillian."
"Well, that's what I feel like," Lillian responded. "I'm not so sure about Scott either."
"I know he said he was having his doubts about God right now and has stopped reading his Bible, but he's someone to write home about," Genny said.
"But I know your parents would be furious if you ever went near someone like that. Man, they're tough."
"It's okay," Lillian said. "I don't think I'd personally want to date Scott myself. Or any of the guys here. A lot of them are committed Christians, but it seems like all they talk about is the football game or alternative music."
"And you like to stay indoors and listen to pop, big deal," Genny said. "You'll find someone."
The closest Lillian became with any guy was someone named Frank Hartley. She studied with him frequently and let him drive her to work when he was going her way.
Finally he asked her out. Lillian wasn't interested enough in him to directly tell him about courting, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings and say no. So she said that she'd like him to read a book before she said yes, and he agreed.
She didn't tell Frank that the book was about courting, and when he had finished the book, obviously Frank had no idea that the book was about courting.
"You make it sound like I asked you to marry you!" he said, laughing. "I asked you out for a simple date and you give me a book about limits, and going too far, and communicating with the parents of the person you're interested in." Frank knew Lillian well and wasn't going to let the friendship go over this, but told her that he guessed that a relationship wasn't what he was looking for.
"See, no guy on the face of the earth is going to marry a girl who courts," Genny said.
Back at home, Lillian's friend, Phyllis, was saying the same thing. "I hate saying no, to every guy who asks me out for a date." Phyllis was eighteen by now, so she gave up, moved out of the house, and began dating guys.
Lillian's parents gave their daughter a warning. "Don't be like Phyllis. There'll be someone out there for you."
This was the advice Addie gave Lillian also. She had found a guy that was able to stand up to her parents and they had begun courting. Addie was a little confused about courting, though, as well as her parents. Addie and twenty-two year-old Matt Taylor were courting each other, but they weren't sure what type of a commitment courting entailed. Did they have to get married, or could they break up peaceably? Otherwise, how many people would they court, or could they court, before they found the right person? Addie didn't have the answers, but she was off on her own adventure.
It didn't seem like anyone courted, much less knew what courting was, at the college Lillian attended. Years passed and Lillian graduated. Ned Heyner had died in an airplane crash, and there was no chance of seeing him on earth again. Though she had missed her chance to talk to him for one last time, she had the privilege of knowing him for a little over two years, growing up. If only there could be someone who was her age and intelligent like Frank, as cool as Ned, and would be willing to court, she would have it made.
That summer she bought an airplane ticket to Wisconsin, to be involved in Addie and Matt's wedding.
Addie and Matt's relationship differed from Romeo and Juliet, but Lillian thought they were happy. Addie and Matt were playing with each other, kissing each other before the wedding ceremony began. It sickened Lillian, only because she didn't have someone herself.
Later at the reception, Addie encouraged Lillian. "Don't give up, there will be someone for you."
So, here you are, reading this, thinking that Lillian would find the perfect guy who would court her in the end. Well, she hasn't yet, because essentially Lillian is me. This is not a completely true story. Some of the characters have been made up, but some of the characters do exist, although their names have been changed.
People will have different ideas and will try to persuade you in their direction, but God has a plan for each one of your lives and he knows what is going on and what will go on. If you have kids, and you would like them to court, try not to set limits on your children, but tell them that they must set their own limits and they should stick to them. You don't want your child leaving at eighteen because he or she can't date, but you don't want your child to date whoever just to make your and your family look impressive.
I had a friend whose parents basically said that if she courted a certain young man they had to eventually get married. Courting is not a commitment, but a safer environment to hang around someone of the opposite sex you're interested in marrying. Engagement is not a commitment either, but a promise to marry. I do believe that courtship or engagement should end if before marriage, the couple does not feel that it is God's will they should be married.