David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

Now and Then

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Toward the end of the Pleistocene I was a college student. At one point during this epoch, a person of the female persuasion condescended to have dinner and see a movie with me. If memory serves, such an arrangement was called a “date.” (cf. “icebox,” “horseless carriage,” and “civility.”) At the agreed-upon hour, I presented myself to the authorities at her dorm. After showing my driver's license to the frowning security-minded folks, I was begrudgingly escorted up three flights of stairs. Shouts of “Man on the Hall” echoed as waves of young women donned bathrobes and disappeared behind thick doors. The door of my date’s room, however, remained open during my fleeting sojourn there, just long enough for me to reflect on the “Three Feet on the Floor” rule. I do not remember what movie we saw.


Had the young women wanted to visit me at my dorm, it would have been only somewhat easier for her to have done so. Subsequent to achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East, she could have come to my digs. I would have put a necktie on the door knob to signify that my roommates should entertain themselves elsewhere. Those young men would gladly have evacuated--giving themselves time to ponder the relative probabilities of a person being bitten by a shark while being struck by lightning concurrent with winning the lottery several weeks in a row versus the likelihood that a young woman would call on me.


I am hyperbolic regarding social mores of two generations ago. Young adults were invariably able to find some time alone as the earth's crust cooled. It is my understanding that coed dorms and even coed bathrooms are commonplace in 2018. I would not presume to suggest whether  the current standards are better or worse than the previous ones. I am only pointing out that there is a difference. As it happens, my grandmother got married almost exactly 100 years ago. On her wedding night, she did not know where babies came from.


Users of dating apps presumably do know something about reproductive biology. As perhaps they should. It is currently the case  that the dictionary is no longer the only place where “intercourse” comes before “introduction.” I do not know your views, gentle reader, regarding your beloved children and the age at which you would hope that they will be physically intimate. I do know that you wish your values, and morals will be accepted and embraced by said children. You may not wish them to behave as you did, but you darn sure want them to believe as you do. Every parent knows that "do as I say not as I did" does not work. But "believe as I believe" is every parent's fond desire.


In my grandmother’s time, there was a moral atmosphere suggesting that young people, women in particular, refrain from serious smooching before hearing “I now pronounce you.” This reticence is less common today. Some parents agree that "you wouldn't buy a shoe without trying it on." Other parents feel that "you wouldn't buy a shoe that was all worn out either."* Where ever parents stand on the continuum, it’s the relationship with your child that will allow you to effectively communicate your values. If your beliefs are at odds with those of the popular culture, a connection with your children is your best hope. Because there are any number of young people who will be more than happy to share --"inflict" is such an unpleasant word--their values on your children. Not all of these young people should be allowed on the third floor of a college dormitory on a Saturday night.


* I am certain that I owe someone a footnote here for these footwear analogies, but almost a full minute of on-line searching has failed to determine to whom credit is due.



One thought on “Now and Then

  1. Martin

    Indeed, there have been changes. Changes great enough that it is as hard for me to understand as it is for you; more: very hard for your children to believe at all. You mention the “3 feet on the floor” and the “open door” rule which I recall as being “open the width of a book”. But the “man on the floor” is something I may have heard only once, if that. “Intervisitation” as it was called was permitted in the women’s dorm from 2-4 pm on Sunday afternoons. Somewhat more generous in the men’s dorms (subject to the open door). Which made living off campus (albeit having to do one’s own cooking and cleaning) seem highly to be desired. In the intervening centuries, colleges and universities have been relieved of the responsibility to act in loco parentis, and even sometimes to enforce the laws and customs of the state and society,

    Hence to the point of your piece: it is up to parents to inculcate what they believe. The community will not do it. Nor will the institutions to which they entrust their children. And by the time they go to college, it is pretty much too late. Even with high school aged children (young adults?) the real influence on values (as possibly opposed to behavior) is only marginal.

    Sad story, to hear how very much alone parents seem to be today.


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