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Kissing Dating Goodbye
by Isabel Lyman
13 February 2000

Isabel Lyman Once upon a time I interviewed a nice young man who had weird ideas. Josh Harris was the then 21-year-old editor and publisher of New Attitude, a magazine for teen-aged homeschoolers.

He was also writing a book entitled " I Kissed Dating Goodbye."

Harris' thesis is that casual dating is a self-serving endeavor that often results in broken hearts and promiscuous behavior. Harris hopes to encourage fellow singles, through Bible verses and war stories, that the wisest course is to reserve romance for marriage. Friday nights, he thinks, can be better spent volunteering in soup kitchens or cultivating one's prayer life.

I thought the book would be as popular as a door-to-door salesman peddling Elizabethan corsets to soccer moms. I thought Josh Harris would be ridiculed as the "anti-cupid." I was wrong. Way wrong.

To date, the book has sold 700,000 copies. It ricocheted to a number one spot on Christian paperback lists and has been translated into several foreign languages, including Korean, Swedish, and German.

As a result of his literary success, the young author has become a relationship guru of sorts. His seminars draw thousands of Gen Xers and Yers, and he has also been a guest on the television shows, Politically Incorrect and Dateline.

And, in an amusing twist, by those who assume that if you are a staunch no-dater you must have won a Bill Gates look alike contest, he has been dubbed a "major babe" by the Baltimore Sun.

Harris' message has its fair share of local fans. Mardel's book department has sold many copies of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" and reordered it several times.

Hannah Gunn,13, of Edmond, is currently reading the book and says it is reinforcing her beliefs, since she has no plans to date during her teen years.

"I liked the story in the book where Eric and Leslie, a husband and wife, did not kiss each other until their wedding day. It made it so much more special," Hannah said.

Hannah does want to get married someday, but via the process of courtship, a practice which is popular in some church circles. (As I understand it, courtship involves a mature young man declaring to a young lady's father that he would like to be considered a potential marriage suitor.

If dad and the daughter dig him, he then spends time becoming better acquainted with his sweetheart in a chaperoned family setting.

Margo Hampton of Guthrie, the mother of four active teens, took her three eldest children to hear Harris speak in Wichita and also likes what he has to say.

She agrees that the single years are better spent socializing with groups of friends rather than isolating oneself with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

"Not dating keeps kids from the heartache of breaking up and moving on to the next relationship, which is just another way of practicing for divorce," she said.

The issue keeps religious leaders and even Gov. Frank Keating constantly brainstorming for ways to make married couples stay wedded, since Oklahoma, as many sadly know, has one of the highest divorce rates in the nation.

Well, February 14th just happens to be Pro-Family Day at the Capitol.

Perhaps an enterprising soul could distribute copies of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" to the movers-and-shakers who will gather to wring their hands about teen pregnancy and deadbeat dads.

Frankly, if this Harris fellow is successfully motivating young people to get a grip on their romantic inclinations long before they say "I do" and use their single years to pursue more wholesome activities, then his ideas deserve serious scrutiny by Sooner State family-values activists.

Imagine the wild possibilities... dating-abstinence workshops offered in the middle schools and high schools.

Before I get carried away, let me close by sharing that Josh Harris is currently a pastor-in-training in Maryland and no longer a solo act. He and his wife, Shannon, are expecting a baby next month and are writing a book about their courtship.

And, Hannah, he didn't kiss her until he was at the altar.

Happy Valentine's Day.

This column appeared in The Guthrie News Leader on February 13, 2000.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
Click here for an index of other Isabel Lyman columns.
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