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Berdine's Corner

Dating 101: Berdine's Tips for Her Daughter

by Deborah E. Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

There used to be a popular Virginia Slims advertisement with the slogan, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby!" This is a very true statement. Women have made some phenomenal progress in the past 50 to 60 years. We are making more money although in many places we still aren't receiving equal pay; women are graduating college and gaining employment in various fields, not just limited to education and nursing which, by the way, are very honorable career pathways; and there are more female homeowners than ever. Yes, times have certainly changed, and we have come a long way. Nevertheless, because of our liberation movement, the dating scene has become quite muddled and confused.

Regardless of how liberated we as women become, it is good to keep some old fashioned lessons and standards. As a single woman, I am often grateful of the lessons I was taught by my mother’s words as well as her actions. As we approach Mother's Day, I will share a few of Berdine's lessons for dating.

Love yourself. As a little girl, my mama taught me that I was just as good as the next person. I was shy and was always thinking about how much better or prettier others were than I. She told me to always hold my head up high. Do my best in everything I tried, and be proud of who I was. She taught me to love myself so well that if I am not treated well that I love myself enough to do something about it. In addition, loving myself meant taking care of me. My mama used to actually fuss at me if I didn't have earrings on, if I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail, or if my fingernails or toenails were not polished. She said that whenever I stepped out of the door, I should be at my best. She told me that the little details made a difference. Today, many of my friends pick at me because they say I am prissy. My mama is responsible for that because she was the queen of being girly. As women, we must remember that these things are still important for getting a man and keeping him.

Be both polite and sassy. Anyone who knew my mama would tell you that she was the sweetest and most giving person you would ever want to meet. On the other hand, sweet definitely doesn't equate to being a pushover. I was taught to always respect other people, their feelings, and their values. However, it was equally important that I demand that same respect, and that didn't mean that I had to act like NeNe Leakes, Phaedra Parks, or Kenya Moore from the Real Housewives from Atlanta. As a woman, it is my right to stand up for myself, but I should never lower my standards and behave like a street woman.

Still let a man be the man and a woman be the woman. I often see women dating men who have nothing going for them. They have no job, no place to live, and nothing to offer other than opinions. Many of these men have women who take care of them! My mother taught me that men should still open doors for me, still court me, and yes, still pay for dates. I am surprised at how many men, young and old, now expect women to chip in on dates. In addition, she taught me the flip side of that. As women, we are to show compassion, be an encouraging ear, and yes, cook their favorite meal from time to time. That's why she taught me to cook and bake because she still believed there are roles in relationships.

Never chase a man. When I was young, my mama explained to me that it was in a man make up to pursue the woman. When I was a teenager, she told me when I first began to date that I was calling my boyfriend too much. She told me that I should let him call me because if he really cared about me that he would be thinking about me as Dwell. In addition, I should never be that easily accessible because many times men would take us for granted. She told me that my father had done that when they were dating. While they were dating, my daddy had been stationed in Vietnam. During this time, he wrote my mama often. However, once he got back to the states and was stationed in South Carolina, his letters slowed down and eventually stopped. At some point, my daddy noticed this. He decided to call her to find out why she wasn't writing him anymore. She told him that he wasn't writing her, so she wasn't going to waste her time writing him. She told him that she really had to go because she was going to a game with someone. When he asked with whom, she told him who the man was. My daddy, then, became very upset. He asked her not to go. She said to him that he hadn't made any commitment to her. He wasn't even writing her or calling; therefore, she was not going to sit around waiting on him. She hung up and went on her date. My daddy told me that this was his wake up call. He had begun taking her for granted. Shortly thereafter, my daddy surprised her with an engagement ring.

Dating in the 21st century is very confusing. As I look around, there are fewer and fewer examples of old fashioned values left. Many young men and women have grown up with terrible examples. I really miss my mama being here to guide me in my decisions, but I am very grateful that she left me with lessons and examples on how to carry myself.


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Berdine Dillard Dennard and Deborah E. Dennard