Dating holds some unique challenges for farm girls. Of course, I realize dating isn’t all peaches and cream for anyone, and I fully support the right of every single person to experience their own brand of dating agony. With four daughters, though, I’m particularly acquainted with the challenges faced by progressive yet traditional young women. They live in two worlds and have to navigate relationships with one foot stepping into the future and one foot planted in the past. George Strait and Miranda Lambert. Horses and tractors. Cherished traditions battling with “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” And it’s tough – tough to figure the whole dating thing out.

Coleman michele
Michele and her husband, Dave, live in southern Idaho where they boast an extensive collection of...

Car doors, for example. Car doors are the worst. Just to be clear, it’s A-OK fine for a young man to open a door for one of my daughters. It’s thoughtful, classy and particularly nice if she has her hands full of roses and chocolate. The problem for a farm girl is figuring out what to do when it comes time to exit the vehicle. If a young man has opened her door, chances are my daughter is riding shotgun, and that’s the issue. Riding shotgun for a farm kid comes with years of subconscious psychological training – training that can’t be shed just because a girl happens to be on a date. She’s been doing chores since she was 4 years old and simply isn’t programmed to sit like a reposing lily and wait on a young man to exert himself by pulling a handle on her behalf. To the contrary, she’s a fully loaded spring. Once a vehicle pulls to a stop, she can launch herself out the door in under half a second to open a gate, close a gate, head off a calf, pull up a fencing post or call a dog to get its business into the back of the truck. To wait the eternity involved for a Romeo to open his door, close his door, mosey his way around the front of the car to finally arrive at the other side and then finally reach over and open her door – well, it’s absolutely an eternity longer than she has time to spend. No man is that worth watching for that long, no matter how fine he can strut his stuff around the front hood.

And that’s just the beginning of the door issue. What if the young man in question doesn’t plan on opening her door? What if he forgets her as he’s doing the math in his head to figure out if he can afford to buy her more roses and chocolate? What if he’s halfway into the restaurant before he notices she isn’t there? My oldest daughter was never one to let such a situation not be taken charge of. When she climbed into a truck, she’d let her date open the door for her all right, but when the vehicle came to a stop, she’d jump out faster than he could put the truck into park. Chances are nine in ten he’d say, “You need to let me open that door for you.” She’d smile her “that’s so sweet of you smile” at him, but sure enough, when it came time to get out of the truck again, she’d be out the door faster than it takes a calf to run through an open gate.

Really, truly, truth be told, though, a farm girl on a date actually wants to be the one driving the truck. Young men, if you date one of my daughters, please understand; she’s not meaning to criticize your driving skill set as she’s making small talk with you about your hobbies and manly opinions. But (no offense meant) chances are high that she really is better at driving than you are, and you are just about driving her crazy. And if you grind the gears, drive in reverse like a wet fish, or even worse, muff up backing in a trailer somewhere, she probably isn’t going to date you again. And it’s nothing personal.

That’s one of the liabilities on the young man’s side when it comes to dating a farm girl. He’s probably being judged by a yardstick he doesn’t even know exists, held up to the light of a farm criteria unfairly applied. One of my daughters was kind-of dating a young man several years back. Rodeo guy. Bull rider. She and her dad were headed back east so she could start a ranching internship when she called rodeo guy about noon his time to check in. Woke him up.


And ... that was the end of rodeo guy. If my daughter hadn’t dumped him, her dad would have.

I never would have guessed that picking up and carrying things would be such an issue for my daughters either. Young men are always offering to help them carry folding chairs or put a bag of dog food in their cart or lift the tailgate on their pickup. The girls never know whether to be flattered or offended by this attention. Their knee-jerk reaction is, “What exactly makes you think I can’t carry this 10-pound gallon of milk?” On the other hand, they know it’s not a crime to let someone be polite, and these are nice guys, after all.

I think the question of who should carry what pretty much sums up the whole confusing dating conundrum. Maybe it’s time for a compromise. Gentlemen, when it comes time to halter a 1,000-pound steer, feel free to take the rope. But understand a farm girl is not predisposed to wait around for you to carry her backpack or lift a feed bag on her behalf. She’s been loading hay just fine without you almost every day of her life. Just make dang sure when you’re around that you’re loading your fair share. If my girls have learned anything from running a cow-calf operation, it’s that males are expendable. That’s all I’m saying.