The Duggars

I Courted Like a Duggar (And All It Got Me Were Some Awkward Side Hugs)

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I am fascinated by the Duggars, the delightfully huge and conservative family featured on the hit TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting. They barely seem like they fit in the modern world, but they do always kind of look like they’re having a fun time. Also, so many creative and delightful “J” names.

So when the four oldest girls, Jana, Jill, Jess, and Jinger released their new book, Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships, I immediately downloaded a copy onto my Kindle. There are chapters on parents, siblings, friends – but the only chapter I was really interested in was the chapter about romantic relationships. The Duggars girls don’t date in the typical sense – they “court,” which is seeing someone with the intention of it leading to marriage. There are a lot of rules to follow, so I decided to take a break from my normal dating and try out the Duggar style.

When I started, Jessa was the only one of the four girls currently involved in a courting relationship, but since I started this experiment, People magazine reported that Jill is also courting. All courting that the Duggars engage in is chaperoned by the family, and the couple is never left alone together. The Duggars believe that, “when you’re alone with a guy in a dating situation, with no one else around you to hold you accountable, it’s easy to put yourself into physical and moral danger.” Just to clarify, physical and moral danger includes kissing.

If you can’t kiss while courting, what can you do? According to an interview with People magazine about Jessa’s courting relationship, mother Michelle Duggar says, “Dad allowed them to do a side hug … when they initially greet each other, when he comes to visit for their first hello, they have a quick 30 second or less side hug and a goodbye side hug.”

Okay. Two weeks of family-chaperoned dates and 30 second side hugs. I think I’m ready!

Readying Myself

Oh wait. No, I’m not. First I have to find the right person to get to know in a family setting. I thought the internet would be a perfect place to find dates, but I read that online flirting is out, so things became a little more complicated. As a woman, you aren’t supposed to pursue dates, you are supposed to focus on your own self-improvement and wait for the right man to come.


The Duggar girls approach dating in a more business-like way than most people. They recommend that you not allow your judgment to be clouded by that elusive “spark.” You should be looking beyond physical attractiveness, and concentrate on the attributes of the man you are interested in, and see if they are a good match for your own values.

I followed the Duggar’s advice of making a list of all of the characteristics I would like in a future husband. I invited my sister Lindsey and my two roommates to join me. I wanted to make a collage dream board out of our lists, but we were out of mod-podge. My male roommate refused to participate, and I really felt like Lindsey was just describing her long term boyfriend.

This is the list I came up with:

Kind, Thoughtful, Generous, Funny, Intelligent, Good Communicator, Adventurous, Respectful, Faithful,
Honest, Displays Good Judgment.

The Duggars might have used more “J” words, but I think they’d like this list.

Sports and Family

A guy I had been casually texting with, Luke, was the first person I had the opportunity to try out my new courting routine on. One Saturday evening he wanted to hang out, so I suggested we meet up for Laser Tag. The Duggars recommend that young men and women get to know each other in a regular family setting, especially one that involves sports, so I invited my sister along on the outing. On one-on-one dates it is easy for men to hide their more undesirable qualities, but sports are a good way to judge your date’s character. Is he a sore loser? A gloating winner?

Before leaving on my date, I checked out my outfit in the mirror. The Duggars, “avoid low-cut, cleavage showing, gaping or bare-shouldered tops; and when needed [they] wear an undershirt. “ I added a camisole underneath my shirt for a more respectable neckline. The Duggars also prefer to dress in modest skirts and dresses, but I thought that jeans were okay for physical activities. Luke offered to come pick me up, but I took the bus to avoid being alone with him. I had my sister meet us at the arcade and decided not to explain her presence unless he asked.

When Luke arrived I sidled up for a side hug, which was actually really awkward. I put one arm around him and awkwardly pressed my hip to his so our bodies were in a V-formation. This eliminated front to front contact, which is basically like sex (clothing is not a condom guys). He also side hugged my sister. I wasn’t sure if I should be jealous.

In addition to protecting you from your raging hormones, the reason that you should have a family member along is that they will not be blinded by your date’s physical attractiveness and can really examine their character. Ideally, you would have your father present, but since my father passed away six years ago and my mother lives on the other side of the country, my sister was the best I could get. I already knew that Luke was very handsome, but was he a good man? That’s what Lindsey was there to determine.

We played laser tag a few times, which was super fun. Then the three of us went out for a drink at a nearby bar. That was probably a no-no, but what else can you do at 9 pm on a Saturday night?  I wasn’t supposed to flirt or use wit to attract him, so I wasn’t sure how to interact. I guess I spent most of the night laughing at his jokes and not talking very much. I accidentally touched his leg while he was sitting next to me, and had to scoot away. Also, I forgot that we weren’t supposed to be alone together, and I let him give me a ride from laser tag to the bar. There were a lot of rules to remember.

When we said goodbye and side hugged again, he looked a bit confused. I’m pretty sure he had no idea we were on a courtship date, because without flirting, and under the watchful eye of your family, how do you convey that you’re interested in more side-hugging?

Family Dinner Dates

My second date was with my coworker Anna’s brother. She had been trying to set him up with someone for a while, so she jumped at the opportunity to introduce me to him. I told her about the family chaperoned dates, and she agreed to come along. Lindsey and I arrived first, and Rob met us at the host stand. He initially thought Lindsey was his date, and was very confused when I explained she was my sister. Then, Anna walked in, and it took him a minute to realize that Anna was coming on the date too.

He was more vocal about the family presence than Luke, but, to be fair, Luke knows my sister. I told Rob that we were being chaperoned because I didn’t want to put myself in any moral danger. He shot Anna a look of despair. The four of us sat awkwardly at a restaurant, and I tried really hard to come off as a normal person, instead of the freak show that he now thought I was.  Needless to say, zero chemistry, no more courting.

Side Hugs are a Gateway Drug

Apparently my side-hugs were like a siren’s call, because I started hearing more from Luke. After our date I really thought about his character. Luke had been generous and funny. He was a very gracious winner, and had thoughtfully given my sister and me pointers on how we could improve our own skills. He had been kind and respectful to me and my sister.

He wanted to meet up again, so I suggested a round of mini golf.  He was really enthusiastic about my date ideas, but I don’t think he actually knew we were going on dates, especially because Lindsey was still there. After the mini-golf round, I was already looking to get rid of my sister, even though asking her to chaperone was my idea. I tried to subtly suggest she go home, but she was having none of it.

The next day, I was walking with Lindsey when he texted me asking me to hang out again.  She asked who I was talking to, and I lied to her because I really wanted to see Luke without her around. I basically regressed back to high school, and snuck out on a Friday night to meet him at a party. Free from our chaperone, we made out like teenagers.

I texted my sister the next morning, I’m the worst Duggar dater ever. I may not be cut out for the courtship lifestyle, but I’m probably going to keep the character list around.