Boys and girls don't "date" anymore. They "go out."
"We don't call it dating," says Stephanie Sawtelle, a Westminster High School sophomore. "We call it going out."
And "going out" for many county teens often means socializing in groups -- at football and basketball games, high school dances, movies, and fast-food restaurants and pizza joints. Parties are often part of their social calendar.
"Groups go everywhere," Sawtelle says. "Kids like going out in groups because everybody likes being with their friends."
And some, like 15-year-old Sawtelle, are not old enough to date.
"I'm not allowed to date yet," she explains. "I think it's because of my age."
Going out in groups, though, is acceptable. Groups often include couples who are dating, usually casually. When couples become more serious, they usually go out alone, teen-agers say.
"Many people go out in groups," says Karen Hall, a South Carroll High School senior. "Usually they go to parties at somebody's house. We don't go out and spend a lot of money because nobody has it."
The high cost of entertainment -- $13 for a couple to see a movie in Carroll County -- has prompted many teen-agers to stay home and watch videotaped movies.
"There's really not a lot to do around here," says Jeff Doolan, a Westminster High School senior. "It's $6.50 a person to go to a movie. We usually end up going to somebody's house to watch a video."
Jeff and his girlfriend, Tiffany Luers, a Westminster High School junior, have been going out for a couple of months. Like other teen-agers, they occasionally hang out in groups and attend parties.
"Usually, once a weekend we do something and then get together for dinner on Sunday," says Tiffany. "I go over to his house for dinner or he comes over to mine."
Betty Davis, a South Carroll High School guidance counselor, says students often complain that there's "nowhere to go, nothing to do" in Eldersburg.
Skating rinks and bowling alleys, once popular entertainment venues for their parents, either don't exist in Eldersburg or are too expensive.
"Everything is expensive these days," Davis says.
She notes, though, that the once-popular high school dances seem to be making a comeback. She says South Carroll was successful in staging a few dances after football games this fall.
"We had over 200 kids come after a football game," she says. "It's cheap. We charge them $2 each, and they get to dance for three hours."
Parents and school officials say there are other differences in the dating game these days.
"Some kids are so busy, I don't know how they have time," Davis says. "A lot of them work. They're too busy to go out."
There are other differences, too. Many couples go dutch.
"We usually split the bill," says Heather Morris, a Westminster High School sophomore. "I guess it depends on who you're going out with. I like to pay my fair share."
Classmate Steven Bowles, a Westminster High School sophomore, however, doesn't follow that practice.
"If you ask them out, I think you should pay," he says.
James Doolan, Jeff's father and supervisor of transportation for Carroll schools, has noticed some more subtle changes in dating and teen-age relationships.
"I think the kids are more mature," Doolan says. "They're not as possessive with each other. They're able to have friends of the opposite and the same sex."
Son Jeff's best friend, for instance, is a girl. Tiffany isn't bothered by that.
"You can have a friend of the opposite sex and still go out with girls," Doolan says. "It's no big deal like it was when their parents were dating."
And like the 25-cent movies of decades ago, some things have gone by the wayside.
"I think they're more open to each other in regard to nationalities, religion and things like that," Doolan says. "They're much more sensitive to each other's needs."