History of Dating
" Dating today is radically different from our grandparents' time "Dating today is radically different from our grandparents' times. Even that of our parents, come to think of it. The previous generation dated in a time of social unrest, rebellion, and dramatically changing gender roles. As long as some women were burning bras and others protesting Vietnam, plain old dates could hardly be like those of the generation before -- all Doris Day dresses and drive-ins, with souped up convertibles for the daring. Nowadays, we have so many questions; such as, who will pay, how far to go, how long to wait to call back, and a host of other things that haunt the active dater. However, as different and difficult as we think our dating world is, compared to that of the baby boomers; just think of what it was like earlier. Much earlier, like a few hundred years ago.
The good old days?
Hardly, in the Middle Ages, it was all pretty simple - what dating? Women were more or less chattel whose value depended on their baby-making abilities and their penchant for very hard work. Not much went on back then, dating-wise. Among the more genteel and lordly classes, these more primitive practices started to be replaced with courtship in the 18th century. About that same time, dinner banquets started to involve more than just large legs of mutton gnawed at by one and all, and Europeans began building elaborate gardens and relatively clean homes. The commercial nature of the "transaction" began to take other disguises, such as dancing and teas.
You only have to read Jane Austen, whose novels are set in the first quarter of the 19th century. You see how courtship had become a veritable mating dance by this time, with both sides assessing the potential of the other through fine dressing, the hosting of good balls, and the demonstration of refinement. Older matrons and married sisters might affect the coming together of two suitable people by inviting a whole gaggle of society folk to a week-long party in the country. Since country houses were cunningly equipped with rambling grounds, conservatories, numerous sitting rooms, and massive ballrooms, a man and woman interested in each other could safely go on walks or talk amongst the roses, with the assurance of privacy that was at the same time decorous. The thrill of physical contact was in the brushing of hands as a woman passed her suitor a cup of tea, or more closely on the dance floor, which allowed both to get a little hot and flustered, and put it down to the "exertion" of the reel or cotillion. People abounded, and so a little judiciously judged flirtation could attract the right person and repel another whose advances were yet too amorous for a woman to draw herself up and say icily, "You forget yourself, sir." The lines between an arranged marriage and a liaison born of love were seriously blurred.
New rules for the new world
Natalie Flynn writes in a much-anthologized essay that the physical demands of the new America meant that children were needed, and needed fast and so, "Bachelors were encouraged, even harassed, to marry as quickly as possible. Therefore, courtship became less parent-directed and more a simple necessity of interdependence that depended on the economic status of the future husband in order to support a wife and family. Parents focused less on finding the perfect mate for their daughter and focused more on wedding her in order to bear children to support the workload. This emphasis on wedding daughters as quickly as possible decreased the length of the courtship period as well."
By the same token, though, the new social rules meant that by the last quarter of the 19th century, more women were "respectably" employed than in Europe, and particularly in West, free spirits were not uncommon. Here courtship became an art again, but one less arranged, and more a question of finding a mate one connected with without being too scandalous in the process.
Talkin' about a revolution
The Industrial Revolution really did change dating, when it settled in. New work opportunities redefined social rules for women, for example, while electricity, which changed patterns of everyday life, movement and entertainment, made the social milieu less restricting, and phenomena, like restaurants, allowed society to chaperone itself without undue effort. Add to this the First World War, when suddenly women could not afford to be delicate any more, and you see the beginnings of dating, as we know it.
Time For a Change
The more things change, the more they remain the same, and nowhere is this truer than in the world of dating. Sure, we talk about how uncertain things are on dates, but most of us behave in time-honored patterns, or feel massive angst about changing the fundamentals; thus the stress. Dating is still for the most part, a man's call. Even otherwise rational and sensible women feel offended if the man does not pay for the date, or at least offer, preferably repeatedly. Going Dutch is still far more acceptable than a woman picking up the tab. It's still considered gutsy or a matter for giggles if a woman asks a man out. And even if they want to, really badly, some twisted version of The Rules makes most women feel as if they cheapen themselves by going a little "too far" on the first date. This is why we always recommend shaking things up a bit. Let your girlfriend pick up the tab, and women -- just ask the guy out -- or the next 300 years will look like the last, and we'll all miss out on a lot of spontaneity and fun.