A look Into Modern Dating by Hannah Thompson
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Dating. Modern dating. Where does one even begin on this endeavor? Dating in the 21st century has become so skewed. Often times, one does not even know they are dating a person until three months down the road or can’t seem to establish what the relationship means or the glorious “we’re just seeing where things go” bit, and the list goes on and on. From one-night stands to people desperately searching for “the one”, the concept behind dating has become so broad that most would have difficulty defining dating itself. So where did this concept of “dating” come about and why? When and how did the shift come about when arranged marriages were no longer the norm and courting was not just some chivalrous act of modesty and integrity, but a vital part in finding ones forever partner.
In this dating series, I will be discussing aspects of dating both historically and how it can be applicable to the modern, and most often, morphed expectations individuals place on seemingly forgotten and irrelevant times where expectations most closely met reality. Expectations and the positive correlation to reality is much like a Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, one expects to find a luscious sweet delight only to be unpleasantly shocked with the sour punch of an after taste found on the topping. Much like the Unicorn Frappuccino, expectations ruin the reality of what was supposed to be such a treat.
In the early 20th Century, dating, or courting it was called, was a very deliberate sentiment in which a man and a woman made their intentions known. They were looking for a potential husband or wife. The courting couple would converse at the home of the woman, more than likely in the presence of the woman’s’ family. They would then learn more about one another to decide if the relationship could blossom into a successful marriage and future (Wandering Toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship by Alan Carlson and Beth Bailey, cultural historians).
A shift occurred towards the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, where a concept of casual versus more serious courting was presented in what is now known as “dating”. According to boundless.org, A Brief History of Courtship by Skip Burzumato, courting was not overturned by this new age thinking, but rather simply added a layer to the system. By Burumato’s understanding, by simply adding this layer there has been no deterrent in the end goal of finding a partner, insinuating that courting is still alive and well, that simply dating is another hurtle to cross, but that courting is the final act of finding ones forever partner.
One of the most notable changes that occurred defining the new age of courting was the predictability in a more family present courtship to a more public display without the supervision of the family. The family parlor, where a couple would traditionally converse was then replaced with a more public setting, such as dancing, movies, and, in general, more public affirmations of involvement. Cushioning this shift was the film and entertainment industry of the 1930’s and 1940’s. With the booming of the cultural world came an influx in advice columns, magazine articles giving individuals insight on marriage, dating and sex. It was through these publications that a new normal, an expectation arouse. No longer was the innocent parlor with family a social norm, but now a new perception of what courting and dating should be.
This cultural shift was the driving force behind dating as we know it. Soon enough, scientific discoveries such as birth control would seek to expand women’s right to their own bodily functions. WWII would drive women from their homes to work and provide for their families while men went off to war, keeping their communities and way of life still functioning. It became more than the subtleties of a normal life, dating became more competitive. Now the woman had more to bring to the table, figuratively and literally, when it came to marriage.
This is just the beginning of what I hope was an enlightening correlation to what was and is still to come in this modern dating world. Dating has come a long way as women have become more influential, more powerful, and more daring. In the next series, I will continue to expand on expectations associated with a still ever-present past, and how some things are best not forgotten.
If you enjoyed some of the information found in this blog, I encourage you to read A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America, Part 1 by Skip Burzumato and subsequent findings in the article by Beth Bailey and Alan Carlson.