Hola mi gente,
Going to a meeting today and I am hoping that I could get some work at a mall tomorrow representing some bullshit product. I need to get at least $300 before the end of the month.
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A Quick and Dirty History of Dating
A kiss that is never tasted, is forever and ever wasted.
— Billie Holiday
I haven’t been dating much lately and it’s not only because I am currently unemployed (though that’s certainly a factor). But even when I was working I had moved away from dating and more toward what young people call, hooking up. Whatevah, go ahead and slut shame. LOL
The other day, I was part of a discussion in which one woman claimed that if a man can’t afford to buy a woman dinner (on a date), she didn’t consider him a “real” man. For her, dating apparently is a way to get a meal. LOL However, though many people might consider this an antiquated notion, that was exactly how dating began.
With the advent of new technologies (e.g., cell phones, instant messaging, video chatting, etc.) and the changing definitions of traditional dating and families, “dating,” some argue, is nonexistent and has become a more fluid and self-interpreted institution over the century.
Needless to say, however, for many people dating is hell. But imagine how much worse would it be if the very act of dating could land you in jail? You might find this amusing until you learn that some women were thrown in jail for this horrible crime. I kid you not, the first female daters faced exactly that — mistaken, in their quest for love, for prostitutes. When these single women, stripped from their dependency on fathers and husbands, began to be courted in public, police, politicians, and civic leaders went into a moral panic. After centuries of women’s fortunes being dictated by the men around them, the notion of women on their own frightened a patriarchal, misogynistic society. In Chicago, single women were known as “women adrift.”
Dating1 is a historically recent construct, initially driven by an influx of women into the big cities seeking work around the turn of the 20th Century. In the first decade of the twentieth century, men called upon young women by visiting their homes, with the supervision of her parents, so that they may get to know each other on an intellectual and emotional level. The couple was rarely left alone, making physical contact and sexual intimacy nearly impossible.
Since lower-class families did not have the resources to entertain potential suitors in their home, many couples began leaving the house to spend time together. That’s how the phrase, “going out on a date,” became part of popular culture. During this period, dating was defined as the period of time two people spend together (in a nonsexual relationship) before marriage.
These circumstances gave birth to dating rituals and other unfortunate traditions that still remain, or still cause confusion as customs change. When women first joined the workforce, the widespread belief was they were working, not to support themselves, but only to supplement the earnings of fathers or husbands. Employers used this fallacy as an excuse to pay women far less than they paid men. In 1900, the average female worker earned less than half of what a man would earn in the same position.
If you’ve ever wondered how it developed that men were expected to treat their dates, that’s how. Imagine the financial burden of a young woman living in a boardinghouse in Hell’s Kitchen in 1915. But as these women were courted in public, efforts were undertaken to curb what authorities viewed as a potential public menace. At the time, women who let men buy them food and drinks or gifts were perceived as whores, and going out on a date was seen as the equivalent as turning a trick.
Eventually, women on dates came to be known as Charity Girls. Since they took no money for their “favors,” they were perceived to be giving it away as charity. It got so bad that at one point, prostitutes at New York’s Strand Hotel complained that Charity Girls were putting them out of business.
Dating became a common and more relaxed way to get to know another person, especially when the automobile was invented and widely consumed by the U.S. public. Young people began going out to restaurants or to the cinema to have fun. Women would only accept date invitations from men with money and gifts and tried to refrain from being seen with the same boy too often.
While dating became acceptable, it wasn’t exactly liberating for women. If the American Dream for men was to work hard and become a success, the equivalent for women was to get a good job and marry your rich boss. The other alternative was for women to take jobs in high-class department stores where rich men were likely to shop.
The cosmetics industry exploded in the 1920s. Previously, only prostitutes and actresses painted. Victorians had viewed natural outer beauty as a sign of clean living. But around 1900, more and more women were starting to apply cosmetics. By 1912, the Baltimore Sun reported that even respectable society women were seen on our streets and fashionable promenade with painted faces. To counter society’s negative association with painted faces, the cosmetics industry invented a new term: makeup.
During World War II and continuing through the 1940s, young male adults in the United States were scarce. As a result of the mandatory draft, most of them were overseas fighting the war. Women became less concerned with a man’s status and more about his likelihood of survival. A new relationship style called “going steady” emerged. Across university campuses, couples publicized their decision to “go steady” when the man gave the woman an article of his clothing to wear, such as a jacket, sweater, or ring. With “going steady” and “dating” in the 1940s and 1950s (unlike those of previous generations), people had more influence on the relationship than did the family. As the twentieth century progressed, young couples were more likely to partake in premarital sex within the context of committed relationships.
By the 1960s and 1970s, dating is really about sex. With the emergence Women’s Movement and the birth control pill, a sexual revolution began. Many young adults began experimenting and questioning the status quo. A counter-culture that embraced alternatives and the human potential movement evolved and people began to have more sexual encounters. The Women’s Movement reinforced the idea that women, like men, were sexual beings who had desires and the right to receive pleasure. All of these factors merged to create an atmosphere that appreciated sex and all of its benefits. Therefore, people became open to having sexual experiences and accepting their inner desires.
Today, a first date can very likely happen before you even meet in person. Before a first date even happens, apps and the Internet have changed it entirely. The flirting, coyness, and getting-to-know-you talk that used to fill first dates now happens in cyberspace: Twenty-two percent of 25- to 34-year olds are using dating sites or apps. By the time an IRL (“in real life”) first date happens, we’ve already gotten to know so much about the other person online (whether via volunteered information or our own stalkerish tendencies) that the initial first face-to-face already has a feel of familiarity. Dating has become a very individualized process and each dating-scene participant may have their own set of rules and ideas about what should come from relationships and how much sexual intimacy should occur during each stage.
Suffice it say that as dating rituals changed, moral authorities panicked at every turn. After “petting” came into vogue in the 1920s, for example, Times article from 1922 with the title, “Mothers Complain That Modern Girls ‘Vamp’ Their Sons at Petting Parties,” appeared.
Those evil, evil modern girls.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
- It is important to note that many of mainstream dating rituals were strictly confined to heterosexual (heteronormative) dating. In the early days of dating, many LGBTQI couples had to keep their relationships a secret for fear of being publicly stigmatized. For this reason, the history of dating tends to be quite different for the LGBTQI population.