Dating has been an incredible experience since its informal introduction in the early 1920’s. Before dating became popular, marriage was strongly encouraged and the marriage partners were usually picked by their elders. Today it seems that the activity of dating is on its way out the door, being replaced by late night hook ups and promiscuity. Which is better for both people though? The formal act of dating that was once an example of good manners? Or the non-binding, once in awhile get together? One thing is for sure, dating is an activity that evolving along with the participants as time goes on.
When dating was introduced around 1920 “it was informal, not chaperoned, male- female interaction with no specific commitment” (Dating Dilemma 3). Beth Bailey, author of “From Front Porch to Back Seat: A History of the Date,” states that “By 1924, ‘dating’ has almost completely replaced ‘calling’ in middle-class American culture” (369). Dating, which once required taking your partner out for a fun, classy time, was very popular among the younger crowd because they did not have to stay at home when calling upon a female suitor. This removed the awkwardness of the situation for both the man and woman.
Dating was not the only new practice being engaged by young adults at this time. A process called rating was also introduced (Dilemma 3). This became more of a popularity contest amongst both men and women. “To be popular, men needed outward material signs: an automobile, the right clothing, and money. Women’s popularity depended on building and maintaining a reputation for popularity. They had to be seen with many popular men in the right places,” states Bailey (370-371). This put pressure on the men to buy expensive things to impress the ladies and required the woman just to be seen with them. Promiscuity, or rather, going on many dates with many different people was how someone gained most of their popularity.
Taking a girl out put a lot of pressure on the man. Women usually expected and were warranted to think that men had to pay for dinner and the activity. It was the proper thing to do in the time period, it was good manners. With the mass production of the less costly automobiles, taking a girl out to dinner, the drive in, or the marathon dances became a lot easier as well (Dilemma 4). Or maybe if the couple became more intimate they would go to the local town hide away or “necking grounds” to engage in a new fad called petting (Bailey 370 and Dilemma 4). Cars and money were a huge advantage for males in the past generations, the better car and more money he had, the more popular he would be.
Advice, much like today, was given by “professionals” and many women read their articles in the most popular of magazines. Bailey quotes Mademoiselle “Keep smiling if it kills you” (371). This is a tip written to young women to increase their popularity. But as soon as these advice magazines on how to be “popular” caught on, World War II began. “Rating and Dating” seemed to go on the down slide and marriage seemed to become more important (Dilemma 4). Bailey also reports that “In 1939, the average age of marriage for women was twenty-three. By 1959, fully 47 percent of brides married before they were nineteen” (372). An outstanding statistic, this shows the urgency to marry after the soldiers returned from war.
Then came the 1960’s and the 1970’s when simple dating seemed to disappear a little bit and people wanted to get to know each other more (373). Couples started going steady and seeing one person exclusively (Dilemma 5). Bailey claims that since the 1970’s, no uniform way of dating has emerged to dominate culture, that the days of going steady and dating are over and today it is all about conquests (373).
Today’s dating game is undeniably different from those of decades past. Dating has become obsolete and tedious as sexual deviants and promiscuous individuals are becoming the dominant figures. Today, it is much more common for people to have a one night stand or an insignificant hookup than to go steady for months at a time. Dating has become less formal and women have accepted more responsibilities in dating (Dilemma 6).
So what exactly is different about dating today and dating in the past? Well first off, the word dating is only related to couples. Interactions between two people are usually easy to depict if someone were to listen in to a conversation about other people among the younger generation. People are either one of the following: talking, hooking up, friends with benefits, not talking, nothing at all, or going out. It is very simple to learn what two people are doing today, no code names for different activities; people just say what is happening.
A very important fact that must be looked at in today’s world is that when a couple is going out or the rare date between two friends, the woman has become more independent and is very willing to pay her way. Maybe the media or feminists have established this currency of the norm, but what is for sure is that women no longer objectify themselves as money hungry objects that men strive for, but rather an equal in society. In “Get Your Hand Out of My Pocket,” Darryl James dives into the subject. He states, “Being single and dating gets rough enough without all of the confusion of financial expectations” (377). He simply wants equality amongst genders. If women want all the rights men have, than they can have the right to pay their way on a date as well.
Do not misinterpret the previous paragraphs, dating is still around. But dating is more for the older crowd today. Maybe because it was how they were taught when they were younger, or maybe it is what they are used to. But either way you are more likely to find two older people (possibly divorced in today’s world) dating than you are to find two young adults. As time goes on, it is more acceptable to stay in today with a random partner, almost like “calling” of the old days but a lot more sexual. Instead of staying with the parents and having tea and crumpets, the teenagers want their privacy (much like with everything else) and stay away to have their own “good time.” Promiscuity is not looked at as good, do not get me wrong, but a little bit is a lot more fun.
“Dorm Brothel” by Vigen Guroian is an article written by a college professor on his experiences in the classroom with his students and what he has observed. “The sex carnival that is college life today is also doing great damage to our sons’ characters, deforming their attitudes toward the opposite sex” (382). He thinks that the way men and women act toward each other away from all parental supervision is hurting our chances at being a respectable husband or wife when we are older. But is it really? Maybe the way we act today is the new dating. Maybe the way we act is actually helping us out in the long run. We are gaining valuable experiences that our parents never had.
Dating is not extinct yet, but with the “Baby Boom Generation” on the way toward retirement, maybe dating will go with them. As for now though, dating is still around, not completely uncommon but definitely rare still. Today’s form of relationships seems to be a mixture of all of the generations put together. We are more likely to stay in than go out, like the male callers of the early 20th century. Though, we still take time to go out on dates, sometimes with a variety of people like in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and sometimes when people go steady like in the 60’s and 70’s. Today we have a dating hybrid so to say. Young adults have taken the best parts of each generation’s ideas on relationships and made it into one. Dating, along with its participants are evolving and maybe one day someone will look back on this time and say: “What the hell were they thinking?”
“The Dating Dilemma – A Brief History of Dating.” The Wayne Swafford Evangelistic Association. 27 Feb. 2007 http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/5894/datinghistory.html?200727>
Bailey, Beth. “From Front Porch to Back Seat: A History of the Date.” Miller, Robert K. The Informed Argument. 7th ed. Boston: Thomas Wadsworth, 2007.
James, Darryl. “Get Your Hand Out of My Pocket.” Miller, Robert K. The Informed Argument. 7th ed. Boston: Thomas Wadsworth, 2007.
Guroian, Vigen. “Dorm Brothel.” Miller, Robert K. The Informed Argument. 7th ed. Boston: Thomas Wadsworth, 2007.