Saturday, June 4, 2016

Remember “speed dating”?

I’m guessing the whole speed dating thing was more popular 10 years ago than it is now, but I checked online, there are three events in the next few weeks within several miles of my home that offer “8 minute dating” to young professionals for only $40 a pop. Hey, it makes the world go ‘round for some folks.

Now, 100 years ago the very idea—“the very idea!”—of speed dating would have twirled the curlers of every matron and buffaloed most decent gents. In many social strata, a woman who agreed to meet a man in a restaurant or bar was inviting all manner of censure—such things weren’t done by respectable people.

Before the 20th century, there was no dating as we know it. Young men and women seeking companionship/marriage did their socializing and courting with ever-present adult supervision, primly, in parlors, or at church socials, or even at a dance sponsored by the local factory.

Yes, a chaperoned “factory dance” wasn’t unusual. In the late 19th century young people starting migrating off the farm to the cities, and women in increasing numbers started working outside private homes. Women who worked in a factory or office, earning wages, had more freedom than their sisters had in non-urban environments, and they started going out with men.

It wasn’t an easy or quick transition. Moira Weigel of the New York Times reports that as more middle class women headed to college in the 1920s and 1930s, their parents and professors went nuts about the horrors of “rating and dating,” of “petting parties” and “joy rides.” Imagine.

In 1939 a noted advice columnist said “going steady” was “insane folly,” but “going steady” started catching on by the 1950s.

We’ve come a long way since then. I’m guessing that most high school seniors today wouldn’t recognize a “church social.” On the other hand, 100 years ago the words “speed dating” and “Satan” probably would have been used often in the same sentence.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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