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Dating as we know it is relatively new.
For most of history, marriages were arranged for political and economical reasons. But a few hundred years ago, things began to change in Europe and other parts of the world. The focus shifted from society and civilization to the individual and independent thought. People started asserting that they should choose their own life partner.
Thus, arranged marriages fell from fashion and couples began courting, where the young women would entertain gentleman callers at home with a chaperone. While this system was sufficient for the wealthy, those in the poorer classes had a dilemma. Often, their homes were not suitable for entertaining, so they were forced to meet for meals, movies, or in coffeehouses. These early “dates” were still usually chaperoned.
At that time, the term “date” usually referred to time spent with a hooker. But that changed in the roaring 1920s and by the 30’s it was assumed that any eligible young person would have several dates. It still wasn’t the dating we know today; premarital sex was socially taboo.
Then came the birth control pill, safer abortion procedures, feminism, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It became far less risky to have sex for fun. These changes redefined dating as a more casual thing, often not intended to end in marriage. Now it’s more of a friendship with an element of romantic interest or chemistry. It’s casual, and nobody expects a few dates to end in marriage.
The best and the worst thing about dating is that there are no written rules. It’s the cause of both excitement and stress. Hundreds of businesses have been formed to help people date better, not to mention all the books, magazines, and articles online. Yet, lots of people struggle.
Although nothing is set in stone, there are some general expectations for a date. Most often the man initiates the first date. He may pay for it too- which is quite a change from a young woman entertaining her suitors in her own parlor. To some, these are considered lingering elements of chivalry. To others, the gestures set up sexual expectations for the woman to fulfill. While we can approach a date with some assumptions based on culture, status, and past history, we don't ever really know what we're walking into.
So here we are today with this custom called “dating.” It’s the first step towards a relationship with someone (or not). It’s the most casual way to determine whether you like the other person or not. It’s fun, but sometimes confusing. It's a lot of fun, but with the divorce rate hovering around 50%, there’s reason to wonder if it’s an effective system for finding a spouse.
What do you think? Is dating a good system, or can you think of something better? What do you think will be the next evolution of it? Tell us on Facebook!