What began as an assessment procedure for procreation, has evolved into something that is a little fun, a little heartbreaking, but unmistakably necessary. Yes, we’re talking about dating, and its interesting evolution alongside human civilization.
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There used to be a courting candle in the Victorian era, which let the man and woman converse until it burned below a particular level. If the parents approved of the man, the candle used to be set taller, and shorter if he didn’t make a good impression.
Love is sweet as summer showers
Love is a wondrous work of art
But your love, oh your love,
Your love is like a giant pigeon
Crapping on my heart.
La la la la la…
…thus sang Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay in the phenomenally popular sitcom, Friends, encompassing the essence of love. And when we think of love, it is hard not to mention its evil predecessor, dating. While nothing can replace the first flushes of romance, it is the treacherous path which leads us to that special one is what could be described as draining. Sorry, I meant dating.
Considering how the human race has flourished over the last million-odd years, we are doing the right thing, as is quite apparent. Of course, things were far simpler back in the olden times. Man met woman to procreate. They had children. These children grew up to have more children, and so on.
Sometime in the midst of this routine, men and women began searching for the one who well and truly belonged to them; the one who was exclusively made for them. And thus began the quest to search what we now call a soulmate. This meant that one had to undertake a rigorous screening procedure to find someone to get soulmatey with; have your heart ripped, crushed, and trampled upon, not to mention your self-respect too. The end result was satisfying for some; horrifying for others. So, let’s find out how the human race has fared in the dating game this far.
“Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.”
Oscar Wilde could not have put it better. This is what pretty much epitomized the dating game in the Victorian era. This was the time when a man needed a feminine presence to warm his home and hearth. Dating, as it was then, was always conducted under the watchful eyes of the parents of the girl, who had the ultimate say regarding the final outcome. Chivalry and prudishness were the norm, and romance was all about sneaked glances and shy smiles. May sound like a lot of show-sans-substance to the FB generation, but believe you me, the Victorians were an awful lot cheekier and more resourceful than you’d ever be. From setting up cozy love nests for the object of their affection, to keeping expensive mistresses after marriage, the Victorians sure did it in style!
The end of the Victorian era took with it a lot of the chastity involved in adult relationships. A brand new century beckoned, and with it emerged a new generation that would transform the dating scene virtually by the minute. Cars made their first appearance on the roads, and as a result, chaperones were given a miss most of the time, and dating began to include “going out” to wine and dine, instead of that freakish candle thing of the Victorian times. Of course, you still had to marry a good girl, and engaging in sinful activities before marriage was still frowned upon.
“With half the war won, men are coming home to America, but not enough of them.”
This line from the New York Times said it all about the dating scene in the World War era. These were the times when there was an acute shortage of men, and a surplus of lonely women, as an obvious consequence. As a result, a large number of women did not depend on men to provide them with the financial stability that came from a marriage. Dating had retreated into being something of a novelty.
“I change my mind so much I need two boyfriends and a girlfriend.”
What pop singer Pink says here stands true for the flower-power era of the swinging sixties. Free love was all over the place, and the only rule of dating was that there were no rules. Love was not to be contained within boundaries – it became a thing to be shared among men and women alike, if you please. Hippies of the ’60s did what they liked, in a manner that they liked. People were tumbling out of the proverbial closet like never before, and love did not have a gender bias. Safe enough to say that the more conventional forms of dating got shunned to the sidelines.
“A good place to meet a man is at the dry cleaner. These men usually have jobs and bathe.”
Comedienne Rita Rudner hits bull’s eye with her practical piece of advice. Second wave feminism brought with it a sea change in the dating equations. Women now, began to come forward with what they wanted from a relationship, and made no bones about it. Gone were the days when a woman was deemed attractive according to the coyness meter. While the men ultimately called the shots, women weren’t too far behind in voicing their say and ensuring they were heard.
“By love you mean big lightning bolts to the heart, where you can’t eat and you can’t work, and you just run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven’t felt is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me…to sell nylons.”
Somewhere around this time, the physical aspects of love and relationships took over, and it brought in an element of informality to dating. Dating now meant that you were simply testing the waters, and did not necessarily had intentions to seal the deal with a ring. Simultaneously, dating several partners became acceptable, as did premarital sex. Hotshot advertising executive Don Draper from the smash hit TV series Mad Men, says it like it is.
“When a girl says she wants to be friends with benefits, I always ask if that includes dental insurance.”
This line by Jarod Kintz sums up the confusion that dating has been reduced to, in the current times. The Internet whiplashed the way people date, because it opened up a plethora of opportunities for anyone and everyone, however un-dateworthy they were in reality. Having a net connection meant that you shared your darkest desires to your heart’s content, without the fear of being ridiculed or bullied. Dating could be done openly, anonymously, halfheartedly, obsessively, and any way you wanted it to be. Pictures could be photoshopped, identities could be forged, crushes could be stalked, all at the click of a button.
Potential mates can now text, sext, poke, pin, or meme each other 24/7, and still feel lonely at the end of the day. The good old meet-and-greet dating style may be fading into oblivion, but we shouldn’t be too surprised to see a resurrection in a few years, when all the wired and wireless methods of dating die a slow and lonely death. Until then, XOXO!!!