From Courting to Dating: What Makes the Perfect Date?

The way we meet and date on our quest for that one true love today is vastly different than it was 100 years ago. Back then, a couple didn’t find a mate by swiping left or right. A guy didn’t send a text to a lady to let her know he was outside to pick her up. Of course, it is because cell phones, apps, and advanced technology were not even figments of our imaginations. But that is not the only reason. Before couples were even allowed to "court," as it was called in the early days, a gentleman had to meet the family first to get approval to court a lady. Courting was very formal, as the man would be given approval to come into the family’s parlor after being vetted. In the parlor, the lady sat waiting to greet the gentleman. The lady would entertain the man with singing, playing the piano, and/or formal conversation. Her family stayed in attendance to supervise the proceedings. Everyone was dressed up in their finest attire, so it was all very formal and straightforward.That was the perfect date for the early 1900s.

Construction and entrepreneurship in the 1950s helped couples have a little more freedom in the act of courtship. The idea of courting started to lean more toward the idea of dating. The family was still heavily involved in matchmaking; however, the places in which couples got to know one an- other expanded as their world did. This freedom came because of the changing landscape. New construction had people moving about outside of their homes more, and the increase in popularity of the automobile helped them do it. In those days, men were the sole owners and drivers.With their automobiles, men were able to take ladies to dance halls, theaters, coffee shops, and soda shops for their date. The family was still involved and would still supervise the entire date.

Dating was all about the rules of etiquette. Guys were expected to meet a girl’s parents before their first date to gain their approval to date their daughter. Courting was not seen as a way to find perfect love but as a way to elevate the family’s stature and increase their wealth. Love would come later. Show- ing chivalry is a lost art today but was customary in those days, as it was a must that men open all doors for ladies. If a lady needed a jacket, a guy would take his off and offer it to her.The guys were expected to plan the date, take control, and pay for everything. A woman didn’t even order for herself at restaurants, as it was seen as an act of humiliation for the man. Women had to abide by rules too. A big no was the application of makeup in public. No touchups at all. Kissing on the first date was also frowned upon. It is rare to hear about these traditions happening today.

In the 1960s, the language of dating changed. The word courting had been replaced with "going out." Dates were no longer stuffy with formalities. Dating has become less formal and more casual in attire and activity. Men and women met in social settings through family and friends. Families were supervised less. Couples began to do more than kiss, but they lacked sex education.Little was known about sex and contraception, so couples some- times found themselves dealing with unwanted pregnancies, bringing shame to the expectant mother and her family. Dating activities were similar to those in the previous decade.

The seventies made way for the feminist movement. Women began to desire more for themselves than the roles of mother and wife.They wanted love, family, and a career. The self-discovery of women also made them more free with their bodies. Men and women learned more about their bodies, sex, unwanted pregnancies, and even STDs. With this knowledge, the rule of not kissing on the first date gradually gave way to something much more touching. Women knew they had a choice and didn’t have to blindly follow the man. They still expected common etiquette, but they did order for themselves and stop feeling inferior to the man. This attitude affected dating because women raised their standards as they demanded more for themselves.

Dates started to move from the basic dinner and a movie to more elaborate expressions of love. Dates were no longer chaperoned. Chivalry hadn’t died yet. The more popular term for dating was going steady. Fashion was on the rise, so the first date look became super important. This trend continued well into the 1990s. People were still relying on family and friends to introduce them to their potential mates. Everyone was being introduced to the internet, making bars and coffee shops great places for first dates. Instead of relying on beauty or a built physique, potential mates be- gan to look at the inner person to deter- mine their good qualities.People talked to each other in person, as cell phones had not yet taken over communication.

The arrival of the 2000s and beyond marked the beginning of the technological age, which shaped dating as we know it today.Although Match. com pioneered online dating in 1995, it didn’t really take off since it was so new and different. Flowers were always great date gifts for a lady. The more meaningful ones became those that had a more personal touch, like the infamous mixtapes of the 1990s that evolved into the romantic playlist of a CD to set the mood. People were really embracing the internet, as long conversations were held on the phone until one of you fell asleep. Or you woke up the next day with bags under your eyes from hanging out in on- line chat rooms all night. Dating began texting more, leaving fewer voicemails to set up meetings, and meeting online first before meeting in person.