Dating now vs the 50s

When asked to imagine this lost group, images of bobbysoxers, letterman jackets, malt shops and sock hops come instantly to mind. Images like these are so classic, they, for a number of people, are "as American as apple pie. Because of these entertainment forums, these images will continue to be a pop cultural symbol of the 's. After the second World War, teenagers became much more noticeable in America Bailey Their presence and existence became readily more apparent because they were granted more freedom than previous generations ever were. Teenagers like these were unique.

They were given a chance to redefine the ways things were done in America. One of the conventions they put a new spin on, and consequently revolutionize, is the idea and practice of dating. The 's set up precedents in dating that led to what many consider "normal" dating today.


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Dating is definitely an "American phenomenon. Then again, few other countries have the same social conditions as America.

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Since the turn of the century, there has been a greater freedom between men and women, for example, both attend the same schools with the same classes. Both sexes become accustomed to the other at early ages which is very conducive to the practice of dating Merrill Dating essentially replaced the practice of calling which was the primary way of courtship before the mid's. When a man "calls" upon a woman, he usually shows up at her house during an "at home" session and presents his card to the maid who then gives it to the young lady.

She then is given the option of accepting his call by letting him in or rejecting it by making up an excuse as to why she cannot see him.


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  • Refreshments were often served though not always , and the entertainment was primarily piano playing in the parlor. But because the lower classes were not so well-endowed so that they own pianos or even parlors, they started their own form of "courtship" which soon became known as dating.


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    This practice was soon picked up by the upper classes, and from there it progressed into the middle class, with which it is still inherently associated today Bailey Calling and dating are so intrinsically different it is hard to imagine how the transition from one to another was even made. Firstly, calling was practiced with the intention of finding a suitable husband for a young lady; whereas, in dating, this was, and still is, not the primary goal.

    People date because it is "enjoyable, pleasant, and valuable" Merrill 62 , and they thought that they could gain rewarding experiences from it. In the fifties and surrounding decades, handbooks and other books exploring relationships described dating as a fun activity in which teens are allowed to meet and mingle with many members of the opposite sex. Besides, dating allowed young people to be with each other without their parents interfering.

    How dating has changed over the last 100 years

    Secondly, the control of the relationship changed hands as the transition was made. When calling was practiced, the female in the relationship held most of the power because men came to see her in her house with her parents present. But when dating replaced calling, the males held most of the power, for they paid for the date, drove the automobiles, and came by the girl's house only to pick her up. Dating had actually been around for a while before the 's, but since the presence of the teenager became ever more prevalent and public, dating became more and more popular and routinized.

    Millions of teenagers in the 's went on one or more dates per week. These teenagers started dating at a young age too. If a girl of thirteen years had not started dating yet, she was considered a "late bloomer" by societies standards Bailey After all, most children know about dating long before they are actually ready to participate in it Merrill During the 's, it was common knowledge, at least to girls, that there was a process to the whole courtship ritual -- that there were stages to a lasting relationship.

    First, when you are young, you associate with boys in the playground, and do not seriously form any romantic relationships with them. Then you progress to flirting and talking to them which leads into dating. The dating process usually is initiated by going out on double-dates. Double-dates were used to initiate the whole dating process because it created a more open environment conducive to easy conversation.

    So they initial shyness of young couple can be eased away by the presence of other company, especially if the double date was a "set-up" or a blind date for one couple.

    After double dating, you would naturally move onto single dating. And should the relationship move on, as they often do, it would move into the ubiquitous "going steady" stage McGinnis This concept of "going steady" took on a new meaning in the fifties. Before the war, "going steady" was a stage young people took only if they were seriously on the path to marriage; however, after the war, the phrase was used more loosely.

    It no longer signaled that the couple was marriageable and ready to commit Bailey If a couple was said to be "going steady," they would date one another exclusively and feel as if the other "belongs" to him or her McGinnis 74 but this occurred without any serious thoughts of marriage. In this stage, there were certain customs that were played out by the two people involved. The boy was required to give the girl a token which was to claim her as his, like his class ring, letterman sweater, or ID bracelet.

    If a ring was given, it had to be worn on the third finger of the left hand.

    Of course, these customs varied by region. Some places preferred rings over clothes, and others did not. Boys are also expected to call their steady girlfriend a certain number of times a week and take her out on a certain number of dates. Going steady also meant that the couple would reach a higher lever of sexual intimacy Bailey Many saw this stage as a kind of "play-marriage" for the young couple Bailey Their exclusiveness made them seem almost as if they were married to each other. Not only was this stage a source of security for the couple, for they needed to have dates to all the social functions in their lives, they also were signs of popularity around their schools.

    In a survey, many of the students polled agreed that the most popular students had gone steady. After "going steady," a young couple could get engaged and, then after that, married Knowing the process of courtship, was and pretty much still in common knowledge for teens, but all that does not matter if you cannot get a date Getting a date has always been complicated. In the 's, it was unheard of for a young lady to ask for a date or to initiate the dating process. The men were supposed to do the asking and calling.

    One young man as a guest writer to the February issue of Seventeen magazine wrote:. Growing up has taught me one thing: I've also found that once he meets a girl -- and becomes interested in her -- a boy must indulge in a sly, artful practice called pursuit. But those first few moments of "pursuit" are always hard to start, so an emphasis on "lines" was created during this time period. It all depended on how the girl responds and reacts to the line given to her.

    These pieces of heavily saturated compliments were cast at women, and the women were supposed to nit-pick them and -- not believe what was said but -- be flattered by them Merrill Another way of getting a date is to be set up on a "blind" one where each end of the relationship has never met the other before. This method is especially useful and practical if a guy is shy and bashful about asking a girl out on a date.

    How dating has changed over the last years

    It might help him feel more adequate in the dating scene by blind dating especially if it is his first dating experience. The same could be said about girls. Blind dates could also have the same effect on them as it had on boys Sadler Many handbooks for young ladies were published in the postwar time period that addressed the issue of how to attract boys and how to obtain a date. One handbook entitled Always Say Maybe suggests ways in which a girl can lure a boy's fancy toward her. Some of the chapters focus on how to approach a man, how to earn a date, how to start interesting conversation, and how to be interested in what they are interested in, like sports in particular.

    The book is written in a somewhat comical manner; however, it does instruct its readers on how to act around boys. One chapter reads, "Be gay, be charming, be thinking. One reason that dating was an important factor in the 's is that it is present almost everywhere, even in the classroom. Many schools were equipped with educational films which were intended to help teenagers live good clean lives.

    But how did the young Princess know when she first met her dashing Duke that he was to be her life partner? Were the customs of courtship in the s and s more successful in bringing lifelong couples together? To celebrate this Diamond Jubilee, relationship site eHarmony reviews how young couples met and dated sixty years ago and compares the advice given then, to our contemporary words of wisdom.

    And which makes more sense? It was always the man who proposed a date. It was not polite or acceptable for women to suggest an evening out together. With no answer machines or text messages in existence women would have to wait for a knock at the door or a telephone call. For online daters many first dates are organised through email, text and by phone, this allows us all to have a bit more courage to ask. A date was a date. In the 40s and 50s, there was no confusion about what a date meant to either party. It was rare for men and women to be just friends.

    So if a man called a woman and asked her to dinner, he certainly had romance on his mind.