My latest in the Guardian about those Women Today trend pieces, and how courtship hasn’t existed for several decades but dating is perhaps better than ever. A bit:
Change is always scary, and I am sure plenty of commentators throughout history whined that the warmth of fire wasn’t as satisfying as body heat, the flushing toilet less authentic than the chamber pot, the buggy not nearly as charming as the covered wagon. But alas, things change; humanity moves forward and adjusts. Young college students “pinning” their girlfriends in the 1950s was not exactly a centuries-old tradition. A more authentic marriage proposal – being sold into matrimony by your father, and taking few rights with you – is one that I’m sure most women are happy to leave behind.
So, why this yearning for a past that, if it ever even existed, was only around for a short time? I suspect it’s because rules, in many ways, are easier than freedom. Clearly delineated roles, no matter how suffocating, are simpler to navigate than a wide-open plain of choices and options.
Choices and options mean responsibility and possibility. They mean taking the reins of your own life. They mean things might sometimes be harder, but that the rewards might also be greater – might, might not.
And so we cling to a soft-focus ideal of yesteryear, when life was simple and we paired off easily, blushing on first dates before floating into domestic bliss.
Of course, that’s not at all how it actually worked. The feminist gains of the 1960s and 70s were a reaction to those “blissful” 1950s. Women wanted their own bank accounts, the right to marry whom they pleased, a college education, a fulfilling career, control over when they had children, and the chance to pursue what they found inspiring. Lo and behold, women today are doing better than ever – especially the ones who graduate from college and marry later in life.
Feminist victories mean that women can enter into partnerships more equally. More egalitarian relationships tend to be more stable; partners in them have more sex; and the male partners tend to spend more time with their children. These pairings don’t look like courtship, but they’re good.
Today’s communication platforms also offer a wider variety of connections. Just looking at my immediate social circle, social media and gender equality have played a defining role: we’ve met long-term partners at professional conferences, through Twitter connections (“Hey, we’ve been tweeting at each other and I’m in town, wanna grab a drink?”), Facebook friends-of-friends, and online dating.
You can read the whole column here.