Metaphors of identity in dating ads and newspaper articles
So they went out, to parks and dance halls, saloons and restaurants, nickelodeons and penny arcades—to the streets themselves, teeming centers of working-class social life—where they could have a good time and meet men on their own. The term “date” originated as slang referring to a woman’s date book, and showed up in print in 1896, in “Stories of the Streets and Town,” a column that offered middle-class readers a taste of working-class life.
Artie, a young clerk, confronts a girlfriend who’s been giving him the slip: “I s’pose the other boy’s fillin’ all my dates? A later column reports Artie’s admiring observation that a certain girl’s date book was so full she had to keep it “on the Double Entry System.”Not surprisingly, these new female freedoms came with a catch.
Maybe he wouldn’t choose either of them; he told Weigel that he found the whole premise of long-term romance “ideologically suspect.”She realized that she had no idea what she herself wanted from romance.
Her Irish Catholic mother and the self-help industry told her that the goal should be marriage, and soon. He thought that everyone should want to pursue happiness.
Every so often, one of his paramours would catch on and alert the others.
Then he’d block them all on social media and begin the whole thing again.
But John, with his flair for saccharine cuteness and his insistence on treating his conquests like romantic-comedy heroines, didn’t like just to play or cheat, and he certainly didn’t like any of his girlfriends to suspect that they didn’t have his full attention. According to Moira Weigel, the author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), most people are not like John in this respect.You did your best.” This makes dating sound a lot like a recurring anxiety dream. candidate in comparative literature, film, and media at Yale; “Labor of Love,” a perceptive and wide-ranging investigation into the history of dating in America, is her first book, sprouted from the seed of unpleasant personal experience.You’d have to be a masochist not to try to wake yourself up. At twenty-six, she was involved with an older man who was torn between her and an ex he hadn’t lost interest in.The pursuit of leisure cost more than most single working-class women (paid a fraction of what men were) could readily afford.Weigel quotes a 1915 report by a New York social worker: “The acceptance on the part of the girl of almost any invitation needs little explanation, when one realizes that she often goes pleasureless unless she accepts ‘free treats.’ ” To have fun, a woman had to let a man pay for her and suffer the resultant damage to her reputation.
In one sense, this is a story about the exploitative possibilities of online matchmaking: the opportunities to flagrantly misrepresent oneself, the ease of trawling for specific targets.