Evolution Of American Dating Rituals/Then and Now/ Part 1

Every country has it’s own unique mating rituals, the elaborate romantic dance and the well known dating games, the approved protocol that allows people to get together, to hook up, to become a couple…I am an American, so I only know how it is in this country from personal experience, but I have read about other country’s rituals and protocols, and they are just as elaborate and stylized as a synchronized dance…

In this blog, I will concentrate on American courtship rituals, with an obligatory nod to the past…I have so much material to cover, I will be forced to put it into 2 blogs, so please bear with me and read both blogs, in order to get the full impact of the sweeping changes that engulfed and overwhelmed America ….Yesterday I wrote about online dating as the more modern way of people hooking up…This is the ideal, the real, and the back story….This is about how it all got started in America…

Channel 4 Gypsy wedding Josie aged 17 marries Swanley at Iver Church, Buckinghamshire



In the very olden days, like medieval times, of course, there were mostly arranged marriages, with the future husband and wife “engaged” almost at birth….This was in an era when women were regarded as property, mere “chattel,”and when the marriage was duly performed, there was almost always a dowry involved, a dowry being defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as: “Money or property that a wife or wife’s family gives to her husband when the wife and husband marry in some cultures.”

These arranged marriages also usually involved the transfer or joining of property between the two families….This is how the earliest dynasties were founded, through strategic alliances, with the woman being a pawn in the scheming and pre-arranged match making by her family….


Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves (Season 3 - episode 7) - Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime - Photo ID: tudors_307_1449courtship8

In colonial times, The Puritans, sober sided, grim, asexual, and prim as we think of them, routinely engaged in a practice called “Bundling” which according to my Google sources is defined as: “Bundling, was the traditional practice of wrapping one person in a bed accompanied by another, usually as a part of courting behavior.

The tradition is thought to have originated either in the Netherlands or in the British Isles and later became common in Colonial America…. When used for courtship, the aim was “to allow intimacy without sexual intercourse”….Hmm-mm…I wonder how that worked out in practice?

“Traditionally, in Colonial America, participants were adolescents, with a boy staying at the residence of the girl. They were given separate blankets by the girl’s parents and expected to talk to one another through the night. The practice was limited to the winter and sometimes the use of a bundling board, placed between the boy and girl, discouraged sexual conduct.The best protection against sin were the parents, who were usually in the same room with them.

It may not have been good enough, however, as records indicate that up to one-third of couples engaged in premarital relations in spite of the public penalties, such as being fined and whipped, that often resulted.There was no dating per se in colonial times. A man would ask the parents for a young woman’s hand in marriage and once they agreed courting could begin.

The young couple had already determined that they were in love, of course. Parents would approve of bundling for their daughter with the man she intended to marry. Although it was not always this strictly controlled, it is clear that the women determined when and with whom bundling occurred. It provided the opportunity for some physical closeness in an otherwise strict, prim and basically asexual society.”



As the years went by and women became more and more independent, the courtship rituals evolved into a process less formalized and more free flowing….As the Industrial Revolution took place more and more women moved away from their parents homes and, freed from their parents value systems, they now had the opportunity to live in their own places and work in factories to support themselves, and as they became more independent, and freed from their parents more rigid views of morality, their choices and options in dating increased..

From my Google sources: “After WWI women were just as anxious as the men to avoid returning to society’s rules and roles after the war. In the age of the “Gibson Girl,” young women did not date, they waited until a proper young man formally paid her interest with suitable intentions (i.e. marriage).

However, nearly a whole generation of young men had died in the war, leaving nearly a whole generation of young women without possible suitors. Young women decided that they were not willing to waste away their young lives waiting idly for spinsterhood; they were going to enjoy life.”



Again, from my Google sources:”The “Younger Generation” was breaking away from the old set of values.In the 1920’s, a new woman was born. She smoked, drank, danced, and voted. She cut her hair, wore make-up, and went to petting parties. She was giddy and took risks. She was a flapper….

courtship25courtship 26



The flapper attitude was characterized by stark truthfulness, fast living, and sexual behavior. Flappers seemed to cling to life as if it were to leave them at any moment. They took risks and were reckless.They wanted to be different, to announce their departure from the Gibson Girl’s morals. So they smoked, drank and partied unapolegetically, something only men had done previously. Their parents were shocked.

Smoking wasn’t the most outrageous of the flapper’s rebellious actions. Flappers drank alcohol. At a time when the United States had outlawed alcohol (Prohibition), young women were starting the habit early. Some even carried hip-flasks full so as to have it on hand. More than a few adults didn’t like to see tipsy young women.

Flappers had a scandalous image as the “giddy flapper, rouged and clipped, careening in a drunken stupor to the lewd strains of a jazz quartet.”The 1920’s was the Jazz Age and one of the most popular past-times for flappers was dancing. For the Younger Generation, the dances fit their fast-paced life-style.

For the first time since the train and the bicycle, a new form of faster transportation was becoming popular. Henry Ford’s innovations were making the automobile an accessible commodity to the people. Cars were fast and risky – perfect for the flapper attitude.

Flappers not only insisted on riding in them; they drove them….Unfortunately for their parents, flappers didn’t just use cars to ride in. The back seat became a popular location for the new popular sexual activity, petting. Others hosted petting parties. Flappers flaunted their sexuality. It was a radical change from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations”

It was the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, depending on your point of view….Either way, social change was hurtling forward even faster, and the ever increasing emancipation of women played the key role in the ever changing mating rituals and courtship proceedings and dating games of the American society as a whole….

It was already like a run away train careening through the social and moral values of the country, ripping and tearing away the sheer, thin veneer of the fabric of the American moral landscape……..

Just leave it like it is right now

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s