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This consisted of men and women attempting to construct the appearance of desirability, a feat which was accomplished by different means based on gender: Males’ reputations depended on their ability to create an impression of wealth, while the reputation of females was based on the ability to secure the interest of popular men.
A woman had to secure a large number of dates with attractive men; if she was unable to, or if she chose to exclusively date one man, her social “ratings” would suffer.
The committed, monogamous label of “going steady” emerged as the ideal relationship, and dating returned to its traditional role as a marital trial.
Despite increased emphasis on a single relationship, “going steady” was still a very social label.
As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.
A society’s prescribed method of courtship is incredibly illuminating: As we trace the timeline of dating rituals, we can get a better sense of how Americans throughout time understood love and, by extension, the world.
In the early days of dating, many century America was all social capital, decorum, and familial oversight.
This ritual may seem overly cautious, but in a society in which the Catholic Church was an incredibly powerful institution that prescribed marriage as an integral part of God’s plan, this was not a decision that could be made lightly.In this system, dating and marriage were viewed as two very separate entities, with marriage marking the graduation from youth into adulthood.World War II initiated a paradigm shift that deeply impacted the way American society approached dating.No longer was quantity emphasized, but rather the stress fell on finding a loyal partner.This change was partially catalyzed by the scarcity of young males in the United States, as nearly all able-bodied men between 18 and 26 were engaged in the war effort across seas.