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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.
However much you might enjoy going out to dinner or stumbling home with someone new, you date in the hope that the day will come when you’ll never have to date again.
Using another metaphor, Weigel compares the experience to being cast in a bad piece of experimental theatre: “You and a partner showed up every night with different, conflicting scripts.
They’re a staple of Jane Austen novels: John Willoughby, who caddishly breaks Marianne’s heart in “Sense and Sensibility”; George Wickham, who reels in both Lizzy and Lydia Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice”; Frank Churchill, in “Emma,” who flirts with Miss Woodhouse while being secretly engaged to her frenemy, Jane Fairfax. As a twenty-first-century guy living in one of the most culturally liberal of American cities, he had options available to him that men in Regency England did not.
He could have chosen to be a player, sleeping around with abandon, or the kind of cheater who supplements monogamy with a series of flings.
The monogamy of the booming postwar fifties offered “a kind of romantic full employment,” while the free love of the sixties signified not the death of dating but its deregulation on the free market.
The luxury- and self-obsessed yuppies of the “greed is good” eighties demanded that the romantic market deliver partners tailored to their niche specifications, developing early versions of the kinds of matchmaking services that have been perfected in today’s digital gig economy, where the personal is professional, and everyone self-brands accordingly.