Old Rules and the Modern Dater
I recently got to thinking about some of my favorite books and movies: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, etc. I love being absorbed into the Regency and Victorian eras, as the rules and customs of that period were so drastically different than they are today, especially when it comes to dating. The Victorians took their dating very seriously. Back in those times, the manner in which a lady was pursued was known as courtship, and was comprised of a specific set of rules and codes of behavior. These codes of behavior could be viewed as rigid and limiting, but were also put in place to protect the reputation of the woman. Fast forward to modern day where the terms of dating have changed drastically. The sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s paved the way for women to have more choices in the types intimacies that they engaged in with men and making these intentions public became widely accepted and the norm. Liberation...hooray! Unfortunately some of these ideas expanded and evolved, at some point leaving us with widely known and largely utilized forms of casually expressing our desire for one another...i.e.-the Hook-up. Don’t get me wrong, arranged marriages, devaluing of women’s intellectual opinions, and the diminished emotional expression of the Victorian era…not my cup of tea. However, there is always something that we can learn from those who came before us, right? And I believe that there are some customs of the Victorian era that would serve us quite well in this day and age. Being a liberated woman does not mean that we have to sacrifice the art of being courted or treated as respectable ladies. Rather, expecting this only adds to our own personal value when navigating the dating scene. With this in mind, I present: PSG's Top 5 Victorian Courtship Rules For the Modern Era + Top 5 Rules To Gladly Leave Behind.
Top 5 Victorian Courtship Rules For the Modern Era
1. Single women must be escorted by chaperones when going out- Ah, the chaperone. An oh-so important presence in Victorian era courtship, she was usually an older woman whose sole purpose was to make sure that her charge did not engage in any risqué behavior with a suitor. Or, in lay-terms, she was a cock-blocker. Single ladies, we can all use one of these. Let's go ahead and recognize that it can be hard to tear yourself away from someone that you are hitting it off with, especially if they are very good looking and/or quite charming. And since you don't want to end up in a compromising position (see #4), the modern day chaperone serves an extension of one's duties as a wing-woman: a friend that can help you keep your actions in check when your hormones rage out of control after meeting a cute guy when spending a night out on the town.
2. Gentlemen do not engage in impure conversations in front of women- A friend of mine recently went on a first date where she was asked the following questions (in no particular order): “When did you lose your virginity?”, “Did I tell you my ex was a porn star?”, “My ex has a tattoo on her vagina…want to see a picture?”. Yes, I know what you're thinking...that this guy so obviously suffered a severe blow to the head, affecting his reasoning, thus allowing him to bring up such vile things on a date. But, alas, no. Impure is an understatement for these absolutely disrespectful conversations that were introduced on her date. Not only did this person talk about his ex on a first date (a no-no)...he talked about his ex's vagina on the first date :-0. Showing respect is of utmost importance, especially as it pertains to verbal cues. If topics such as religion and politics should (traditionally) be omitted from first date conversations, then so should lewd, overtly sexual chatter. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear questions like that on the 10th date, let alone the first. Keep it positive and keep it classy.
3. A lady never calls on a man under any circumstances- Okay, never may be a little extreme, but as modern women, we often take modern technological advantages to the extreme and utilize them to keep tabs on men as much as possible. This may pertain to you if you find yourself saying things like “He hasn’t called back yet. Should I call him again?”, “I left another message and he still hasn’t returned my call…should I call him again?”, “He didn’t text me back…what do you think that means?”. Can we all take one collective deep breath? And…........exhale. Ok. There is something to be said of letting a man take the lead in the pursuit. Returning the gesture in moderation shows him that you are interested, but doing so to the extreme can exude insecurity be off-putting. This includes but is not limited to obsessively calling/voicemailing, facebook stalking, and texting while tipsy. These actions are a direct result of second guessing oneself and attempting to force a situation that may not be meant to be. Instead, leave one message and let nature take its course. More often than not, a guy will find a way to contact you regardless of the circumstances and do so regularly if he is truly interested.
4. Commitment precedes intimacy-Not necessarily a foreign concept in this day and age but definitely less of a priority in the current dating climate. In the Victorian era, innocence and chastity was demanded of potential brides, and for a woman to even grab a man’s arm was considered an act of one with loose morals. In today’s society, virgins past a certain age are viewed upon with amazement. Their willpower leaves us in awe. Relationships reach a sexual level extremely quickly, and prolonging sex for more than a month or two is considered by many to be nearly impossible. However, many men that I have spoken to have agreed that they respect a woman a lot more when they wait to have sex. They say that getting to know a girl’s personality over time can intensify their attraction, making the eventual day that intimacy occurs even more exciting and special. Quickly jumping into the sack can get in the way of discovering other traits that will ultimately be important in the relationship. This can lead to the sexisgreatbutIdon'twanttotalktoyou sitch. It's a realization that is rarely fun for either party involved and is the basis for the terms like "exit strategy" in the dating world. Giving the relationship time to grow and discovering whether or not you are emotionally compatible can save you a lot of grief. As mom always said “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”. Some argue that if they do not engage in sex quickly, the man will just find it elsewhere…but is that really the kind of man you want to be with anyway?? I think not.
5. It is considered chivalrous for a gentleman to open the door for a lady when in reasonable proximity and to lift his hat and say excuse me if he brushes up against a lady on the street- Wow! NYC dwellers, can you imagine? Of all the things I’d like to bring back into the dating world and back into society as a whole, especially in New York City, is chivalry. It's the little things a man does that let you know that he is acutely aware of making the world a more convenient place for his woman. In today's world, it is sometimes hard to believe that there was a time when doing anything less would be considered absolutely deplorable. But there are those exceptional beings that pop up and surprise you. They open your door, help you put on your coat, *gasp* give up their cab/offer you their seat on the subway! To all the men that take time for the little things...thank you! Go forth and continue to lead by example ;)
Top 5 Victorian Rules To Gladly Leave Behind
1. In the relationship, intelligence is not at encouraged- Boo! Hit the books ladies. While may women in the Victorian era were expected to have no intelligent opinions or adopt those of her husband, these days, things such as education, wit, and worldliness are not only desired, but expected. As they should be.
2. The man could offer the girl his hand, if the road was uneven. That was the only touch which was accepted between a man and a woman who was not engaged to him-Well thank goodness I won't fall off an uneven path into a ditch, but what if the road was even and I'm just clumsy? Can he offer his hand if I trip over my own two feet? Hmm...
3. Sexual desire is not a symptom of good women in society-Well that's just mean! But it was believed to be true of Victorian society. To be guilty of such carnal needs was to go against everything pure, innocent, and ladylike that was to be exuded by women at all times. No wonder these women experienced issues such as frequent headaches, emotional instability, melancholy, aggression, depression, feeling lower abdominal heaviness, muscle pains...or female hysteria as it was labeled back then. How was it treated do you ask? By contacting a local physician trained to induce hysterical paroxysm of course (i.e.- an orgasm)! Phew...glad someone was looking out for the ladies.
4. If a gentleman is introduced to a lady at a party, he cannot automatically resume their acquaintance on the street. He must be re-introduced by a mutual friend- So, you hit it off at the local ball, see him at the store, and he can't speak to you? Agonizing. Having a crush would take some strategic planning. You'd definitely want to have a mutual friend chained to your hip to ensure further acquaintance.
5. A lady shall never embrace or kiss in public-Not even a hug? I'm sorry, but the world needs moments like this. Period.
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1. Vanity Fair May 2009, Photographer: Michael Roberts 2. Photo by Eisenstaedt