One remark letter-writers often make is that they've never been on a date. And a fair number of people stumble across my blog by typing "never been on a date" into a search engine. But if I am reading current Youth Culture correctly, teenagers and college students don't go on dates. It would appear that "dating"--the "I'll pick you up at six" kind of date--is nowadays confined to people off campus and in the work world.
In the 1980s, there was still I'll-pick-you-up-at-six dating amongst teens and college students. I know this because there I was, going on dates. Mind you, I made some of these dates myself because seventeen magazine said that was okay, and seventeen magazine (with some mental editing for Catholics) was my standard of normalcy. I hasten to add that in the 1980s, seventeen was a proper magazine with long articles that ran to two or three pages. It had a prim little column called "Sex and Your Body" which was illustrated with a sketch of a medical clipboard. I started reading it at 12.
Dating, however, was not a universal, but mostly a North American phenomenon, and began with the rise of the personal automobile. Before cars, women who worked for a living "walked out" with their admirers, which I believe literally meant going for walks, and women who didn't were chaperoned--either by mothers or auntie-figures (like me) or their sisters or other female friends--and, to use an anachronistic expression, "hung out."
It is fascinating to read novels that pre-date mass production of the automobile, for one perceives thousands of romances that had absolutely nothing to do with dating. In the Anne books, the only time boys and girls were alone together was when a boy asked a girl "May I see you home?" (There doesn't seem to have been a polite way to say "No", either, so poor Anne had occasionally to walk home from school or church with boring old Charlie Sloan. In Little Women, the March girls hang out with the boy next door and his pals. The boy next door asks one of the March girls to marry him without ever having gone on a date with her or kissed or anything except having hung out for the past seven years or so. In Pride and Prejudice, the first time Elizabeth is alone with Mr Darcy she has to tell him that her family is in total disgrace. In Sense and Sensibility....but I could go on.
There is no dating in Germany, which I know for dear old Volker did not go on a date until he did a post-doc at Harvard and met little me. I believe there is dating in Britain, but I was told by a most credible source that the way Britons pair off is to get absolutely smashed at parties, and then have intense discussions at 2 AM that turn into snogging. Incidentally, this is not how B.A. and I got together.
Uh oh. B.A. is arguing.
"It basically was," he claims.