Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Some time ago you expressed cautious disapproval about 'dating', proposing 'courting' to be the better option. As someone not even understanding the object of 'dating', probably never having done it, I am quite curious how you would define and contrast those both concepts (in terms of aims and practical behaviour; I don't think that, Jonathan-Lindvallesque, 'parental consent' is the main distinguishingly element for you - ?). Thanks for the clarification!
Dear Dispassionately Curious,
Dating is when men and woman ask each other out in a spirit of experimentation. For example, one or the other might contact a complete stranger they like the look of on a Catholic dating website. After a few emails back and forth, and maybe a phone call, they arrange to meet at a cafe or restaurant. That arrangement is a date.
Blind dates, when a third party sets up a date between her male friend and her female friend, because she thinks they would like each other, are also dates.
A woman with a huge crush on a man and finally working up the courage to ask him over for dinner is just making a date, as far as he is concerned.
In dating, the goal is the date and maybe a pleasant open-ended boyfriend and girlfriend arrangement or--for the promiscuous--a chance to have sex soon. There is quite a lot of unhappiness around competing expectations.
Dating is more common in America than in Europe, and amongst working folk than among students. Volker told me that there is no dating in Germany. He said men and women friends just hang out in groups and then one day one of the men and one of the women find themselves alone, kiss, and move in together. This may have more in common with courtship.
Courtship is when a man realizes that he is smitten--either by a pretty girl he sees across the room or by a female friend or acquaintance, and then moves heaven and earth (if necessary) to spend time with her.
He calls her up, he takes her out, he pays for her dinner, he gives her little gifts for her birthday, Valentine's Day, etc., and (after a great deal of angst and wondering when the exact right moment is) kisses her, desperately hoping she will kiss him back and not slap him. If he remains smitten, he hopes that she is smitten too and eventually risks his entire ego by asking her if she ever thought she might like to marry him.
The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic (or sexual) partner, and that this person looks pretty good (or easy). The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him (ever or from now on).
Readers will be quick to say that women also court men. Yes, we do, and I am not sure that is a wonderful idea. It may be important for men to have the grand, exhilarating, humble-making, heart-risking adventure of finding, courting and winning Miss Right. It is probably bad for them to have women flinging ourselves at them from all directions. In fact, I am sure of it.
Meanwhile girls occasionally write to me of their longings to "give themselves" to someone, and this, I think, is the principal and most dangerous desire of thousands of young women. Giving too much or too soon is a terrible (and peculiarly) female sin. Ponder the films of silly Baby Boomer teens shrieking and wailing before the Beatles, and clips of silly Baby Boomer oldies throwing their underwear and hotel keys at crooners in Las Vegas. This is what happens when you remove the ropes of female inhibition. It ain't pretty. And only two women ever married John Lennon, and only two married Paul McCartney. Okay, it will soon be three, but you see what I'm saying here.
All this said, a woman often realizes that she is in love with a man before he realizes that he is in love with her and tells her. Jane Austen was very funny about this uncomfortable reality, and I lived it for a whole four days. All I can say to this is pray, look your best, keep your mouth shut and don't grab the hottie. (I think in the end I patted B.A. on the head to show I liked him. Thank goodness you can do that in Scotland. In Thailand it's a terrible insult.)
The impetus for dating is a vague sense that one wants to find a romantic partner, and that this person looks pretty good. The impetus for courtship is a specific man becoming entranced by a specific woman and then scheming to make her entranced with him, with the ultimate goal of making sure she doesn't sleep with any man but him from now on.
I hope this is helpful. Just thinking about dating freaks me out now. If I am ever a widow, I am so never dating again. Uh uh. No way. If anybody wants to marry (hopefully) elderly me, they'll just have to dance like a blue-footed booby bird or bring me valuable stones like a penguin because I am never dating ever, ever again.
Grace and peace,
P.S. Bird courtships are AWESOME. Women birds just do their thing, dressed in protective colouring, and the men birds go nuts with bright colours, dancing about, offering bribes, you name it. It seems so relaxing from the female perspective. Female birds don't have to DO anything. They just have to BE. The downside is that female penguins (at very least) are amoral and will cheat on their mates for presents.