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The Ghosts of Dating Past

We hear about them every weekend at Sunday Brunch–– Stories of last night’s hook-up and the next morning’s infamous ‘Walk of Shame’. Maybe you had a run in with that over-chatty professor walking his dog.  Nothing says “Good Morning Sunshine, Welcome to Sunday!” like getting interrogated police style on your opinion of yesterday’s ‘Useful Bacteria’ lecture.  Should you be concerned that he wasn’t the slightest bit surprised that you were dressed as a Ke$ha wannabee–– crop top, glittery spandex pants, and all?

Or maybe you walk past a table of guys in Thorne and overhear that cocky kid bragging about how he was killin’ it in the Boom Boom Room the night before.  It’s not breaking news that most of the ‘dating scene’ on college campuses is characterized by these very scenes; drunken nights of debauchery with mornings of uncomfortably long walks in inappropriate outfits.  Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, but it seems that we have come a long way from the traditionally happy and romantic times of courtship experienced by characters such as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

During the time period of Elizabeth Bennet, it would have been completely unacceptable for a man to walk up to a woman and start a conversation, let alone do some of the other things we witness every Friday and Saturday night at parties...  Even after being introduced, it took several weeks or even months before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a woman who he was interested in pursuing. Once they had been formally introduced, if the man wanted to take the woman on a date, he would present her his “card.” Later in the night, the lady would look over her options and chose who would be her escort. She would notify the lucky gentleman by giving him her own card requesting that he escort her home. Almost all courting took place in the girl's home, and oh yah–– her parents would chaperone every interaction to ensure no indiscretions… Sounds like a bad flashback to that awkward middle school date to the movie theater with Daddy in the next row over. 

Clearly we no longer attend courtship balls, write each other love letters or get Dad’s permission when we dance on tables with that sweaty, shirtless guy… but have we come to the point of no return? Is creating a dating scene on a college campus an attempt to find love in a hopeless place?  Well, Rihanna says she can do it, so why not give it a try? Maybe we could heed a bit of advice from our Victorian Era counterparts and find a middle ground between Jane Austen and Girl’s Gone Wild.  So here is a list of quotes from this era that we can re-interpret to put a bit of refinement back into the modern day college ‘dating scene.’

For the ladies:

 “A young lady should not allow special attention from anyone to whom she is not specially attracted, because, first, she may do injury to the gentleman in seeming to give his suit encouragement; and, secondly, she may keep away from her those whom she likes better, but will not approach her under the mistaken idea that her feelings are already interested.”

 Stop Sending Mixed Messages:If you like him, then let him know and if you don’t, then don’t lead him on.  You’ll both be happier in the end.
 “No well bred lady will too eagerly receive the attentions of a gentlemen, no matter how much she admires him; nor, on the other hand, will she be so reserved as to altogether discourage him.”

Play Hard To Get, Sort Of: Be a bit mysterious, there’s no need to cue him in on your whole life story and future relationship goals.  This is overwhelming.  However, at the same time, don’t shut him out completely.
 “Any but a frivolous or vicious girl would boast of the offer she has received and rejected.”

Don’t Brag About Turning Down That One Guy…Why? Because you would hope he wouldn’t do the same to you.

For the Gentlemen:

 “As soon as a young gentleman devotes himself to a single lady, he gives that lady reason to suppose that he is particularly attracted to her, and may give her cause to believe she is to become engaged to him, without telling her so.”

Be Honest: Don’t act like you want a relationship if you don’t.  It’s not fair.
 “It is very injudicious, not to say presumptuous, for a gentleman to make a proposal to a young lady on too brief acquaintance.”

Slow Down!Just because we talked once in class doesn’t mean we want to hook up come the weekend.  Take some time to get to know us a bit better first.
After reflecting on these words of wisdom, it’s clear that we cannot (and don’t have to) return to Victorian style courtship, but I think we could all benefit from channeling a bit more of Elizabeth Bennet into our lives.  She never compromises her own opinions or values andalways views herself on the same level as the men who court her. Mr. Darcy clearly has to demonstrate his intent and prove that he deserves her.
Over the course of time, by displaying intelligence, a compatible personality and confidence in her self, Elizabeth is able to form a real friendship with Mr. Darcy, creating an opportunity for him to acknowledge her inherent value. And in the end, she wins his heart!  So next time you’re out on Saturday night, try to remember some of the wise words of the ‘Ghosts of Dating Past’ and maybe you might just find love in a hopeless place.
Quotes from: http://www.averyl.com/attic/flirt.htm
From the handy guide: Our Deportment: The Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society, published in 1882.
History from: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/timelines/a/romance_history.htm

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