Dating advice from the 1950s


Apologies for the long sabbatical, life got in the way! Terrible excuse, I know, but please accept this post as an apology!

The Atlantic posted a short video inspired from a series of films based on the book Marriage for Moderns by Henry A. Bowman. “Choosing for Happiness” is a dating how-to guide for young women in 1950. Mary, the narrator, is relatively unfamiliar with the social scene on her college campus and looks to her friend Eve for advice on dating and men.

The video’s a bit long, and of course, girls were married at 19 then, but here are the lessons I’ve learned that be applied to 21st Century dating:

  1. Don’t try to change a guy.
  2. Spend long afternoons with a man, not long nights.
  3. You can’t trust a guy that’s all eyes and smiles.
  4. When a man says he doesn’t think of you as a woman, leave….now!
  5. A guy saying that someone should take you across his knee and give you a spanking does not mean the fun sort of spanking.

What do you think? Anything in the video that’s still useful?


There is no Mr (or Mrs) Right

Disclaimer: While this post is directed at women looking for true love, Mr. Right, the one and only, etc, just replace all female references with males ones to make the post equally valid for men.

My flatmate sent me this article, “Why Mr Right is Not Real,” because she thought it would make for a good commentary piece on this blog…and she is right.

Overall, the article argues that we women are constantly fed stories about perfect, easy, everything-falling-into-place love through rom-coms, TV shows, etc. and we hold out for that. We become convinced that anything less than that is settling. The article mentions a new study published in Mass Communication and Society that found that if married women believed in the TV portrayals of relationships, they tended to be less committed to their own pairings and to find alternative partners more attractive. That is one scary thought, that some fictional or grossly exaggerated relationship could have such a profound effect on your real life relationship.

“The problem with looking for the perfect mate is there’s no such thing,” says clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D. The article does go into how we may think we know what we want, but in reality, we don’t actually know what is good for us; however, since that was already covered in yesterday’s post, I think it’s fair to skip that.

What I really like about this piece is that it urges readers to realize the distinction between letting go of the idea of Mr. Right and “settling”.

All of this Mr. Everything brainwashing has made women feel as if they’re settling even when they aren’t. Unless a guy is some sort of Matthew McConaughey/Channing Tatum mash-up, you believe you could do better. If butterflies don’t break-dance in your gut when he’s around, you think you’re settling. If he’s a morning person and you’re not, you’re convinced he isn’t The One. We want kismet, frictionless matches or none at all.

Most women these days generally fall into two camps: 1) they want to/do marry someone they are not in love with but accept this because there is something else more valuable to them than love in that relationship; or 2) they vehemently abhor the idea of settling for someone and run away from anything resembling “settling.”

“Relationships are messy and scary; they require vulnerability and a loss of control.” This involves accepting the imperfections.

When you aren’t sure about whether you are settling or not, make two lists: on one, write down the top five traits you need your significant other to have and on the other list, jot down all the nice-to-haves. If the guy checks off the need-to-have boxes, then you are NOT settling.

Sure, I want my boyfriend to plan a trip once in awhile. It feels like whenever it’s time to go away, it’s always me bringing up the idea of a holiday, it’s me discussing where to go, it’s me looking for hotel rooms and how we’re going to get there. And yes, this does frustrate me. However, travel planning is not a need-to-have for me, it’s a nice-to-have. I know that he is organized in other areas of his life and he loves traveling just as much as I do (which is a need-to-have), so if he is utterly unhelpful at travel planning, that’s fine. I’m not “settling,” I’m just aware that a lack of travel planning skills is not, for me, something worth dismissing a guy over. I’m accepting that he’s not Mr. Right, but he is Mr. Real (if I can be permitted to use the cheesy language of the article).

The Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate

To get away from the serious and the philosophical dimensions of love,  here is an intriguing video on the math of love found on one of my all-time favorite websites, Brain Pickings. Using two mathematical principles (the Fermi paradox and the Drake equation) , Joe Hanson calculates the odds of finding your soul mate and tells you why there are roughly 871 special someones for you out there. That is, 871 if you are a young female looking for a young gentleman in New York City.

Now, obviously, this number doesn’t apply to everyone since Hanson presented one specific case, but is the overall idea that you can calculate your odds of finding your soul mate valid? Can you create a formula and plug in what you are looking for to see how many individuals fit that description?

I think no. To extrapolate from some of Badiou’s views discussed earlier, love involves risk and the unknown. Putting it simply, most people don’t know what they are looking for, so they probably wouldn’t know what variables to plug into an equation to calculate how many people in this world are for them. While everyone can conjure up a list of desired qualities in their theoretical significant other, I’m not quite sure people have an accurate understanding on what qualities actually matter to them.

Contrary to most blogs, I don’t really want to get into my life experiences, but in this case I will share a bit. If someone had asked me what I was looking for in a guy before I met my current boyfriend, I would have said someone who: works at a job rather than owns a business, is politically and socially aware, is an avid reader and has a thirst for knowledge, loves to travel, is emotionally intelligent, and can communicate and discuss issues.

I’m not saying that my boyfriend doesn’t have some  of these qualities or that these are the most important traits I was looking for because clearly being a good, kind, gentle, loving, family-oriented, ambitious, driven person are all crucial on almost everyone’s list. Rather, I’m pointing out that if I was asked about what interests matter to me in addition to these key foundational qualities, I would not have aligned with my boyfriend. If I had seen him on a dating site, I would have thought he was attractive but after looking at his interests and his description, I would have dismissed him on the basis of incompatibility.

Therefore, I am very glad I met him in person and got to know him, and that we are together. In my experience, having common interests or the lack of common interests do not make or break a relationship. Those are plus points, but not essential. The items we are looking for in the ideal significant other do not often correspond to person we find ourselves in love with and wanting to be with.

I also have an issue with the idea of a soul mate, “the one”, etc. as I was telling a friend earlier today. I don’t believe that there is one person out there for you and that destiny will help you meet him/her….but that is for another post.

So, do you buy Hanson’s argument? Why? Or…why not?