Dating over 100 years: Part III, it was work

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Dating over 100 years: Part III, It was work

 

By Shalee Hanson
shanson@fayettepublishing.com

 

The question: What was dating like then, and what is it like now?

This segment was the most difficult to write. When you ask middle-aged men and women if they would tell you about what dating was like when they were in high school, three in four adults will make some reference about not wanting to relive their dating years. I even had someone tell me, and I quote, “Sorry, a million dollars isn’t enough to make me relive the dating years!”

Once I did find some people who would answer my questions, they agreed to do so under the condition that I not use their names. I will respect their privacy.

The picture that was painted by these people made dating seem like a movie.  It was common for couples to meet up and go out after football games and go to the local restaurant to enjoy a meal together or go out as groups to the movies.

There was no clearcut definition of the relationship during this time. Instead of changing your Facebook relationship status, class rings were traded or the girl wore her boyfriend’s letterman’s jacket as a sign that she was off the market.

Marriage and family were very important aspects of society at that time, so people invested a lot more in their relationships early on.  It wasn’t uncommon to be married before you graduated from high school. One of the people with whom I spoke was married at 17, dropped out of high school, and then went back and earned her GED with several of her friends. She and her husband have been married for 41 years.

During this time period, more rules set in place when it came to dating. Often, students abided by curfews and were never allowed to be alone together in the home. However, though there were rules, parents did not talk to their kids about dating, what was expected of them or what was appropriate.

“I remember on one of my first dates, we were leaving the house and as we were walking out, my dad said, ‘Keep your pants on.’ I was mortified! That was the closest we had ever come to talking about sex.” one woman shared.

“There was no communication or information available to us about sex, or what was healthy and what wasn’t.  You just kind of learned from what your friends told you or your own experiences. It wasn’t easy to talk to your parents about that stuff,” shared another.

This generation began to see a lot more drama than their parents did.  Girls would try to steal each other’s boyfriends or get in the middle of relationships.  Rumors around school became a problem, but the problems were more personal.

“It’s not like it is now, where you post something on the Internet for everyone to see. We dealt with a lot of rumors, but the problems tended to stay between the people the conflict involved, not just anyone. But you’re always going to have drama when teenage girls are involved,” one interviewee said.

This generation viewed the improvements in technology as both a blessing and a curse.

“In a way, I’m jealous.  There are so many more ways for people to be close to each other when they can’t actually be close to each other,” said another young lady.

“Technology is great, but it’s dangerous.  Relationships are not easy, and you’re not going to be happy all the time. Technology just makes it easier for people to go try and find their happiness elsewhere.  It’s actually really sad,” said one young lady.

The lives of this generation weren’t as simple as their parents’ were.  People dated around – that was normal – but it was much more common to be in a serious relationship. All those interviewed stressed the kind of work they had to put into their relationships and expressed fear for the generations to come.

The advice from our baby boomers:

“Be gentle with each other’s hearts. Don’t date someone just to date them.  Relationships take a lot of work. You’re not going to be happy all the time, but you have to invest in it.  You get out of a relationship what you put into it,” said one baby boomer.

“Be observant; do not put blinders on and think that you can change a person.  You’ve got a thousand different ways to communicate with each other; use them.  Learn to trust each other, and talk to your parents.  We’ve been there,” said another.

“If it feels wrong, then it probably is. Avoid people who are jealous or controlling; you don’t want to spend 40-plus years with someone who is smothering you. We used to invest so much in our families; I dropped out of school to start my family.  Now we invest so much into money and education, and then we wonder why our relationships fail. In order to have successful relationships, you need to learn the art of respect, understanding, and tolerance,” one said.

Each person I interviewed had a vastly different story from the others, but each of them involved elements of commitment, hard work, and devotion to their relationships.

For this generation, dating was work.

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