Dating, Rating, and Going Steady

From the Front Porch to Back Seat: A History of the Date by Beth Bailey

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Dating in American society hasn’t always been so flexible and loose ended. The history of dating and relationships is a lot more complicated than the dating in modern society. There were systems implemented in the culture of America’s youth that determine their popularity, their future, and their habits. Dating habits of the youth were more strict in the twentieth century. Youth almost followed an outline and a complete set of rules related to dating. Each time period consisted of different types of dating, ranging from old-fashioned courtship to obtaining many suitors and dates to “going steady”. In the 1920’s, the earliest form of dating was the courtship, when the man paid the expenses of the date for a woman’s company. Dating became similar to a competition, in which the amount of dates a woman goes on positively correlates to her rate, or in other terms, her popularity. By the 1950’s the promiscuity of dating had been replaced by “going steady”, which was a similar concept to a long term relationship or a play pretend marriage. This shift in dating was due to the impacts of World War II. All relationships and dating became more serious. In fact even the amount of marriages increased dramatically. The views on marriage had shifted during this timeline as the views on dating transformed as well. During the rating and dating period, marriage was viewed as the termination of all relationship and dating, while after the war it was viewed as the goal of dating. Our modern society implements different aspects of these time periods and our culture is a culmination of all of the different types of dating and dating concepts. Some old traditions are used from these different periods today. For example, while going steady was the norm the boys often gave the girls tokens to symbolize their relationship physically. A common thing for youth to do now is for the boys to give girls sweatshirts, or something of that realm. Although that is more common among the younger youth. Different people now tend to follow the┬átraditions of either the dating and rating system or the going steady system. Since these systems have fallen apart it seems to just be a choice of personal preference. I believe that these choices may also be influenced by not only their peer’s choices but their parents’ perspectives, which had most likely been shaped according to their generation. Although there is no set system to dating like there had been in the past, I feel like it is less constricting and less pressure. Without the systems it gives the youth more freedom and responsibility to make choices for themselves without succumbing to the pressures of the rest of society. It is easier for youth to do what is more comfortable for them personally without the dangers of being penalized personally. As our dating traditions have developed into something much more liberal, it makes me wonder if new systems will be adopted in the future or if all systems will be completely lost and forgotten.