Labor of Love | Moira Weigel

Summary of: Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating
By: Moira Weigel


In the book ‘Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating,’ Moira Weigel delves into the historical, social, and economic factors that shaped modern dating. The summary captures the transformative role of the Industrial Revolution in altering courtship among the working and middle classes and sheds light on the practice of ‘going steady’ in the 1950s to the impact of the Sexual Revolution and the AIDS epidemic. This engaging summary highlights the influence of shopgirls on dating culture, challenges faced by nontraditional couples, and the evolution of online dating.

Dating in the Industrial Age

How the Industrial Revolution Changed Courtship and Dating

Welcome to the world of modern dating, where swiping right and left is the norm. Ever wonder about the origins of dating? Well, the answer lies in the Industrial Revolution. Before the late nineteenth century, matchmaking was orchestrated by parents or relatives, but the influx of female workers transformed life in cities. Suddenly, men and women were seen in public spaces together, showing affection in parks and alleyways. This was mainly because people had nowhere else to go as apartments were small and crowded, leaving little room for privacy.

However, the story of courtship changed for the expanding middle class, built with the new wealth from industrialization. Their popular method of courtship involved men vying for the affection of women by going to their homes. A man interested in a woman would show up at her front door and leave his name with a servant. If the woman was interested, she would invite him inside, and they would talk, sing, and enjoy each other’s company but always under supervision. This private ritual reflected the wealth of the growing middle class.

The book explains how the booming economy and societal changes transformed the courtship process, leading to the start of dating as we know it today. The article focuses on the history of dating so that readers can better understand how the current system evolved.

The Evolution of Dating Culture

The influence of shopgirls in the rise of consumerism and its impact on modern-day digital courtship is explored in this book.

Gone are the days of scouring bars for potential dates; today, individuals are more likely to turn to dating apps. But how did we get here? The author explores the origins of modern-day dating culture, beginning with the key role played by shopgirls. These women, employed by department stores in the early 20th century, observed their affluent clients and replicated their tastes, becoming excellent salespeople in the process. By 1925, consumerism was central to American society and had an impact on how we perceive potential partners, with online dating profiles often emphasizing consumer preferences over personal traits.

However, it’s important to note that dating was not always an option for everyone, and the book delves into the experiences of those who were excluded from traditional dating culture. Overall, this book provides an insightful and engaging exploration of the fascinating evolution of dating culture, from its roots in the early 20th century to its present-day digital incarnation.

Secret Language of Love

In the 1900s, discrimination against homosexuality and challenges for black women to find partners forced them to create a secret language for finding love. The language included signals like tilting the head or using clothing, while black women organized rent parties to meet single men.

In the early 1900s, oppression and discrimination were rampant for gay people and black women in America. Homosexuality was illegal and often resulted in jail time or public shaming. As a response, the gay community developed a secret language as a way to communicate their sexual preferences without fear of persecution. This included signals like tilting one’s head and using terms like “gay” which meant “fun” or “bright.” Clothing was also used as a form of communication, with some people wearing specific items to signal their sexuality.

Additionally, black women working as domestic servants in white households also faced a difficult time finding partners. These women organized “rent parties” where musicians would play for money, and the proceeds would go to the host struggling to pay rent. These parties also provided an opportunity for black women to meet single men.

Despite the hostility towards homosexuality and the challenges faced by black women, these communities found ways to connect and support each other through a secret language and social gatherings. Their resilience and creativity in the face of oppression are admirable and continue to inspire marginalized communities to this day.

The 1950s: The Birth of “Going Steady”

Exploring the Origin of Modern Dating

Modern dating has come a long way since its inception in the 1950s, with “going steady” being an innovative trend that initiated it all. However, the practice of jumping from one relationship to another without any plans of settling down has become a norm in recent times. The 1950s era saw a coming-of-age ritual that involved dating for fun rather than finding a partner for marriage. This fad, called “going steady,” raised concern among the conservative and old-fashioned parents of that day. While dating earlier was primarily aimed at finding a spouse, “going steady” provided young people with the liberty to date whoever they wanted. Although premarital sex was not uncommon, parents feared their children would end up with incompatible partners. Studies from the era showed that young people explored their sexuality with their partners, often stopping just short of intercourse. The Kelly Longitudinal study demonstrated that the majority of married couples had done more than just kiss and hug their partners before marriage. Understanding the origin of modern dating helps us appreciate the liberty we have, and make the most of it too.

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