Dating Through the Ages: Learning From the Past

By Kristin Manganello, Copy Cutie

Romance may not be as old as the hills but people have courted each other since scribbling their dating deets on cave walls. And despite changes in technology, social norms and customs, humans aren’t so different than we were in the “good ol’ days.” There’s plenty we can learn from history, especially when it comes to dating. Here are four historical courtship rituals and corresponding pieces of advice for the present day.

1. Puritanical Bundling: In eighteenth century America, young couples would spend the night together in bed with a board placed between them or over the girl’s legs. Usually done in the woman's home, this arrangement allowed the two lovebirds to intimately get to know one another in a safe environment.

Contemporary Translation: Unless you’re only looking for casual encounters, hold off on doing the deed immediately with your new partner. Explore your mutual chemistry and get a feel for each other’s communication styles and relationship wants. Keeping things above the belt for a period of time will lead to a more emotionally and physically fulfilling experience for when the time comes.

2. Nordic Knife Symbolism: In Norway it was customary for a father to attach an empty knife sheath to his daughter’s belt to signify that she was single. When an eligible bachelor was interested, he would place his knife into the sheath to show she was now taken.

Contemporary Translation: If your metaphorical sheath has been empty for a while, don’t fill it with a knife of jaded aloofness. Being emotionally closed off won’t help you find someone — it only gives the impression that you’re unavailable.

3. Passion in the Philippines: When a man sought the attention of a woman he would sit outside her house and serenade her, either alone or with a band of friends. If the lady was interested, she’d open the window and listen to his music.

Contemporary Translation: Even though John Cusack playing “In Your Eyes” has become a romantic icon, this over-the-top gesture is more likely to land you a date with a cellmate than with your special guy or gal. Take your passion down a notch and simply start by making small mentions of your creative leanings. Whet your match’s pallet so they'll want to know more about you and your talent.

4. Samurai Set Up: Beginning in the seventeenth century, Japanese Samurais (and later, others) participated in a form of arranged marriage called Miai, in which a friend, family member, or matchmaker would find a match for an unattached person by reviewing prospective partners’ resumes. Once a selection was made, the two parties would be introduced to each other so that they could consider marriage. As time progressed, photographs were also used in the preliminary stages to avoid rejection on either end.

Contemporary Translation: With the use of photographs and profiles, Miai was a precursor to online dating. While arranged marriages are a bit too old fashioned for most, you should be open to all the doors that love might walk through — even if it seems out of your element. You might meet someone through your sister’s boyfriend or your online dating inbox. The bottom line is to never ignore any of the tools you have available in your love-life toolbox.

Do you have an interesting dating tradition from your culture? Share it with us in a comment below!