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The shift was profound, in that calling was all about meeting with one’s future spouse in a proper domestic (or church-sponsored) setting, and dating was all about having fun in public venues with someone of the opposite sex.In other words, tea in the parlor and church picnics were losing out to amusement parks and dances.Even after being introduced, it was still some time before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a lady or for a couple to be seen together.Once they had been formally introduced, if the gentleman wished to escort the lady home he would present his card to her.In America, wealthy industrialists had amassed great fortunes, and with no Law of Primogeniture, fathers endowed their daughters with fortunes of their own.The gentry, finding their coffers depleted, swallowed hard and married American heiresses in order to enrich their great estates.Known as a British import, the tradition of bundling apparently came with the Dutch to New Amsterdam, New York, as well, though they called it “queesting.” By 1800, bundling as a courtship practice was well on its way out.
During medieval times, the importance of love in a relationship emerged as a reaction to arranged marriages, but was still not considered a prerequisite in matrimonial decisions.
By the 1920s, courtship was synonymous with dating, the relatively new terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” were fast gaining ground, and “going steady” had become the norm.
In the 1940s, dating was an imperative social ritual, and just after World War II, the most common age for a bride was 17.
Both my parents have been gone for many years now, but I sometimes have to jolt myself into remembering just how long it has been. She is stunned, but much more than that, she is overcome with the embarrassment that she didn’t know they were dating, so, as not to make him (or herself) look like a fool, she says “yes.” It was my mother’s one and only courtship, and she missed it!
Today is one of those times because it’s soon after the turn of the new year that I used to be making anniversary plans with my siblings. An odd entrance to marriage, but it was only Evert’s death 49 years later that would separate them.
As what would have been our parents’ 68th wedding anniversary approaches, I reflect not only on their being my parents, but even more so on their courtship. It’s true that theirs was an odd courtship, but historically speaking, courtship has not been without its peculiarities.