Why dating is drudgery
May 19, 2016 1:56 PM   Subscribe

[Mora] Weigel had a revelation: she was always turning to a man to tell her what she was after, and the institution of dating was to blame. It trained women “in how to be if we wanted to be wanted.” Hence “Labor of Love,” an exploration of that training, in which Weigel reaches two main conclusions. The first is that though dating is passed off as a leisure activity, it really is a lot of work, particularly for women. It requires physical effort—all that primping, exercising, shopping, and grooming—as well as sizable investments of time, money, and emotion. In our consumer society, love is perpetually for sale; dating is what it takes to close the deal.
posted by Bella Donna (36 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
Every time I read an article about dating I appreciate my wife of almost 25 years just a little bit more.
posted by COD at 2:19 PM on May 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


I especially loved this line: "If marriage is the long-term contract that many daters still hope to land, dating itself often feels like the worst, most precarious form of contemporary labor: an unpaid internship." FYI, the New Yorker piece linked to above refers to several other books in addition to Weigel's, including All the Single Ladies.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


The history of courting/dating was my favorite part of the article. So interesting!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the history part is IMO the most interesting, and it's kind of buried in the middle section of the article. If anyone's impatient like me, search the page for "tenements" and you can jump ahead to the first paragraph of the history part.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:32 PM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: “I feel like I’m brainwashed into wanting likes,” Sophia says.

The bit about Catholic schools kicking out students who were in monogamous relationships was fascinating. Did they not kick out the polygamous daters, too?
posted by clawsoon at 2:32 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm tempted to check out Sales' book, even though it sounds alarming, because Zack's mama needs to drag that boy by the ear and throw him in front of some consequences. But I doubt anything ever happened to him. Even if Sophia told anyone else, which, again, I doubt.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:50 PM on May 19, 2016


Was also struck by this, when the 13-year-old girl was solicited for nudes:

“Lol,” Sophia responds. There’s a consensus among her friends that humor is the de-rigueur response, a way to demonstrate “chill”—detachment, a feigned attitude of control in situations designed to wrest it from them.

Jesus. I see growing up has not gotten any easier.
posted by naju at 3:12 PM on May 19, 2016 [23 favorites]


"The bit about Catholic schools kicking out students who were in monogamous relationships was fascinating. Did they not kick out the polygamous daters, too?"

When I was in high school 20 years ago, parents (in general, not just the Catholic ones) were uneasy with the relationship model that prevailed at the time, which was that you started "going out" with one person you were serious about and only after you were together did you go on dates, rather than what THEY did in the 50s and 60s, which was go on lots of casual dates and only get serious later on when you decided to "go steady." A lot of the parents felt like the model where dating was ONLY serious and NEVER casual, and ONLY monogamous, led to sex earlier in relationships, and in less-stable relationships, than if you dated casually a bunch of different people and only started going steady after a while. I don't have any idea if it actually DID lead to sex earlier, but that was the parental fear, and I imagine what those historic Catholic schools also worried about.

The common parental response when I was in high school was to only allow "group dates" where you were with a bunch of other kids (and usually there was some sort of adult supervision), until you'd been "dating" a while, and THEN you could go on one-on-one dates. Everyone understood that one-on-one dates were MUCH more serious and required specific parental permission, and for your parents to more or less approve of your boyfriend/girlfriend to allow it. Sometimes you could be "dating exclusively" for six months without ever going on a one-on-one date ... just group hangs.

This wasn't in a place where parents were particularly worked up about teen sex as a general thing (as long as condoms were in use) -- they were more concerned about kids getting too serious too young and making bad college decisions as a result, or blowing their high school grades because they were too involved.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:21 PM on May 19, 2016 [25 favorites]


That was so bleak, but I wish I knew if it was real-alarmist or just the latest flavor of 'teens having sex on my lawn' to scare us Olds (rainbow parties, jelly 'sex bracelets'). This Salon piece from a couple years back felt a bit truer to me (though maybe that's because I want it to be true).

As a sweet counterpoint, I just discovered Soon By You, which (at least the first episode) is adorable.
posted by Mchelly at 3:30 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


No wonder I was so terrible at dating; I couldn't sell water to people in the desert.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:38 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


> “I feel like I’m brainwashed into wanting likes,” Sophia says

I'm running into this, with posting photos to Facebook, Instagram, etc; I know my kids are curious about the response I get, but I don't want them to get sucked into wanting "likes" and comments. My photos are of, say, my cat, or a pretty mountain, as I am very much not on the market, but the idea is still there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:40 PM on May 19, 2016


“Lol,” Sophia responds. There’s a consensus among her friends that humor is the de-rigueur response, a way to demonstrate “chill”—detachment, a feigned attitude of control in situations designed to wrest it from them.

I do wonder, though, how receiving "Lol" as a response to all kinds of things where "Lol" is not even possibly a germane response feeds into all that "beta rage" from that post earlier in the week. It's a natural response for us to look at those guys as crazy when they insist that all the "Stacies" are laughing at them and coldly disregarding them, but receiving "Lol" as a response to an advance is actually exactly that thing. I get that the chill and detachment thing is intended as a survival strategy (at least, for in-person interactions), but it might be doing a lot more harm than good in the long run. I don't know what else they could do, given the potential danger of outright refusal, though.

Basically, I'm just glad I'm not a woman trying to navigate a dating space.
posted by IAmUnaware at 3:54 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I recently got back into dating after a long spell of depression, and it's the pits when you're in your thirties. Dating as a teen and a 20-something was relatively easy, but it takes work to schedule a date with another responsible (or not so responsible as it often turns out) adult.

Which night is good from 7-9pm as it's a work day tomorrow don't you know, the terrible nuisance that is the spontaneity of text-messages, the primping and dressing and hiding the bits that sag and buttressing the parts that don't against the inevitabilities of gravity. More straps and restraints than Nurse Ratched would know what to do with. Do I have old man eyebrows? How do I fix my eyebrows? Is my hair too gray? Would I come across as fake if I dye it? Do I care? Which restaurant? Is he a vegan? Should I be a vegan? I don't want to be a vegan. Do they have gluten-free?

And so you go, festooned and reinforced with the vague glamors of our age, and Have Dinner. Having Dinner isn't usually a complicated affair but you're trying to fit together two pieces from different jigsaw puzzles and the box art is no help. You're an atheist, he wants to say Grace. You're teetotal and he's a lush. You do the twostep of etiquette as he picks his teeth with the matchbook, or fumbles with chopsticks. The edifice of Mt. Rushmore you've built up erodes to a souvenir stand simulacrum. At last, it's over. Maybe it's Over. Maybe you consider hiring a social secretary to vet these people first. You come to the horrible conclusion that you're One of These People. Welcome to the dregs, kiddo.

My first real date, two people out together alone, was when I was 16. I bought him a cheeseburger and we shared a large fries. It wasn't easy, but it was easier.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 4:04 PM on May 19, 2016 [52 favorites]


The guy asked a 13 year old for nude he could trade to another dude for beer. There is no conceivable universe where she is even slightly responsible for his feelings are you fucking kidding me.
posted by emjaybee at 4:05 PM on May 19, 2016 [155 favorites]


So, should we add saying "lol" to the list of things to warn our girls not to do, so as not to provoke men into a murderous rage?

Not that I think Sophia should have said "lol." She should have said "never contact me again," taken a screenshot, gone to a parent or teacher, and done all the smart careful things that I would never, ever have done at thirteen, because that would have been so Totally Overreacting and GOD. She probably knows she would have gotten HER phone taken away, for her own good (oh you didn't do anything WRONG sweetie but we can't let this happen), and then her life would have been completely over.

I got this kind of creeping from grown-ass men on AOL in the '90s, but did I go crying to anybody? Not if I valued my modem. So I just carried a whole bunch of new and horrible ideas about men around, instead.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:10 PM on May 19, 2016 [96 favorites]


I do wonder, though, how receiving "Lol" as a response to all kinds of things where "Lol" is not even possibly a germane response feeds into all that "beta rage" from that post earlier in the week.

I dunno. For a lot of shit that men/boys pull on women/girls, I'd make the case that "lol" is the kindest, gentlest response. That's not rage they are feeling, it's shame, and maybe they should feel it a little more acutely and, you know, behave like human beings for a change.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:17 PM on May 19, 2016 [53 favorites]


receiving "Lol" as a response to an advance is actually exactly that thing

Asking a 13-year-old girl for nudes is not an "advance," it's an aggression. He should be grateful merely to be dismissed rather than to be sitting in a police station with his parents trying to explain why their little darling is not actually a sexual predator.
posted by praemunire at 4:25 PM on May 19, 2016 [73 favorites]


Countess Elena nails it. As a teenager, if I told my parents about the shit I had to navigate just for being a teenage girl in public who liked boys, they'd would have wanted to restrict my movement. It's not actually a choice when either way involves a loss of autonomy.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:26 PM on May 19, 2016 [40 favorites]


Also in re Zack and his noodz: not only is "send noodz" categorically not an advance, we know that he was attempting to get them in order to pass them along to an older boy. (He's damn lucky he didn't get any, as he'd have been guilty of circulating child porn and his life would have been over.)

What I remember of my early teens was that all that sexual stuff from boys had nothing to do with relationships; it was aggression pure and simple - trick a girl into doing something so that you could boast to the other boys and harass her.

In re "beta rage": if you think that other boys are getting All The Nudes just by demanding them, and you're mad that you're not getting any, that is not legitimate mad, because no one should be demanding any nudes. The only way for a boy to defuse that is to realize that all the "alphas" are actually bullying assholes who are trying to get things that no one should get.
posted by Frowner at 4:47 PM on May 19, 2016 [37 favorites]


I can't believe we've actually gotten to "why don't preteen/tween girls consider the FEELINGS of boys asking them for nudes. Why can't they be NICER to them". Like jesus christ this is some sick, sick society we're in.
posted by naju at 5:01 PM on May 19, 2016 [63 favorites]


And, sorry if this is belaboring a point, but it's pretty obvious that boys are socialized (often fairly unwittingly*) towards certain kinds of aggression that easily shade into outright abuse, while girls are socialized (again, often unwittingly) to be weak against those sorts of aggression. Just a little reading should make it clear to anyone, woman or man, how profoundly damaging this is to women, but also to men, who have to navigate a dating/relationship landscape that has already been lace with landmines. If your response is "beta rage" toward women, you've missed the point. The enemy is the Patriarchy, which is a system that richly rewards certain men at the expense of women and children but also many many men. If you are sick of the situation, men, tear down the system.

* Because the problem is collective and systemic, rather than individual and personal, although the latter is how we experience it. Which is one reason why "but I don't do that!" is a useless and harmful response from men -- the problem is collective, and thinking primarily about individual "solutions" is acting on entirely the wrong scale.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2016 [34 favorites]


None of the "betas" I've known were doing this kind of thing when they were growing up. They were nice, polite, asexual-as-possible boys. They hardly dared to ask a girl out, let alone ask her for "NOODZ".

Instead, they're doing this nonsense as adults, because somebody told them that this is how to be "alpha", and that being "alpha" is the only way that a woman will enjoy having sex with you. It's the toxic version of "how to be if we wanted to be wanted".

Any, dating is exhausting, that's 10000% true.
posted by clawsoon at 5:06 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Of course, and I will admit to pushing the detail, while dating is pretty gender-universal, TFA is about women's' dating experiences, so maybe we could try to not make this about men and our male-centric feelings?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:23 PM on May 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


I wish thirty years ago when I was in my early teens that "dating" or courtship was taught in school. The point isn't to get to third base (or even first base) on a date; the point instead was to have fun with a shared experience, and determine if you would like to go on a date again. Something more formalized, with etiquette, and also a way to manage expectations ("It doesn't matter if she does't like you"), with lessons on why likable people are likable.
posted by My Dad at 5:36 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't believe we've actually gotten to "why don't preteen/tween girls consider the FEELINGS of boys asking them for nudes. Why can't they be NICER to them". Like jesus christ this is some sick, sick society we're in.

I hope we're teaching my sons not to hold those attitudes about young women. At the moment most internet use and texting is generally done with us in the room (just by coincidence). Something as parents we need to take responsibility for.
posted by My Dad at 6:11 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


god, even apart from this discussion, that 'lol' was the part of the article that stabbed me in the heart. I was in junior high wayyyy before texting but in Sophie's 'lol' I could still hear the exact tone of weak, strangled laughter that girls have been using to deflect male sexual aggression for generations. Wasn't there also an article on here recently about how girls become so practiced at swallowing their anger that by the time they're adults, they can no longer physically feel it? Lol is the sound of anger getting pushed down so deep it won't surface again for decades. Ugh, Sophie, burn the world down.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:14 PM on May 19, 2016 [83 favorites]


I'm not sure I ever really dated anyone.

I was moderately late starting relationships, my first "date" was at age 22 when I made chicken alfredo for a woman in her apartment a year or so after my father died. We never really did the whole flowers movies dinner thing.

My wife and I went on a single traditional style date, dinner out (Thai), a movie (Rush Hour 2), and dessert (Marble Slab). Then after that it was all breaking into a Payless Shoe store under construction to see how the concrete slab and wiring were coming along, exploring the drainage system at a local park, going to a solstice party with friends, stuff like that followed by moving in together.

I suppose there are advantages to being so painfully shy and such an incipient Nice Guy that you basically spend your teenage years alone.
posted by sotonohito at 6:36 PM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Cool link. On the ol' skool tip, Erich Fromm traversed this ground pretty thoroughly back in the day in The Art Of Loving (1956).
posted by Bob Regular at 6:38 PM on May 19, 2016


I've never been on a date, and I don't regret that. It sounds awful.

Yesterday I was on Tumblr and a video post came across my dash. It was a young man and young woman in a car after a date. The young man was being "honest" with the woman that the reason he spent $200 on her was that he wanted some pussy. At first, the post filled up with praise for this "honest" young man, but then there was a (wonderful) amount of pushback--women speaking up and saying no, that's not honesty, that's garbage.

There is so much garbage that women have to deal with.

I wish it was possible for more of us to be conscientious objectors to the whole scene. Like, I know this is a fantasy, and I don't expect any woman to actually do it, but I sometimes wonder whether men would get their shit together if all of us women moved to Crone Island. If we said, "we ain't coming over to your house until you clean it up." Until they made each other accountable for all the garbage.

I'm really not interested in finding a partner so it's an easy choice for me.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:08 PM on May 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have been job-interviewing lately in IT and the process is very reminiscent of dating as described here, especially with respect to online dating. First, you find a potential match online (or your social network connects you to someone) and make compromises in how exacting and picky you're going to be depending on your own prior experience with successfully going on dates and knowing what you don't like or won't tolerate in a partner (arguably more important than "likes" early on in adulthood), and have to weigh your expectations against the minimal information you have and not get too emotionally invested at any stage, especially in the first several series of interaction.

Some interviews might take hours and require hours of preparation, and come with anxiety about how well they will go. These days, in-person interviews are often prefaced with a phone interview that seems easygoing in some ways but is also a strong filter mechanism (at least in IT it's not uncommon to get more "grilled" on a phone call with challenging questions or challenges to your statements, when you don't face each other) and can be exhausting in terms of the preparation, the interview itself, and developing the right "safe" level enthusiasm to come across as interested and positive without getting super emotionally invested in the position right away knowing that it could vaporize at any moment.

Then you have the emotional ups and downs of dealing with disappointment after a promising first impression (or series of impressions that change over time), and the very real financial and "free" time expenses involved up front in that are investments in increasing your small probability (in isolation, n=1 attempt) of pairing off with someone.

Definitely there are people who enjoy the process of dating in and of itself and that can change with time and circumstance, and I suspect extroversion is often a key factor in enjoying the process for its own sake -- but geez, the guy described at the beginning clearly had a pathological obsession with controlling women and making them feel invested in a lie, which is far creepier and more twisted than simply "playing the field" with honesty. "Red Pillers" on Reddit et al call these women "plates," as in "spinning plates."

I didn't do a lot of the sort of dating where the goal is to "gain experience" (for lack of a less clinical or gamey term) with multiple people over time that you typically approach specifically for dating from the beginning. My wife was my second girlfriend and I was a friend of hers for a semester as a freshman in college before we connected romantically. Instead of lamenting spending time in the [bogus] "friend zone," I was up-front about my attraction to her at the beginning, she was up-front about not being uncomfortable about it and communicating that she had a boyfriend, and I communicated my willingness, through my actions, to get to know her as a study partner in a difficult school with a lot in common, without being a creep about it. I look back and try to figure out if I did anything wrong in my approach and I think it worked out pretty well, with us together 18 years later. I got lucky though, which trumps grueling hard work every time.
posted by aydeejones at 12:15 AM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


^ In fairness, I believe many redpillers who boast (truthfully or otherwise) about their "plate spinning" are actually proud of the fact that their "plates" know full well that they're not in a monogamous situation by any means and will brag about the effort their "plates" put into trying to lock them down only to be brushed off with "baby, I'm an alpha gorilla who has to experience all life has to offer." It's a common-enough theme that I ran into it more than once on Reddit. In that respect they (at least this subset of casual-sex guys) are far more respectful to women as casual sex partners in practice than the psycho in the article.

I had a little "explore the manosphere in detached disgust over the misogyny and MRA crap while also getting some motivation to get my body into optimal shape from bros" phase, which is why I've seen a handful of these boast-posts on Reddit et al
posted by aydeejones at 12:23 AM on May 20, 2016


The enemy is the Patriarchy, which is a system that richly rewards certain men at the expense of women and children but also many many men. If you are sick of the situation, men, tear down the system.
But from my experience the failsafe of the Patriarchy is that it inoculates men from the ability to think in those terms. Not even having the capacity to consider the alternative. Whether by carrot or stick the system ensures that men will not remove themselves from the equation. Even as allies we are incapable of sacrificing ourselves and so we continue to be the problem.
posted by fullerine at 12:48 AM on May 20, 2016


Wasn't there also an article on here recently about how girls become so practiced at swallowing their anger that by the time they're adults, they can no longer physically feel it? Lol is the sound of anger getting pushed down so deep it won't surface again for decades.
If there was I'd really like to read it, because that describes my partner to a tee…
posted by Pinback at 5:30 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


This was a fascinating article. As the mother of a young teen, I'm sort of terrified what the internet has done to personal interactions.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:19 AM on May 20, 2016


If there was I'd really like to read it, because that describes my partner to a tee…

Okay I'm going to get all teaching moment about emotional labor. There is a search field at the top of the page on MetaFilter. If you really want to find an article, you can use it to look for one. I used the search terms "women anger" and here you are.

And yeah, I was shocked speechless at the 13-year-old asking for nudes. So shocked that I assumed I was misreading "noodz" as first and thought, like, this new slang for noodles, what does it mean? uh, no, it actually did mean "nudes," and I was like, WTF??? Even the emotionally-impoverished empathy-less Reddit red-piller I wasted a few months on before he proudly admitted to dating a dozen women at the same time didn't ask me for nude photos, and we were 30 years old. (Unless he also lied about his age, but well. Still. No request for nudes.)
posted by fraula at 11:14 AM on May 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Okay I'm going to get all teaching moment about emotional labor. There is a search field at the top of the page on MetaFilter. If you really want to find an article, you can use it to look for one. I used the search terms "women anger" and here you are.
Or … you could've just linked it if you'd had it handy, or ignored me & moved on (and even flagged it!) if you didn't. 'Emotional labour' is definitely a thing - but so is 'making a rod for your own back'…

Coincidentally - or perhaps not ;) - that's related to why I asked. My partner has always been open about how her upbringing conditioned her to push down any anger/frustration (insert Philip Larkin quote here…), and is trying to distinguish and draw lines between things she needs to care about, things she wants to care about, emotional labour that's been dumped on her - and stuff she doesn't need to buy in to at all.

Anyway, thanks for the link. I didn't see it when it was first posted and my quick late night search didn't find it, so I figured it was actually somewhere else & misremembered as a MeFi post.
posted by Pinback at 12:21 AM on May 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


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