History of Dating (Seventeen, February 1990)

History of Dating (Seventeen, February 1990)

It's February, so the teen magazines are all about the Valentine's themed articles. This is one I've come across from the February 1990 issue of Seventeen. Being that I was a teen at that time (and I was both a Seventeen and Sassy subscriber), I actually remember this silly article presenting a digestible capsule of dating factoids from Adam & Eve to the '80s. Brace yourself folks, this was a bit painful to transcribe, so read with caution! 

*note, the image at the lead is not from the article itself (there were no usable graphics, just tiny thumbnails of couples throughout history, so I used an image from the Postcards From Paris fashion editorial appearing in the same issue. 

The Absolutely Factual, Totally Fascinating, Complete and Unbiased History of Dating

by Barbara Stepko

Seventeen, February 1990

Don't try to fight it. It's stronger than you are - this peculiar desire to don an angora sweater, spend countless hours coiffing up your hair, and play Let's Make a Deal to get a decent curfew hour. All because you're going out on a date...quality time with the guy of your dreams. Maybe he'll sweep you off your feet. Maybe you'll both live happily ever after. 

Then again, maybe you'll spend countless mind-numbing moments listening to some dweeb talk about the pressures of being in the audio-visual club. Or get caught in a clinch with a big lug who thinks that the Notre Dame fight song is appropriate make-out music. 

But it really doesn't matter, does it? These not-so-trivial pursuits always manage to take up a large portion of our time. Why? Because it's in our chromosomes? Because we don't want to spend another Friday night Stuck watching John Stamos? Because we're victims of peer pressure? 

In any case, there's nothing we can do about it. That's the way it's always been. (Trust me, I've done research.) So in honor of this romantic time of the year (V-Day, as I like to call it) and that mischievous cherub running around in Pampers pointing his little arrows at everyone, I'd like to take you on a magical history tour of dating. Ready, aim, fire...

The very first date: Tempted by the fruit of another

"I can't leave you two crazy kids alone for five minutes without all hell breaking loose!" Pity poor Adam and pushy Eve. Living together in the Garden of Eden (think Club Med without the cabanas), they had it made - catching rays, walking around au naturel, at one - well, two - with the elements. This first couple never had to come up with snappy pick-up lines or worry about trivial dating matters like who pays for the popcorn. Then along came this snake with a come-slither look and well, you know the rest. Now, light millenniums later, we're walking around with guilt and tan lines. Nice going, guys. Fascinating footnote: For the first time in history, the words "Oh, c'mon...it'll be fun!" lead to trouble. 

Cavemen: Gorillas In The Mist

Hubba, hubba! Homo sapiens are hot! Sure, those antelope-bagging, knuckle-dragging dreamboats weren't much for conversation. But, hey, who needs small talk when you can exchange meaningful glances from across a crowded cave? Besides, these big lugs knew the kew to attracting the female of the species: muscle flexing. The truly inventive types also knew they'd never score without wheels, so they got to work. (Also discovered fire, to create a really romantic mood.)...The drawbacks of dating a primate. First, forget about one-girl guys. Women were nothing but notches in their pelts. Second, you could dress them up, but you couldn't tale them out to eat. They had terrible ten-digit table manners that continue to this very day. Favorite female put-down: "What rock did you crawl out from under?" Favorite prehistoric pubescent couple: Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.

Egyptian: Tut, Tut

Barging her way into men's lives, vampy, trampy Cleopatra was a prom queen with a reputation as muddy as the Nile. Hardly the kind of girl you'd take home to meet Mummy. She created the first love triangle by dating Julius Caesar and Mark Antony at the same time. A known "pyramid-iac" (one who is fixated on the finer things in life), this manic Material Girl loved to get - or grab- tokens of affection like "tasteful" jewelry and the occasional kingdom. Maybe Cleo wasn't anything to etch home about, but she knew what a little (okay, a lot) of makeup could do - especially around the eyes. She could take literally decades primping for a big date. 

Ancient history: Greece Is The Word

Who did they think they were, anyway - gods? For real conceit, the Greeks couldn't be beat. Always posing with the profiles. Sure, they put girls on a pedestal, but they had egos of Olympic proportions...Men bored their dates to tears with deep - yet dull- philosophical ponderings like "If a boy gives a girl a hickey and there's no one there to see it, does it leave a mark?" Also unwelcome: gifts of pottery (made in shop class)....Rocking the cradle of civilization, guys started battling over babes like boy-toy Helen of Troy and got zany with practical jokes like Trojan horseplay. (Girls were supposed to find this funny?)

Roman Empire: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Sure, the Greeks were a hard act to follow, But with the Romans - the ultimate party animals (Toga!) - the Empire struck back. Their idea of a good time was dragging dates to one of those all you can eat" deals or to custom chariot shows at the Colosseum...as Christians were thrown to lions - a hint of their future attraction to Monday night football and The Three Stooges... "Et tu Brute!" the first Roman was caught cheating on his date. Oft-heard quotes: "sometimes I think you love that chariot more than me!" and "Honest, hon, she's history!"

Medieval: Knight Time Is The Right Time

No shortage of real men back in the Middle Ages, when heavy metal first became a major attraction...Trying to nail the Holy Grail, these guys would go off for months on crusades (do we believe this story?). Other valuable time was spent trying to get a girl's attention by jousting (a smooth move compared to today's more common routine of crushing a beer can against one's forehead)...First sign of male bonding: Knights of the Round Table ("Hey Arthur, how many pheasant can you stuff in your mouth at once?"). Fascinating footnote: Wench is used as a term of endearment. 

Renaissance: Love Ye Tender

"Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm painting the Sistine Chapel, but I'd rather be kissing you." Ahh, the Renaissance man. Nowadays, it's a guy who can chew gum and fix a transmission at the same time. But back in the days of yore, the term applied to a guy who could paint, sculpt, write, wear a beret, you name it...It was during this time that guys started to tinker with everything. They also discovered that the easiest way to meet women was to ask them to pose for a painting (sneaky). Learning to play instruments was another popular technique for getting girls "Ooh, Leonardo, you sure play a mean lute." ). 

Elizabethan: Bewitched, Bothered and Beheaded

Forget about getting to know them, getting to know all about them. In Elizabethan days, dating was merely a formality. Arranged marriages (blind dates - taken one step further) at a young age were all the rage. Unfortunately, they took all the fun out of ruining your own life...Inspired by the ever-unpredictable (and impatient) Henry VIII, it's disposable dating. What a concept! Girls lost their heads over guys - literally - giving the term necking a whole new meaning...Curtseying to men is a new custom: Good manners - or just a cheap way to show a little more leg? 

Pilgrims: Mayflower Madams

Let the good times roll at The Rock? Yeah, in your dreams. If it's fun you're after, forget this era. Everything frivolous - like laughing, singing, kissing, making balloon animals - was forbidden. The main purpose of having girls around was to cook, clean, and tend to the turkey. Sure sometimes things would get lively at those getting-to-know-you Indian-settler mixers, but other than that it was a bore to be young and in love...The only ones having a good time were those wacky Salem witch girls, forsaking dating in favor of dancing around in the woods with scout leader Tituba. Atlas, they got burned in the end.)

American Revolution: Old Glory Days

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know we just want to dump some tea. And so it went when Americans decided to fight the British for their right to party and date whomever they wanted...While a lot of the eligible guys were off freezing their fannies at Valley Forge women were forced to make do at home with the older duds and their bad hairpieces ("I'm not just the owner of the powdered wig club - I'm also a member")...George Washington taught people never to tell a lie, so relationships didn't last long...Sex symbols of the days. Betsy Ross ("Turn-ons: candles, Turn-off: wooden teeth) and ramblin' man Paul Revere...The era's best pickup line - uttered by Ben "Go fly a kite" Franklin: "Is it me or is there a lot of electricity in this room?"

French Revolution: Leave It To Cleavage

Ah, a fine time to be young and in love (and top-heavy, too, for that matter). The French Revolution was a great way to meet and mingle. The Rowdies versus The Rich was the ultimate catfight...What guys found attractive back then? White, pasty faces, beauty marks, and, yes, breasts. (Madonna could have really cleaned up!) A keen sense of humor was also important. But wry wit - like the kind displayed by Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" cutup - could get a girl and her date into real trouble. Marie should have known that pastry jokes just don't play in Paris. 

Old South: Scarlett Fever

Fiddle-dee-dee! The North may have won the war, but those southern gals, with their fans a -flutterin' and their petticoats a-rustlin', sure won the battle of the boys. Knowing how to flirt didn't exactly hurt, either. Satisfying boys' fetish for the coquettish, they never went dateless again. Why, next to them, smart-mouthed Yankee girls didn't stand a chance...It's not, I do declare!

Turn of the century: 20th Century Foxes

Finally, things began to swing - figuratively and literally. Abner Doubleday invented America's favorite pastime - thus making possible the famous locker-room line, "So, did you get to first base last night?"...Attention, girls! Women get the right to vote and immediately elect hunky Warren Harding president. Fascinating footnote: Henry Ford invents the automobile. Just what guys needed - a new way to impress chicks. 

Thirties: Manic Depression

Funny - the twenties started okay. Flappers. Valentino. Bobbed hair. Flat chests were fine. Bare legs were even better. Guys went around trying to impress their dates by bribing bouncers to get into newly invented nightclubs ("Honest - I know Rudy Vallee!") It was all too good to last. Along with the thirties came the Great Depression, and suddenly it was "Baby, can you spare a dime?" time. And guys were more interested in umping off buildings than into relationships. Fascinating footnote: Jean Harlow is hot, and suddenly bottle blonds become a big deal. Bad news for brunettes. 

Forties: Kate and Allies

Women wanted a few good men. So did Uncle Sam. Guess who won? While our boys were over there fighting World War II, women made do at home, taking Rosie the Riveter jobs in factories to help the war effort - and meet what few guys there were...First "Dear John" letters are sent...Blind dates (so-called because that's what you'd have to be to consider the person you were with attractive) begin...Kate Hepburn and Spencer Tracy use the big screen to demonstrate the pleasures of a platonic relationship...Creation of the atom bomb makes girls rethink the threat, " I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on earth!"

Fifties: I Was A Teenage Sex Fiend

It was all so simple in the fab fifties. Just a bunch of clean-cut kids in poodle skirts and penny loafers, waiting patiently for Mr. - or Miss - Right..."Getting pinned" was something other than a wrestling move....Amorous guys could generally be satisfied with "I'm not that kind of girl" and good-night handshake...But then came rock n' roll, and everything went haywire. Girls leaned the joys of bad boys - the sullen, misunderstood, "Don't mess with me, baby, I'm trouble" types, like James Dean....Drive-ins and babysitting jobs gave kids plenty of opportunity to make out. Kids! Can't live with 'em, can't lock them in their room till they're thirty!

Sixties: It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World

All you needed was love. The best places to find it: marching in an antiwar rally or wallowing in the mud at Woodstock..."Groovy" dancers on American Bandstand made girl viewers happy with the guy they had...For the first time, the term babe was used not in connection with Ruth...Guys tried to get girls by pretending to be Kennedys...Group dating came into being - a great way to stay with your guy while keeping an eye peeled for significant others...On TV, cousins, identical cousins Patty and Cathy messed with guys' heads by reversing roles...The game Twister was introduced , so girls could get tangled up with worldly high school hotshots at graduation parties. Good-natured fun? We don't think so. Fascinating footnotes: Barbie and Ken, the perfect - if plastic couple are made for each other. Invention of flavored lip gloss changes kissing forever. 

Seventies: Poly-Yesteryears

Those wacky, tacky times - when disco was king and love meant never having to say. "Hey...don't touch the hair!" Couples spent countless hours trying to bribe their way into clubs. The more subdued stayed home and discussed the lyrics of Stairway to Heaven...Sensitivity gripped guys: They learned to shed tears ("...and when I was six, my G.I. Joe got hit by a car"), while their girlfriends learned to suppress helpless giggles behind their backs...The Love Boat carried implausible pairings (like Ralph from Happy Days and Marsha Brady) off into the sunset...Reign of the worst pickup line of all time "What's your sign?"...Run for your life - it's The Dating Game ("Bachelor Number Three, if I was a banana and your were a blender, would you chop, blend, or puree me?")

Eighties: Yuppie Love

With the "I got mine, now you get yours" mentality of the Me Generation, it was every girl for herself. There were some new and unusual places to find dates, however: vide stores, tanning parlors, personal ads ("I like long walks and cozy fires. Send glossy")...Easy listening stations that play "Love songs, nothing but love songs" enabled listeners to hear Baby, I'm a Want You as many as twelve times a day...The love lyric of the decade - "There's something about you, girl, that makes me sweat" - hit a low point in poignancy...PMS became a legitimate excuse for treating a date like dirt...Large percentage of the eligible male population became couch potatoes, glued to computer screens and MTV. Get a life, guys. 



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