Courtship and dating: Americans are romantic, but economics still count
L’il Abner is a strapping young example of American manhood who spend: a good portion of his waking hours eluding a blond named Daisy Mae, who chases him over the hills surrounding and in Dogpatch.
According to Dr J. Charles Kelley, director of the Southern Illinois university’s museum, who discussed “Courting in Dogpatch, Dubuque, and Dobu” Sunday night at the S.I.U. student center, the Dogpatch doings are caricatures of American courtship.
“The trends in American courtship,” he said, “are close to this. We don’t realize it, but Dogpatch brings out the changing aspects of American courting practices.”
For the benefit of the uninformed, Dogpatch has a yearly Sadie Hawkins Day featuring a race for life by the male who is pursued by the opposite sex. When he’s nabbed, he’s a goner — a married man.
According to Kelley, Dogpatch shows the caricature, Dubuque, the normal midwestern type of courtship, and Dobu, the anthropological approach.
Kelley said there were two things that made American courtship tentative and uncertain — the class system and the culturally diverse setup of the American society.
Dating in America means romance
“And American courtship is characterized by romance,” he explained, “something that does not exist in other cultures. Just listen to popular music and you can tell. The general idea is that there is just ‘one’ or, at best, a few ideal persons.
“After a brief, ecstatic acquaintanceship,” he asserted, “they believe that they can go on living happily ever after.”
Kelley said that the one unique addition to courting practices is dating, among others of various backgrounds, to find the ideal love.
He said both prestige and success, in the sense of fulfillment, are the themes here. Both parties have a lot to learn, he said. For the woman. she has to learn the “attitude of sex” — to offer and not to give.
The social class is important, Kelley said there is little inter-class dating. And dating is not courtship — until “the” one comes along. Courtship comes, usually, in the “going steady” stage.
This comes, Kelley said, when the couple finds common grounds and tastes. At first, he said, exclusiveness is desired. Then they want everyone to know and do their level best to make everyone aware they are “going steady.”
What girls are told, and what boys are told
One of the biggest problems is economics — when the romantic facade wears away.
“There is a growing tendency,” Kelley said, “for the mother to condition her daughter for marriage one way, and her son another way.
“She tells her daughter to look for security, to find out if the man is a good wage-earner — and then tells her son not to be roped in by a golddigger.”
He cited a case. “One girl I know of had her brother scoot out to find out what kind of car, and how much the car cost, before she let her date-on-wheels come in,” he said.