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For more than a century, she argues, romance has not only been a form of work but a set of practices shaped by the push and pull of broader economic forces.
Weigel traces the evolution of dating from the early twentieth century, when a morally anxious culture mistook female daters for prostitutes; to the affluent postwar era, when marriage rates spiked alongside ownership of cars and refrigerators; to the advent of speed-dating in a Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community in the 1990s, which turned out to be an unlikely forerunner of online dating.
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First, I tried to take people in the archives or in interviews at their words: I counted as dating what they called dating.
(Sometimes that meant sleeping with someone a few times, or having a few awkward dinners with a person and his non-monogamous partner, or living unmarried with someone for years.) I also looked at the associated language, like “going out,” “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” Second, at the very beginning of the whole project, as I write in my book, I established this definition: that dating is the form that courtship has taken under capitalism in its advanced consumer-driven stage.
It usually involves going to a public or semi-public place (a bar, a restaurant, a fraternity) and consuming something as a form of selling yourself and shopping around for a partner.
A date is an ambiguous transaction in potentially romantic or sexual attention—an agreement to consider each other under these terms for a certain amount of time.
So I looked for how different kinds of people were doing those things.