Dating by books
Yet probably only a Millennial would compare dating to an "unpaid internship," another precarious energy investment with an uncertain outcome.The book's central tension is between detailing change and showing commonalities over time.
Moira Weigel's sprightly, gently feminist history, "Labor of Love," feeds on such ironies. The institution's changing contours derive, she suggests, from the evolution of gender conventions and technology, as well as other social transformations.In particular, she writes, "[t]he ways people date change with the economy."DOWNLOAD THE PRINTERS ROW APP FOR YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO PRINTERS ROW LIT FESTWeigel points out that metaphors such as being "on the market" and "shopping around" reflect our competitive, capitalistic society.What happens, though, when dating is merely window shopping? These are among the questions raised by Matteson Perry's deft comic memoir, "Available," which chronicles his year or so of dating dangerously.Still, she adds, other critics have failed to consider that "pleasure itself might be worthwhile, or that hooking up could provide a way to explore your sexuality if you did it right." But she never defines what doing it "right" would entail, nor how that might improve on the illusory promise of "free love" promulgated during the 1960s sexual revolution.Weigel's attempts to link dating conventions (and marriage patterns) to the economy are intriguing, if not always fully convincing.But this newly liberated woman, intent on fanning men's desires, was not necessarily an " agent of desire" herself.
Here, as elsewhere, Weigel contends that the feminist revolution did not go far enough."Labor of Love" also touches on cyber-dating and cybersex; the AIDS crisis, with its residue of "safe sex and the new culture of explicitness;" and the media fixation on the female biological clock and the related imperative to "settle" before it is too late. "And, to snare such a dubious bonanza, must otherwise strong women acquiesce in the retro credo of the "Rules Girl," embracing passivity and subservience? "The prospect of a long-term partnership is dangled in front of women as the prize of a lifetime of self-denial,"she writes skeptically, while men are simultaneously emotionally infantilized and obliged to be decision makers.
Others have theorized that the arrangement suits (some) college women who privilege career aspirations over romantic entanglements.
Or that the practice is, at least in part, an artifact of unfavorable college sex ratios that empower men.
Weigel is writing a history, but with a thematic bent.
She uses chapter titles such as "Tricks," "Likes" (on taste, class and personality), and "Outs" (about going out, pariahs, and new social spaces).
But she tries to have it both ways, by hypothesizing that today's widening economic inequality and the threat of global warming are somehow goads to steadiness, even as marriage rates decline.