Dating is

01 Mar

In one sense, this is a story about the exploitative possibilities of online matchmaking: the opportunities to flagrantly misrepresent oneself, the ease of trawling for specific targets.

(John, who was white, pursued only Asian women, leaving his girlfriends with the icky sense that they’d been fetishized as well as deceived.) Still, romantic scammers aren’t an invention of modern courtship and its digital devices.

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.

He asked her to help him choose a couch and then spooned with her on all the floor models. As we learn from the podcast “Reply All,” which reported the tale, Suzanne was not the only woman on whom John had chosen to bestow his favor.

Six months into their relationship, she discovered that he was seeing half a dozen other women, one of whom he’d been stringing along for two years.

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John was a champion girlfriend accumulator, the ringmaster of a romantic circus that only he could see.

The pursuit of leisure cost more than most single working-class women (paid a fraction of what men were) could readily afford.

Weigel quotes a 1915 report by a New York social worker: “The acceptance on the part of the girl of almost any invitation needs little explanation, when one realizes that she often goes pleasureless unless she accepts ‘free treats.’ ” To have fun, a woman had to let a man pay for her and suffer the resultant damage to her reputation.

In our consumer society, love is perpetually for sale; dating is what it takes to close the deal.

Her second conclusion is that the way we consume love changes to reflect the economy of the times.