Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brooks on Dating


Poor David Brooks seems to think his children's romantic lives will be ruined by 'texting'. For the most part he's unintentionally funny, but then there's this:
Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.
You know why we think of that as a "Happy Days" era? Because it's a history of dating that can best be gleaned from "Happy Days" reruns. Seriously. Most charitably, the "Happy Days" version of dating represents a brief moment, not particularly representative of what came before or what has come since.

The "decline" of "Happy Days" dating has more traditionally been blamed on birth control. Except in the televised world of Richie Cunningham, it was largely accepted that "boys will be boys" - that "delaying sex" was the role of a "good girl". In reality, sex wasn't always delayed - a lot of young women took unexpected, extended "vacations" that coincidentally were just long enough to cover up a pregnancy and childbirth. A lot of others got married. Does Brooks truly not know the prevalence of teen pregnancy in the 1950's?
The rate of teen childbearing in the United States has fallen steeply since the late 1950s, from an all time high of 96 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 1957 to an all time low of 49 in 2000....
Further, other than that "fairy tale" moment found principally on TV sitcoms, the "script" for dating has looked more like this: The parents arrange the marriage of a young girl to and older male. She's expected to be a virgin, but he's not. The couple was "guided" to long-term commitment by fault-based divorce laws (or the unavailability of divorce) and, for much of history, the fact that the children were the husband's property so the price of divorce to the mother would be that she would have to leave her children. How... idyllic. It's a darn shame that texting has come along.

1 comment:

  1. Or, like this: Two teenagers have sex. She gets pregnant. As soon as they find out, they are expected to get married so the boy can "do right by" his girlfriend, and so that she won't be a "fallen women".

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