One of the most obvious changes was that it multiplied the number of partners (from serious to casual) an individual was likely to have before marriage.So one important point to understand right up front (and about which many inside and outside the church are confused) is that we have not moved a dating system into our courtship system.There certainly was less of a stigma about having an abortion 30 years ago.Now, you won't even hear that word spoken on TV.If you are familiar with computer programming terminology, you can liken dating to a sub-routine that has been added to the system of courtship.Over the course of this two-part article, I would like to trace how this change occurred, especially concentrating on the origin of this dating "subroutine." Let me begin by briefly suggesting four cultural forces that assisted in moving from, as Alan Carlson puts it, the more predictable cultural script that existed for several centuries, to the multi-layered system and (I think most would agree) the more ambiguous courtship system that includes "the date." The first, and probably most important change we find in courtship practices in the West occurred in the early 20th century when courtship moved from public acts conducted in private spaces (for instance, the family porch or parlor) to private or individual acts conducted in public spaces, located primarily in the entertainment world, as Beth Bailey argues in her book, .
For social scientists, studies of courtship usually look at the process of "mate selection." (Social scientists, among whom I number myself from time to time, will never be accused of being romantics.) For the purpose of this article the , prior to the early 20th century, courtship involved one man and one woman spending intentional time together to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife.
Since most young adults will marry, the process employed in finding a husband and wife is still considered courtship.
However, an extra layer, what we call "dating," has been added to the process of courting.
Growing more nervous as the minutes pass, he sets his items on the table and tries to adjust his tie. A lovely young woman wearing a long, elegant dress gracefully enters and stops a few feet from the young man, directing him to a chair.
In the other doorway stands the young woman’s mother and father.