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However, an extra layer, what we call "dating," has been added to the process of courting.
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.
What was courtship and marriage like for our distant ancestors?
Beginning with the ancient Greeks' recognition of the need to describe more than one kind of love, inventing the word In ancient times, many of the first marriages were by capture, not choice - when there was a scarcity of nubile women, men raided other villages for wives.
Suitors wooed their intended with seranades and flowery poetry, following the lead of lovelorn characters on stage and in verse. In 1228, it is said by many that women first gained the right to propose marriage in Scotland, a legal right that then slowly spread through Europe.
However, a number of historians have pointed out that this supposed leap year proposal statute never occurred, and instead gained its legs as a romantic notion spread in the press.
The man and the woman usually were members of the same community, and the courting usually was done in the woman's home in the presence (and under the watchful eye) of her family, most often Mom and brothers.
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, .
Bailey observes that by the 1930s and '40s, with the advent of the "date" (which we will look at more fully in the next installment) courtship increasingly took place in public spaces such as movie theaters and dance halls, removed by distance and by anonymity from the sheltering and controlling contexts of the home and local community.
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.
Since most young adults will marry, the process employed in finding a husband and wife is still considered courtship.
Search for dating in history:
Prior to the 20th century, when we talked about courtship we used language and metaphors of home and family: system of courtship that played itself out in the entertainment culture and public square largely was understood and described by the advice and "expert" class with metaphors taken from modern industrial capitalism.