I recently watched the classic teen dating movie, Grease, as an afternoon’s entertainment. It gave me the idea for this week’s blog post about dating over the decades, and how it has changed. I couldn’t find any free photos of the movie or the cast, so some others will have to suffice this week. But who can forget the fabulous outfits Olivia Newton John wore, or the classic songs like Summer Nights?
I will start with dating in the 70’s, since that is the decade during my teen years. In junior high, which was grades 7 and 8, the idea of having boyfriends started to materialize. It usually consisted of telling your friends you liked someone, word got back to the someone you liked, and then they might call you on the phone. Boys were the only ones who did the calling in those quaint times. And they used those colorful landlines we had on our houses, when only one person could be on them at a time. This limited time talking on the phone, and any budding relationships didn’t amount to much.
The next phase was meeting people you liked at the local skating rink on Friday night, or at a movie at the mall. Our local rink, called Skateland, was full every weekend with junior high aged kids from all over town. Skating to “couples” songs was popular, and it was the only way you would see any potential boyfriends that didn’t go to your school. As for movies, the main one I remember seeing was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were at their most dashing, and our six theatre location at the mall played it every weekend for a couple of years. I think I saw it about 30 times, mostly with female friends, but there were boys in the auditorium, so we counted that as a social outing with the opposite sex.
Fast forward to high school, and the real dating began. There were lots of customs and family rules about dating- many girls, myself included, weren’t supposed to date anyone until we were 16. Boys were still the ones who called girls. Even if you had a boyfriend, the boy was still the only one who called. And unless you had the coveted “teenline” phone, you still had to limit your conversations. This was very constraining for those of us at all girl high schools because you didn’t see your boyfriends at school.
The main social activities were sporting events, like football and basketball games that the all male high schools had, and dances hosted by various schools. My all girl high school used the money raised at dances to pay for prom that we hosted during our junior year. We had live bands, and usually a very good turnout, so they were profitable. The bands didn’t look much like the one below, but that is best photo I could find.
At least one funny story of course- my dad was always willing to pick my friends and me up from dances at midnight. Did I appreciate this? Not really. Too self centered and focused on the dance. And I was horrified one night to come out of the gym as the dance ended to find my 60 year old father in the lobby of the school, wearing a long winter coat, Russian style fur cap, and unzipped, black rubber boots, which he called “galoshes”. He was reading something on a bulletin board. I kind of motioned to him that we were ready to leave and ran outside.
Fast forward to my children’s preteen and teen years. This was before cell phones and social media, but the dating terminology had all changed. I remember when my oldest was about 12 and she said some of her friends were “going out” with boys in her class. I was really caught off guard by this. To Boomer parents, going out meant you were at least 16, and a boy picked you up in a car, was required to speak to your parents, and you actually went somewhere. I thought that parents of fifth graders were driving their kids on dates, and frankly that they had lost their minds. What was the rush?
Eventually I figured out this meant that a girl liked a boy, and usually the boy liked the girl, but this wasn’t always the case. I think sometimes a girl liked a certain boy, and she told her female friends about it, so they considered them to be “going out”. The boy may not have known, so an entire relationship could begin and end without him being involved. But at least they weren’t actually dating.
When they did start dating, the old rules of only boys calling went by the wayside, which was probably good. I did have some boy moms tell me that there were girls who called their sons way too much, but for the most part it was all pretty normal stuff. High school had its challenges with keeping track of everyone, but cell phones came into play during those years, so at least we had a way to communicate, assuming they left them turned on.
And finally, dating in the new millennium, after the internet changed all the rules. Now single people looking for dates had online options galore- there were services based on psychological tests, interests, religion, geographic location and occupation ( Farmersonly.com), and on and on.
Although I have never experienced online dating, I have friends who have done so in their fifties and sixties. Of course there are sites just for this age group, but they aren’t fool proof. I had a friend who was recently divorced who joined a dating site. She posted her profile, and got several “matches” right away, but didn’t respond immediately. A couple of nights later, she had insomnia and pulled up her profile just in time to see one of her matches delete her at 3 am. It was weird to say the least. I had another friend who told me tales of agreeing to meet online dating possibilities for a drink, only to discover they looked nothing like their profile photos. And a third friend waited for a potential date at a bar and he was late. When he finally arrived, he spent the entire time talking about his ex wife and re-arranging his prosthetic ear. She could deal with the ear, but not in combination with the too recent divorce.
Luckily, I also know of many happy matches that have been made online, and this applies to all ages. It is one of the better aspects of the internet. Plus, with social media, you can find out a lot about a person online before you ever agree to meet in person.
I hope you enjoyed this trip down the memory lane of dating. I wonder what it will be like for our grandkids’ generation- virtual dances? Speed dating on Zoom? Time will tell. I hope they have fun, and also have time for some old fashioned dances and afternoon movies. Those really were the best of times.
P.S.- I will be taking a summer break from blogging and plan to be back in mid August. Have a fabulous rest of the summer!