“Does anyone date anymore?” The media tells us that courtship is dying and we are in a dating doomsday. Moira Weigel delves into the history of romance and dating in modern America in her book Labor of Love. But, good news, Bitches–Moira says love is not dead. Dating and romance simply changes with the economy. Dating is, and always has been, tied to work.
Hear more about what Moira has to say about love and dating at her Q & A at Sixth & I this Thursday at 7 p.m. Purchase the book and get two free tickets for $26.
Moira is a writer and PhD candidate at Yale. She writes about gender, media, and culture.
Photo Credit: Jean Ervasti
Where did the idea for Labor of Love come from? What inspired you?
My inspiration came from two different places. I was in my mid-twenties and going through all these romantic experiences and rituals. I had this “ah-ha” moment thinking about all the things we’re supposed to do and feel while dating. I was just going through the motions and trying to please the other person and following these set rituals. I thought “why am I doing these things?” I got curious. Why does our society or generation think we have to play hard to get or date people who like the same types of books or music? Where do these ideas come from?
I have great friends in the writing and intellectual world that I would have all these great conversations and discussions with about dating. I realized that I wasn’t thinking about dating with my intellectual tools. I then realized that I wanted to do historical research and figure out where these rules and regulations stemmed from. I also wanted to figure out what I wanted as a woman.
I read so many articles around 2012 that said that dating was over and that Tinder was ruining everything. I was skeptical. I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to know what really is “dating?” What is this great thing that the media and our parents are telling us that we’re missing?
When did you decide to write Labor of Love? What made you turn your research into a book?
I started writing for a small, online publication in New York called the The New Inquiry. I had this one article that actually went viral. I started getting letters and great feedback from the public which was so exciting. That made me want to write about dating more systemically.
When you started researching the history of dating in America, what did you expect to find?
I’m not sure exactly, but I wasn’t buying into this “tinder apocalypse.” I didn’t believe in the dating doomsday and the end of courtship. I expected to find that the path of dating was more varied than people thought. I didn’t realize that the history of dating has everything to do with women going to work outside of the home which is also true for many other cultures. The idea that you have to go out and find a partner at work, college, or in a bar only became a thing when more and more women were working.
Did anything surprise you?
Yes. I was surprised to find that in the early 1900s women were oftentimes arrested if they went to dinner with a man because the police thought that they were prostitutes. The idea about a transaction and who’s paying for what really interested me and surprised me. It still is relevant today. Many women feel obligated to act a certain way if the man buys them a drink or dinner.
What is your worst or favorite dating story?
I once went on a date to a very graphic and tragic Romanian film that completely killed the mood. My date took me there because he knew I liked foreign films, but this one was just not first date appropriate. It’s okay though–we ended up dating for a little bit.
My favorite story is about my husband. I had gotten my wisdom teeth out and they were horribly infected–I had full on chipmunk face. I was supposed to have a date with my husband but I couldn’t because of my face and Hurricane Sandy. My husband still wanted to see me so he walked two hours over the Brooklyn bridge from Manhattan to come see me at my parent’s house. He brought me soft foods and sat with me in the basement and watched Homeland. Then, he walked back to Manhattan. It was incredibly sweet.
What is the takeaway from Labor of Love? So, romance isn’t dead?
Romance is so not dead! There’s so much work involved with dating–manicures, waxing, highlights etc. that feed into the economy. I realized that all of this is profiting someone else other than myself–the beauty and fashion industries. All of these apps and online dating sites end up feeling like a job. I want people to feel less stressed and recognize that love, affection, and intimacy is out there. All the other things are just distractions that side track you from finding happiness. Stay in the moment and remember what you want. All the rituals are for economy, not for finding true affection. There are so many forces keeping us from feeling clear about what we want. Making women feel a certain way feeds the industry and hurts our chances of finding romance. I want people to be able to take a little distance and become aware of what they feel.
Do you have any advice for those still on the market?
Stay in moment and appreciate the innocent ways you can have love and intimacy. Feel clarity about what you want and don’t feed into all of the pressures.
Bloody Marys or mimosas?
Brunch in or out?
Out, unless it’s a romantic brunch in with your partner.
If you had to invite five people to brunch, who would they be?
Bell Hooks, Elena Ferrante, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (because she’s awesome), Laverne Cox, and Lea DaLaria.