Chapter 1: The wedding march of civilization dating from adam and eve to Ben and 2 Jens
Mankind’s first official attempt at dating took place in the Garden of Eden, and, like most dates, it was based on a profound misunderstanding.
Adam was eating breakfast one morning when he spied a young woman staring at him from behind a rubber tree. Upon closer inspection, Adam thought he detected a certain hungry look in this strange creature’s eyes, so he kindly offered her a piece of his fruit. “Wanna date?” Adam asked.
Eve, the original single woman, heard opportunity knocking loud and clear. “You bet,” she said. “Let’s do lunch.” And she rushed off to wash her hair.
Historians note that the phenomenon of dating might’ve been radically altered if Adam had been eating a grapefruit that fateful morning.
But he wasn’t, and, as we know, Adam and Eve continued to “date”—on and off—for the remainder of their lives, which wasn’t all that difficult considering Eve had virtually no competition in Eden and millions of years would pass before the discovery of cellulite. A noted historian has also pointed out that Eve had one great advantage over all the rest of her sex because, in his wildest moments of rage, Adam could never accuse Eve of being just like her mother.
Throughout the Ages we now call Stone, Ice, Bronze, and Iron, dating consisted mainly of informal gatherings for the purpose of hunting and foraging (sort of like the club scene in bare feet and a fur coat). Romance during this time was minimal, since primitive man had yet to create computer dating. In fact, nothing much happened until the scientific discovery of astrology, which altered the course of dating by enabling single men to introduce themselves by asking: “What’s your sign?”
The next momentous event in dating history is credited to Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt. After her boyfriend, Caesar, was assassinated, Cleo began fooling around with Marcus Antonius, her best friend’s husband. Thus, Cleopatra became the first woman in recorded history to date a married man. Like many such relationships, this one ended badly. Cleopatra committed suicide at age thirty-nine.
Centuries passed and dating took a backseat to lots and lots of wars—at least until the French Revolution, when things picked up, thanks to Marie Antoinette. A genuine boy toy, Marie liked to mix heavy necking and whipped cream, a combination that greatly aroused Louis XVI and, more importantly, was the method by which the couple inadvertently invented French kissing. Unbeknownst to Louis, Marie demonstrated their discovery to almost every garçon at Versailles, which is probably why dating enjoyed a healthy revival in the late 1700s.
During the 1800s, several technological advances radically altered the course of dating. In 1824, the process of binding rubber to cloth was first patented. This seemingly innocuous event would subsequently lead to the invention of the girdle, a garment that almost single-handedly wiped dating off the face of the earth.
In 1864, George Pullman built his first railway sleeping car, thereby creating a reason to take a date along on a business trip. It wasn’t long before people began making out in other moving vehicles as well. In fact, Pullman’s early efforts probably account for the popularity of airplane bathrooms among today’s traveling singles (hence the evolution of the Mile High Club, of which I am not a member—not yet at least).
In 1867, the typewriter was invented, which didn’t directly affect dating per se but did permit me to write this sentence without using quill and ink.
No one would dispute that the most momentous—and time-saving—contribution to dating took place in 1891 with the invention of the zipper.
In 1907, the Model T Ford was mass-produced for the first time, enabling everyone to own a car. This was important, because how else could people get to the drive-in?
What is disputed, however, is the exact moment in history when the word relationship crept into our dating vocabulary. Attempting to discover the origin of this term, researchers have studied hundreds of hours of reality dating shows, but all to no avail.
Scholars have noted, coincidentally, that their inability to determine when a “date” became a “relationship” is the same dilemma that confuses most single men today.
Yet no discussion of dating would be complete without evaluating, in some detail, the seminal singles book of our century, Sex and the Single Girl, which was published in May 1963 and, almost instantly, became one of the most talked about books of its time. Reviewed extensively, the intrinsic intellectual value of this book was perhaps best described by Miss Joan Crawford, who stated: “It [this book] should be on every man’s bed table—when he’s free, that is.” (For further information about how Helen Gurley Brown boosted the social life of the unavailable man, see Dating Married Men on page XX.) As proof of its relevance to modern-day society, Sex and the Single Girl was made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood.
In the following paragraph from her book, Mrs. Brown displays a remarkable talent for deep psychological insight into the inner workings of the male psyche. “When a man thinks of a single woman,” she writes, “he pictures her alone in her apartment, smooth legs sheathed in pink silk Capri pants, lying tantalizingly among dozens of satin cushions, trying to read but not very successfully, for he is in that room—filling her thoughts, her dreams, her life.”
While parts of Sex and the Single Girl have become somewhat dated (Who can afford to live alone anymore? Who has smooth legs?), a great deal of the book, particularly Mrs. Brown’s sound advice, has remained, surprisingly, as refreshingly and frankly applicable to today’s single gal as it was for the swinging sixties gal of long ago. Take, for instance, the following examples of Helen Gurley Brown’s wisdom:
•There are three kinds of people you absolutely must have in your single life: a really good butcher, a crack car mechanic, and a rich and powerful married couple.
•Demand and inspire expensive gifts from your dates. These are the rewards of single life.
•If he asks to go Dutch treat on your date, don’t stand on ceremony. Dump him immediately.
As for me, my favorite piece of advice from Sex and the Single Girl involves not sex, but office politics. Over and over, Mrs. Brown stresses the importance of having a solid career and competing in the marketplace on an equal footing with men. In this way, perhaps Mrs. Brown could be considered a forerunner of the feminist movement. Take, for example, the following piece of advice, which most certainly helped Gloria Steinem (and others like her) catapult up the corporate ladder. “About every six weeks several girls from my office and I round up all our clothes that need altering, and we gossip and sew for the evening. Isn’t that jolly?”
While this idea strikes me as a wonderful way to finally fix those loose buttons on my raincoat, when I worked in corporate publishing, the other female executives in my office were never very receptive to the suggestion. Even when I brought my dog-eared copy of Sex and the Single Girl to the office, no one was even remotely interested in a jolly evening of sewing and girl talk.
The decline in the popularity of sewing circles among female co-workers is, perhaps, not the only difference in the social life of a single woman in the days of Sex and the Single Girl and today. If someone were writing a twenty-first-century version of Helen Gurley Brown’s opus (and I’m applying for the job), she might have to title the book Sex and the Insignificant Other
In other scholarly endeavors, researchers have studied the two most popular sex books of the past few decades in order to examine the sexual preferences of modern times. In the early 1970s, millions of copies of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
were sold; in the late 1970s, the best-selling book was entitled The Joy of Sex. We can deduce from these facts that, as we moved into the latter part of that decade, people preferred books with shorter titles.
In the 1980s, many scholars maintained that the quintessential description of modern dating patterns could be found in the seminal singles movie The Big Chill, more specifically in Meg Tilly’s speech after we learn that William Hurt isn’t going to father her child. (A fact that would depress the hell out of any single gal.)
“They’re either married or gay,” Meg observes about the men in her life. “And if they’re not gay, they’ve just broken up with the most wonderful woman in the world or they’ve just broken up with a bitch who looks exactly like me. They’re in transition from a monogamous relationship and they need more space or they’re tired of space but they just can’t commit or they want to commit but they’re afraid to get close. They want to get close and you don’t want to get near them.”
It is interesting to note that Meg’s speech was validated by a landmark Harvard survey in the 1980s which concluded that women in their late thirties and early forties had about as much chance of getting married as they did of winning the New York State Lottery twice in a row. In a more recent study, researchers at Stanford linked the enormous media attention that this survey generated to the tremendous rise of Prozac in the latter part of the twentieth century.
In the past twenty years, statisticians note that modern dating problems are exacerbated by the fact that there are lots more single women than single men in today’s dating pool. To illustrate the point, the chart on page XX details the ratio of single men to single women in New York City. (Manhattan is considered a Mecca for singles, being one of the few cities in the country where, traditionally, bars stay open almost until dawn, Chinese take-out is available 24D7, and shrinks are on call eleven months a year.
The figures in our chart were compiled by the Singles Census Bureau, which is a group also known as Anxious Mothers of Single Daughters in Manhattan (AMOSDIM), which tracks the number of available straight single men and holds a formal retirement ceremony every time one of them marries or moves to Florida.
Experts report that the reasons for the increasing number of single women in the early 2000s are psychological, social, and demographic and include the following:
•Many women are working at good jobs and supporting themselves. However, because women’s salaries are still well below men’s, economics does play an important factor in women’s decisions to remain single. Because of their comparatively limited incomes, women are hesitant to get married and take on the additional financial burden of supporting a husband and, perhaps, children.
•Men classified as unmarried by the Census Bureau are often not interested in getting married, even when women spend a fortune on leg-waxing and expensive perfume. In fact, many of these men prefer to reserve the leg-waxing appointments for themselves.
•Many single women in their thirties and forties are attracted only to unavailable men, spending a good deal of their potentially marriageable years in love with their married bosses or psychiatrists. Thus, these women have greatly decreased their chances of ever finding a companion to join them in the matrimonial state.
•Many of our mothers, born in the baby-boom years, had the misfortune of entering their early to mid-twenties at a very critical moment in American history. Specifically, these women came of marriageable age during the first broadcasts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The enormous popularity of the show encouraged these women to stay home on Saturday night and watch television instead of going out on blind dates, thus greatly decreasing their chances of snagging a husband. In addition, these women were brainwashed by the blatant propaganda promoted by the show, namely that it was okay to be single, as long as you were really skinny, dressed well, and had funny friends. It wasn’t until these baby boomers hit their late thirties and early forties that it dawned on them that Mary Tyler Moore, in real life, was married to a successful Jewish doctor sixteen years her junior. Many women have never fully recovered from this crushing revelation and they have passed their phobias on to their daughters who, by no coincidence I suppose, grew up on Sex in the City, a show that essentially promoted the same propaganda as Mary but, okay, with a 2000 spin. As Carrie Bradshaw would surely conclude, it’s okay to be single as long as you are really skinny, well dressed, have funny friends, and discuss oral sex six times a day.
Today’s single women are a breed apart from the single gals of Helen Gurley Brown’s generation. No longer known as Jolly Spinsters, the modern single woman is likely to own her own co-op or condo and to have learned not to feel out of place with her married friends and relatives. These women usually have a good relationship with children, either of their friends’ or siblings’. They travel frequently and are well informed, politically active, and health conscious. Often they have challenging jobs and many social advantages. Their lives are wholly successful even though the vast majority of them are unbelievably depressed most of the time.
In order to get a firsthand account of the dating scene and how it affects the modern woman, this reporter recently attended a gathering of single women who congregated at the Dew Drop Inn in Massapequa, New York, to discuss their social lives with the media. The room was filled to capacity with unmarried women, all of whom wore T-shirts that read: “I’d rather be married, or at least dating someone special.” In the crowded room, this reporter noted that the ticking of biological clocks was almost deafening.
When asked about the problems of their social life, most of the women sounded confused and bitter.
“What can I say? It’s the pits,” claimed Tiffany Detroit, a thirty-four-year-old kindergarten teacher from Brooklyn. “I never meet any guys over five years old.”
“At least they’re single,” countered a twenty-nine-year-old hairdresser who asked to remain anonymous. “You sound like you’re in a great location to meet unmarried guys. The only men I meet on the job are the ones with better makeup than me.”
Women at this meeting acknowledged that the holidays and the weekends were the hardest times for them. Several women reported working on Sundays in order to avoid seeing all the couples and families having brunch or walking on the street.
“I like to spend time pampering myself on the weekends,” claimed another single woman who also asked that her name be withheld. “I get into a hot bathtub on Friday night and I don’t get out again until I have to go to work on Monday morning.”From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Women Who Date Too Much . . . and Those Who Should Be So Lucky by Linda Sunshine. Copyright © 2005 by Linda Sunshine. Excerpted by permission of Crown Archetype, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.