Labor of love The invention of dating

Moira Weigel, 1984-

Book - 2016

"It seems as though every week there's a new app available on your smartphone promising dates a plenty--just swipe right. A mate, on the other hand, is becoming harder and harder to find. The age-old quest for true love requires more effort than ever before. Let's face it: dating is work. Which, as it happens, is exactly where it began, in the 19th century--as prostitution. In Labor of Love, Moira Weigel dives into the secret history of dating while holding up a mirror to the contemporary dating landscape, revealing why we date the way we do and explaining why it feels so much like work. This isn't a guide to "getting the guy"; there are no ridiculous "rules" to follow in Labor of Love. This is a bril...liant, fresh, and utterly original approach to help us understand how dating was invented and, hopefully, lead us closer to the happy ending that it promises"--

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New York, NY : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2016.
Main Author
Moira Weigel, 1984- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
292 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [269]-273) and index.
  • Introduction: Dates
  • Tricks
  • Likes
  • Outs
  • School
  • Steadies
  • Freedom
  • Niches
  • Protocol
  • Plans
  • Help
  • Afterword: Love.
Review by New York Times Review

WHITE RAGE: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson. (Bloomsbury, $17.) In 2014, as protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of Michael Brown, Anderson wrote about the white backlash to black progress. She expands her argument to include tensions stretching back to the Civil War, times when white rage thwarted efforts toward democracy and a semblance of racial equality. SWING TIME, by Zadie Smith. (Penguin, $17.) Two girls in Northwest London forge a close, complicated friendship in their dance class, where they are the only "brown girls"; they rely on one another to navigate a swirl of issues surrounding class, race and politics. Years later, their relationship has ruptured but still forms the emotional core of the novel, which brims with "cadenced digressions and lyrical love letters" to dance and London itself, Holly Bass wrote here. BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande. (Picador, $16.) Gawande, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a surgeon, examines various models of living for older people, from multigenerational homes to hospice care, and outlines a case for a paradigm shift among medical professionals: Doctors should expand their focus from treating and curing disease to improving well-being and end-of-life care. THE SENILITY OF VLADIMIR R, by Michael Honig. (Pegasus, $15.95.) A novel imagines President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in decline: retired, sidelined by dementia and tended to by a cast of aides. His nurse, Nikolai, an unfailingly scrupulous man, is naive about Russia's corruption, until his nephew becomes embroiled in a scandal - exacerbated by Nikolai's proximity to Vladimir. As our reviewer, Boris Fishman, wrote, "this is an author who understands the grotesque reality of a place where the honest man is the coward." LABOR OF LOVE: The Invention of Dating, by Moira Weigel. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.) After a heartbreak, Weigel set out to investigate the history of courtship in the United States and the romantic dissatisfaction and unbalanced gender roles it perpetuates. Weigel adroitly draws on pop culture and history - from reality TV to the self-help industry - as evidence, though her scope is largely limited to straight couples. HOW TO PARTY WITH AN INFANT, by Kaui Hart Hemmings. (Simon & Schuster, $16.) With her personal life in turmoil, Mele Bart, a single mother in San Francisco, looks to a local cookbook competition as a distraction. There, she finds solace and strength in a band of other hilarious and misfit parents, who help temper the absurdities of raising children in a hypercompetitive and status-obsessed community.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [September 10, 2017]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The fear that dating is somehow in crisis is a common refrain these days, but in her first book, Weigel shows how American society has found the concept problematic from its inception. The term first came into use at the very end of the nineteenth century as young people took courtship outside of the home and into the various entertainment venues that large cities offered, to the consternation of their elders and even the police. The arrival of coeds on college campuses further gave young people opportunities to mingle and find romantic partners, even as the universities looked askance at raucous partying and cohabitation. Seeing opportunity, businesses started marketing products to these young hopefuls, paving the way for future generations to look at dating as a job and coupling as something of a corporate merger. Weigel acknowledges that dating for people of color and those who identify as LGBT was markedly different than the experiences of their heterosexual white, middle-class compatriots, illustrating the unique challenges these groups faced. Weigel's smart, accessible, and illuminating examination of the evolution of dating from its beginnings to the age of OK Cupid and Tinder makes for fascinating reading.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Debut author Weigel, a doctoral candidate at Yale, examines the cultural and practical history of dating through a contemporary and scholarly lens. Proving that everything old is new again, she leads readers through the history of courtship rituals from the early 1900s until the present day, noting that some things-such as looking to be supported financially in one way or another-never completely change, regardless of the decade. She also takes on the topic of myriad dating apps and how they can affect the ways people perceive one another. Perhaps most comfortingly for those still navigating the shoals of the dating world, Weigel definitively casts aside the long litany of supposed "rules" in dating, challenging questionable self-help dating tomes such as the once-ubiquitous The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, Lori Gottlieb's Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, and Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. "This form of self-help precludes the possibility that a connection between two or more people might be capable of changing the conditions in which they live, and the genre exists to help perpetuate those conditions," she advises, noting that every relationship-and courtship-differs. Weigel adds a personal layer to narrative by sharing her own tribulations in dating, noting that her own experience and advice is born of much trial and error. This smart, refreshing take on the history of dating is best suited to those looking to partake in the ritual. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Just how do people go about meeting one another in pursuit of entertainment, status, companionship, loot, affirmation, sex, procreation, and/or marriage? For her first book, Weigel offers a spirited social and economic history of dating in America. She examines courtship rituals and practices from the start of the 20th century through the overbooked digital age, pausing to consider such highlights as the loaded jargon of dating; the contemporary condemnation of "going steady"; the advent of the gay bar, of free love, and of technology-assisted date selection from video dating to Tinder; and the evolving normative social attitude toward dating, which has shifted from considering it transgressive to considering it traditional. More or less chronological but nonlinear, -Weigel's treatment blends historical aspects of dating under broad themes such as "school" (college culture), "protocol" (ensuring personal safety in the AIDS and online eras), and "plans" (for offspring and security). Her overarching theme, as hinted in the wordplay of the title, is dating as work, a marketplace activity shaped by economic realities vastly more macro than the intimacies of individual couples. VERDICT Timely and provocative, this work is a solid choice for readers interested in contemporary social behaviors and their antecedents.-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Dating undermines authenticity, the author claims. In her debut book, Weigel examines the history and current practices of dating in hopes of making sense of her own feelings of discomfort and oppression. After years of dating, she felt that she "was trying to make a life according to rules I did not understand and that the process had blinded me to my desires." Dating made her feel as if she were "impersonating all the women I thought I should be." She had lost her sense of self. Her investigation led her to self-help books, movies, TV shows, popular songs, histories of courtship and marriage, and interviews with daters, experts, and scholars, all of which provide evidence for her breezy, digressive overview focusing mostly on the experiences of white, middle-class, heterosexual women. Weigel finds that the word "date" first appeared in print in 1896, used by a working-class man to refer to his courtship. At the turn of the century, middle-class men called on women in their homes, following strict rules of etiquette, but working-class couples went out to restaurants, dance halls, and amusement parks. In both cases, though, women were supposed to be the passive recipients of men's desires. Shopgirls learned how to style themselves by observing their well-heeled clients; "Charity Girls" aspired to be treated to gifts and meals. Both types worked hard to market themselves as dating prospects, efforts that Weigel sees continuing into the present, with diets, makeup, clothing, gym memberships, personal trainers, and fine-tuned profiles on dating websites. "In order to appeal to prospective lovers," the author writes, "you must not only know where to look," but also "brand yourself so that you will be searchable by the right people." Weigel's angst and disillusionment ended with finding love that enriched, rather than eroded, her sense of identity. An earnest plea to think about love mindfully. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.