I was in a laundromat the other day and had gotten into a conversation with a man, (by way of me asking for laundry tips) that is a couple generations older than me. He’s in his 60's and after telling him what I’m doing these days, he asked me if I was married. I’m not married, by the way, and I’ve just graduated from college, so this was a huge shock for me to hear. He asked it the way someone would ask any standard question, but marriage isn't really something that is a frequent topic amongst people that I know.
This got me thinking about dating, and marriage, and how it’s viewed amongst different generations. Even in a time span as short as 20 years, common viewpoints have changed over what is considered “normal”. I generally don’t ask people I meet if they’re married - it isn’t the sort of question that seems important to me. But take, say, someone that grew up in the 1940s, and things might be a bit different.
So here it is, a brief view of how the concepts of dating, marriage and divorce have evolved through the ages:
In the 50s, dating was more ritualized than it had been in the 1920s/30s. Dating was done with the intent of marriage, and the main goal was marriage by 30, if not earlier. If you were still single by then, something was considered wrong with you. Divorce was frowned upon. When you married, if you were a woman, your life centered around your husband and your family.
This was a decade in transition. While the revolting youth population was reforming courtship rituals, society as a whole was still holding onto traditional dating ideas.
Let’s thank the women’s rights movement, for now we have dating standards that are far less structured and defined. In the 70s, splitting the check on a date, or ‘going dutch’, becomes more accepted. Marriage isn’t as popular a notion these days as it was before - it’s not as important of a goal within societal standards. The divorce rate between the 1960s and ‘70s soars.
The concept of casual dating, hooking up, and all that jazz becomes more common. Gender roles get more confused. Men and women have less expectations to live up to for their gender. The divorce rate levels off.
The 90s hit, and everyone’s confused. No one knows if they’re just hooking up or in a serious relationship. Moreover, no one knows what to do on dates anymore. The liberation of half the world’s population has doomed society with an omni-present confusion; Who should offer to pay for the bill?
With the arrival of the new millennium, internet dating has become all the rage. Casual dating takes on a whole new meaning. Marriage is quite present, the median age for women as of 2007 is 26, and 27.7 for men. The divorce rate remains between 40% and 50%.
Where will the 2010s take us?
Monique is a writer and recent college graduate transitioning to the working world. She currently resides in New York and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.