It should come as no surprise that dating has changed since the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the heyday of boomer-era dating. After all, two generations have grown — and dated — since that time. It should also come as no surprise, since, when compared to the dating practices of boomers’ grandparents — two generations earlier than boomers — the difference was more than striking between those two generations. Yet when Mister Boomer overheard a conversation on dating while on a recent walk in the park, it did surprise him in how fundamentally different dating is now to when boomers entered a courtship through dating.
As Mister Boomer proceeded one way, two twenty-something women were jogging toward him. Within earshot, Mister B heard one woman say to the other, “On our second date, we went to a cooking class.” “Oh, that sounds like fun!” responded the other. ” He planned the whole thing, booked it and paid for it!” exclaimed the first woman. “That’s really great!” returned the other excitedly, and added an exaggerated, “All right!” while offering the woman a high-five.
What was so notable to Mister B in his overheard snippet of conversation was how surprised the women appeared that this man planned the date and paid for it. Their emphasis on the words made it clear that twenty-somethings don’t necessarily expect that situation to occur. Yet it was commonplace among boomers.
Mister Boomer flashed back to his dating era, the decade of the 1970s. He was a late bloomer to begin with, but between working his way through college on a very limited budget, his lack of time and funds put a damper on his dating style. Mister B always dreaded the humiliation of rejection, first of all, since the man had to do the asking out. Secondly, he hated having to come up with an idea for the date. It was frustrating for him to try to plan for something without knowing if the woman would enjoy it, whether it was a dinner, movie, music event, picnic or other traditional dating venue. Next, there was the cost. The oil embargo caused gas prices to double overnight, then the rationing that required buying gas only on alternate days, based on license plate numbers, further complicated matters. Consequently, Mister B was careful to choose dates that did not require long drives.
That is not to say that dating practices themselves did not change dramatically during the boomer era. Boomers born in the late 1940s experienced a different set of cultural mores than those born in the fifties and sixties. The women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the introduction of the Pill and even rock ‘n roll all influenced the dating habits of boomers. Then there was the automobile. It played a crucial role not only as a means of transportation, but as the only privacy a young couple might get; it was common practice for both males and females to live with their parents until marriage. By the 1970s, that began to change.
Mister Boomer had a second flashback to the early 1970s. He had arranged a date, but nothing concrete had been planned. It disturbed Mister B since “spontaneous” was never a word anyone might associate with his dating life. When Mister Boomer drove up to the woman’s house, before he could finish parking, she bounded off the front porch and ran to the car. It was common practice for Mister Boomer to go to the door to meet his date (and probably her parents), then walk her to the car and open the door for her. Here, in one fluid motion, the woman flung open the car door, jumped in and stuffed a rolled-up series of bills into Mister Boomer’s front shirt pocket. On closing the door, Mister Boomer must have looked shocked, because she exclaimed, “Let’s go! We’re going to be late! We’re going to see The Man of La Mancha!” It was Mister Boomer’s first (but hardly the last) encounter with a woman who did not feel compelled to follow traditional roles in a dating relationship. After very little deliberation, he decided he liked it.
Do you recall dating situations from your boomer years that would be obsolete today, boomers?