Fast forward to today and the modern dating scene and it appears as if there are virtually no similarities to historic courtship practices. Yet going out to a party is very similar to attending a ball, and going out on a date with a man, doesn’t differ too much from accepting a gentleman’s request to drive in the park with him.
What impresses me about some of my favourite heroines in romance fiction is their clear sighted view of relationships and what they entail. Rather than falling instantly in love with a man and feeling on cloud nine straight away, a sensible romance heroine assesses a man’s character before handing over her heart to him. She also requires a certain standard of behaviour from him, and expects him to treat her chivalrously. Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s novels are populated with female characters who have this particular mindset.
The old courtship rules have long since been abandoned, and there are no longer any modern rules when it comes to dating. However, if a woman wishes to survive in the dating jungle out there, adapting some standards from the past could prove quite beneficial. This might seem old-fashioned in view of the fact that women are now liberated and can date as they please, but being selective when it comes to dating, and only dating the men who treat you well, would be a good starting point.
This might seem obvious, but so many women seem to only want to date the men they cannot have, or the men who give them a difficult time. Perhaps some women view unavailable men as a worthwhile challenge to pursue, but chasing someone who isn’t interested enough to make an effort with you, seems silly to me.
A heroine in an historical romance novel might very well feel attracted to an unavailable male, but she would rarely make the mistake of chasing after him as society discouraged such behaviour, deeming it unseemly. Digging deeper in to the psychology of why society discouraged it, it becomes apparent why it was so frowned upon… a woman could never propose to a man, so if she chased after a man she was putting herself in the vulnerable position of being publicly rejected by him. Therefore, waiting for a man to show his interest (while ensuring that she let him know that she welcomed his advances) was the more sensible option.
And thinking about it, unless it’s a leap year, a woman rarely gets down on one knee and proposes to a man. So the more things change, the more they stay the same after all… Times may change but human nature doesn’t.