When it comes to courtship, we imagine people–usually men–serenading women who are looking over a balcony. Yes, it’s much like that memorable scene in Romeo and Juliet where the two star-crossed lovers are properly talking for the first time. It’s a classic image of courtship.
People don’t do that anymore, right? No man would sneak into the garden of a house to catch a glimpse of his beloved. And he definitely wouldn’t wax poetic like this: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
Times have changed. People have evolved and changed the way they formed intimate relationships. This is how courtship has changed through the years and how people changed the way they pursued romance.
The Gentleman Caller
If we live in the world where most of Jane Austen’s novels are set, then we would be quite familiar with the term “gentleman caller.” If we’re quite popular around the town, then we would have a number of them visiting our house from time to time. But what is it, really?
To put it plain and simple, a gentleman caller is a suitor. It’s customary for him to visit the house of the woman that he seeks to court. The two potential lovers would sit in the parlor and share some tea and treats. They wouldn’t be allowed to be close to each other, having to maintain a few feet apart. Oftentimes, they would even be supervised by the woman’s parents or other elder relatives. During this affair, the man would talk about himself, get to know the woman, and set his marital intentions.
The Promise of Commitment
As times changed, the way potential lovers would interact have changed as well. They didn’t fall in love from afar anymore. They had more interactions before they could even entertain the whole idea of a romance. But this doesn’t mean, though, that any semblance of courtship is gone. It’s just transitioned into different ways.
For one, instead of setting their marital intentions, men would express their promise of commitment in other ways. If a man had really set his sights on a woman, he would give her a rose gold promise ring to symbolize his commitment to her. He promises to take their relationship seriously. So this, in a way, is a precursor to their relationship. It’s not, strictly speaking, marital commitment yet. But the prospect is there.
Courtship in Reality Television
Over the years, our standards of dating have changed. The era of free love and the sexual revolution in the 1970s happened. It’s when people became more liberal with their dating choices. They even stopped doing any form of courtship at all. They formed romantic relationships with each other without any promise of a commitment. But, again, this doesn’t mean that courtship has been forgotten at all.
In a way, it lives as a form of entertainment with reality TV. Through the years, reality courtship and dating shows started popping up. And people continued to be hooked. It even sparked a whole franchise, with the Bachelor. We are fascinated with love and how it’s portrayed on screen. And we love the anticipation and build-up of the courtship stage. With the Bachelor franchise, we’re invested in the story of finding “the one.” We’re living vicariously through the contestants of these shows.
Online Courtship with Dating Apps
Who knew that courtship would eventually evolve into a computer process? No one did. And frankly, many of us don’t see it like this right now. But, in essence, that’s how courtship has evolved into.
When we set up a profile in an online dating platform such as Tinder or Bumble, we’re laying out our interests and intentions. We would say that we’re looking for something fun or something serious. We would also say what we’re looking for in a significant other. Maybe he would be tall and funny. Maybe she would be stylish and sweet.
After setting up our profile, the dating apps would get to work. Through their respective algorithms, they would set down all of these choices for us. Then it’s just a matter of choosing. Swipe right or left–that’s how easy it has become. Some would say that this is not courtship at all. But the basics are there. People are connecting with people they have similar interests with. Then they would interact and set their expectations. Then, they would embark on a relationship together.
When we hear the word “courtship,” our first question is this: do people still do it? The quick answer is yes. But just because people don’t court in the same way anymore, that doesn’t mean that courtship is dead. It just means that it has changed through generations.