The history of popular culture

16 Dating

This is how it works in the movies: boy meets girl, they hate each other with a passion, but circumstances (or, in the case of The Thirty- nine Steps, handcuffs) conspire to keep them together. Finally they discover deep love and respect for each other and marry/ fall into bed together/ solve the murder/ discover penicillin and generally live happily ever after.

Hollywood sometimes describes this process as "meeting cute", using cute as an adverb, grammatical correctness not being Hollywood's strongest suit. It forms the basis of pretty well every film you have ever seen. Sure, it didn't work out too well in Psycho, what with Janet Leigh ending up in the boot of that car and all, but most dating in the movies is simply a matter of meeting someone agreeable and waiting for the gods to lend a hand.

In real life, unless you are fortunate, there is unlikely to be a network of German spies or a mad axeman to help pass the evening, so you may have nothing more substantial than your own wit and charm on which to rely. Tough call. The American comedian Jerry Seinfeld describes dating as like a job interview that goes on all night.

It is a minefield all right, with everything you do or say open to misinterpretation. Until now the only rules on the subject were that there were no rules, which is why it is so unfair that when a code of conduct is finally published it is exclusively for the distaff side of the arrangement.

The Rules is America's, No 1 best-seller, soon to be a major motion picture (was a book ever destined to be a minor motion picture?), and aims to tell the modern young woman how she can load the dice even more in her favour. It is the work of Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein, two thirtysomething American women of a type normally described as feisty, who look quite capable of fighting their corner on the toughest date. It is full of advice such as; "Always end a date first," "Don't call him and rarely return his calls," and "Don't stare or talk too much." Both women claim to have snared a husband following advice in the book, which is subtitled "Time- tested Secrets For Capturing The Heart Of Mr Right".

The Rules could clearly not have been published in the Sixties or Seventies - they would have gone against both the incipient feminism of the times and the male-dominated hang-loose hippy ethos. Before that, it would probably have been irrelevant, since dating was usually no more than one element in a courtship ritual invoking groups of young males and females circling round each other before pairing off and mating for life.

What has suddenly made dating big news, and allowed an old-fashioned book like The Rules (the rules were apparently devised by the grandmother of one of the authors' friends) to appear plugged into the zeitgeist, is the increase in serial dating. The rise in the divorce rate and the later age at which people marry means that dating can continue pretty well to the grave.

Films like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, together with the great phalanxes of Lonely Hearts ads in the broadsheet papers, recognise that dating is now a second, third, or fourth-chance affair for adults and no longer just part of growing up.

Maybe The Rules will help women deal with it, but if it is any comfort, dating is no picnic for men either, and many of us would happily go along with Seinfeld's suggestion of a pre-date ritual to defuse the tension. The couple would meet in one of those rooms used by prisoners, separated by a glass screen. That way the only sexual tension would be wondering whether to put your hand on the glass or not. And, says Seinfeld, if you feel uncomfortable at any point, you just signal to the guard and they take the other person away.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935