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You did your best.” This makes dating sound a lot like a recurring anxiety dream. candidate in comparative literature, film, and media at Yale; “Labor of Love,” a perceptive and wide-ranging investigation into the history of dating in America, is her first book, sprouted from the seed of unpleasant personal experience.

You’d have to be a masochist not to try to wake yourself up. At twenty-six, she was involved with an older man who was torn between her and an ex he hadn’t lost interest in.

In “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” (Simon & Schuster), the journalist Rebecca Traister describes the attempts of one establishment, the Trowmart Inn, in Greenwich Village, to address this problem.

Unlike most boarding houses for working women, the Trowmart didn’t impose a curfew, and actively encouraged male visitors. had they a proper place in which to entertain their admirers, would develop into happy, excellent wives and still happier mothers.”What the Trowmart founder had in mind was “calling,” the respectable mode of courtship that had been practiced during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth by the aspirational middle class.

Every so often, one of his paramours would catch on and alert the others.

Then he’d block them all on social media and begin the whole thing again.

The process of testing out potential mates, and of being tested by them in turn, can be gruelling, bewildering, humiliating.

It trained women “in how to be if we wanted to be wanted.”Hence “Labor of Love,” an exploration of that training, in which Weigel reaches two main conclusions.All of them had received the couch-spooning treatment.John was a champion girlfriend accumulator, the ringmaster of a romantic circus that only he could see.So they went out, to parks and dance halls, saloons and restaurants, nickelodeons and penny arcades—to the streets themselves, teeming centers of working-class social life—where they could have a good time and meet men on their own. The term “date” originated as slang referring to a woman’s date book, and showed up in print in 1896, in “Stories of the Streets and Town,” a column that offered middle-class readers a taste of working-class life.Artie, a young clerk, confronts a girlfriend who’s been giving him the slip: “I s’pose the other boy’s fillin’ all my dates? A later column reports Artie’s admiring observation that a certain girl’s date book was so full she had to keep it “on the Double Entry System.”Not surprisingly, these new female freedoms came with a catch.

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