By Miranda Voth
Megan Starkman’s favourite love story is Pride and Prejudice. And in a dating world of chat rooms, text messages and one night stands, she wishes that the Victorian ideal of courtship was still around.
“I don’t like meeting people at clubs or bars because you can’t trust their intentions,” says Starkman, a third-year Ryerson radio and television arts student. “I like tradition, dinner and a movie, but add a twist.”
In the Victorian age, dating was structured and only worked when men followed society’s rules — however strange they would be. For example, no man would be seen in public with a woman unless he planned to marry her. But this also meant suitors had to be committed — a virtue lost in modern dating.
Stark also doesn’t think the ways people meet and date these days are as intimate and honest as they could be.
“I just wish two people could say how they really feel,” saysStarkman. “Without fearing the repercussions of breaking the rules or not playing the game.”
The game, today, is playing hard to get — men and women hide their true feelings, which can be turn-offs.
But in Victorian times, people were expected to declare their intentions. If a man fancied a woman, she could expect flowers the morning after a party. And if she received a pair of gloves from a gentleman, she wore them to church to show that the feeling was mutual.
Getting to white gloves was a challenge in itself — men used to have to be formally introduced by someone else before they could talk to a woman. Once acquainted, the couple had the chance to make small talk but not without a chaperone. The man could escort his date home with the woman’s permission, but there was never any inviting in for coffee.
Although seemingly bureaucratic, Victorian love was to be treasured because of these layers of lustful red tape. It also clearly defined gender roles.
“I like a guy who can take charge and make the first move because it shows he’s confident. I’m very independent but I’m also just a girl who wants to be able to curl up in her boyfriend’s arms and feel safe,” says Starkman. “But no one just approaches people any more and asks them out.”
Ben Lewis, a communications and culture grad student doesn’t like the rules of Victorian romance, but he also doesn’t like the idea of casual dating. He puts the blame on men. He thinks that guys need to step up their game in the romance department.
“Guys in general are lacking,” says Lewis. “I want to bring old romance back. I like it.” He dislikes the consumerism of romance and admires a friend who hand makes all gifts for his fiancé.
Former Ryerson student Abria Young disagrees that chivalry is dead. Instead, she argues it has been modernized. She has accepted modern courtship offers from people at bars and online.
Young met her current boyfriend through a friend who read his profile on MySpace.com and thought he was a good catch. They began e-mailing and talking on MSN.
“We always had a kind of candid, talk-about-anything kind of relationship. And then it just progressed and progressed and I thought, ‘maybe I’ll go meet him,’” says Young. “And then I did and it was great.”
She says meeting someone and developing a relationship online is better than the Victorians’ uptight rules.
“On Lavalife you can send smiles for free. Then there is also instant messaging you pay for and to chat and talk to as many people you want during the time,” Young says.
But while everyone has their own idea of romance, the traditional form of dating is still the preferred method of finding love for Starkman.
“I think old romance isn’t lost, it’s just been overlooked,” says Starkman.
“You don’t have to buy a girl flowers but the idea shouldn’t be pushed aside just because it’s cliché or cheesy.”