Dating is horrible
The first is that though dating is passed off as a leisure activity, it really is a lot of work, particularly for women.
It requires physical effort—all that primping, exercising, shopping, and grooming—as well as sizable investments of time, money, and emotion.
In one sense, this is a story about the exploitative possibilities of online matchmaking: the opportunities to flagrantly misrepresent oneself, the ease of trawling for specific targets.
(John, who was white, pursued only Asian women, leaving his girlfriends with the icky sense that they’d been fetishized as well as deceived.) Still, romantic scammers aren’t an invention of modern courtship and its digital devices.
Dating is therefore a powerful force of social control—but what do we actually mean by “dating”?
Weigel begins her survey at the turn of the twentieth century, when single women were increasingly leaving the towns and farms where they’d been brought up and flocking to industrializing cities to work in factories, laundries, and department stores, their ranks swelled by the arrival of immigrants. Working women bunked in tenements with relatives or streamed into boarding houses with rules against male visitors.
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.
“If marriage is the long-term contract that many daters still hope to land, dating itself often feels like the worst, most precarious form of contemporary labor: an unpaid internship,” Weigel writes at the start of her book.
Weigel had a revelation: she was always turning to a man to tell her what she was after, and the institution of dating was to blame.
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.
a young woman in San Francisco, met a man—call him John—on the dating site OKCupid. More notably, he indulged in the kind of profligate displays of affection which signal a definite eagerness to commit.
He sneaked Suzanne’s favorite snacks into her purse as a workday surprise and insisted early on that she keep a key to his apartment. V.—an act roughly equivalent, in today’s gallantry currency, to Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster.