Teenage dating fifty years ago was much more formal than it is today. Expectations of what would or wouldn’t happen on a date were understood by all.
Teenage dating nearly fifty years ago was very different from the social practices of today. Parents were much more aware of whom their children were dating and where they were going. Curfews were set and alcohol was rare.
Teenagers met potential dates either at school, church, youth groups, dances, sport clubs, or through their friends. Because I went to a girls’ school, one of my favourite events was a Sunday afternoon youth club. Teenagers usually went to organised events with a group of the same sex from their school. A local band played and we danced the afternoon away. Youth club was an ideal opportunity to meet others in a supervised environment.
A date was arranged when a boy rang a girl on the phone during the week and asked her to go out with him, usually to the movies or a local dance. If Sunday youth club had gone well a girl would sit waiting near the phone all week, hoping the boy of her choice would call. If her parents happened to take the phone call, she would try and act disinterested, hoping the call was for her.
Most teenage dates happened on Saturday nights and were usually to the movies or a local dance. The boy was expected to call and collect the girl from her home, usually meeting the parents. This must have been quite nerve-wracking for the boy. The couple would then be given a strict curfew time the girl had to be home by. Usually this was midnight.
On Saturday girls spent all afternoon preparing for their date. The ritual involved washing and setting their hair in curlers to get the big bouffant look of the 60s. Then finger nails had to be painted and clothes put out ready. Closer to the time of the date make-up had to be applied, this usually taking a long time, as everything had to be exactly right.
There were many dating behaviours considered etiquette in those days. If he had a car, the boy had to open the door for the girl. He also had to hold open the door of any building they were entering. He was expected to pay for the movie tickets and any after movie refreshments. Because the boy had paid, it was presumed the boy had the right to hold the girl’s hand or put his arm around her during the movies.
Girls knew that as much as they liked a boy, they should not permit a kiss on the first date. It certainly wouldn’t do to let the boy know you were interested. Girls were also advised that they should not appear more intelligent or more knowledgeable than their date. It wouldn’t do to show him up.
Teenagers were lucky back then. Unlike today, there were many organised activities enabling boys and girls to meet and mix with potential dates in a safe and supportive environment. The dating boundaries and consequences of pushing those boundaries were understood by all.
The teenage dating scene has changed. In many places formal dating seems to be a thing of the past. This is a shame as it was where teenagers learned a lot about growing up.