Teenage Dating in the 1950s © 2000, Windy Sombat
Adolescents in the 1950 's are so iconic that, for some, they represent the last generation of artlessness before it is `` lost '' in the sixties. When asked to conceive of this lost group, images of bobbysoxers, letterman jackets, malt shops and sock hops come immediately to mind. Images like these are so authoritative, they, for a figure of people, are `` every bit American as apple pie. '' They are produced and perpetuated by the media, through films like Grease and Pleasantville and television shows like Happy Days, The Donna Reed Show, and Leave It to Beaver. Because of these amusement forums, these images will go on to be a pop cultural symbol of the 1950 's. After the 2nd World War, adolescents became much more noticeable in America ( Bailey 47 ) . Their presence and being became readily more evident because they were granted more freedom than old generations of all time were.
Dating basically replaced the pattern of naming which was the primary manner of courtship before the mid-1920 's. When a adult male `` calls '' upon a adult female, he normally shows up at her house during an `` at home '' session and presents his card to the maid who so gives it to the immature lady. She so is given the option of accepting his call by allowing him in or rejecting it by doing up an excuse as to why she can non see him. Refreshments were frequently served ( though non ever ) , and the amusement was chiefly soft playing in the parlor. But because the lower categories were non so well-endowed so that they own pianos or even parlors, they started their ain form of `` courtship '' which shortly became known as dating. This pattern was shortly picked up by the upper categories, and from there it progressed into the in-between category, with which it is still inherently associated today ( Bailey 17 ) .
Naming and dating are so per se different it is difficult to conceive of how the transition from one to another was even made. First, naming was practiced with the intention of happening a suited husband for a immature lady ; whereas, in dating, this was, and still is, non the primary goal. Peoples date because it is `` gratifying, pleasant, and valuable '' ( Merrill 62 ) , and they thought that they could derive honoring experiences from it. In the fifties and environing decennaries, handbooks and other books researching relationships described dating as a fun activity in which teens are allowed to run into and mix with many members of the opposite sex. Besides, dating allowed immature people to be with each other without their parents interfering. Second, the control of the relationship changed custodies as the transition was made. When naming was practiced, the female in the relationship held most of the power because work forces came to see her in her house with her parents present. But when dating replaced naming, the males held most of the power, for they paid for the date, drove the automobiles, and came by the miss 's house merely to pick her up.
During the 1950 's, it was common cognition, at least to misss, that there was a process to the whole wooing ritual -- that there were phases to a lasting relationship. First, when you are immature, you associate with boys in the playground, and do non earnestly organize any romantic relationships with them. Then you progress to chat uping and speaking to them which leads into dating. The dating process normally is initiated by traveling out on double-dates. Double-dates were used to originate the whole dating process because it created a more unfastened environment conducive to easy conversation. So they initial shyness of immature couple can be eased off by the presence of other company, particularly if the double date was a `` set-up '' or a unsighted date for one couple. After dual dating, you would of course travel onto individual dating. And should the relationship move on, as they frequently do, it would travel into the omnipresent `` traveling steady '' phase ( McGinnis 74 ) .
In this phase, there were certain imposts that were played out by the two people involved. The boy was required to give the miss a token which was to claim her as his, like his category ring, letterman sweater, or ID bracelet. If a ring was given, it had to be worn on the 3rd finger of the left manus. Of class, these imposts varied by part. Some topographic points preferred rings over clothes, and others did non. Boys are besides expected to name their steady girlfriend a certain figure of times a week and take her out on a certain figure of dates. Traveling steady besides meant that the couple would make a higher lever of sexual intimacy ( Bailey 50 ) .
Many handbooks for immature ladies were published in the postwar clip period that addressed the issue of how to pull boys and how to obtain a date. One handbook entitled Always Say Possibly suggests ways in which a miss can entice a boy 's fancy toward her. Some of the chapters focus on how to near a adult male, how to gain a date, how to get down interesting conversation, and how to be interested in what they are interested in, like sports in peculiar. The book is written in a slightly amusing manner ; nevertheless, it does teach its readers on how to move around boys. One chapter reads, `` Be gay, be capturing, be believing. '' Continuing on, it says for misss to be `` surefooted, eloquent, and stout-hearted '' in conversation with work forces ( Gould 30 ) .
One ground that dating was an of import factor in the 1950 's is that it is present about everyplace, even in the classroom. Many schools were equipped with educational films which were intended to assist adolescents live good clean lives. The films about dating in the fifties were existent gems of cinema. These films were merely representations of adult positions and adult preferences but created with adolescent histrions. They served as reminders to adolescents that there were imposts and certain boundaries in dating, and if they violated them, there could be serious effects. Many films choose to picture the consequences of sexual intercourse by demoing terrible cases of syphilis and unwanted pregnancies. More innocently though, these types of films showed how one gets a date and what to make on a date, harmonizing to the mores of adults. Most dates ended with a friendly handshaking which shows that these movies were created by grownups for their kids to watch and hopefully follow ( Smith 47-51 ) .
In the fifties, there were many options for a immature couple looking for a good clip. The most popular topographic points to travel were those that were inexpensive yet fun, much like dates of today. The September 1959 issue of Seventeen pointed out that the most popular topographic points were ice cream parlors, pizza parlors, drive-ins, bowling back streets, coffee houses and record stores ( 135 ) . The most popular and economical activity available for adolescents was watching movies. There they could be immersed in the dark with their date, bask a snack, and be entertained for a while. Possibly, if the movie was played in a drive-in, you would non even have to watch the movie to be entertained! Many movies were released during this clip period that would appeal to adolescents excessively, like Pillow Talk starring the talented Doris Day and handsome Rock Hudson.
Other topographic points adolescents went for fun were dances, school featuring events, sock hops, malt stores, and amusement parks. Dances, in peculiar, made up a big portion of dating. There were non merely school supported dances, such as the sock hop ( suitably named because patrons were to take off their places so as non to drag the basketball floor ) , but there were proms and sorority dances to go to every bit good. In more modern times, misss who attend these sorts of functions normally stay with the date that brought them or whoever they invited to come. But it was absolutely normal, even preferred ( by older generations at least ) if a immature lady was `` passed around '' the dance floor. If you were non cut in on, you were a societal disgrace. This pattern was really evident in the times before the 1950 's, but by the early first few old ages of the decennary, it had reasonably much disappeared. In 1955, one adolescent go toing Texas Christian University disclosed that `` to cut in is about an insult '' ( Bailey 32 ) . This is where the modern thought of traveling to dances emerged from.
Back in the fifties, it was reasonably much understood that boys wage for the expenses of the day of the month. They take their misss out and demo them a good clip, but all of this costs money. Girls were, and some would take a firm stand still are, expensive to delight particularly if one takes them out often. The construct of Dutch dating was non acceptable back in the fifties. Both boys and misss were embarrassed by the thought. It was suggested that if a immature adult male needed aid paying for the day of the month so the miss should give him some money before the day of the month so the boy can still look like he paid for the meal and amusement. This method was suggested but seldom of all time practiced ( Bailey 59 ) . Of class, today Dutch dating is rather normal.
Most boys of the epoch agreed that dating itself is non so expensive, but as sixteen-year-old Ed Miller put it, from the same article, the `` wallet-emptying experiences are birthdays and all the other particular occasions when gift buying is necessary '' ( 75 ) . Particular occasions could be any figure of things, like dances. Items like corsages, which boys were ever responsible for supplying, were dearly-won. Monetary values for the flowers ranged anyplace from $ 1.50 to $ 10 depending on the sorts of flowers of class ( 121 ) . Orchids seemed to be all the rage in the 1950ss ; nevertheless, these flowers were rather dearly-won. They were approximately $ 7 per flower - about equal to the sum spent by economical teens per month! Tuxedo rental cost approximately $ 10, and bus fare, gas, and amusement added up to $ 25- $ 35 every bit good ( Bailey 62 ) .
Sexual relations among adolescents in the 1950ss were another facet the adolescent culture redefined. By this clip, snoging, hugging and other mild physical forms of fondness were done rather often in public -- in the hallways at school, in automobiles, and other local haunts ( Merrill 67 ) . These outward expressions were about accompaniments to most day of the months because of the increase in privacy the automobile and darken movie theaters lend. In fact, the thoughts of `` necking '' and `` petting '' were fecund and understood by everyone who participated in dating. Definitions for these footings differed with every beginning though. But in general, necking was defined as `` caresses above the neck, '' and petting are `` caresses below '' that ( Bailey 80 ) . In some cases, there was a difference between `` petting '' and `` heavy petting '' which would be even closer to intercourse ( McGinnis 117 ) . Kinsey, the researcher behind the ill-famed sex surveies of the 1950 's, defines petting as `` any sort of physical contact which does non affect a brotherhood of genitalia but in which there is a calculated effort to consequence arousal '' ( Merrill 68 ) . `` Necking '' and `` caressing '' were rather frequently expected while on day of the months. One male child wrote to some publication in response to a similar topic. He stated, `` When a male child takes a miss out and spends $ 1.20 on her ( like I did the other dark ) he expects a small caressing in return ( which I did n't acquire ) '' ( Bailey 81 ) .
Automobiles provided an first-class forum for sexual experimentation in the 1950ss. They provided the right sum of privateness for merely that sort of `` exploration, '' better known as `` parking. '' Adults knew that `` parking '' happened, so alternatively of seeking to halt the pattern, which would be near impossible, they tried to incorporate it. For illustration, a constabulary head in New Jersey set up system where cars could park at dark in county parks while patrol cars watched over them ; nevertheless, the system required that the cars maintain their lights on and must be parked lawfully. The goal of this system, which is similar to many others implemented throughout the state, is non to command sex itself but to do it hard for sex to happen. It manipulated times and locations so that sex was about impossible to go on ( Bailey 87 ) .
But despite all the pressures to gull about, virginity was still a virtuousness in the 1950ss ( Merrill 70 ) . There was still an emphasis on continuing it as stressed by magazine articles and handbooks for immature ladies. And when some misss lose it, it is a major calamity, as one miss expressed a missive published in the May 1959 issue of Seventeen magazine expressed. She writes in, `` After several months of dating, affairs got out of manus. Deep down I knew it was incorrect, but I did n't hold the bravery to halt seeing him. I believe God will forgive if one truly repents, but I know at that place will ever be the scar '' ( 136 ) . This miss here regrets her actions with a immature adult male, and wishes she had non done what she did.
Adolescents in the 1950ss changed the rules of dating and, accordingly, formed the footing of what today 's adolescents consider normal dating. Aspects like the process of dating which included the redefined phase of `` traveling steady '' were so well-understood by all adolescents of the 1950 's that information about these subjects was rather fecund. Every facet of each facet was examined by different positions. Adults produced handbooks and films which served to steer their adolescents in moving the manner they wanted them to during day of the months. Adolescent magazines seemed to reflect a more modern-day voice -- a voice closer to what existent adolescents felt during the 1950ss.
How Dating has Changed Since The 1950s
Jenni Trent Hughes, Relationship Expert for eHarmony believes the dating process holds a mirror to the society of the clip. She says: “In the 40s and 50s, the family unit was strong and frequently work forces and adult females in their twenties were still populating at place with their families. Communities were close and blessing was of paramount importance. Politeness and reference was a critical portion of the dating process. Today our society is more fractured. We move off from place for work or college and both work forces and adult females are beguiling busy lives and demands on their clip. We meet more as equals and must do our ain determinations. It’s fast paced and exciting but non without its etiquette protocols entirely.”
Americas First Teenagers: Youth in the Fiftiess Author: Barbara Diggs
When I was a child, I couldnt delay to be a adolescent. To my head, when I reached that charming idyll, there would be a ceaseless watercourse of exchangeable autos outside my house, a closet full of poodle skirts, and a stack of 45s, to which I would dance in my bedroom, between day of the months at the soda store. To be certain, I would be asked by a fine-looking college pupil to go steady and would feature his fraternity pin or letterman jacket with pride. I got aroused merely believing about it. Bing a adolescent of the 50s would be so much fun! Unfortunately, when I was making all this daydreaming, it was already 1978. My vision of teenage hood had been led severely astray by retro 1950s television shows such as Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley and, of class, the film Grease. There would be no saddle places or sock hops in my future the large hair and acerb wash jeans of the late 80s awaited. I have ever felt a bit cheated. But was I? Had I been a adolescent in the 50s what would it truly have been like?
The term teenager was barely heard at the start of the 1950s, but by the decades terminal, the word rolled off every American tongue with easiness. The teens of the 50s were the first teen-aged youths to stand out as a distinguishable group with involvements, fashions, musical gustatory sensations and economic power of their ain. Their rise to prominence was mostly because, unlike the youth of old generations, the childs of the 1950s were unencumbered by responsibilities brought by universe war and economic depression. In the 1950s, America was every bit comfortable as it of all time had been ; the morale of the white middle-class was high, and parents, smilingly indulgent. For the first clip, immature people had both the money and the freedom to make what every generation of teens since has expected as its right: have fun.
The mean white middle-class adolescent in the 1950s frequently engaged in the type of wholesome activities for which they are so good remembered. They hung out with their friends at malt stores, necked at drive-in films, and gathered around the television with their families merely one set per family in those yearss to watch respectable plans such as I Love Lucy and The Ed Sullivan Show. Teenage boys from slick-haired greasers to cardigan-wearing preppies exhausted ample clip salivating over the progressively sleek and clean autos that were being churned out each twelvemonth. Girls swooned over pin-ups of adolescent graven images like Troy Donahue and Fabian, and consulted freshly inaugurated adolescent magazines for advice on dating or fashion.
Possibly if the teens of the 50s had gone no further with their exploration of fun, possibly the universe would be a different topographic point. But Americas first adolescents clearly wanted more than wholesome fun. And when rock n rollers such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley burst onto the scene, teens were ready. They latched onto rock n rolls reckless, thrilling beat and refused to allow travel. With the advent of rock n roll, and a batch of films having disaffected teens ( most notably being James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause ) , America got its first gustatory sensation of teenage rebellion.
Most parents were appalled. Rock n roll, with its powerful beat, spiraling singers, and sexually suggestive lyrics, was considered to be utterly unsuitable for kids. The fact that such music besides had strong roots in the Afro-american blues and gospel traditions made it all the worse. It was denounced by conservativists as jungle music or Satans music which made the adolescents, in true teenage form, crave it all the more. Record producers were happy to compel them. Teens flocked the record stores, dropped 1000000s of dimes in the jukebox, and gleefully jitterbugged off in thousands of high school gyms across the state. And as the song goes, rock n roll was here to remain.
Naturally, life in the 50s wasnt one sock hop after another. Teens spent most of their clip in school, and were invariably pressured to conform to societys highly conservative standards. One such method of pressure were the frequent showing of mental hygiene films in schools. These 15 minute movies ( with rubrics such as, Keep off the Grass , Are You Popular? and Safety or Slaughter ) attempted to maneuver or scare immature people off from drugs, sex, slumping, speeding, or anything that might render them socially unpopular. The effects for teens that veered from the norm were terrible: an unwed pregnant adolescent would rapidly happen herself a pariah ; homosexuality could ensue in a gaol sentence ; an interracial relationship would practically vouch ostracism from everyone, including your ain household.
Rock and roll was well-liked among black teens, but many teens, particularly those in large metropoliss, frequently preferred the smooth, harmonious sounds of black doo-wop groups such as the Clovers, the Platters or Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Doo-wop was a recent permutation of rhythm and blues, a form of music that originated in the black community and had been long enjoyed by parents and childs likewise. However, doo-wop in specific was a adolescent thing, as it began with groups of immature inner-city black males garnering on street corners or on front porches to do up songs and sing a cappella for their friends.
Although white and black teens shared many similarities in interests, fashions and musical gustatory sensation, the two state of affairss were non separate but equal. The 50s are frequently characterized as an age of youthful innocence , but black adolescents were all excessively cognizant of their vulnerability to the ugliness in the universe. Fourteen year-old Emmett Till was viciously murdered and mutilated in Mississippi for whistling at a white adult female. Nine brave adolescents endured taunts, violent menaces and gobs of spit, for make bolding to be the first blacks to integrate an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Popular dance plans, such as American Bandstand and the Milt Grant Show, would non, at least ab initio, allow black and white teens to dance in the same studio. Black adolescents could non assist but be cognizant that white America considered them immensely inferior, and that rolling over racial boundaries could hold mortifying and/or annihilating effects. Nevertheless, a flutter of rebellion was turning in the Black Marias of many black teens. And in the sixties, this rebellion would meet with the discontent of white middle-class teens, to detonate into a revolution that would change the class of Americas history.
The older generations were particularly worried about `` juvenile delinquency. '' In the 1950s, this did n't intend covering in street drugs or drive-by shootings, but instead masticating gum in category, souping up a hot rod and speaking back to parents. Rock'n'roll music was attacked on all foreparts, with records banned and smashed. Radio DJs were ordered non to play certain songs ; rock singers ( particularly Elvis ) were condemned ; and the calling of rock promoter Alan Freed, the adult male who named the music rock 'n' roll, was destroyed by a authorities investigation. To cite Michael Ventura, who was there: For one thing, for us white childs, the existent '50s was merely the latter half of the decennary, because we did n't hold rock'n'roll until good into 1955, and in footings of popular culture the decennary would barely be deserving adverting without rock 'n' roll. For another, the feel of the clip has non merely been forgotten but besides erased. And there 's no manner to hold on the insurgent force of this now-innocent-sounding music unless you can experience a small of what it meant to be a child hearing it as it was played for the first clip. It was music that was made for adolescents and scared the hell out of grownups ; it was taboo-shattering music about–gasp–sex and racial commingling. That 's why records were burned, censorship Torahs were passed, and some lives were ruined. Because this was the Devil 's music, and it was endangering the position quo. But you could n't halt anything this existent. It hit you where you lived. It belonged to the childs and merely the childs. It set them apart. It gave them something to believe in. Rock'n ' roll was their joy. It was their freedom. It is still so today. On to the dances of the 1950s
9 highly out-of-date etiquette tips from the 1950s
Amy Vanderbilt is rather perchance one of my favorite people of all time. I collect old etiquette books in general, but hers have ever been my favorite, largely because she’s manner crazier than the far more celebrated etiquette expert Emily Post and seems to hold no thought that hapless people exist. She was sort of like the Paltrow of her clip. I have culled these delicious illustrations of out-of-date etiquette tips from both the 700-page tome “Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette” and the somewhat smaller advice column-style “Amy Vanderbilt’s Everyday Etiquette, ” both published in 1952. Interestingly, one of Andy Warhol’s foremost major jobs as a commercial artist was exemplifying these books.
“In many big Continental hotels, paid dancing spouses are often on responsibility at tea clip and dinner where there is a dance orchestra. These gentlemen, who do non care for the word “gigolo” normally move discreetly among the tabular arraies seeking spouses for a little fee”…”For unaccompanied adult females to use these dancing spouses in public topographic points is right, but for them to set the arrangement on any sort of personal plane is imploring for problem. It is no shame to use a dance spouse abroad– the most conservative adult females do it. But everyone knows on what footing such a adult male is in a woman’s company and it is pathetic to feign he is anything more than he is.”
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