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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.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.All of them had received the couch-spooning treatment.
(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.
The process of testing out potential mates, and of being tested by them in turn, can be gruelling, bewildering, humiliating.