Hot Dating Advice From 1939: Visit a Factory to Keep "Adolescent Love-Making to a Minimum"
What to Do on a Date
Author: Daniel A. Lord, S.J.
Publisher: The Queen's Work, St. Louis
The Cover Promises: Inside the drab gray heart of decent romance, young people force smiles and for some reason are forty. ALSO: Note the feather in the woman's cap, most likely a memento of an earlier conquest, by which I mean that one time she and that boy dared to touch each other's bare hands.
"'Gosh!' said Dick, "I'd be afraid to ask a girl to visit a steel mill or a stockyard or a manufacturing plant.'"
"A girl is or should be interested in what interests the boys she likes."
Since it was written by a man who conflated the idea of a date with the idea of a school field trip, What to Do on a Date-- much like any young people naive enough to take it seriously -- was probably doomed from the moment of its conception to be laughed off anytime teenagers started to get romantic. Author Daniel A. Lord proposes young Catholics avoid movie theaters, restaurants, and "disgusting dances, questionable taverns and roadhouses, sin and all its smelliness."
Instead, he insists that young people will have a much better time elsewhere:
"Your city is full of places to go and things to do that don't cost anything except carfare. I have a priest friend who takes young people around the city and shows them a grand time. They visit the police courts; they drop in at city hall, the county jail, the chamber of aldermen when it's in session, the fire departments, the city's waterworks ..."
Such advice is presented as dialogue in a lively colloquy between a priest, Father Hall, and teen twins Dick and Sue, whose names -- if thought of as verbs -- suggest why we don't often see the Father Halls of today squiring young folks around the waterworks.
Another fun place for wooing:
"Many cities still have ghettos, a push-cart market, the foreign colonies where people of some European nationality cluster around their old customs and habits of life."It might seem strange that a pamphlet titled What to Do on a Date is crammed exclusively with date ideas that no teenager would ever be interested in, but Lord and Father Hall have something of a hidden agenda. Unlike a typical date, such as a visit to the theater to catch "some road company loafing through a soiled version of last year's Broadway musical hit," none of these destinations will cost much money, which --as Hall lays out here -- is better for both boys and girls:
"[The boy] finds at the end of the date that he has spent a lot of money on a great deal of things that didn't give either of them a great deal of fun. She finds that she is expected to accept or is forced to resist a vigorous effort on his part to fill out a flat, unplanned date with adolescent love-making."Remember, What to Do on a Date is the story of a priest talking to a couple of kids. After Father Hall said that, author Lord chose to linger in the moment, relishing it:
He wrapped his tongue around those last two words in some mysterious fashion that made them sound just a little sickly and more than a little silly. "Adolescent love-making," he repeated, and the twins looked with self-conscious fixity into the fire.
Here,Father Hall tosses out another libido-killing dating idea, and his young charges give it the response it deserves:
"Did you ever visit the civic centers for which as citizens you'll be paying good money some of these days?"Actually, Dick and Sue soon come around to Father Hall's belief that dating should be something like running errands with your grandparents. After Dick exclaims that he'd be afraid to ask the modern gals of '39 to tour a factory, Sue snaps, "If you had the nerve, she'd have the time of her life and remember it as a red-letter day."
Dick and Sue had no answer for that.
Father Hall also recommends that young men take their dates to churches and to WPA orchestras, a reference that turns up both in the 1939 and 1951 copies of this pamphlet I've come across despite the fact that government-funded New Deal music programs didn't last through the 1940s. But as sad as it is to imagine the lovelorn teens of the Eisenhower era searching their cities for defunct hobo symphonies, what's important to note here is Father Hall's strict rules about the roles young men and women play in planning their miserable dates:
"Before the date the boy plans for things to do. The girl smartly accepts his lead in that and follows along. The girl plans for things to talk about, and the boy will, if the girl is smart enough, follow along without knowing she is giving him leads. And if they find they have interests that can fill, not one evening, but a series of evenings, their dates are not the slightest problem."Father Hall doesn't offer much advice on exactly topics of conversation girls should be boning up on before going out, but I can imagine some handy ones of my own:
- Why are we at a factory?
- How do you plan to get us past security?
- If this dumb date somehow goes well, and leads to more dates, and then a lifetime together, I bet one day we'll both feel more warmly about the time we stood around awkwardly on a factory floor, especially as America's manufacturing base will have collapsed by then, right?
Of course, Lord and Hall muster up a serious reason that girls should prep conversation topics and learn to "talk well and listen better." Doing so, Father Hall promises, meas that at the end of a date the boy
"has had so much stimulus and pleasure from the girl that, though the physical charm and attraction is still there, he does not have the typical masculine feeling that runs this way: 'Well, she owes me something for the evening, doesn't she?' She's been charming and entertaining, and she has cut the need for adolescent lovemaking to a minimum."
As anyone whose ever joined a book club can tell you, conversation minimizes lovemaking.
Here's a list of other great pamphlets by Daniel A. Lord.
Anyway, Father Hall argues that these dates are so much fun that you should continue to organize your life around them long after you and your plus one have become a steady, solid thing. "You're going to have a continuous date with the man or the woman you marry," he writes, which means you maybe better move to Juarez or someplace that still has factories.
He adds "Later on you'll have dates with your growing son and daughter" and, as far as I can tell, doesn't ever even try to take it back. Seriously, I read every word in here.