“Just how advisable is it for a farm girl to date a city boy? The chief concern here seems to be her ability to handle a date who is more sophisticated than she is. The old story of the traveling salesman and the farmer’s daughter has some basis in the tendency of certain urban males to try to exploit the presumably more naïve country girl.”
The Art of Dating, 1967 (1969 printing) By Evelyn Millis Duvall with Joy Duvall Johnson
About the Authors: Evelyn Millis Duvall, according to this book’s back cover, was “known nationally and internationally as a top-ranking authority on sex and family life education.” She was no intellectual slouch—she earned a Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of Chicago, and she was a Fellow of the American Sociological Association, which sounds impressive. Her earlier book The Facts of Life and Love for Teenagers went through many printings in the 1950s and 1960s. Her daughter, Joy Duvall Johnson, assisted her in writing this book. She was a University of Chicago graduate, too, with a master’s degree in “social group work.”
About This Book: Having read both this book and The Facts of Life and Love for Teenagers, I’ve found that two qualities distinguish Duvall in the advice-giving game: She has a research-based approach and an obsessive love of detail.
You can see the first quality in the many studies that she cites and statistics that she offers. Here is a fairly typical Duvall passage:
“Professors Kirkpatrick and Caplow found that the most usual course of love is one starting with mutual indifference and moving upward through attraction to love, and either dropping again to indifference, with the broken love affair, or remaining in love at a high level of mutual involvement. One out of every five love affairs studied is irregular in its course, with unpredictable shifts from love to hate to indifference to liking in various combinations throughout the history of the relationship. Somewhat fewer young men and women experience an even more vacillating kind of love that is off-again-on-again, with ups and downs like a roller coaster’s.”
Her love of detail pervades the entire book, which explores dating from every possible angle. Take her guidelines, for instance, about a movie date:
- Paying for the tickets: “While the fellow buys the tickets, the girl steps aside and looks at the stills outside to avoid the boy any embarrassment he may feel at the ticket window.”
- Walking in to the theater: “If there is no usher, the boy precedes the girl down the aisle, finds two seats, and steps aside so that the girl may be seated first; he then follows and seats himself behind her.”
- During the film: “…throwing popcorn or paper, or otherwise behaving like a nuisance, is rude and crude.
- Getting refreshments: “At (intermission) the boy may ask his date what she would like, then excuse himself while he gets it…If his budget doesn’t call for this extra, a boy should come prepared with some little offering to take the place of purchased refreshments, such as candy from a roll or mints or a stick of gum. The girl accepts the offer graciously without hinting that she would like something else.”
- Acceptable affection: “The boy may hold the girl’s hand if she has no objection or place his arm over the back of her seat.”
- Talking: “They may whisper their reactions to the picture or comment to each other about the characters or plot, so long as they neither embarrass each other nor annoy their neighbors.”
- Leaving the Theater: “…the boy helps the girl into her wraps and waits is the aisle until the girl emerges and precedes him out of the theater. Then, the boy may suggest stopping at a soda fountain, if he wishes, or if it’s early, the girl may invite him to her home for ‘cake and milk’ or whatever she and her family have agreed upon for an evening snack.”
Whew! I was the most socially awkward teenager who ever lived, and even I wouldn’t have needed that much help to get through a simple movie.
Despite her scientific bent, Duvall occasionally lapses into flights of fancy that seem to be inspired by movies rather than real life, circa 1967. In addition to warning about the great urban-rural dating schism, she predicts soap-opera-esque consequences for dating outside one’s social class. She even cites the 1940 movie (or 1939 novel) Kitty Foyle to demonstrate the latter situation’s pitfalls!
Decoding a Previous Owner: A previous owner of my book went crazy underlining passages and scribbling in his or her own, sometimes smug, notes. At first I assumed this mad scribbler was a teenage reader, and it surprised me that any teen was taking this book so seriously in 1969. Then I started to notice that the underlinings included portions aimed at both girls and boys, and I wondered if the reader was a parent, teacher, or some kind of minister. Finally, I hit upon a note that confirmed a church affiliation: Below a passage that described church ladies hosting an after-prom party, my scribbler wrote, “Possibility for our women.” Oh, the fun of reading used books!
More quotes from The Art of Dating
“When the boy on the hill dates the girl from across the tracks, the general public is apt to assume that it’s because she is willing to let him take more liberties with her than would a girl from his own social group.”
Possible dating activity: “An old-fashioned taffy pull lends itself to hilarious, if sticky, informality.”
“Currently some segments of the young adult population try to express their individuality by extremes in hair style and dress. However young people respond to this, most want an attractive date. On one college campus, the men revolted against the trend of certain co-eds to be unkempt. They protested that they wanted girls to look feminine. Most fellows would agree.”
Dating costs: “College men find it often costs close to $5 for a ‘movie and malt’ date.”
Really? Just as responsible?: When you step into a car, you are just as responsible as the driver for what goes on…If (a girl) lets the boy drive too fast, she shares the guilt if an accident occurs.
Warning—writing about illegal drugs may be a gateway to abusing quotation marks: “Some teen groups have ‘parties’ where drugs provide ‘entertainment.’ At these parties teens are often exploited by dope peddlers who ‘contribute’ marijuana. Young people might be tempted to try a ‘reefer.'”
Smart girls: “Boys worry less about dating girls inferior to them in intellect, since it is generally expected that a girl won’t be as intelligent as the boy she dates. Indeed this is emphasized so strongly that a superior girl may find that if she has a reputation as a ‘brain,’ boys are afraid to date her. Such a girl may pretend to be dumber than she is on a date…But there are girls who resent having to ‘put their brains on ice,’ so they only go out with boys who like them as they are, who admire intelligence and are not threatened by a girl’s superior mental ability. A girl who dates a boy who is not her intellectual equal must decide whether she dares to be herself or whether she must put on an act.”
(You would think that two female, University-of-Chicago-educated social scientists might take a firmer stand on which is the right choice, but they let matters rest there.)
The five kinds of people who “go all the way” before marriage:
1. “The Unconventional person with few or no religious roots.”
2. Young people from the lower socioeconomic classes. (“In general, the middle-class girl or boy values chastity more highly.”)
3. People desperate for love and acceptance.
4. Rebellious types.
5. People who are deeply in love but, for some reason, cannot marry.
“The more mature girl knows that she doesn’t need to resort to either slapping or running in order to deal with the too amorous boyfriend. She wards off unwelcome behavior with a firm refusal to cooperate, accompanied by a knowing smile and a suggestion of some alternate activity. She may say, “Not now, Ambrose—let’s go get a hamburger; I’m hungry.”
Read the whole Weird Words of Wisdom series