Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating - Moira Weigel

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating is Moira Weigel's first book. She's written for The Guardian, The Nation, The New Republic, n+1, and The New Inquiry, among other publications. She is also completing her PhD in Comparative Literature at Yale University.


Labor of Love delves into the emotional labor involved with dating, particularly the labor performed by women. Using over 100 years of dating culture as a basis, the differences in dating from decade to decade is highlighted.


From "calling" culture, where a prospective suitor would visit the home of the lady he fancied, to today's "hookup" culture, the nuances of dating has greatly changed. Chaperoned dates led into a time period where women started working outside the home, often as shop girls. Dating culture morphed into a man arranging to meet a woman for activities. Which led to women spending more on their appearance thus decreasing the small amount of spending money they earned. These women were sometimes called charity dates, due to them being dependent of the "charity" of their dates for food or other necessities.


There is a bit dedicated to "coming out" and the difficulty of finding dates. Which was helped along by certain codes to identify other persons who are gay. But the vast majority is dedicated to "straight" dating between men and women.


Various other chapters include: School, wherein dating on college campuses is discussed, Steadies, which implied serial monogamy (the technique of dating one person at a time, but not staying with that person until death), and Help, discussing the rise of dating services from video dating in the 80's to Tinder today.


Labor of Love was an interesting book from a cultural perspective. It's very seldom that emotional labor is discussed, especially in relation to dating. Emotional labor is unpaid, but is often more taxing than a paying job due to the emotional and mental strain it causes. It's not a particularly light read, but it was interesting enough to keep my attention. There are a number of studies, other books, and various other types of materials referenced, which has the potential to lead the reader on even more depth of learning.