Remember when you used to hold hands? It might have been 1983, but holding hands did, in fact, once symbolize courting. I remember being invited to take a walk with my neighbor when I was nine years old. Just he and I, allowed by our parents to walk all the way around the block. Alone. I was nervous, excited, and totally head over heels in love.
There was a time when courtship was personal, natural, and real. A wink. A nudge. A blushing smile. A scribble in a notebook. A stuffed animal left on a college dorm doorstep. A rose left on the window of a car. Now, courting often comes via some technological channel, such as instant messaging, texting, or Facebooking. There are barely even phone calls any more. Maybe we’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, but I think that by revisiting the ways we used to woo, and comparing them to how it’s done today, we just might be inspired to get that feeling back.
Then: A Love Letter
Courtship used to start with a handwritten note, or more precisely, a love note—an outpouring of one’s emotions on paper. Hours spent with a pen scribbling sentiments of love and adoration that could never be said directly to the receiver. Written, tossed away, rewritten, and finally perfected. A poem of perfect passion on paper. Then it was folded—maybe into a geometric heart or a series of intricate folds allowing it to tuck into itself forming an envelope—and delivered to an unsuspecting recipient in a locker, through a friend, or passed in class. And then, coveted and read over and over. Every word, devoured. There’s something so intimate about composing with a pen and paper. To see handwriting—no matter how sloppy or how perfect, meant for our eyes only—used to be a feeling that couldn’t be topped. Imagine what that would feel like today—knowing that a person took the time to compose on paper rather than on screen. How romantic.
Now: An Email
While emails are more efficient than letter-writing, somehow they don’t convey the same emotion that a letter does. The love gets lost in electronics. Sure, the composer sits in front of a computer, painstakingly creating the same sentiment as a handwritten love letter; but seeing, “I love you. I’ve loved you forever. My heart pines for you.” on a computer screen doesn’t leave us with that same feeling of overwhelming joy, perhaps because it doesn’t feel believable unless it’s written. An email can be deleted. A letter is permanent. I may be old-fashioned, but a handwritten note beats an email any day.
Then: The Epically Long Phone Conversation
No courtship would be complete without it. A call just to say hello that ends five hours later with a sunrise and an “I can’t wait to see you.” Sometimes these take place in the back of a closet to avoid the persecution of parents or siblings, or sometimes curled up in bed, but they always seem to leave us with a smile smeared across our faces. Learning all about a person’s family, interests, dreams, hopes, fears, with the distance of a phone line somehow keeps our feelings and expressions safely guarded. Remember the long phone conversations in the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs? Brian, the main character, thought he was having a phone conversation with Noelle (Uma Thurman), but he was really talking to Abby (Janeane Garofalo). With the anonymity of the phone conversation, Brian falls in love with Abby, even though he’s attracted to the classic beauty of Noelle. The point is, face to face, we tend to get lost in each other’s looks, and that’s not a bad thing. But, the long, inquisitive phone call allows us to be daring and say things we might never discuss in person. It allows us to set aside physicality and get straight to the core of each other.
Now: The Never-Ending String of Text Messages
Even the fastest texters can’t have the epic conversations that a phone call allows. With texting, you miss the important stuff, like the sharing of dreams, and you miss hearing how someone’s voice sounds when he’s telling you something that’s really important to him. Texting is cute, but imagine how numb your fingers would be after a five-hour texting session?
Then: The Mixed Tape
Nothing compares to the thoughtfulness of a mixed tape. An entire week dedicated to compiling a song list. Then an entire day dedicated to cueing up songs and manually playing each song and recording it on to a blank tape, Now, that’s love. (Or at least, lust.) As John Cusack’s character Rob Gordon once said in the movie High Fidelity, making a mixed tape takes time and talent.
Now: The iTunes Playlist
It’s a nice gesture, but the dedication of finding, recording, and writing out the songs on the tape case is a lost art thanks to new technology. Now, we merely compile a playlist on iTunes and hit “Burn,” and two minutes later a CD is born. There’s no sweat. No tears. No stress of finding the perfect song. No love. In fact, you really don’t have to have that much affection for a person to make them a mixed CD, because it takes such little time you can make one quickly for anyone. If you go this route, at least take the time to make a really cool CD cover with a personalized message.
Then: A Long Walk
Being invited to stroll with a gentleman used to be considered a very bold gesture. Couples in the early 1900s would stroll for hours, discussing the weather and each other’s health, and stealing glances at one another. It was so pure. There was no money spent and no travel besides that on two feet. Not even a coastal drive at sunset has the same romantic connotation as a walk. When we take away the money we spend trying to impress someone, technology, and distractions, and we’re left with each other, the weather, and the earth beneath our feet, the probability for romance increases by leaps and bounds.
Now: An Invitation to Be Facebook Friends
Perhaps there is a person you’re dying to be friends with on Facebook. Perhaps it’s a person you’re crushing on. But, when you’re finally invited to be friends, you realize you’re one of 548 people in a particular social network. You’ll find no intimacy there. The entire premise of Facebook is to gather together a collection of friends. Meet a person on the bus, become Facebook friends an hour later. There’s no commitment, therefore the invitation means very little. A walk, however, is an invitation to spend time together—without your 548 Facebook friends.
The ways we woo could use a good old-fashioned dose of creativity and originality. Perhaps we should remember the reasons we want to woo—a connection to another person, a desire to get to know someone better. It’s an exercise that’s rarely accomplished over email or through a series of text messages.
So slow down. Write. Walk. Woo. Lean in a little closer. Gaze into someone’s eyes. (Hint, this would be the perfect time for a kiss.)