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Maybe he wouldn’t choose either of them; he told Weigel that he found the whole premise of long-term romance “ideologically suspect.”She realized that she had no idea what she herself wanted from romance.Her Irish Catholic mother and the self-help industry told her that the goal should be marriage, and soon. He thought that everyone should want to pursue happiness.The pursuit of leisure cost more than most single working-class women (paid a fraction of what men were) could readily afford.

He might have practiced polyamory, consensual open love.

But John, with his flair for saccharine cuteness and his insistence on treating his conquests like romantic-comedy heroines, didn’t like just to play or cheat, and he certainly didn’t like any of his girlfriends to suspect that they didn’t have his full attention. According to Moira Weigel, the author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), most people are not like John in this respect.

Every so often, one of his paramours would catch on and alert the others.

Then he’d block them all on social media and begin the whole thing again.

All of them had received the couch-spooning treatment.

John was a champion girlfriend accumulator, the ringmaster of a romantic circus that only he could see.In our consumer society, love is perpetually for sale; dating is what it takes to close the deal.Her second conclusion is that the way we consume love changes to reflect the economy of the times.So they went out, to parks and dance halls, saloons and restaurants, nickelodeons and penny arcades—to the streets themselves, teeming centers of working-class social life—where they could have a good time and meet men on their own. The term “date” originated as slang referring to a woman’s date book, and showed up in print in 1896, in “Stories of the Streets and Town,” a column that offered middle-class readers a taste of working-class life.Artie, a young clerk, confronts a girlfriend who’s been giving him the slip: “I s’pose the other boy’s fillin’ all my dates? A later column reports Artie’s admiring observation that a certain girl’s date book was so full she had to keep it “on the Double Entry System.”Not surprisingly, these new female freedoms came with a catch.He asked her to help him choose a couch and then spooned with her on all the floor models. As we learn from the podcast “Reply All,” which reported the tale, Suzanne was not the only woman on whom John had chosen to bestow his favor.

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