The modern dating landscape might be tricky to navigate, but it’s a walk in the park compared to what it was like in the 1930s. That’s because the archaic advice handed out back then now seems regressive and seemingly impossible to live up to. From women being told to hide their hobbies to men being expected to be rich and own a car, these 1930s dating tips really do feel like they’re from another world.
40. Don’t get drunk
Drinking too much alcohol on a date was a serious sin, according to a 1938 issue of the magazine Click Photo-Parade. The article suggested some women apparently come across as intelligent after a couple of drinks, though it also claimed that most “get silly.” Furthermore, the writer sagely advised, “The last straw is to pass out from too much liquor. Chances are, your date will never call you again!”
39. Have your mom send you flowers
Apparently, you needed to appear popular in order to secure a date. That was the advice doled out to freshmen in a 1938 article in women’s magazine Mademoiselle. It decreed, “During your first term, get home talent to ply you with letters, telegrams, and invitations. College men will think, ‘She must be attractive if she can rate all that attention.’”
38. Stay quiet on the dance floor
Author Dorothy Dix sternly suggested that women should refrain from chatting too much, or – even worse – talking about themselves. But Click Photo-Parade was even more specific with its advice. The article advised women that they should make especially sure to remain silent on the dance floor, because “when a man dances he wants to dance.”
37. Don’t show your emotions
These dating articles from the 1930s make it seem like men enjoyed dating emotionless robots. Of course, we know that isn’t true, but women were apparently strongly encouraged to hide their feelings. According to Click Photo-Parade, “Men don’t like tears, especially in public places.” Dix echoed that sentiment in her book How to Win and Hold a Husband, writing, “Men do not like sentimental women.”
36. Avoid chewing gum
Of course, chewing gum gives you fresher breath. But Click Photo-Parade insisted the trade-off really isn’t worth it. Yes, the magazine stipulated that chomping down on the sticky stuff might make you look bored, and therefore it is “not advised.” If you really must partake, though, it’s apparently best to do so with your mouth closed. To be fair, that just seems like good manners.
35. Don’t keep your date waiting
Apparently, absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder in the 1930s. That’s if you count poor punctuality as absence, anyway, because Click Photo-Parade advised women to be “ready to go when [your] date arrives.” That’s really just common sense, much like its follow-up suggestion, “Greet him with a smile!”
34. Don’t overdress
Looking good for a date is essential, but it is possible to overdo it, according to Dix. In fact, the author warned specifically that a woman “scares him off when she decks herself out in what looks like a million dollars’ worth of finery.” Essentially, avoid showing up in designer gear, otherwise your date might assume that they can’t afford to take you out.
33. Avoid constantly calling him
Dix’s choice advice extended to etiquette beyond the actual date, too. For instance, she recommended that women avoid picking up the telephone – particularly during business hours. She wrote in her 1939 book, “He will hate you for it, because you are jeopardizing his job. There is no surer way for a girl to make herself unpopular with men than to be a telephone hound.” Just imagine if Dix had seen social media.
32. Travel abroad
It may seem rather drastic, but Dix seriously suggested that girls who can’t get dates should try hopping on a plane. The author elaborated, “Many a girl who is a social failure at home is a success abroad. Many a girl whom the boys on Main Street couldn’t see becomes one whom strange men behold with admiration.” That’s if it’s “strange men” you’re hoping to court, anyway.
31. If you’re over 30, pursue him
The age of 30 is apparently the cut-off point to stop hoping a man will propose to you, according to Dix. By then, you should take matters into your own hands and “go in for a whirlwind campaign” with your chosen suitor. She continued, “Virtually any woman can marry any man if she will just go after him hard enough, provided she never lets him suspect that she is being the aggressor.”
30. Know how to play bridge
These days, we’re not sure many guys would be particularly wowed by your knowledge of bridge. But in the 1930s Dix cited it as one of several ways a woman could keep her man interested. Yes, the author claimed that a pretty face isn’t enough to get by, and a woman “has to know how to be entertaining and amusing.”
29. Wear a bra
Fashion advice wasn’t particularly complicated in the 1930s. For example, the 1938 Click Photo-Parade article simply stated, “If you need a brasserie, wear one.” It gets a bit more antiquated from there, though. After all, we can’t imagine many women today needed to heed the sentence, “Don’t tug at your girdle, and be careful your stockings are not wrinkled.”
28. Dress in private
To be fair, getting dressed in public isn’t exactly first date material. But dressing in private doesn’t just protect your modesty, it also helps you to maintain an air of mystery. And the anonymous Click Photo-Parade writer knew as much even in the 1930s, advising women to “do your dressing in your boudoir to keep your allure.” All you need now is a boudoir.
27. Don’t do your makeup in his rear-view mirror
Perhaps the most bewildering aspect of this slice of advice is that it needed to be given at all. But if you can believe it, Click Photo-Parade really did feel it necessary to tell women not to fix their makeup in the rear-view mirror. The piece advised, “Man needs it in driving, and it annoys him very much to have to turn around to see what’s behind him.”
26. Don’t talk about clothes
Looking at the 1930s Click Photo-Parade article you’d be forgiven for thinking the women’s suffrage movement had never happened. After all, the advice given by the magazine seems to suggest women exist only at the pleasure of men. One nugget of wisdom reads, “Don’t talk about clothes or try to describe your new gown to a man. Please and flatter your date by talking about the things he wants to talk about.”
25. Don’t talk to other men
There’s a substantial amount of advice in Click Photo-Parade that concerns what women shouldn’t talk about. Another choice snippet, for example, suggested, “Don’t be conspicuous talking to other men.” But that could make ordering your dinner a little tricky if the waiter happens to be male.
24. Don’t get chatty with the waiter
Click Photo-Parade covered what to do in the event that you have to talk to a waiter. And it’s as you’d expect – simply avoid it altogether. The writer suggested, “Don’t be familiar with the headwaiter talking about the fun you had with someone else another time.” To be fair, if you’re reminiscing about a previous date, that’s probably fair advice. Otherwise, it’s ridiculously restrictive.
23. Avoid public displays of affection
This might sound like reasonable advice from the perspective of a passerby. But Click Photo-Parade’s article was – once again – only really interested in how the man feels. It advised women against being “familiar” with their dates to avoid making them uncomfortable. The writer decreed, “Any open show of affection is in bad taste, [and it] usually embarrasses or humiliates him.”
22. Don’t sit in awkward positions
Much like chewing gum, this incredible dating tip is seemingly loosely related to not appearing bored. But “don’t sit in awkward positions” – as Click Photo-Parade literally described it – seems like woefully vague advice. What exactly constitutes an “awkward position?” An accompanying image suggests one such pose, but it’s difficult to describe it as “awkward” by today’s standards.
21. Apply your makeup in private
The publication suggested that women should not only dress in their boudoir, but they ought to apply their makeup privately, too. However, this particular advice wasn’t described as another way for women to maintain their allure. In fact, it was actually presented as a warning. The article read, “Men don’t like girls who borrow their handkerchief and smudge them with lipstick.”
20. Belong to a fraternity
Not all dating advice was targeted at women, however. Sociologist Willard Waller listed a number of features men required to find success in the dating world in his 1937 essay The Rating and Dating Complex. Many of these revolved around life on college campuses – such as the need to “belong to one of the better fraternities…”
19. Have a constant supply of spending money
But not all of Waller’s advice was so readily achievable. For example, he also stipulated that men should have “a copious supply of spending money…” College students aren’t generally known for their wealth, so this seems like a tough ask. Though according to Waller, money was seemingly once a serious barrier to success in the dating world.
18. Have access to a car
Men didn’t just need copious amounts of cash in order to secure a date in the 1930s. They also needed a way to get around, too. Yes, Waller also listed “access to an automobile” as among the top criteria for a man to find success in his dating life.
17. Have a good pick-up line
Pick-up lines weren’t actually conceived by modern dating maestros; they’ve been around for decades. Even Waller described the necessity for a “good line” – referring to a man’s personality and passion. Both were essential to win over a girl, as author Kevin White explained in his 1993 book The First Sexual Revolution. He wrote, “Calling demanded ‘character’ of men, while dating demanded ‘personality.’”
16. Phone a friend
Journalist Marjorie Hillis suggested phoning a friend could be a useful weapon in a woman’s dating arsenal in her 1936 tome Live Alone and Like It. But she wasn’t talking about picking up the phone just to catch up. Hillis actually recommended the strategy as a means to avoid over-contacting someone in the early stages of dating. And you could simply turn on the “wireless if there was no one to call.”
15. Make your invitations worth accepting
Phoning a friend wasn’t the only piece of solid gold advice in Hillis’ handbook. For instance, she also empowered her readers by telling them not to worry about their date’s opinions. She wrote, “The best rule is to make your invitations worth accepting, and not to care what the man thinks so long as he comes.”
14. Don’t flaunt your hobbies
While her guide claimed to be for single women, some of Hillis’ advice was nevertheless geared towards pleasing men. For example, she addressed the changing social attitudes of the time when discussing hobbies. She claimed, “There was a time when a hobby was absolutely de rigueur. But hobbies are anti-social now; modern men don’t like to be sewn and knitted at; and the mere whisper that a girl collects prints, stamps, tropical fish or African art is, alas, likely to increase her solitude.”
13. Groom for yourself
When it came to personal grooming, however, Hillis lauded its benefits for a woman’s self-esteem first and foremost. Any subsequent effects of taking care of your appearance were simply a bonus. She explained in her guide, “The woman who always looks at night as though she were expecting a lover is likely to have several.”
12. Don’t have affairs before you’re 30
Hillis was straightforward on the subject of sex – telling women that their business was entirely their own. She advised, “A woman’s honour is no longer mentioned with bated breath and protected by her father, her brother and the community.” However, the journalist was more restrictive where affairs were concerned and recommended that women shouldn’t even contemplate them before turning 30.
11. Men must walk closer to the curb
It is the duty of men to physically protect women even when strolling down the sidewalk, according to a 32-page booklet titled Modern Manners. Yes, the 1936 pamphlet – written by U.S. journalist Frederic J. Haskan – actually advised men to walk closer to the curb. Eight decades later that “modern” moniker may be starting to seem like a misnomer.
10. Men must order at restaurants
One particularly outdated notion in Haskin’s booklet is that women shouldn’t order at restaurants when accompanied by men. Indeed, the literature called it improper and advised that it’s always the role of the man to order for his date. But this idea seems oddly regressive even for the time compared to the empowering advice doled out by the likes of Hillis.
9. Men must alight first from a bus
Some of the dating etiquette in Haskin’s guide also seems strangely specific. Take his advice on riding public transport, for example, which dictated that men should be the first to get off a bus. Apparently, this was necessary so that he might “offer assistance to his companion in alighting.” Chivalry was clearly a prized concept in the 1930s – but presumably not instinctive to men.
8. Women shouldn’t invite men into their homes
Haskin’s guide wasn’t only targeted at men of the hour. Yes, it also had plenty of advice for 1930s women – such as the recommendation that they shouldn’t invite men into their homes. More specifically, the booklet advised against females asking their dates to “come in for a few minutes” late at night.
7. Women must speak first
According to Haskin, “Etiquette demands that a woman speak first when meeting a man.” While this might seem like a rare win for women among the author’s advice, it goes on to say, “This is in order that an undesirable acquaintanceship need not be continued.” At face value, that perhaps suggests that the man should be given a chance to turn his date down based solely on her voice.
6. Don’t buy a ring too early
Nowadays, it’s customary for men to acquire an engagement ring before proposing to their significant other. But in the 1930s the opposite was apparently true – at least if Haskin’s guide is anything to go by. After all, the writer admonished any man who might “prepare for acceptance beforehand.” He instead recommended that the ring be purchased before the engagement was formally announced.
5. Men must plan the date
Have you ever stressed out over where to go or what to do on a date? If so, you might wish this archaic dating custom was still commonplace – as long as you’re a woman, that is. The responsibility for planning a date in the 1930s apparently rested entirely on the man’s shoulders, according to research compiled by blogger Peyton Ashby.
4. Men must pay
Men were also expected to pay for everything – as well as organizing activities for the evening. But attitudes differ somewhat today. A 2014 study by researchers at California State University found that 64 percent of men expect their date to help out with the bill. However, the reality hasn’t changed much, and the majority of men still cover the tab on most occasions.
3. Men must pick up their dates
Ashby’s research suggests that meeting at a mutually agreed-upon location was a no-go in the 1930s. Instead, men typically picked up their dates from their homes – a practice that served a dual purpose. First, it ensured women were always accompanied while out on an evening. The rule also forced the man to be the designated driver and displayed his responsible nature.
2. Men must offer their jacket
Now, this might seem like common sense that should still apply today: offer your jacket if the lady on the date is cold. But the particulars of this piece of advice seem unnecessarily convoluted. According to Ashby, a man was supposed to offer his coat “just before it arrives on her shoulders.” The timing may have been an art form, but it was apparently intended to save the woman any embarrassment.
1. The man must follow up
Today, the dance around who should text whom first after a date can cause serious headaches for all involved. But things were a little more straightforward back in the 1930s. Ashby’s research suggests, “It is the role of a gentleman to call after a date; just as you would call after a job interview to follow up on how you did, the same applies to dating.”