Life Advice



Erika Ettin: 3 pieces of old-school dating wisdom that have not stood the test of time

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Once in a while, something pop ups on a website or social media site: dating tips and advice from a bygone era. In most cases, the tips are quite obviously outdated and prompt a laugh at how much things have changed, but many people still follow some dating “rules” or bits of wisdom, even if they’re old-fashioned — and for good reason. Let's take a look at three classics about heterosexual couples and see how well they've aged.

1. Men should make the first move

The idea that men should be the first to initiate contact with a woman goes far back — to when a woman flirting with a man would be frowned upon, as they were supposed to be meek yet approachable. Some still feel it’s a “man’s role” to make the first move, but more than likely, a man will appreciate a woman taking the risk with the first move.

Here’s what I think: If a woman waits for a man she’s interested in to make the first move, she might be waiting a long time. Why not just send the initial message and see what happens? Just look at Bumble, where women have to take the jump by being the first to start a conversation. It just happens to be one of the most popular dating apps out there.

2. Men should pay for dates

When women first joined the workforce, they were making meager salaries compared to their male counterparts. As Moira Weigel wrote in her book "Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating," the dominant belief at the time was that women “were working not to support themselves but only to supplement the earnings of fathers or husbands.” Therefore, “employers used this misconception as an excuse to pay women far less than they paid men. In 1900, the average female worker earned less than half of what a man would earn in the same position.”

Naturally, then, men picked up the bill when taking a woman out — because they had the means to pay.

“‘If I had to buy all my meals I’d never get along,’ a young woman living in a boarding house in Hell’s Kitchen told a social worker in 1915,” Weigel wrote in the book.


Nowadays, ask 100 people and you’ll get 100 opinions on who should pick up the tab at a bar as a first date comes to an end. And while women often make less than their male counterparts in many work positions, it’s not uncommon for a woman to make more than her male partner. But should it even matter what you each make? For a first date, not at all! If you’re going on a date, you need to assume that the person asking will be able to pay the bill.

In heterosexual couples, my advice to the man is to pay. And my advice to the woman is to make the offer. And if one person insists on paying, be grateful and say, “Thank you.” Don’t feel like now you “owe” your date something. You don’t.

3. Men should be older than their partner

Back in the day, women were more dependent on their husbands — they left their father’s home and entered their husband’s — so it was often the case that their husband was a bit older than them. There’s also the history of dowries, and how typically, men can continue to reproduce at an older age than women.

But these days? None of those factors matter, opening the door for women and men to date younger or older as they prefer. However, there’s still a taboo — especially when there’s a decent age gap between an older woman and younger man in a relationship (like the “cougar” label).

According to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 14.8% of women are married to or in a committed relationship with men between two and 20 years younger than them. Rawr.

While these bits of conventional wisdom (and many I haven’t listed here) have not stood the test of time, both you and your great-grandmother would agree on some other pieces of advice: Always treat your partner with respect, don’t go to bed angry, and never stop falling in love with each other. Now those are some tips that will never go out of style.

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