[Marxism] Fwd: Why Is Dating in the App Era Such Hard Work? - The Atlantic

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 26 06:16:42 MDT 2016

As Weigel tells it, dating is an unintended by-product of consumerism. 
Nineteenth-century industrialization ushered in the era of cheap goods, 
and producers needed to sell more of them. Young women moved to cities 
to work and met more eligible men in a day than they could previously 
have met in years. Men started taking women out to places of 
entertainment that offered young people refuge from their sharp-eyed 
elders—amusement parks, restaurants, movie theaters, bars. “The first 
entrepreneurs to create dating platforms,” Weigel calls their 
proprietors. Romance began to be decoupled from commitment. Trying 
something on before you bought it became the new rule.

Then as now, commentators fretted that dating commercialized courtship. 
In the early 20th century, journalists and vice commissioners worried 
that the new custom of men paying for women’s dinners amounted to 
prostitution. Some of the time it surely did—just as today, some dating 
websites, like SeekingArrangement, pair “sugar babies” with “sugar 
daddies” who pay off college debts and other expenses. “Ever since the 
invention of dating, the line between sex work and ‘legitimate’ dating 
has remained difficult to draw,” Weigel writes. Well before app users 
rated potential partners so ruthlessly, daters were told to “shop 
around.” They debated whether they “owed” someone something “in exchange 
for” a night out. Today, as Weigel notes, we toss around business jargon 
with an almost transgressive glee, subjecting relationships to 
“cost-benefit analyses” and invoking the “low risk and low investment 
costs” of casual sex.


I answered a personal ad myself once. The woman who had placed it was 
Kerri Jacobs, a high-profile journalist who wrote for Metropolitan 
magazine on architecture. She has moved on to New York Magazine, where 
she is a regular columnist on the same topic. New York Magazine is one 
of the prime locations for personal ads, especially for conventional New 
Yorkers. She had placed her ad in the New York Review of Books, a locale 
for the more intellectually pretentious. Since she was an extremely 
good-looking young woman, I couldn't exactly figure out why she had 
placed an ad. After a few moments, I figured it out completely. Nobody 
was good enough for her. The ads were supposed to help weed out 
"losers," as she put it. I didn't even want to find out if I was a 
winner and never called her back.

What dates like these remind me of is job interviews. Everything is 
riding on your initial appearance. Not only do you have to look right, 
you also have to find the words that the interviewer wants to hear. I 
had to put up with this nonsense when I worked on Wall Street. Why would 
I or any sensitive person have to put up with it in affairs of the 
heart? One of the reasons that Columbia University was such a 
deliverance for me was that I would no longer have to put up with the 
stupid questions of people in the Personnel Office. "Why do you think 
Paine-Webber and you are suitable for each other?" "I don't know. The 
thought of working at another one of these Wall Street dumps makes me 
sick to my stomach. I just need the money to pay for my rent, scholarly 
Marxist books and African music CD's."

The unstated, and therefore more powerful, message of this movie is that 
the cash nexus distorts everything. Everything in capitalist society, 
including people and nature, are seen from the point of view of their 
exchange value. This colors everything. The way we speak reflects this 
alienated existence. We speak of the "investment" we have in an intimate 
relationship. We are worried whether our "assets" are to be found in our 
appearance, like Richard Gere's, or in our intelligence or wit, like 
Woody Allen's (well, from 25 years ago anyhow).

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/culture/unmade_beds.htm

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