My escapist drug of choice is thick Tudor histories. I can't stop reading stories of heavy eye contact, careful wordplay, formal flirtation, the slow build of mannered requests. Sure, there are battles and backstabbing in my books too, but it's really all about the courtly flirtations, isn't it?
The draw of courtship in our world of post-bar hookups isn't so hard to explain. When decoding what a potential paramour meant by "later" or "hanging out," it's hard not to long for the formality and clarity of old-fashioned romance.
Modern courtship doesn't require the complicated vocabulary of flirtation in a historical novel. A Victorian suitor might need to send flowers to impress the object of his affections before asking her for her company. He'd need to decide on the type and color of flowers carefully, making sure the bouquet expressed just the right affection, without rousing the suspicions of chaperons or servants. But a texted note from a modern suitor serves the same purpose.
Being asked for your company presents the expectation that your time is valuable. Whether it's a demanding career, your social calendar, or even another guy, this suitor assumes that you have other ways to spend your time. This type of request says he values your time, and being asked for a specific set of plans means he's put some thought into your time together. Fortunately for modern courtship, though, we can do more that yea or nay an activity.
Although I adore the mannered requests of old-fashioned courtship, I reject the gender roles from my beloved Tudor romances. Modern courtship isn't about the man paying for dinner. I don't need to be courted because I can't open my own door, pull out my own chair, or -- even more amazing -- carry my own umbrella. I can. I could even court him.
What if we could take the slow build of mannered requests, and scrap the outdated male dominance, to create modern courtship?
Modern courtship isn't The Rules. It's not about withholding until a predetermined calendar date or until a certain number of hours together has passed. Gentlemanly behavior, I'd think, would lead to, ahem, more romantic favors than otherwise. And in bed? A lady wouldn't tell, but the mindset of requests instead of assumption works here too.
Courting is also an antidote to the potential dullness of a long-term relationship. After being together a certain number of months or years, it's hard not to assume that the other half of the relationship wants the routine dinner and a movie, or your Thursday night TV lineup, or -- worse yet -- going through a few rounds of I-don't-mind-what-do-you-want-to-do before finding yourself doing the same things.
The basis of courtship, modern or traditional, is simply good manners and respect for your date. There's no reason this has to be stodgy and outdated. Sure, standing when a lady enters the room and other former etiquette hallmarks have fallen away, but true good manners never go out of style.
Originally written for Mass Singles Magazine's Summer 2011 issue