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Valentine’s day is just around the corner but finding the perfect partner is a complex and often mind-boggling process. The intricate dance between those who are attracted to each other is an age-old process that has changed and evolved over time. “Courtship” is officially considered to be the period preceding engagement and marriage and traditionally it was the role of the male to “woo” or “court” the female. Modern courtship is very different to that which we traditionally think of from the Victorian era with the internet and social media now playing it’s part although Valentine’s day is still seen as the pinnacle day to tell your loved one how much you care.
Today, dating is as much a social practice, we date for “fun” and not with the sole intention of finding a mate. Nowadays it is not unusual to try out different partners before deciding to “settle down.” Contrary to popular belief, it is women that normally trigger and control courtship through non-verbal behaviours that men then respond to.
The phenomenon of internet dating sites has seen a significant rise in popularity in the last decade. Online sites are widely used by both men and women with the trend of women taking the lead in relationships and in pursuing a partner.
One aspect during the Victorian era that spiced things up a bit was the fact that society didn’t allow for the public expression of feelings. Men and women invented new creative ways to flirt and make their feelings about the opposite sex known. A secret non-verbal language was created, involving the clever use of fans, gloves, parasols, and handkerchiefs. Significant meaning was attached to specific movement, and simple choices like whether to wear blue or red gloves transformed into a hidden message meant for one’s beau. Gentlemen gave ladies gifts known as “love tokens” such as flowers, painted miniatures, and jewellery. Flowers had specific meanings each one conveying a secret message and expressing a particular emotion not condoned publicly by society. For example:: roses generally mean love, lily’s – beauty, carnations – fascination or devoted love, a red carnation meant “My heart aches for you” or admiration, and a striped carnation meant “no,” a refusal, “sorry I can’t be with you,” or “wish I could be with you
While the rules governing courtship may have been strict, men and women found ways to bend the rules and make what appears to be a rigid ritual into a romantic endeavour.
Of course there still is a place for courtship and romantic gestures. Why not show your love on Valentine’s day with a lasting gift to be treasured.