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The pursuit of leisure cost more than most single working-class women (paid a fraction of what men were) could readily afford.
Weigel quotes a 1915 report by a New York social worker: “The acceptance on the part of the girl of almost any invitation needs little explanation, when one realizes that she often goes pleasureless unless she accepts ‘free treats.’ ” To have fun, a woman had to let a man pay for her and suffer the resultant damage to her reputation.
They’re a staple of Jane Austen novels: John Willoughby, who caddishly breaks Marianne’s heart in “Sense and Sensibility”; George Wickham, who reels in both Lizzy and Lydia Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice”; Frank Churchill, in “Emma,” who flirts with Miss Woodhouse while being secretly engaged to her frenemy, Jane Fairfax. As a twenty-first-century guy living in one of the most culturally liberal of American cities, he had options available to him that men in Regency England did not.
John was a champion girlfriend accumulator, the ringmaster of a romantic circus that only he could see.
Every so often, one of his paramours would catch on and alert the others.
Then he’d block them all on social media and begin the whole thing again.
Weigel had a revelation: she was always turning to a man to tell her what she was after, and the institution of dating was to blame.
It trained women “in how to be if we wanted to be wanted.”Hence “Labor of Love,” an exploration of that training, in which Weigel reaches two main conclusions.