Six months into their relationship, she discovered that he was seeing half a dozen other women, one of whom he’d been stringing along for two years.All of them had received the couch-spooning treatment.(John, who was white, pursued only Asian women, leaving his girlfriends with the icky sense that they’d been fetishized as well as deceived.) Still, romantic scammers aren’t an invention of modern courtship and its digital devices.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.It requires physical effort—all that primping, exercising, shopping, and grooming—as well as sizable investments of time, money, and emotion.In our consumer society, love is perpetually for sale; dating is what it takes to close the deal.The luxury- and self-obsessed yuppies of the “greed is good” eighties demanded that the romantic market deliver partners tailored to their niche specifications, developing early versions of the kinds of matchmaking services that have been perfected in today’s digital gig economy, where the personal is professional, and everyone self-brands accordingly.Dating is therefore a powerful force of social control—but what do we actually mean by “dating”?
Our customers are young single professionals in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s.He sneaked Suzanne’s favorite snacks into her purse as a workday surprise and insisted early on that she keep a key to his apartment. V.—an act roughly equivalent, in today’s gallantry currency, to Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster.He asked her to help him choose a couch and then spooned with her on all the floor models. As we learn from the podcast “Reply All,” which reported the tale, Suzanne was not the only woman on whom John had chosen to bestow his favor.Her Irish Catholic mother and the self-help industry told her that the goal should be marriage, and soon. He thought that everyone should want to pursue happiness.
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.
John was a champion girlfriend accumulator, the ringmaster of a romantic circus that only he could see.