Bbc learning english online dating is changing how we flirt

From worrying about a partner’s financial standing, or whether someone was going to stick around long enough for you to have children with them, to persuading your parents they are indeed a good fit, the means by which we go about finding love may have changed, but not the hopes, dreams and anxieties we’ve had about discovering it.

In the Regency era, for example, the advice was clear: looks matter but value them at the peril of your long-term happiness: “She, who, intoxicated with flattery, protracts the triumphs of her beauty in youth, may live to lament the barren spoils of it in age.” Indeed, throughout history, grooming and dressing as well as you possibly can has always been a better strategy than ruminating on what you don’t have.

Victorian women wore dresses cut just above the nipples, with pearl necklaces draped lasciviously in their décolletage, while some Edwardian men favoured wearing corsets and delighted in the sensation of tight lacing.

When the mini skirt was invented in the early 1960s, some men even tried it out, including 16-year-old trainee brick layer Tony Liggard whom the reported was convinced it would catch on among men.

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From Regency square dancing to secret Victorian drag balls, from the 1920s ‘turkey trot’ to the 1990s acid house rave scene, the vertical expression of the horizontal desire has rarely failed a trier.

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When I first began writing about the history of dating, what struck me most was how similar the problems of today are to the 1930s, the 1840s, and even the 1780s.

As playwright and actor Steven Berkoff reminisces about the Tottenham Royal dance hall in his autobiography : “You were the dandy, the mover and performer in your own drama, the roving hunter and lover, the actor adopting for the girl the mask of your choice.” But if you couldn’t dance, witty conversation and excellent manners have always served as a good substitute.

Meeting a lady on the street in Victorian England was a fraught business.

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