Weird dating advice from the past


Woman eating cheese

If you think dating is confusing now, imagine what it was like 100 years ago. There was plenty of dating advice on offer, but most of it seemed intent on forbidding the things that might have made a date fun. After all, what kind of night out can you have without cheese?

‘Ladies seldom take cheese at a dinner party’

This advice could only have been given during that dark time before pizza came into being. And indeed it was – find it in the 1889 work of tedium, Etiquette, Health and Beauty.


‘Do not allow yourself in the habit of joking with your companions’

Dating is a serious business. Trying to be funny shows weakness of character and can ‘cultivate’ a case of ‘severe sarcasm’. This particular disorder is a ‘bad habit of the tongue’, and frowned upon by the authors of How to Be a Lady, Containing Useful Hints on the Formation of Character, published in 1850.


‘No wise girl would accept a man who proposed by moonlight’

Of course not! That would be preposterous! Myrtle Reed in The Spinster Book (1901) also warns women away from men who’ve recently eaten a meal.


‘Cultivate the art of leaving’

Forget making an entrance, it’s all about the leaving. Get it right, as ‘nothing will contribute more to your social success’ ­– so says Maud C. Cooke in Social Etiquette or Manners and Customs of Polite Society, published in 1896.


Don't talk while dancing bad dating advice

Assuming your partner is dancing in order to get more intimate is a huge mistake. According to a 1938 issue of Parade Magazine, ‘when a man dances he wants to dance’.


‘Say shocking things’

Every date has the odd conversational lull. Some people respond by making small talk about the decor or the food/drink. Others begin shouting obscenities or accusing their partners of murder – or at least they do if they follow advice given by Art Unger in 1961.

The Cool Book: A Teen-Agers Guide to Survival in a Square Society, recommends combating awkward silences by saying shocking things. Apparently this will mask the fact that you’re a bad conversationalist, and reveal the fact that you’ll never be a useful member of society.


Never sit on a man's lap bad dating advice

Uninvited lap-sitting is considered ‘rather forward’ by the authors of The Day Book, published in 1916. No advice is given on how a young man should make his invitation, but we can presume it would take the form of a long, boring letter to the young lady’s father.


‘Never wear earrings’

Just don’t. Bad things will happen – particularly if it’s 1912 (from The San Francisco Call).


‘The underwear should be spotlessly clean’

What seems like a valid point is quickly negated as William Josephus Robinson, in his 1927 book Woman, Her Sex and Love Life, proceeds to insist that a woman’s underwear should be pink and adorned with ‘lace and ruffles’.

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