A date,” in the context of relationships, reaches back to 1896. It was first used in a newspaper column in which a young man laments that his girlfriend is seeing other people—that they are “fillin’ all my dates,” as in “the dates on her calendar.”
At the turn of last century, dating was still a new concept and law enforcement wasn’t sure what to make of it—but they were sure something sordid was going on. A young man and woman meeting in public, him buying her food, drink, and gifts: well, it was veritable prostitution in the eyes of authorities, and women could be arrested for it!
Ironically, a man and a woman meeting in public was the best way to have some privacy. Before dating, courtship involved suitors calling on prospective partners in the family home. There were always eyes and ears close by.
Before dating came into the picture, “courtship” and “calling” were conducted with the express goal of marriage. It was a family affair, as callers meant heirs, property, and happiness. Those dating had to be from similar backgrounds, status and wealth.
Then the roaring 20’s arrived and in step with the Charleston and shorter skirts all this changed. The rest is history….