Or should that be "What I would do for love"? The quest for the perfect partner seems never-ending. In the courtship game, chatrooms have replaced chaperones but are not any more successful. The lovelorn are now turning to traditional courting conventions such as writing love letters. Here is some courtship history and love letter-writing tips.
The dating game has changed drastically since the tangled web of Anthony and Cleopatra. In the Middle Ages, suitors followed the patterns of courtly love played out by lovelorn characters on stage and in verse, wooing their intended with flowery poetry and serenades. Chastity and honour were highly regarded virtues.
In the Victorian era, courtship remained very formal. Couples smitten with desire rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written.
As the 20th century was ushered in, traditional conventions of courtship flew right out the top of the modern woman's emotional convertible as it sped towards social change. Hollywood's depiction of romance, the women's liberation movement, and the sexual revolution changed the way men and women interact. The mating ritual underwent a complete transformation. Suddenly we're being told that Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus and we need The Rules before we can go out on dates. We have singles dances, dating services and Internet chats, all designed to help us meet that special someone.
But along with this hope chest of advancement for women, we also have to deal with AIDS and an escalating divorce rate. Jaded by the games and the risks, many are starting to reevaluate the modern dating ritual. Abstinence has seen a quiet resurgence. Traditional courting conventions are beginning to resurface among today's singles.
One means of recapturing the romantic repartee from days of yore is to indulge in the lost art of writing love letters. In today's harried, high-tech world, handwritten letters are becoming a rarity. According to Barrie Dolnick, author of How to Write a Love Letter: Putting What's in Your Heart on Paper (Harmony Books, 2001), this makes a handwritten note even more special.
"An E-mailed proposal of marriage is sadly diminished in its romance factor," Dolnick says. "Writing it down with a pen is practically like holding your loved one's hand. Your hand creates what his or hers will hold. It's romantic."
Love letters have been the source of inspiration for many movies, plays and novels. Perhaps the most famous is Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. But you don't have to be versed in the classics to write a beautiful love letter.
Love letter tips:
- For the timid, Dolnick suggests starting out slowly. "You don't have to become the Romance Writer of the Year to pen a decent love letter. You can use letters just to talk, to get to know somebody in a different way. It can evolve into a back-and-forth game and gradually grow into shared intimacy and trust. All on paper."
- If you need to find your muse, Dolnick suggests looking at your favourite art, literature and music for inspiration. "Musical lyrics take a lot of chance with emotion, and no doubt some of your favorite songs are good examples of love expression."
- It's not a good idea to try to win points by writing phony letters about flowers, butterflies, or whatever else you think your partner will like, advises Dolnick. A love letter should convey what you really feel, not what you think they want to hear.
- Love letters are not reserved for newly joined couples. After marriage, when the youthful vigour gives way to comfortable security, is the ideal time to indulge.
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