As fans around the world binge-watch Bridgerton, one thing is clear — this show is influential to modern society. The Netflix original, which is the streaming service’s biggest series ever, influences renditions from aspiring actors, remakes of Victorian fashion, and social media memes that highlight intense romantic moments between the leading characters. There is a pretty strong fan base growing around the series, which debuted at the end of December and is already a pop culture juggernaut. With millions of viewers admiring this Victorian love story, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bridgerton began to affect the way single women went about their dating life. Though we’re well-aware of how dating would go for Black women in the 19th century (not great for the obvious reasons… slavery) in comparison to that of the show, we thought we’d take a playful look at the ways in which dating in the 19th century according to the show stack up to the ways in which we go about dating in the modern age — particularly dating during a very oppressive pandemic right now. Here’s what we found.
Making a Good First Impression
If a 21st-century woman wants to experience a courtship similar to that time period, she would have to introduce herself like a rare gem displaying great value in society. In other words, a single woman has to make it clear that she is ready to start dating by announcing it in a glamorous way, but without saying a word. She can make a statement by stepping out with her girls in a sexy ensemble or post a meme that implies she’s back on the market (with a subliminal dig at her ex). A woman can change her hair or undergo a makeover done by her sisters that says she’s a new lioness on the prowl.
Finding a Future Husband
In Bridgerton, a debutant participates in a ceremony where they’re announced to society as an eligible woman ready for marriage. As each woman is presented to the Queen by their mothers, her majesty decides their fate with a nod of approval or a shrugged look of distaste. After the ceremony, the ladies are free to mingle and the head of their household arranges their social schedule for the next two months. Making sure they R.S.V.P. to as many social events as possible increases a young lady’s chance of finding a respectable match. This ceremony not only debuts the next generation of royalty but sounds a silent alarm that commences hunting season for all prosperous bachelors.
Finding a Future Husband Today
Dating today is a little harder when you don’t have a social calendar that highlights the best events to find a future husband. And instead of being presented in front of wealthy prospects, single women have to introduce themselves to (hopefully) charming strangers. The first sign of hope is physical attraction. Once that’s established, we’re just praying they meet the rest of our dating standards. While Daphne Bridgerton, the leading lady attends balls. We’re attending small get-togethers, virtual events and semi-risky dining occasions as our economy struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the debutant characters live a luxurious life, they have to seek the approval of a Queen while we modern women seek the endorsement from our inner Queen (snaps all around).
Dressing the Part
When the young women of 19th century London attend engagements, it’s like preparing to have tea with the Queen. In the show, every eligible lady is accessorized in their family jewels with gowns that would rival 2019 Fashion Week in Paris — well, except the Featheringtons who lack fashion sense. Hair follows the best trends of their time with light makeup to give their cheekbones some color. Every available girl is also escorted/chaperoned by a family member (usually their mother). Unlike the rest of the ladies, Daphne arrives fashionably late and walks gracefully through the dance floor shutting down anyone who does not meet her standards.
Dressing the Part Today
Getting dressed for events during a pandemic takes less effort and less makeup since masks are required everywhere we go. A woman can still catch the eye of everyone in the room with the right ensemble. Rather than worry about a corset cutting off 75 percent of circulation, present-day women style themselves with affordable jewelry and chic, yet comfortable outfits. Although most events are virtual, there are some in-person opportunities for women to have a Daphne moment at an event. Arriving fashionably late is still a technique that women use to have all eyes on them — unless the event is on Zoom. Because there’s always a group of people who want to know who just walked in, a woman can turn heads by simply attending an hour or two after everyone else.
In Bridgerton, a young woman of great fortune is pursued from the moment a man finds them attractive. The callers, as they’re addressed in the show, arrive with a bouquet of flowers for the woman they’re trying to charm. Some bring other gifts while the uniquely talented ones perform by reciting poetry to win a lady’s affection. If a lady is harder to reach, more men begin to line up at her door waiting for a chance to say hello. Marina Thompson, a melanated gem, had callers at her home back to back and she wasn’t even looking for a man.
Gentlemen Callers of Today
Modern men will display their affection most commonly through social media (with the sliding of the DMs as we call it in Old English). After there’s an introduction, the texts turn into daily calls until a woman is invited on a date. Women expect men to call and ask when they’ll meet again, however, it’s women who sometimes take matters into their own hands. Women plan the next date or ask when a good time to call is. Dating is a game of chess — they make a move and then you make a wiser move. If he takes an hour to text you back, a woman might take two hours to respond. Courting is a two-way street that some men won’t get on until they see a woman meeting them halfway.
The courtship that occurs between the Duke of Hastings and young Daphne displays unique ways to date a person. They take a promenade through a park, have dessert together at an ice cream shop and save a dance for each other at every event they attend. The bonding that happens reminds me of high school when you could only go places your mother agreed were safe without a chaperone. There are moments where you can see their friendship growing into something serious. There’s a scene where they dance together and the Duke pulls Daphne closer. Eyes locked on one another, the Duke brushes his fingers against the nape of her neck as she exhales slowly from arousal — a touch so subtle was a big deal in their time.
An amorous touch today still has a clear effect on women in the dating world. While you’re out to dinner or playing indoor golf, an open window of affection occurs after there’s a sign of comfort between two people. If there’s a spark of interest on both ends, you can see the nerves fading away as his hand touches your lower back. As if to guide you in front of him to exit, there’s a rush of hormones that either go to a woman’s stomach or further south. In some cases, the comfort level is so high that the evening ends with a goodnight kiss on the lips. A bold move like a kiss can lead to more if the two are willing. Even if it’s a juicy peck on the cheek, that tells a man that she’s definitely interested in seeing him again.
Taking That Next Step
In Bridgerton, a man decides when the hunt is over and they’ve found their future bride. For some, it takes the entire social season, while others take a few days after falling in love at first sight. Throughout the show, you hear of suitors who were recently rejected asking another girl for their hand in marriage. There’s one in particular who’s so relentless that he resorts to blackmail. Since women in this time didn’t have the luxury of creating their own income, they had to marry by a certain age regardless if the marriage was built on love or not. Men who owned large acres of land and held royal titles were favored more than the other bachelors. However, like every great love story, money doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t be with the one who holds your heart.
Taking That Next Step Today
The tables have turned in the pursuit of a life partner. Modernized women decide which man is best for them and what their life would look like with that man in it. For some women, it takes weeks, if not days, to figure out what type of guy he is and what he can bring to the relationship. Chemistry alone does not make a perfect match. Weighing the depth of their conversations, the emotions that arise every time they’re together and the comfort level felt between them helps a woman confirm her gut feeling. When a woman expresses her desire for a committed relationship to a man, the courtship concludes when the two are on one accord.