Four old-school dating customs you’ll be glad aren’t a thing anymore

December 21, 2016
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It’s no secret that humans of ages past had some pretty weird customs when it came to marriage and dating. While some remain, such as the tradition of tying the necks of the bride and groom together in Mexican marriage ceremonies (talk about the ol’ ball and chain), there are some outright bizarre customs we’ve certainly dodged a bullet in forgetting.

Victorian gals let suitors-to-be down via fan language

While modern ladies can openly communicate the fact they’re just not that into you, being outspoken was frowned upon in the Victorian age. By being outspoken, we actually mean saying literally anything directly. Instead, Victorian women created an entire language dependant on the use of their hand-held fans, so they could let a fella down gently without actually having to say a thing.

If a lady wasn’t interested, she would simply rest her fan on her left cheek. If she rested it on her right cheek, she was totally open to further, similarly-polite advances. Yeah, I bet nobody ever got those two confused.

In the 19th Century, Austrian women kept an apple slice under their armpit

In 19th Century rural Austria, there wasn’t much an eligible lass could do to spice up yet another boring dance – except keeping an apple slice under her arm for the entirety of it. The apple slice would stay there while the ladies waltzed to their hearts content, soaking up all those smells that existed in a time before deodorant.

At the end of the dance, the woman would give this slice of fruit to the guy she fancied the most. If the guy liked her as much as she liked him, he would wolf that sucker down, armpit sweat and all. If he didn’t, well, let’s just say that apple slice didn’t make it much further in life than that dance. Don’t worry, Austrians aren’t too cut up over the disappearance of this sweat-tastic custom.

Viking ladies carried an empty knife sheath to signal that they were available

We all know that Viking women were pretty metal, running entire kingdoms while their husbands spent their time pillaging far-off villages. So it makes sense that Viking-era Scandinavian dating customs would reflect this aura of badass.

When Viking girls came of age to wed, they would start to wear a specially fashioned knife sheath around their waist. If a rugged Viking man fancied her, he made or bought a knife to place into this sheath. The girl would then return the knife if this feeling was not mutual, while keeping the blade meant that she agreed to marry her potential suitor. While this custom gets no points for subtlety, I bet it provided a booming trade for Viking blacksmiths.

Bundling was a thing in Europe and America during the 16th and 17th Century

Bundling refers to ye olde custom of allowing courting couples to share a bed – usually in the home of the girl’s parents – while fully clothed and with a “bundling board” (the 16th Century’s answer to cockblocking) placed between them. The idea was to allow time for the couple to talk and get to know each other without the presence of a chaperone, reflecting how their married life would be, while also preventing any sinful hanky-panky that may potentially occur.

It was kinda like snuggle time, but without the part that comes before and without any actual touching involved. Another variation involved tying what was essentially a pillow cover over the girl’s legs, which really drives home that whole cockblocking thing.

Shannon Coward

Shannon Coward is a third year Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Queensland. She enjoys period dramas, doughnuts and a good nap. 

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