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“Marriage Material” in the Sixties

There was a time when I was told (or maybe I just knew) that we weren’t supposed to let boys know we were smart. One of my boyfriends even called me “Hud” for “Duh” backwards. And that was a good thing because I was considered to be “marriage material.”

The dumb girl cliche was deeply ingrained in American culture, and dating manuals advised women to play stupid in order to catch a man. Women were often coerced to choose between a college education and a husband. My own father told me there was no reason to pursue an education but instead I should apply for a job as a receptionist and look pretty behind a desk to insure that men would notice me.

We were told that an educated woman developed a certain independence that made it impossible to love, honor and obey as a wife should. And there was the warning that as more middle-class women attended college, middle-class men would look to the lower classes to find uneducated wives, an ominous message that cautioned that there wouldn’t be enough men left for us. Men were in short supply.

I remember how important it was for a single girl in the sixties to have a date for Friday and Saturday nights. And it was crucial to be asked out no later than Tuesday for Friday and Wednesday for Saturday. Thursday was considered too late. If for some reason I didn’t have a date, there were times when I would stay home with the lights out. One New Years Eve, I got into bed before midnight and read a book under the covers with a flashlight.

Those were the times when we had self-imposed rules, such as never giving in to a boy until at least the third date because of the belief that he would never ask us out again. The girls that gave in believed the opposite was true, that if they didn’t “do it,” the boys wouldn’t be back. We used to argue about who was right but both sides agreed that the double standard rule was unfair. Dating in the sixties was a means to an end, and if a boy thought us “cheap,” we wouldn’t be considered “marriage material.”

You can find more stories by Danna Colman here.

Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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