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Whatever Happened To Woo?

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I wish I lived 200 years ago so I could woo a woman the way single men did back then. Who even uses the word “woo” anymore, much less knows what it means? Who even gives much thought at all to what they say to the opposite sex? Maybe Kanye West, but the rest of us – not so much. The media and the MTV generation and life’s increasingly rapid pace have pretty much finished off traditional courtship, replacing “wooing” with “hitting on” or “coming on to” or “making your move.” It’s so sad. Where’s the poetry? Where’s the passion? Where’s the heart? For many of us men, unfortunately, it’s all in our pants. Okay, I’ll speak for myself.

But, back then, a single man’s brains were located substantially higher up. A single man put some thought into his pursuit of romance. It mattered to him and he showed it. The dude could woo. He was one lean, mean, wooing machine. Take this excerpt of a letter from French novelist Victor Hugo to his beloved Adele, on one Friday evening, March 15, 1822:

“My Adele, my adorable and adored Adele… I have been asking myself every moment if such happiness is not a dream. It seems to me that what I feel is not of Earth. I cannot yet comprehend this cloudless heaven… Oh, Adele, do not mistake these words for blind enthusiasm — enthusiasm for you has lasted all my life, and increased day by day. My whole soul is yours… Soon — in a few months, perhaps, my angel will sleep in my arms, will awaken in my arms, will live there. All your thoughts at all moments, all your looks will be for me; all my thoughts, all my moments, all my looks, will be for you! My Adele! Adieu; pardon the delirium of one who embraces you, and who adores you, both for this life and another.”

My God — that’s foreplay on paper! But sadly, such romantic language appears today less frequently than a Jean Claude Van Damme movie on the Lifetime Channel. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the profiles on JDate. Go on; I’ll wait… Let me guess – you found maybe one or two that were well written, sophisticated, charming, romantic and enticing. But many profiles on online dating sites, sadly, are a repository of stock phrases, trite expressions, tired metaphors and colorless language. It’s a case of the bland leading the bland.

This is a shame, because an online dating profile could (and should) be an opportunity to showcase one’s romantic soul, to add poetry, beauty and wonder to the quest for a soul mate; to demonstrate one’s ability to worship and adore a potential life partner through literary caresses. And, yet, what do I see on every third woman’s profile I view? Dribble. The same dribble: “I’m as comfortable in a cocktail dress as I am in jeans.” Let me repeat that, since it represents one of the most overused and lame phrases appearing in these profiles and is thus worthy of our studied scorn: “I’m as comfortable in a cocktail dress as I am in jeans.” Will someone explain to me what the hell that means? Could it mean that I won’t have to worry about her cocktail dress causing her to break out in hives and scratch herself bloody? That I can take her to Subway® in her cocktail dress for the $5 Footlong™ special? That I shouldn’t be surprised if she meets me for a game of beach volleyball in her cocktail dress? Tell me, is this a female trait guys desire? It must be because so many women mention it. I mean, I have a number of single male friends and I honestly can’t recall the last time any of them said to me, “Y’know, Amy is a wonderful woman, but I just don’t think it’ll work — she’s nowhere near as comfortable in her cocktail dress as she is in jeans.”

But I digress. The point is the steady erosion of the language of love. And I think modern romance is suffering as a result. Now, I realize we men can’t just, all of the sudden, up and start making love-talk like Hugo. As lovely as it is, women would perceive it as corny, old-fashioned and metrosexual. Still, perhaps we can sneak a little of it in here and there. And that, combined with deleting all references to our comfort in formal wear, our love of taking long walks on the beach and our realization that you shouldn’t go to bed angry and that you can’t change anyone — might just add up to one small step toward keeping it real, original and romantic. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put on my tux and go bowling. Don’t worry; I’ll be just as comfortable.

Mark Miller is a marketing specialist, current JDate member, Facebook fanatic and comedy writer who has performed stand-up comedy in nightclubs and on TV, written on numerous sit-com staffs, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and is a current humor columnist for The Huffington Post. But he says he’d trade all his success away in a minute for immortality, inner peace and limitless wealth.
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17 Comments »

  • Naomi says:

    I agree with the commentor who said that people’s focus is materialistic these days. The real meaning behind “I’m as comfortable in a cocktail dress as I am in jeans,” is “I want to let all rich, powerful men out there — the kind I’m really targeting — know that I’m not going to embarrass them at the firm Christmas party. I look good when I’m dressed up and I know how to behave the way you’d want the woman you’re showing off as your possession to behave in front of the equally rich and powerful men in your social circle.”

    Me, I’m not nearly as comfortable in a cocktail dress as I am in jeans. I can handle a formal party and sometimes I like to, because they’re exciting, but ‘comfortable’ isn’t a term I’d use to describe them, nor would I want it to be. I spend most of my time down here where it’s cozy: with the children, animals, books, music, massage, and a lot of love, laughter, adventure and joy. Being wooed would be nice, but so would meeting a man who likes to live quietly and comfortably, without wealth or power but with the kind of love that matters.

    If anyone wants to join me here, feel free to drop me a line.

  • Marc says:

    I agree with joanie, without wooing, how do you want the other wants, likes, what’s important. It creatwes true intimacy, not to be confused with sexual intimacy. Without that bond, how can you love?

  • Tatiana says:

    What a great laugh to start the day!
    Seriously,though, it it so sad that we have become so abbreviated in life and in love that there is no time to woo. It’s a state of mind, really. Taking the time to feel rather than talk or do. I agree with the comments from Richard, that we only take a “vacay”. It’s all about speed and “checking things off the list”. I even used that expression with a guy I was making plans to meet. He lived a distance away and I mentioned that given the mutual attraction through photos, etc, we should meet to see if there is something there or not, so we could “cross each other off the list”. I’m ambarrased to even admit to having said that. The supermarket analogy from Kira was right on the money.
    Well, if we all agree with the statements, what can we do in our own personal situation to make a change? Get in a romantic mood, invision the state of being while in love with someone and then compose your profile. And, maybe keeping the phrase”it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” as a guide. I just might open my heart to the “right” person. Otherwise, I will never know when he’s in front of me.

  • Ellen says:

    Very succinctly and eloquently put Mr.Comedy Writer! I agree with you 100%, however, I challenge you to put your $$ where your mouth is! I do recall some time ago, we had a marvelously creative exchange. You appreciated the lack of dribble in my profile, but because I didn’t live within a 20 mile radius of you, you weren’t wiling to add me to your line up of dates you described to me for the following weekend. Where’s the woo factor in that?!

    They say that a person shows their true colors right from the start, and in your first paragraph you shamelessly admit that your heart is in your pants. So, perhaps, you are the one who could most benefit from reading Mr. Hugo. Perhaps you should look inside to see that it is the size of the heart which resides north of your zipper that really matters.

  • …lots of very good insights!

  • Michal says:

    Dear Mr. Miller,

    It gives me a great hope knowing that there is at least one man on this planet who wishes, like me, to a less cynical world.
    even i who wishes to find a passionate ,self confidence gentleman, don’t believe it even when i’ll meet him.
    we got so used to be cynical, moving forwared magor stages in relationsheep… so thank you. thank you for make me belive again.

    Michal

  • Rob says:

    I miss being wooed……. I miss the genuine excitement of getting to know someone. We are all (men and women) so afraid to become vulnerable, to allow time to get to know each other and to allow someone to get to know the real you. We try to be cool, laid back, easy going, hot, sexy, fast or have some list of desired traits and we miss what is really sexy, intimate and exciting. We are in a rush….and we miss the real fun of spending time, getting to know and really finding true intimacy. True intimacy is scarey and we are not always in control of it.
    We interview each other as if its a job. I believe in chemistry and that interests are peaked and ……yes our roles are mixed and switched at times causing us all to often live somewhere in between, but at the end we want it but have no idea how….. Perhaps we should start there? Maybe a wooing class one for men on how to and one for women on how to receive it. Perhaps a YouTube video class………LOL
    I miss sweet notes left by my morning coffee cup or the message that let’s your imagination take you on a wonderful journey throughout your busy day……..Wooing is delicious and necessary!!!
    “Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
    Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
    Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
    and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
    Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
    Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
    Yet many a man is making friends with death
    even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
    It well may be that in a difficult hour,
    pinned down by need and moaning for release
    or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
    I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
    Or trade the memory of this night for food.
    It may well be. I do not think I would.”
    ― Edna St. Vincent Millay
    t

  • joanie says:

    I think many years ago a man wooed a woman to show her that he was serious in getting to know her. He took his time, they formed a bond that was not based on sex and therefore they had a solid foundation to build from. I think this was what helped people “fall in love” because it was not the typical Cosmo Magazine type scenario where the rule is you go on 3 dates and then you have sex. People today don’t get to know each other. The instant gratification factor in our society doesn’t really allow for wooing or meaningful long term loving relationships.

    Men and women used to respect each other more because I think you were stigmatized if you didn’t treat the person right or if you were divorced which made it much more important to get it right with the person you were going to married. And if you didn’t get it right, you at least made the effort to try to make the marriage last and be civil. I think a lot of people think when they get married, well if it doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce. We just don’t try to make things work. Marriage is work and you have to nurture it and maintain it because when you don’t there is always someone out there who would be more than willing to see if they could make things work.

    I think there was a sense of sensuality that made waiting for the right person titillating. People slow danced and touched each other without being rude and nasty and practically having sex in front of everyone on the dance floor. And that doesn’t mean those dances weren’t sexy–they were. It just means people had restraint and respect. I think that is a huge part of what is missing with regard to wooing. Men and women don’t touch each other without it meaning let’s have sex. Before people held hands, they embraced, they put there arms around each other even at home sitting on the sofa watching tv. Think about how sexy it is to just sit on the sofa and kiss. VERY SEXY! Remember high school? There was that excitement about just being with the person. You couldn’t wait until the next day to see them. Now you don’t have to. You can SKYPE all night so you never have to wait to see the person again. It’s crazy.

    I miss wooing. PLEASE Cosmo…start the rumor that wooing is back!!!

  • Michaela says:

    I am deeply appreciating Mr. Miller’s article.
    I would like to add more comments. It is sad to see that people are losing a value of real Love. The material matter tried take over people’s souls. Either in a cocktail dress or in jeans people ask the same questions on date: What do you do for living? How much money do you make? Do you own a house? What is your business/occupation? People are looking for material values but not for good personality and soul with high moral values. Forget about the romantic values…the people are not looking into inside person but what is around him and what that person has…
    People don’t realize that material income value is not important compare to a high moral value. The high moral person will stay forever, whereas the material one will be gone with a material values if something would be going wrong. For example, a man can marry younger girl if he is reach. One day he got physically sick and his young wife will not even help him to get him better, but she’d take his money and leave for a younger and healthy one.When a person is sick the money value really is not important, and he doesn’t really need them anymore. What he needs in this moment is her support next to him. No one can buy health with money. The person with high moral value qualities would never leave a sick one and will stay with him/her forever until the end.
    In addition, I would say that the physical body, the looks are adjustable but again, the inner soul is a permanent matter.
    I believe that my other Half is somewhere looking for me. How will I recognize him? I am trusting my intuition, which will “signal me” that he is the One.

  • Debbie says:

    Mr. Miller:
    The only woo I’ve found comes in the form of the 19th century setting romance novels I read on a weekly basis.

  • Alison says:

    Well, really, can we blame a dog for being a dog? I mean seriously here folks, some men have changed their expressions maybe their communication styles, but the idea that men have changed exponentially in the last fifty or even five thousand years, is just, well, silly. A man is a man, a woman is a woman and that is just that. Some can write and woo the socks off of you. Fewer do now than they did then. However, I own several cocktail dresses and more jeans, but with over 300 views down and just three dates, it is clear to me that this site reflects what the new Now generation expresses: Naked please, and can I have a to go box and the check when it comes out?
    Ok, so it might just be me, but we are all sexual beings and not all of us know what romance is. Woo rhymes with stew rhymes with…you get me, here, right? So, just for the record,I for one don’t think that the lack of woo is the result of cocktail dress choices, or jeans or any of the number of ways that we can choose to bow out of intimacy. I think that the lack of woo is the result of a lack of substance, and unfortunately that’s not something that you can order at a local sushi bar…woo’s not on the menu.

  • Kira says:

    Men used to travel great distances in the 1800′s to meet a woman: they would travel on horse, through a snowstorm. Now they’ll check to see how nearby she lives so they don’t have to drive a car more than one hour, tops. Men care more about one’s looks, one’s age, and one’s location (for convenience and ease) when it comes to the woman. Yes, most men say the same thing. No man speaks from his soul. It makes this virtual medium (and real life encounters) nothing but a quick browse in the supermarket to see what’s on sale and what’s new in the shop. Seeing photos of men holding a beer, have a photo of his motorcycle or kissing his dog….well, Victor Hugo would not be amused. I thought my frustration and despair at never meeting yet for a JDate was being too picky. But now I know it is my soul won’t let me be stepped on, walked over and discarded by someone who sees me as a five minute form of entertainment and audition of my soul in hopes of securing love. I struggle every day staying on here, and now I know why.

  • Diana Newell says:

    Witty and original essay that notes how mute and inarticulate we have become in expressing our feelings and thoughts about a beloved. Instead the reliance on cliches, buzz phrases, and trite descriptions of dress or activities that reveal little or nothing about our thoughts or feelings, our interests or intelligence, or any insight into our individuality or relationships. Smart and sensible advice.

  • annie wood says:

    marry an italian.
    problem solved.
    :)

  • Gail says:

    As a former JDate member who, through fortuitous oversight, neglected to mention in her profile that she owned either hiking boots or a cocktail dress, I can only surmise that it was this very omission that was solely responsible for finding a very charming, romantic, courtly, affectionate and wickedly intelligent man – and a true gentleman. I recommend to any woman who does not want to become an expert JDater that she follow Mark Miller’s sage advice. I am extremely grateful that I did.

  • As always, you made me laugh. But the sad truth is that “woo-ing” requires work and time. And we live in an era when people don’t seem to have the time or make the effort to take a “vacation.” They only take a “vacay.”

  • David Misch says:

    It is with fulminating concordance that I feel compelled to proclaim my unabashed ardor for Mr. Miller’s exquisite ruminations. How true it is that eloquence and romanticism (and polysyllabism) have fled our debased cultural discourse. If only today’s gentlemen could express (or at least have) feelings that reverberate in language requiring more than 140 characters to elucidate!

    And that’s what I told last night’s hookup, what’s-her-name.

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