What Are the Rules of Civility in Dating?

Last night I was with a group of women discussing the book  “Rules of Civility” (okay “book club”), a coming of age story about a young woman in 1930s New York rising from her Brooklyn immigrant roots to high society, all with a sense of purpose and independence that that belies her insecurities. Sound familiar? The 20-something syndrome exists no matter the era.  It’s interesting because this woman does not start out, like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Jay Gatsby, to conquer the upper rings of society per se but that is where her path took her.  The tale shows how your decisions as you go and  seeing the opportunities at your crossroads can take you on an interesting if sometimes heartbreaking journey. If you like The Great Gatsby, read the book. It’s fun to see New York in the 30s not much different in many ways than today but depicted at its glamourous best.

The plot bit that I’m focusing on today is the issue of friends who are intrigued by the same man. The story features a love triangle whereby two friends are interested in the same man whom they both befriended. In the book’s case, one, perhaps for the wealth and stature he offers; the other more for what’s underneath. Problem is, the more superficial gal has first dibs.

I won’t get into the drama that ensues in the book, but more the discussion we had last night about dating a friend’s ex-boyfriend or the guy they are interested in. One women commented that in college and her early twenties she and her friends used to call dibs on guys they liked and no friends were then entitled to pursuing them or accepting their pursuit.  But then some women went crazy calling first rights on all sorts of men, creating a hands-off monopoly of sorts. And it never quite worked. It appears you can’t really set rules about who you fall in love with. The only thing you have to realize is that if you do pursue it, you will likely lose a friend.

It’s easier over time to see your friends date your exes than it is to have them date a guy who rejected you or with whom you felt there was a connection. So you just have to weigh the decision. Is it just something fun to satisfy your ego…or is it a real connection? That’s hard to decipher in your early twenties when every relationship is so intense…it’s the first but you also feel like it is the last (it’s not). Looking back, few of the guys 40-something women thought were “it” in their early twenties actually were. Most looking back are relieved they didn’t end up with those guys. But if you are set on going for it at the expense of your friend, you might just give it a few months. If it is for real, then it can wait and by then your friend will be over him.

On a quick loop back to the book, it is based loosely on the “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior” that George Washington wrote in his schoolbook at age 16. These rules originated in the late sixteenth century in France . They are fun to check out!


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