Dating: Then vs. Now

Wanda and Anna discuss dating in the modern age

Wanda Mattie, 80, and Anna Leverence, 27, shared their experiences and thoughts about dating. While technology and culture have certainly had an impact on changing how people date, it seems some things about relationships never change. 

Born in LaFollette, Tennessee, Wanda is a two-year resident of Brookdale Franklin who was happily married — twice. Her first marriage to Jim lasted 31 years before he passed. She began working at a drugstore before meeting Gene, her second husband, with whom she enjoyed 14 years of marriage before his death.  

Anna is a marketing coordinator at the same community; she was born in Vancouver, Washington, and attended college in California before moving with a friend to the Nashville area. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in May 2017 and began working at Brookdale shortly after.

Q: How old were you when you started dating?

Anna: I grew up in a conservative family, and we believed in courtship rather than dating, so my first boyfriend was when I was 19.

Wanda: I had a little boyfriend in the sixth grade, but really at 16. It was the kind [of dating] where he had to come to my house, and my mom was there. We played cards or checkers, listened to the radio. And I had friends that you go to the movies with every now and again.

How do/did you let someone know you were interested in dating?

Wanda: They never did know I was interested. I played dumb. The friends I had, if I said who I liked, they’d horn in on him.

Anna: It’s hard. I feel like it’s less socially acceptable to walk up and talk to someone unless you are at bar and are looking to hook up. I mean what am I going to do, walk up to someone at another lane in the bowling alley? No, that’s weird.

How do you meet new people to date?

Anna: Mainly online. Sometimes I get set up with people through friends… I would like to ideally meet someone through someone else, so they have a good reputation with other friends.

Wanda: I don’t know how I’d even find anyone in this day.

How do you get to know someone?

Wanda: The movies, going for a walk, spending time together.

Anna: Today, you talk through text, not really phone calls. That’s the time we are in.

What are you looking for in a potential mate?

Wanda: Well, with my first husband Jim, he was sweet and nice and all that jazz. He respected me.

Anna: Respect is probably one of my top things on my list, too. A common faith, humor, and taller than me would be ideal, since I’m tall. I want someone that is mature and can meet me at my level. Someone who is patient.  

What do/did you expect from a first date?

Wanda: Back then, you’d go to the movies; there was a drugstore next to the movie [theater], and we’d go to get a chocolate milkshake or something, and then go to the movies.

Anna: My first date is typically Starbucks, because there are people around. I usually know in 15 minutes whether it will work or not.

Do you remember your first kiss?

Wanda: I remember he was a good smoocher. I had two best friends, and there were these three guys, and one of them had a car. So one of my friends was in the front with the driver, and the rest of the four of us were in the backseat. We were going to the movies, and [we] kissed in the backseat of the car, and one of my girlfriends said, “I didn’t know you were going to kiss that long.” I said, “mind your own business.”  She told everyone that Ray and Wanda had “the longest kiss ever”.

Anna: I started dating a guy in California after I moved there… We were hanging out, and I had told him that I’d never kissed anyone before. Well, we kissed, maybe twice. The second one was definitely better than the first one.

What was your favorite date you ever went on?

Wanda: When I met Gene, there was a quartet performing at the church, and I asked him if he’d like to go. He was so sweet and came to my house. He opened the car door, and we went… and after we saw the quartet do their thing, he looked at me and said, “how about you and I go down and have a piece of pie?” I just fell in love with him.

Anna: I have a lot more bad dates than good ones. I don’t know if that is, because [pause], well, I feel like with millennials, you are always online. First dates are always awkward for anyone, but it’s hard when it seems no one actually socializes with a person anymore. But my favorite date? We went to the zoo, and I got to pet a kangaroo, which was amazing.

Wanda: I had a lot of nice dates, but when they started getting roaming hands, [gestures over her upper body] well, I put a stop to that.

Anna: [laughter] How do you do that?

Wanda: Smack them right in the face. [laughter]

Anna: [laughter] I don’t think you can do that anymore.

Are you currently dating or interested in dating someone?

Anna: [Dating is] hard. I don’t see a future with many people I meet. I’m definitely looking for something lasting.

Wanda: If I heard he was loaded, and halfway good looking, maybe. But no, I’m teasing. I’ve been married twice. I just don’t know if I’m interested in that. I mean, look at these wrinkles! [laughter]

How do you think dating has changed over the years?

Wanda: People seem ready to jump into bed. That’s a lot of what’s going on, I understand. From raising two daughters, I stressed, “be a lady”. I didn’t give it a thought. I was just not going to do that.

Anna: Yes, I agree. I’m not going to do that either. But you are right, it seems expected… I would like to be wooed, and there’s no wooing anymore. I think that’s something we are lacking in dating today. It’s not like I’m expecting a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to stay at home and have dinner or just take a walk around the lake and talk. We don’t have to go on these grand dates all the time.

Wanda: Jim sent me flowers for anniversaries and birthdays. I guess I got so I expected it. Jim would always send them. But when Gene brought them, hand-delivered, I cried.

Anna: I think I’ve only got flowers, like, twice in my life. I cried, too; knowing that someone thought of you, it’s meaningful. You feel special. 

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