The rules guide for dating
And it's not as if we enjoy a much greater comfort and freedom than Regency women did.
On the contrary - by stretching to fit our every shape and size, dressing down has ruined the posture that Regency clothes demanded.
There is a particular kind of creature who looks like a man on first encounter but who is, in fact, a very different species.
Jane Austen would have called this creature a 'puppy' or a 'coxcomb'; we would likely refer to him as a guy.
When Captain Wentworth is told by his friend Hayter that Louisa Musgrove and her family have formed expectations on the basis of his behaviour towards her, he describes himself as 'hers in honour if she wished it.' We modern women like to pretend that we're not looking for anything, that we have no agenda - almost as if dating a man because we have expectations of marriage and children were as despicable as visiting an invalid because we have expectations of an inheritance!
But we would do very well to learn something of the Regency way, and not only admit that we are looking for something, but also expect that we will find it!
When it comes to love, Austen would have us listen to our heart, of course, but not omit to look at all the facts.
Sense and Sensibility's Lucy Steele is a great enthusiast for 'girl-talk'.
Many parents set rules for their Christian teens about dating.
While setting rules is a good idea, it is important for parents to think through the rules that they do set.
But 'girl-talk' has that toxic tendency of making us more indifferent to what is real, transporting us to a realm of hyperbole in which nothing much matters - hence Lucy's utter carelessness as to which of the Ferrars brothers she ends up getting married to.
Pride and Prejudice was originally to be called 'First Impressions' because it is all about the dangers of simply going with your gut.