With prom season just around the corner, flashbacks of school dances are circling around in the spring air. Images of awkward boys in ill-fitting tuxedoes, girls dressed to the nines and the sound of “Baby got back” playing in a theme-decorated school gymnasium.
And even though prom may be king when it comes to school dances, it may not be the most interesting. The owner of that title belongs to the beloved Sadie Hawkin’s, AKA the Sweetheart dance, Girl’s Reverse, Backwards Dance, W.P.A. and laundry list of other titles. It’s the dance where the guys take the passenger seat and let the girl’s drive the “will you go with me” conversation. But did you ever stop to ponder where and why this dance originated?
Switching roles: How Sadie Hawkins originated
With a silly name like Sadie Hawkins, is it any surprise that the dance originated from a comic strip? Yep, the idea was penned in Al Capp’s November 15, 1937 Abner comic strip. In the strip, Sadie “the homeliest gal in all the hills” Hawkin’s dad, Hekzebiah, declares Sadie Hawkins Day, a day in which the unmarried women of Dogpatch literally chase after the bachelors of the town. The women can “marrying up” to the man they catch. Without any intention of being anything more than just a comic, the act became an annual event just a few short years after, empowering women to chase after what they want and not wait for it to come their way.
By the 1940s, Sadie Hawkins wasn’t just a day, it’s popularity had spread across North American churches and schools – elementary, high school and college – becoming what we know it as today, a dance where the women ask the men. And in some Sadie Hawkins’ cases, an event where the women not only ask the men out but pay for the date as well. By 1952, Sadie Hawkins Dances were celebrated by tens of thousands of venues across the country.
Quite the progressive stunt
Back in the day, the Sadie Hawkins Day concept was seen as quite the progressive movement. After all, women didn’t ask men out, and if they did it wasn’t deemed as “ladylike” or “proper dating etiquette.” Sadie Hawkins however, made it acceptable, for lack of a better word, for women to be the date pursuers.
Obviously, that was more than 80 years ago and times have changed – for the most part. The idea of women asking men out has become more common, with a decent percentage of men preferring a woman who takes initiative. But it’s still not common practice. In fact, in his 2011 Psychology Today study, Michael Mills, Ph.D. points out that 93 percent of women prefer to be asked out and 83 percent of men prefer to do the asking.
Dancing toward a new movement
So when you think back on your own personal Sadie Hawkins experience (or prepare your children for their first), at least one good thing came of it, even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. The dance let you walk – or boogie – in another’s shoes. Switching the roles and letting each party experience what it’s like from the opposite sexes’ perspective. But really, who needs a silly dance to gather up the courage – and or right – to ask out the person you like?
The old-fashioned way.
The sincere way.