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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Badger Valentines

For Andy Cohn and Kim Vergeront's first Valentine's Day, Kim made Andy a heart-shaped cake. 


It took her hours,"" Andy said. ""It was a beautiful cake, but it was dry. In fact, it tasted terrible. My friends and I told her it was delicious, but we threw it out."" 


Andy Cohn and Kim Vergeront have been married for 35 years. The couple met at UW-Madison as seniors and started dating a few months later.  


""I saw this woman in class [and] there was something about her that intimidated me,"" Cohn said. ""She was so smart and beautiful."" 


The couple got married two years after graduation. 


Relationships have changed over the past 30 years as a result of major societal shifts, according to Aimée Dechter, sociology professor at UW-Madison.  


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One of these changes is that gender roles within modern relationships are often less distinct, Dechter said. 


Michelle and Ryan Kipps, a generation younger than Cohn and Vergeront, have been married for almost a year. They met at a house party in 2001 while attending UW-Madison and started dating shortly after. 


On their first Valentine's Day, they went on a date to Porta Bella. 


""We thought it would be so romantic, but they didn't take reservations,"" Michelle said. ""It was a long trek through the snow in heels. The cost of the dinner was $40-$50, but the fact that my feet were frozen and my shoes ruined [was] priceless."" 


Changing Roles  

Valentine's Day dates have changed in terms of what each partner's roles are, Dechter said, such as modermizing the typical flowers and chocolates with a casual dinner. 


On the subsequent Valentine's Day, the Kipps bought a heart-shaped pizza from Rocky's instead.  


""It's been our tradition ever since,"" Michelle said. 


Bruce and Ruth Gibson met at UW-Madison in 1974 and were engaged within eight weeks. 


According to Bruce, Valentine's Day was ""pretty important for the nine months we dated. Ruth is an excellent baker, and it was another excuse to make me some sweets."" 


They still occasionally celebrate Valentine's Day traditionally by exchanging flowers. 


""We no longer have that notion of the princess and prince charming, of the man having to court the woman,"" Dechter said. ""It's not always about this romantic first kiss, because the woman may be as likely to initiate the first kiss as the man.""  


Because of the women's movement in the 1980s, society no longer expects men to take full responsibility in relationships, according to Dechter.  


Couples are more likely to talk about relationship components such as having children, jobs and living situations. 


""We talked a lot about getting married before the proposal,"" Michelle Kipps said. ""I didn't want marriage to contain any surprise issues that could have been foreseen.""  


The traditional, ""romantic"" way to propose involved the man surprising the woman with a ring without any prior discussion of marriage.  


""I also picked out my engagement ring, but we had shopped for one for over a year, so the proposal was still a surprise,"" Michelle said. 


Elliott and Lori Sogol have been married for 31 years. Although they met in high school, they continued dating throughout their education at UW-Madison until getting married their junior year. As with most marriage proposals three decades ago, Lori had not been expecting the question. 


""I was lucky that the answer was yes,"" Elliott said. ""I had [already] planned a surprise engagement party back at the dorm room."" 


Couples in both generations said they married for love. However, Michelle and Ryan Kipps married for both emotional and logistical reasons.  


""He was about to start a career which could take him anywhere in the country,"" Michelle said. ""If I was going to saddle up for the ride, I had to know it was forever.""  


""Modern"" can still be romantic 

From 1970 to 1979, the divorce rate doubled and has stabilized at 50 percent since the late 80s, according to Dechter.  


""People may be more gun-shy about getting married right away,"" Dechter said. 


According to Bruce and Ruth Gibson, they got married on the basis of love.  


""We [liked] each other's company and still do. We got along great and felt we had the same values,"" Bruce said. 


Ena and Richard Gibson have been married for 41 years. They met at a party when Ena's date left with another girl.  


""As I prepared to leave alone, a handsome young man came up to me and asked if he could walk me home,"" Ena said. ""He was so very sweet and never mentioned that I had been dumped and left at the party until our 20th wedding anniversary."" 


The story of the Gibson's engagement represents the biggest difference of what dating means to both generations. 


""It didn't seem important to me to marry but it was very important to him,"" Ena said. ""We had spent the night together and he felt that it was important to marry so I would be a respectable girl."" 


The reason for their quick marriage may lie in the less lenient sexual norms of the day. 


""While [the Gibsons] were dating, abortion wasn't legal, [and the] pill was not as available,"" Dechter said. ""These people were operating under different birth control capabilities."" This explains the reluctance for the older generation to have sex outside of marriage or to cohabit.  


""The next step to dating isn't all about building up towards marriage,"" Dechter said. ""Now it's acceptable to have sex within a dating relationship, and the couple, as it gets more serious, may start cohabiting."" 


For Eliott and Lori Sogol, however, dating led straight to marriage. 


""If you know that this is the person you want to spend your life with, why not go for it?"" Elliott said. 


Now relationships are not necessarily a clear-cut progression from dating to marriage, Dechter said. 


Another social change in dating is the decline in value of men's real wage, Dechter said. Couples have a greater need to include women's wages in household income for a high standard of living.  


""We had no money and I was afraid to tell my parents - I told them after a year - and he had dropped out of school for a semester to work,"" Ena Harris said.  


According to Dechter, significant changes in men's wages did not happen until the '70s and '80s, so older couples often did not realize the importance of building a career before marriage. 


""Considering our age and being a student, finances were a little issue for us,"" Elliott Sogol said. ""Fortunately, we did not have too many other issues in the beginning.""  


According to Dechter, people recognize that period of their 20s as a ""career-building period.""  


Michelle and Ryan Kipps established their own careers completely before marriage.  


""[Ryan] has a very busy schedule, but I'm fairly independent, so it works well for us,"" Michelle said. ""I know I come first when it's his choice."" 


The modern couple can still have the ""romantic"" aspect of the traditional relationship while sharing the modern aspect of equal gender roles. 


However, many modern married couples have altered the traditional Valentine's Day to meet the modern outlook on career building.  


""The festivities piece of the day was really never top of the list - still won't be,"" Michelle said. ""Ryan is now a physician at UW, so he'll probably be working late."" 

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