I’ve read and reread Labor of Love, admiring Weigel’s organization and readability: She has managed to write a substantial book about dating for a popular audience, in the hope that, by understanding historical patterns, we’ll better understand our own tendencies. The lesson is smooth, but the effect is alienating...My reservations about the book had less to do with the book’s argument than the fact that I fail to connect with Weigel’s sensibility. And because these universals—of love and fulfillment—are so personal, it felt jarring to be caught in her logic...It’s not her, it’s me, in other words. But my reaction speaks to the paradoxical nature of a 'dating culture' that applies the most normative ideals to the most personal objectives.
If the connections between work, commerce, and love seem fuzzy in Weigel’s telling, perhaps that’s the point. We all know that the economy determines many of our social and sexual mores, but the details of how it does so are hard to tease out with any precision...Weigel’s intuition that our dating lives feel unsatisfactory not just because of human error and the vagaries of love but because they reflect in every detail the unjust, exploitative economic and political system within which they take place, is a very dark one — this, too, surely, is the stuff of horror movies, where the threat is both inside and outside us, not to be escaped. That she has chosen such a worthy foe makes it seem all the stranger that when the time for battle approaches, Weigel turns coy. What exactly are these mysterious new ways of loving and living toward which she hopes we will direct our efforts?
Weigel is best when dismantling pop theories through the ages...But the book often struggles to make clear connections from chapter to chapter...More seriously, the book has a surprisingly narrow focus. It’s written from the vantage of a straight, white, middle-class woman and seldom strays from that perspective. Weigel mostly ignores lesbian relationships (aside from a passing reference to 'sugar mommies,' a phenomenon that always felt like pure media exaggeration) and offers only a cursory history of gay activism that neglects recent, relevant debates like marriage equality.