smilingrid: Avoiding the Apocalypse (Or, How to Start Dating Without Ending the World)

February 10, 2014

Avoiding the Apocalypse (Or, How to Start Dating Without Ending the World)

Happy February everyone! In honor of the month of loooove, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote about the terrifying *whipsers* hook up culture *gasp* that is plaguing college campuses these days. This was a creative nonfiction assignment, penned in response to a Professor at Boston College who openly discusses this topic (and who I think is the coolest). So, while I make reference to the talk "Take Back the Date" and my campus specifically, you can read it for funsies (I've been told it's preetty funnay) or extrapolate to apply it to your own school. If you want a greater understanding of this super cool cat and her lecture series, watch the video here. Capice? Great!

(also- all images found on Google so NOT MINE)

Avoiding the Apocalypse 
(Or, How to Start Dating Without Ending the World)

There is a knock on the door of my freshman dorm room, which is at this moment crammed to the brim with girls from my hall. We’re still in the “get to know everyone” stage, so complete strangers are sitting on the floor, caught in a weird parody of the hand games I used to play at recess. My roommate (BBY MEGAN!) opens the door and in stumbles a male acquaintance. He’s vibrating and practically jumping out of his skin with amounts of energy he hadn't had when we'd seen him in daylight. He zeroes in on where I'm perched at the edge of my bed and cheers "INGRID!" a couple of times as he trips over the various outstretched legs and tries to pick me up and spin us around. The whole room devolves into a laughing, whirling, confused mess, but it all freezes around me when he whisper-yells into my cheek (no, not my ear), "what would you say if I asked you out right now?"
Woah, back up. Someone hand me a Q-tip. Did I hear that right?

While I can (and do) admit to being particularly clueless when it comes to the opposite gender, I think that my sense of being utterly lost characterizes much of the college dating and "hook up" cultures. Ignoring the problem (and it is a problem: I didn’t and still don’t want to be romantically involved with this person) until it goes away seems to be a common solution as well.
Way before college was even on our radar, popular media has been bombarding our generation with romance plots. According to our modes of entertainment, people are falling in love everywhere, effortlessly. Some singers suspect magical love potions; even Taylor Swift claims she was “enchanted” upon meeting one of her gentlemanly suitors! Think back to your favorite Disney movie as a young’un. Now ask your grown self “how many hit singles has Miss Swift put out?” and “How many chick flicks have made bank at the ticket office?”  It’s an epidemic of romantic plot twists and happy endings! I rest my case.
Taylor approves
Actual relationships are awkward and risky. The uncomfortable parts are not sung about or shown through the lens of a video camera. We’ve gotten to the point where the normal unease of a first date feels like a sign of something being wrong. Despite what your favorite chick flick tells you, you’re not “just going to know” when you look into his eyes for the first time… as you fall gracefully into his arms and the soundtrack swells in the background. We don’t get those kinds of cues. Sorry kids, go back to your strained small talk over coffee. Make it work. It won’t be Hollywood, but that isn’t so bad.

Instead of enduring the awkwardness, college students seem to be propagating a trend that has many critics up in arms: the dreaded “hook up culture.” There are books about it. Research has been conducted regarding it. Articles have been submitted to publications from The Heights to The New York Times. Much has been written about this sinister beast, but the screaming voices of this multitude of pages go unheard by waxed-up ears. Written word can so easily be ignored, especially when the main goal seems to be finger pointing. These adults want to find a perpetrator to blame for the degradation of good old coffee shop dating. They go about this search with the sense attributed to witch hunting (that is to say, very little). Different authors in this mystical realm of study have blamed the female or male populations in a student body. So far, no one person or gender has come forth to claim the casting of this enchantment, but academics remain hopeful for a return to our parents’ dating patterns, perhaps sped along by an old-fashioned cleansing by river water in the winter.
(this is political, but strangely applicable. so, in it goes!)

There is a sense of duplicity here, between what we are shown as the ideal and what we are told to expect from college. Can there really be any confusion about why this generation is so confused? No one seems to be connecting. No one, that is, but Kerry Cronin (and isn’t that just a perfectly composed name?). She so easily captured my freshman self’s attention, even after hours of orientation activities in lecture halls intimidatingly larger and starker than my high school versions. I remember laughing uncontrollably and feeling like she had her fingertip on the pulse of eighteen-year-olds’ lives. She cracked sarcastic joke after sarcastic joke and dropped f-bomb after f-bomb. I left the hall dying to hear her speak for at least twice the allotted time.
 So, when I got an email advertising her “Take Back the Date” speech, I RSVP’d as quickly as I could drag and click my pointer. I felt hopeful going in, hopeful that someone was finally going to explain what glossy teenybopper magazines had failed to (10 signs is not enough to tell if he’s into you, Cosmo Girl). The despairing, condescending tone of so many articles and excerpts was nowhere to be heard in that sardine tin of an event hall. She acknowledged the scariness of relationships by poking fun at it. She validated my (apparently pretty universal) fears and reluctance while gently teasing the conversation in the direction it needed to be taken. The key word here is “conversation.” Where miscommunication runs rampant, Kerry Cronin is able to connect with college students across the country without maliciously digging any fingers into sore spots.
But it is not enough to just converse about the hookup culture and half-heartedly toss ideas back and forth with the other sardines on how to “fix” it. This topic is not just an academic curiosity. Students of both genders are perpetuating the culture on weekends, even if they attended “Take Back the Date” on some preceding weekday. The only way to break this cycle is terrifying; we would have to expose our emotions, become vulnerable in asking for who and what we want.
Generally, when I try to picture asking someone on a date, it goes something like this; meek and mumbling invitation followed by a brutal refusal and then the apocalypse. Yes, if I decided to ask someone out, the end of the world would be ushered in. By reveling in my cowardice, I’m actually saving the entire planet.
... from this
            That’s quite obviously an exaggeration. In all honesty, I know that asking a friend on what Kerry Cronin calls a “Level One Date” (or stealthy romantic recon) would not topple the first domino to Judgment Day. But the fear looms heavy and large as if it was the definite outcome, and that’s a ton of pressure to put on my own shoulders. I usually console myself with some of my girl Taylor’s songs that lament the unrequited nature of a crush. I shrug off any sense of duty by remembering how many people crammed into that event hall; someone else will get the campus relationship ball rolling... Won’t they?
It isn’t someone else’s duty to snag me a boyfriend. This mysterious “someone else” is not my mother, jokingly threatening to arrange my future marriage from a young age. I am surely not willing to be that “someone else” that I know the other students in that room are relying on. The truth is that we all need to get over our fears and unrealistic expectations in order to muddle our ways through to a happy ending. We might need to clean out our ears a few more times along the way, we could feel confused enough to blame witchcraft, and we will definitely listen to more Taylor Swift, but we will not cause the end of the world. What more could you ask for at the start of a relationship?
I pretty much used this post (and google searching all the images therein) to procrastinate from finishing my paper that's due tomorrow... so, I must leave you with this final adieu to frantically type! Hope you all enjoyed that! 

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