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Dysfunctional dating dynamics

Views 118 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 8 - 2014 | By: Emily Keach

Ask virtually any Westmont student about dating on our campus and you are likely to hear a variant of the same general response: it’s weird. Why is casual dating among Warriors such a tricky, dysfunctional affair? Here are four plausible contributors:
1. Lack of courage.
Kerry Cronin, a fellow at Boston College’s Center for Student Formation, realized that individuals in our culture are often uncomfortable asking someone we see as potential dating material to spend an hour talking with us to get acquainted. This might be due to fear of rejection, since there is a certain amount of vulnerability in revealing interest. It could also be due to ineptness in reading and sending social cues. During one of Cronin’s talks, a woman voiced frustration at a lack of response from her supposed signals. A young man across the room stood up and insisted, “We can’t read them [the signals].”
2. External relationship pressures
Many potential relationships are not pursued because of our own career or academic ambitions. In a highly individualistic culture, many of us are preoccupied with achieving our career and/or goals and plan on settling later, when we feel secure in these. And though we all joke about the “ring by spring” myth, it’s still an undeniable reality. If we set our dating focus very narrowly because of pressure to find the perfect career or find a soulmate fast, the result is bound to be an intense, high-stakes dating culture.
3. The vicious cycle:
Once it becomes widely accepted that a coffee date means ring by spring, then it is no wonder that people are timid to ask someone of the opposite sex to hang out one-on-one.
4. Everyone knows everyone’s business.
Especially given #3, the petite size of Westmont does not make casual dating very easy.
Though there are many plausible reasons why the dating culture at Westmont is weird, it is possible to transform that weirdness into something more desirable: We need to tell a different story. It is harmful to rehash the story that if a guy asks a girl to coffee, then it means they are expected to begin a relationship, and to accept the cultural pressure to assume the relationship will lead to a marriage proposal.
When we accept these idealized narratives without thinking, it only contributes to reason number 3 of the whys: the vicious cycle. It’s tempting to believe in the image of a happy ending that we have been given, but it’s important to recognize that everyone’s happy ending will look different. If we want to make Westmont a place where a coffee date is not a proposal, we need to stop collectively telling only one story.
I hardly expect one opinion article to drastically change Westmont’s dating culture. But while I’m on my soapbox, I will suggest Westmont accept the challenge that Kerry Cronin put to her Boston College class. Ask someone on a date before the end of the semester. If not Spring Formal, then maybe something as low-key as Yogurtland. So, there it is — a serious challenge to ask someone you would like to get to know better on a casual date.


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