Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
Dating in college is anything but straightforward. It takes the form of meeting up to study, casual hookups at a party, snapchatting all day or — if you’re lucky — a possible “we should get coffee sometime.” The vast majority of formal dating etiquette has been thrown out the window today in favor of hook-ups and ‘things’ (still don’t understand what that means.) Asking someone on a date is traded for simply ‘talking’ to someone and no one wants to be the person who asks, “what are we?”, even though it’s a natural human desire to want a definition for the relationships in your life. The grey area between friend and boyfriend or girlfriend is growing wider and wider, seemingly without stop.
We’ve pushed ourselves into a space in which no one truly understands where they fall with each other, and we’re sort of just guessing at how to ‘do’ dating. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have sent me screenshots of texts from guys and asked me, “Is this a date?” referring to a “let’s hang out” or “we should catch up sometime” message. I don’t even think the guys know whether or not it’s a date either, as they use vague language to avoid the pain of rejection. We’re all just tiptoeing around each other and acting like we really don’t care — but in actuality, we all really, really do.
This is why I believe that we should return to some aspects of traditional dating. In the movie The Dating Project, the case is laid out for what is called a ‘level-one date.’ Kerry Cronin, a psychologist from Boston College, assigns her students to ask someone out on a date in which the duration is 90 minutes or less, the cost is under $10, and there are no alcohol or drugs with minimal physical contact. She explains that this is just the start — if things go well, you ask them out again and go up the ‘levels’ of dates until it makes sense to begin a relationship with that person.
However, if things don’t go well, that’s also okay. Cronin says that the person you ask out doesn’t necessarily have to be your future spouse, it could just be someone you want to get to know better in a casual setting.
This greatly takes the pressure off the asker and the askee (either of whom could be male or female, by the way), as both of them have clearly defined that they are going on a date, and their expectations fit accordingly. The guessing game is removed, and both understand that the date is low-stakes, with both being able to actually get to know each other in a meaningful way.
Even though it may feel like we’ve gotten ourselves trapped in an unromantic culture in which casual sex and hooking up have replaced real relationships, I don’t think it has to be this way. We all understand that communication and honesty are important in relationships — why not practice it before the relationship even begins with clearly defined terms and a return back to the traditional view of dates? It’s up to all of us to change the dating culture in college, which is really just as simple as asking someone on out on a 90 minute, $10 date.