Behind Closed Doors: The decline of dating culture

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February 18, 2013

9:41 PM

Although single people seem to have a lot of fun in college, and although there is a lot of experimenting to do, part of me feels like I may have dodged a bullet by never being single in college. Dating just seems so damn stressful. The last time I was on the market, I was asked out with a, “Do you like me? Check yes or no” note. Just kidding — but that totally worked in third grade. I try to offer good advice to friends trying to enter relationships, but the process that people seem to adhere to in college is different than the usual progression of relationships outside of the college bubble.

I asked a friend of mine the other day if she liked the guy she hooked up with the night before. “I don’t know,” she said. “We only hooked up that one time.” Back in my day — during the Jurassic Period — I knew whether I was interested in a person before my tongue ended up down his throat.

Someday, historians are going to write books about our mating rituals. When they talk about our generation, they will write about our dance floor makeouts and emoticon-filled text messages. While I recognize I’ve been out of the dating game for a while, it seems like there are steps missing or out of order when it comes to forming a relationship. Hooking up can happen the first or second time you meet someone, but hanging out sober is considered a big step. I have this mental image of dating in the infamous “real world” that involves meeting someone and having multiple conversations with them while sober, or at the very least in the light of day. I picture real-world dating as something that takes more than the course of three weekends to amount to sex, and I picture it, perhaps naively so, involving considerably less booze.

I don’t think college hookup culture is wrong, per se. I understand it can be easier to make your attraction known on a dark crowded dance floor than in a brightly lit Starbucks. It seems like you face less of a risk of rejection when you’ve been drinking, people are hooking up around you and you can’t quite make out the features of the other person’s face. What I don’t understand is why time passes and yet it still seems too soon to talk outside of the hours between midnight and 2 a.m. I don’t know why sex seems less scary than a conversation about the sex, or why spending the night with someone Saturday doesn’t seem nearly as intimate as going to coffee with them Sunday.

To all of the people out there making college hookup culture work for you, congratulations. It’s great to be able to live in the moment and take things one day or one night at a time. For those struggling with the process, don’t be afraid to initiate more communication than 2 a.m. booty texts. I don’t think communication is as scary as we all make it seem. Not every conversation with a hook-up has to be a Define the Relationship talk, and asking someone to grab lunch at the Grind isn’t a marriage proposal. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what college students consider the “normal” dating process — but maybe stay away from the, “Check yes or no” notes.

Tyna H. is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and is not afraid of a brightly lit Starbucks.

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