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Dating at Notre Dame: The Remix

David Moss | Monday, April 2, 2012

The title of this editorial could be accurately described as a misnomer. I have heard from every corner of campus that dating does not occur at Notre Dame. The lack of dating is not just relegated to Notre Dame, but is present on college campuses across the country. The reasons for this state of affairs is as varied as the people you talk with. Some claim that there just isn’t enough time in the week to develop a meaningful relationship, others point to parietals as the source of our consternation and still others claim that the single sex residence hall system is to blame for the poor state of relationships on campus.

Regardless of what might be the mechanism driving our inability to create an environment where healthy relationships can flourish, my conversations with members of this community have convinced me that there is a desire to explore something other than the microwave relating that permeates our culture.

Although many agree that the general state of relationship building on campus is generally unhealthy and inauthentic, in the same breath they acknowledge that “it is the only game in town.” There is a belief that if they do not play this game as defined by popular culture and those within the circle of coolness, they will become bystanders and second-class citizens in their own college experience. Given this alternative, some claim that the current condition is not so bad. After all, the omnipresent hookup does offer some fun and emotional release from the mountain of academic obligations. Unfortunately, there are no free lunches and frequently those involved pay either a physical or emotional cost; a cost that few are willing to discuss honestly.

So how do we begin to carve out the time necessary to foster and develop relationships that are affirming, respectful and authentic? Foundationally, if we are honest with ourselves, this is what most of us are looking for. First, let’s begin by lowering our expectations of what it means to date someone. Level One Dating (as described by Kerry Cronin when she visited our campus) is an opportunity for you to have a conversation with your date which will do one of two things. At the conclusion of the conversation you will know that a) there may be potential here and you would like to have another conversation, or b) this was not someone you wish to spend more personal time with. This does not take as much time as you might imagine and this type of intentional dating is just that – intentional. It is not for those who use alcohol as a lubricant to engage others socially.

In addition, you must own the fact that you find the other person interesting (maybe even attractive) without the aid of beer goggles. You are not just hanging out with a group of friends, but actively engaged in learning about the person you are with. These dates also have a time limit. There should be no five hour marathon conversations on a Level One date. They should last about an hour and no more than 90 minutes. It really should not be that intense and you will have opportunities for more conversation later. If you came to Kerry Cronin’s presentation (Notre Dating) you were given a voucher to go on such a date at Starbucks. I am looking forward to talking with some of those students this week about their Level One dating experiences.

To continue the momentum of this authentic style of interaction, the Gender Relations Center and Student Activities will be engaging students in an old school remix of the date – the picnic. So don’t be surprised when spring time welcomes a new activity on the Quad. We hope you will join us as we redefine social interaction with an intentional twist.

Dr. G. David Moss is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and the Interim Director for the Gender Relations Center. He can be contacted at gmoss@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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Dating at Notre Dame: The remix

Dr. David Moss | Sunday, April 1, 2012

Things happen very fast in the current generation. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, there is a good reason why top chefs do not prepare elegant meals in a microwave.

Clearly one of our issues on campus is the sometimes frantic pace with which we build relationships. There is no one to blame for the demise of the dating ritual on this campus, it is what it is. In my curiosity to understand why men and women have abdicated ownership of this social norm, I engaged 10 students (five women; five men) in single-sex conversations about their opinions around this issue.

Although I cannot extrapolate these comments to all men and women on campus, this is what I discovered. The women I talked with were unanimous in their belief that the Notre Dame environment is pressure-packed. They described the pressure to look a certain way (hair done, make-up on, never wear sweats) and to behave a certain way. “You always have to look as good as possible. Men talk about putting on their ‘Notre Dame goggles.’ I know a lot of beautiful girls on campus, so I don’t understand how the men here can think that all of us are ugly.”

There is a belief that this creates an environment where women are willing to take any attention they can get from men, hook-up or otherwise. They compete against Notre Dame women out of the classroom, Notre Dame men in the classroom, “and we can’t forget about the pressure added by the presence of St. Mary’s students. You are fighting so much already, that the pressure really gets to you.”

Some of the women said that they felt stuck and wondered if coming to Notre Dame was a mistake. Others have decided to place relationship formation on hold, to wait until they leave Notre Dame to pursue this portion of life.

The women also talked explicitly about the dining hall as a source of stress and judgement. Whether it is men who moo at those who get fro-yo or the other women who meticulously watch what your plate looks like, the dining halls have contributed to a negative atmosphere where women don’t feel valued.

Many of the frustrations the men talked about revolved around the perennial issue of parietals. It is noted, however, that not every man interviewed had a negative view of this Notre Dame tradition. They also commented that differing expectations about the college experience is part of the problem. They believe that many women come to Notre Dame looking for committed relationships and others hope to achieve the coveted “ring by spring.” The men used the term “American Pie” to describe what the typical college man expected.

All the guys I talked with agreed with the notion that women have some pressure to always look good or perfect. They believe, however, that much of this pressure is either self-induced or imposed on women by other women. They also commented that when a woman receives a negative comment about her apparel, she may have the tendency to inflate the importance of that comment. In the end, they admitted that how a woman dresses does impact their impression of her, but added that the same is probably true from the other side.

Some of the men agreed with the notion that it might be better to wait until after college to focus on relationships. One stated that doing this now makes “girls panicky and guys frustrated.” One young man said eloquently, “Doing a relationship the right way is not easy. It takes a great deal of effort and I would rather focus my attention on making sure my academics are in order. If you can get involved and do it the right way, go for it. But typically once they get involved, it is only then that they realize how involved the process is.”

In terms of waiting on romance, one young man commented, “Good things come to patient people.” Other common frustrations guys experience on campus include women who are “jersey chasers,” being trapped in the “friend zone” and the fact that when a certain type of athlete shows up at a party, the game is over.

From what I can surmise, although serious, the issues presented here are not insurmountable. It will just take authentic and honest communication. To that end I am inviting the 10 individuals that offered their opinions for this editorial to join me for a meeting of the minds and some great food. This extended conversation will be the first of many and the topic of a future column. Until then talk to your friends about what you have read and decide if these comments ring true for you. I look forward to seeing you at the Notre Dating program tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Legends.

Dr. G. David Moss is the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and the interim director for the Gender Relations Center. He can be contacted at

gmoss@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.