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Hope on the horizon

G. David Moss | Sunday, April 15, 2012

In February, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) invited Kerry Cronin to our campus to begin a conversation about dating. The program in Legends was very well-attended, and the audience participated in a lively dialogue about relationships (or the lack thereof) on the Notre Dame campus.

As a part of that program, we passed out level one date vouchers to Starbucks. Those participating had two weeks to redeem the voucher by inviting someone on a date. There were approximately 80 vouchers collected by Starbucks which means that 160 individuals actually went on a level one date. Of the students I talked to about their dating experience, all made very positive comments. Reportedly, one of the primary roadblocks to asking a person out on a date was the anxiety that came along with the process.

When we asked what the GRC could do to help alleviate the natural anxiety of asking someone out on a date, we were told that it was, “out of your hands really. Everything at Notre Dame contributes to the culture where people don’t date. Either people are in a serious relationship or they are not dating at all.”

One male student commented on the several false starts he experienced in making his level one date happen, but in the final assessment, he was pleased that he made the initial attempts and with the outcome of the eventual date. One female student also said her date was very positive overall. She indicated being just a little nervous at the beginning, becoming more comfortable as the date progressed, and by the end of the date her anxiety had disappeared.

Both of the students mentioned above indicated that although their dates did not turn into a relationship, there was a natural parting and there was no nervousness about what would happen next. They are still friends, and being in the presence of the person they dated is not awkward.

Regardless of what many may say about the status of relationships on this campus, I have gained a great deal of encouragement by my conversations with students who are living the delicate balance of academics, societal pressure and the need to continue developing a healthy psycho-sexual perspective. As evidenced by the results of our level one dating program, when given the right environment (and incentive), students are able to bring their true selves to the relationship and are able to engage each other in authentic dialogue.

The end result is an intentional commitment to not treat members of this community as objects, but as individuals worthy of the respect granted to men and women created in the image of God. This is the higher standard one student spoke of in an earlier editorial, and it is an indicator that we are one step closer to becoming the Notre Dame we claim to be.

The key question is whether or not we are willing to face the anxiety or fear of inviting someone into our sphere of relationship long enough to test the water. More times than not, that test will reveal the person you are with was not meant to be a long-term relationship.

This is a tremendous outcome because, one, you are continuing to refine and define the kind of person you want to get in the water with and two, at the conclusion of level one dating you will have freedom in friendship. Each person was able to ask questions, and the resulting friendship could be short-lived or life-long. Either outcome is far better than the alternative. There is no walk of shame, regret or the burning desire to hide from your latest hookup companion.

Intentional relating allows us to pay close attention to the scripts we bring to life. It also affords us the opportunity to interrupt those scripts that could potentially leave a bad taste in our mouth. All indications are that this type of intentional relationship development is well worth the investment … and will hopefully become the new swag in our community.

If you have already mastered the level one date, there will be a discussion of level two and level three dating this Friday in the Dooley Room in the LaFortune Student Center from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Hope to see you there.

Dr. G. David Moss is the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and the interim director for the GRC. He can be contacted at gmoss@nd.edu

Amanda Downey, an assistant director for the GRC, also contributed to this article.

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

necessarily those of The Observer.