Blind dating gets new meaning at GRC event
Molly Madden | Thursday, October 1, 2009
Is love truly blind?
That was the question put to the test at Notre Dating in the Dark, a program put on by the Gender Relations Center (GRC) last night at Legends.
The event put three male students and three female students through a series of social activities while wearing blackened goggles that prevented them from seeing one another. The purpose was to see how relationships develop when knowledge of the other person’s appearance is unknown.
The idea for the evening came from a reality TV show, Heather Rakoczy Russell, director of the Gender Relations Center, said.
“I’m a little ashamed to admit that I watched a reality show called ‘Dating in the Dark’ this summer,” Russell said. “It turned out to be really interesting to watch these six people on the show develop relationships in total darkness; they never got to see one another.”
The reality show was modified for an audience in a club setting at Notre Dame.
“Planning this was a logistical nightmare,” Russell said. “We finally decided that we should have the six contestants in darkened goggles, so that they can’t see one another but the audience can see them.”
Working with the University Counseling Center, the GRC had potential contestants take a Meyers-Briggs type test, a widely-used psychological assessment used to determine major personality preferences, and selected three women and three men they thought would be compatible.
The committee had the contestants make up a stage name to maintain anonymity. Some of the aliases included Eleanor Brownson, Buster Lorado, Rainbow Clay and Spike Beeching.
The night was broken up into three segments. The first was called “The Experiment” and had the six contestants go through a variety of activities while wearing the goggles.
There was also a section in which the boys went off-stage and the girls remained, removed their goggles, and then went through the boys’ backpacks. The girls found one male contestant’s backpack to be “intense” and were surprised to find a color-coded planner in another bag.
When the boys got their turn to go through the girls’ purses, they found a passport that didn’t have any stamps, an iPod that featured music from Hanson, and they commented that one of the girls “might be Catholic” when they found a rosary novena book.
The second part was called “The Intermission” which gave the contestants a chance to interact with each other when the audience wasn’t watching, although they still had to wear their goggles and remain in “darkness.”
The next segment was “The Big Reveal,” in which the contestants came out and got to see the face of the person who they were most interested in. Then, the contestants decided whether they wanted to pursue a relationship with the person they indicated.
If the contestants wanted to pursue a relationship, then they would be led onstage with the goggles on. And if the person they were interested in also wanted to continue a relationship, they would meet their romantic interest onstage – goggles still being worn.
Together, or individually if the other party did not appear, the students took off their goggles and looked at the person they had most connected with during the program.
There were many groans from the audience, as many of the contestants were led onstage only to see that the person they had chosen did not feel the same spark as they had.
“Is this a sick joke?” senior Will Stark said after being led onstage only to take of his goggles and see that the girl he had chosen had not shown up.
While the contestants said the experiment was interesting, they also said it made them appreciate just how important sight is to forming relationships with other people.
“It’s hard to describe,” sophomore participant Janine Joly said. “It was all the stages of a relationship in a very confused order.”
Senior participant Chris Tulsiak agreed that the lack of sight made forming relationships more difficult.
“I think that people play off visual keys,” he said. “I felt like I was talking to a voice box at some points.”
Senior participant Patrick Tighe said the lack of visuals made him more attentive to the conversations.
“I normally really struggle with listening,” Tighe said. “But with the goggles on it made me realize what was really being said.”
The overall goal of the experiment was to explore moral foundations, Russell said.
“We really wanted this program to start dialogue among students about moral discernment,” Russell said. “I hope that all those who attended will gain information that causes them to reflect on their values in choosing a friend or romantic partner.”