As most of Boston College sat still, waiting for the bomb threat warning to be cleared last Thursday night, Devlin 008 remained packed with students listening to Kerry Cronin, the associate director of the philosophy department, give her annual speech hosted by BC’s St. Thomas More Society on relationships and dating and its place on campus.
After a trek down to Robsham Theater, and then a race back to Devlin, the group that had scrambled for seats and sat squished in the aisles quieted as Cronin spoke about the subject so many people are focusing on around this time of year.
“I hear the same things over and over again, and here’s the thing” Cronin said. “I would say that students, with respect to dating and relationships, find themselves in one of three categories. We’ve got ‘pseudo-married couples,’ right? … We’ve got people that are doing what we lovingly call ‘hooking up’ … And then there’s this third group of people, in this pie graph, who are doing something called ‘opting out.’”
Cronin continued by delving into the problems she uncovered through her research within each section. She explained that for the “pseudo-married couples,” there lies the problem of being disliked by friends and peers for the happiness that often streams from being in a relationship, as well as the sub-section within this group that actually is not happy with their significant other, but perhaps stuck. Moving on to address those “opting out,” Cronin stated that the individuals in this category are often just keeping themselves too busy to go on a date. Finally, she landed on the hook-up culture here at BC.
“The problem with the ‘thing’ is, the more I talk to students, the more I hear from students, is how absolutely lonely they are, how absolutely sad and empty they feel after hooking up, after having a ‘thing’ and then realizing the ‘thing’ didn’t go anywhere,” she said. “Because the problem is the feelings you thought you left at the door were never really left at the door. You just stuffed them down a little bit.”
Though her speech was briefly interrupted by the notification of the bomb threat, Cronin decided to continue her talk. After years investigating this issue, Cronin proceeded to regenerate her conclusion on the hook-up culture. She explained that, though many students are not actually participants, the number of people on campus who talk about the hooking up is so large that it gives the phenomenon power, and creates this allure of acceptance and intrigue.
“It’s become a dominant social script here at BC,” Cronin said. “It’s become a thing that not everyone’s doing. In fact, I think a lot of people are opting out of hook-up culture here, but it’s definitely the thing that people talk about … I don’t expect you to change culture, I expect we all have to change culture together.”
Once each of the three groups had been tackled, Cronin offered those listening an alternative to the divide that has been created. Her pseudonym as the “Date Doctor of Boston College” derives directly from her advocacy of dating, which Cronin finds highly underplayed at BC, and this was just what the doctor ordered.
“A bunch of years ago, after listening to students talk about the way they were trying to resolve hook-up culture for themselves, I started assigning a date assignment in class,” Cronin said. “And now you have this dating assignment.”
Each person in the audience, regardless of gender, was prescribed the task of asking someone out on a date with specific rules. The individual had to ask another person of legitimate romantic interest out, in person. The person had to pay for the date and it had to be planned. The date had to be during the day and needed to occur within two or three days of the asking, which had to be soon after the speech was over. Finally, the date had to be what Cronin referred to as a “Level One Date.”
“It’s forty-five to ninety minutes long,” Cronin said. “If it’s going really well, I’d like for you to get out of there in sixty minutes. Because in sixty minutes you’re still interesting. No one is interesting after three hours.”
Among the rest of the rules of Level One dating, there was no alcohol allowed and no physical interaction, with the exception of an A-framed hug. After this explanation, Cronin then told the crowd they would need to write a reflection of the date and email it to her explaining how they asked the person out, how they planned the date, and how they picked the individual. She said the rules were important for a successful outcome, explaining that after going on these type of dates, 99 percent of the reflections she reads desire more of them.
“You get to say who you really are,” Cronin said. “You get to ask for somebody to look at you and see who you are, not just who they saw at a party … But to actually see who you are and what you want to reveal to them, and that is what I’m asking you to try.”
Leaving the students with her dating assignment, Cronin said that it was not really about romance, but rather that it is mostly about courage. She noted how on a campus where hook-up culture is so prominent, sitting down face-to-face with another individual, sharing interests with them, and exposing vulnerability can be intimidating and scary. Cronin dared each BC student to be brave.