Valentine’s Day: the Hallmark holiday that casts a cloud of confusion over campuses nationwide. Year after year, this day reminds us of the disaster that is dating at Boston College. There are those of us in relationships, scrambling to make romantic plans and find perfect gifts. There are those of us not in relationships, completely content to embrace hookup culture. Then there are those of us who maybe want to be in relationships, but just don’t know how to get there.
A lot of students find themselves floating somewhere between what Kerry Cronin refers to as the “pseudo-married” couples and hookup culture. Many of the couples we see around campus are very visibly dating—these are the couples that sit on the same side of the booth in Lower and kiss on the Comm. Ave. bus. You know who you are. For those of us who might want to venture out of hookup culture and into the world of “dating,” these couples can be intimidating.
So it’s no wonder why we tend to think that relationships are all or nothing, and therefore choose not to date. We shy away from any semblance of commitment and cling to the ambiguity of a hookup. While this can be fun, and we should all own our sexual autonomy as adults, a lot of us seem to want something more meaningful.
Our reservations stem from a variety of excuses. One of the most common ones I’ve heard is that people think they’re too busy to date. I think the thing that bothers me the most about this statement, as a busy person myself, is that dating doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. I think a lot of BC students, and college students in general, think that dating is a fast track to an engagement. But dating doesn’t have to go from zero to 100 in the first few weeks, or even months, of a possible relationship. Dating can be casual, sporadic, and an exciting complement, not supplement, to our stressful lives.
Judging from my own experience, the most valuable relationships are the ones that are taken slowly and begin with no expectations. My first relationship in my time at BC was with a guy who went to another school. We dated sporadically for months, with no firm commitment or expectation from either end—we were just getting to know each other, just having fun.
The problem is the asking, the initial sign of interest that we BC students are so afraid to show, or even admit to ourselves. Many of us seem to think that expressing this interest puts us out there too much, that it sends the message that we want to be in a relationship. Coffee dates are blown way out of proportion—in a perfect world, we’d be able to get coffee with people we don’t know that well, with no strings attached and no real expectations. But to ask for this is to put yourself on the line, to risk rejection and embarrassment and possibly destroy the potential relationship (or even just friendship) before it even begins.
How did we get here? When my parents were in college, people would go out with multiple people at the same time. If a date didn’t go well, it wasn’t a big deal. People were up-front with rejection, forward with asking. It seems that somewhere along the way, confidence gave way to fear, and now we’re all so afraid of rejection and “awkwardness” that we can’t even bring ourselves to try.
Remember in high school, when you had Sarah text Jane to ask Joe if his friend wanted to go to Sadie’s with you? We’ve carried this romantic insecurity into our college years as we fail to take risks, even to potentially greatly benefit our own happiness. Some have called our generation “socially awkward,” and to no great surprise. Think about all the things you consider “awkward.” Everything we do is awkward! When walking past your crush in Lower is considered awkward, it’s no wonder you’re afraid to ask them to coffee. Technology is our shield—it both creates and perpetuates our awkwardness, but that’s a subject too vast (and frankly, depressing) to try to address right now.
Rejection is awkward, there’s no denying that. Rejection is one thing up front, but it’s quite another once some form of a relationship has been established, a “thing,” if you will. Most of us millenials are all too familiar with the term “ghosting,” or “the act of suddenly ceasing communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date,” as defined by Urban Dictionary.
On one hand, we’re scared of putting ourselves in a situation that may lead to the hurt that ghosting brings. On the other hand, we ghost because it’s easier than telling the truth, than being forward. Both sides are rooted in fear, and, for that matter, immaturity. While rejection sucks for everyone involved, at least a friendship could be maturely salvaged. Ghosting brews the animosity and confusion that fuel far too many BC lookaways.
When it comes down to it, the real reservation behind all the excuses is fear. We fear rejection. We fear commitment. We fear the unknown, the uncertainty of opening ourselves up to someone new. We fear honesty and candidness. We fear awkwardness. We fear Valentine’s Day, because deep down, most of us fear being alone.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor