I was advised by many not to write this blog post.
But, clearly, I'm going to anyway.
For the past week, when I kept trying to think of a post to write for We Are IU this week, the topic that kept coming up--and with talking to people around me--was dating in college. Or, more accurately, the lack of dating in college. .
Relationships, dating, courting, whatever you want to call it; the fact is, it gets messy in college. That messiness is almost ingrained in the culture.
In high school it was simple, at least with my friends. You could be dating someone, in a relationship with someone or "talking to" someone, which entailed everything from a make out to just texting incessantly. But all of these things were at least geared towards one thing: exclusivity.
It's nothing like that in college. In college, you can still be dating, exclusive, or "talking," but you can also be hooking up, friends with benefits, a "one night thing," an "experiment" or just about anything in between all of these various options. Instead of a multiple choice sort of deal, in college you're working on a spectrum.
Personally, I've just about run the gamut on the spectrum since coming to college. If you include all of my close friends or people that talk to me about this sort of thing, we've probably hit just about every single possibility, as I think most college kids would agree. Some of it's good, some of it's bad, but nearly all of it is confusing.
In high school, my parents were never particularly strict about dating or being around boys. I never really got a formal talk about conduct on dates or anything. Not that I remember, at least. They always trusted me, and I mean, they could. I wasn't about to run off and do anything incredibly stupid. But a lot of my friends from high school were told the standard, "Look, a guy's going to tell you anything to get in your pants. He's going to tell you he loves you, he cares about you. Whatever it takes."
That idea rubbed off on me, and, like many girls, I took everything guys said throughout high school (for the most part) with a grain of salt. But then, something interesting happened a few weeks back.
I was at a friend's house one weekend night, and this guy was talking to me. Or "talking" to me, as the kids may say these days. But, at one point, when I told him I had to go meet up with the people I came with, he said to me, "Oh, it's fine. Don't worry; I'm not looking for anything serious."
The reason I share that story is because as soon as he said that to me, I realized that the warnings that parents used to tell their kids have now totally flipped in the reality. It's not, "Don't worry; I really, truly care about you." Now, it's, "Don't worry; I won't call you tomorrow and try to turn this into something."
What does that say about modern college students?
I mean, I don't really know what the answer is to that question, but I think it's something at least worth thinking about.
It's confusing. Confusing for EVERYONE. Because some people are frustrated as they search for boyfriends or girlfriends--for an exclusive relationship that seemingly doesn't exist anymore. They don't want to "hook up" or "hang out" or "talk," and so they wait, but nothing happens. Then there are others who run around with person after person and maybe they're happy, but most of the time it's still not exactly what they want.
The terminology doesn't help. Hooking up. What does that even mean? I've asked multiple people what they think it is, and for each one I've gotten a slightly or vastly different answer. But that's the go-to phrase. If you're involved, it tells whoever's asking enough to get them to understand, but not enough for them to know exactly what you did with that guy last weekend, or whatever the case may be.
No one wants to be the one to define these sorts of things. I don't know if it's a fear of getting hurt, or the simple fact that many college kids don't have the time to maintain an exclusive relationship. I think saying that it's beacause of "the media" is a cop out, but maybe I'm biased as a member of the media. Maybe it's just people have been restricted for so long, particularly in this area, that now the pendulum is swinging to the opposite extreme.
And I mean, being a 20 year old, I do not know if it was like this 20 or 30 years ago. My guess is it was similar, but on a different level. Based on the fact parents are still telling their daughters to be wary of things that no longer really exist, my guess is it's gotten a lot deeper with people my age. I was going to say worse, but that's a matter of opinion.
Also, I'm not entirely sure what all of this has to do with the We Are IU website, but I think it's an important topic. I mean, these are the years you're supposed to find your husband, wife, or steady, right? It's a huge part of college culture. Although, ha, in the context of this post, guess maybe I'm arguing that's not true anymore.
As I said, I've run the gamut, from a long-term, exclusive relationship to the opposite of that. And none of it's any better or worse; it just depends what you want.
But, as one of my good friends says, let's be honest, who really knows what they want at age twenty?