Friday, August 08, 2003


Many of the blogs I read often discuss the topic of dating, most recently in Patrick Belton's lunchtime question to Will Baude: "Has the culture of dating really disappeared from college campuses or is this a myth caused by all the usual psychological fallacies?" The theory goes that young people today are simply not interested in dating, and that the group has replaced the couple as the primary unit of social intercourse. This Weekly Standard article linked to a couple of weeks ago by Daniel Drezner gives a fairly mainstream rundown: "One night at dinner a student from the South mentioned that at her state university, where some of her friends go, they still have date nights on Friday nights. The men ask the women out and they go as couples. The other students at the dinner table were amazed. For many young people these days, the only time they've ever gone out on a formal date was their high school senior prom. You might as well have told them that in some parts of the country there are knights on horseback jousting with lances." Susan Ferrari describes the different situation at the University of Chicago.

Were I still at QU, I would have definitely agreed with Susan's depiction. At QU, people would not "date" someone except in the expectation that it would become a serious pre-marital relationship. (I hate saying just "serious," which I don't think differentiates pre-marital from serial monogamy well enough.) Here at UW, however, things seem much more relaxed, at least in the circles in which I run, and while many couples do wind up marrying, there's also a strong undercurrent that marrying is something usually done in the mid-to-late-20's. (Perhaps it's accurate to say that at UW, the QU dating mindset coexists with a somewhat more traditional one.)

I really have nothing on which to base this, having yet to master the fine art of romance, but if I might play the role of anthropologist, the second mentality seems healthier, and the people who follow it generally seem happier. Since I don't like posting about my own life, I probably shouldn't give specific examples by posting about other people's, but my impression is that when you keep worrying about whether he or she is your ultimate life partner and what might happen five or six years down the road, you're not enjoying the person you're with now and all they have to offer. Admittedly, though, this implicitly assumes that non-serious dating has value, which appears to be the topic under dispute. Still, my observation has been that sound relationship judgement benefits from experience more than intellectual analysis. The people who were most cautious about entering relationships fared no better than those who entered with less thought. The people who had relationships lasting all four years of college and eventually ending in marriage were people who had dated a fair amount in high shool. The self-confidence to follow what you want was also a factor: In one case the boyfriend/husband was a long-time friend whom the girl didn't start dating until late their senior year of high school, even though they were in college in different states. In another a girl met a guy at an amusement park, he proceeded to make a pass at her over e-mail, and while she didn't know him except for their park encounter, she decided she liked something about him, gave him a chance, started dating him a few weeks later, and today they are happily married with two cats.

I guess for my part I'd examine any opportunities that came experience isn't on my resume, but I think I've acquired enough life experiences to not completely ruin my life (or someone else's). There are many ways to experience romance, and I haven't really developed a preference. But that is for another time...I recently took a quiz which indicated I would find myself compatible with one in every 14,218 women, and so the odds require patience =)