The hook-up culture has, for years, invaded college campuses. Exposes and documentaries galore have tracked how it’s led to debauchery and unattached one night-stands, to an extent never seen before and never toyed with in previous generations.
It’s gotten so bad and made coeds so inept at dating that one professor is actually out to teach her students how to court and date.
At Boston University, Kerry Cronin has been teaching a seminar class that examines relationships, personal development and philosophy. Along the way she started tacking on an assignment that literally gets her students out in the field on dates. Earlier this spring the Boston Globe profiled just what she’s doing.
I have to say I’m intrigued. And, at the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, inclined to support her.
Here are some of the key elements:
This all started when Cronin had to give a talk on hook-up culture some eight years ago during an event on campus. She says she was nervous about the questions that would follow and assumed they would be sexual, graphic and purely about intimate encounters. However, she was wrong. One student desperately wanted to know, “How would you ask someone on a date.” A date invite and a date itself was such a foreign concept to not only this particular undergrad but to many in Cronin’s class that she realized it had become a lost relic. She refers to dating among millennials as a “lost social script.”
The assignment to go on a date is optional at this point, yet on the syllabus and can earn students extra credit.
Yet, there are rules of the road:
• The student doing the asking has to pay.
• The student has to do the asking in person in broad daylight, as opposed to via text or email (or probably Facebook)
• The date can’t get physical. No kissing or sex. Just good, clean getting-to-know you fun so that they can flex their conversation muscles.
• The date has to be 45 to 90 minutes in length. Again, some connecting and depth is required. A quick drink won’t cut it.
• The date has to be with a person of “legitimate romantic interest.” No staged, fake affairs for extra credit, apparently.
The Globe’s reporting on the unexpected, “go on a date” assignment includes statements from students glad they opted to do it. One male seems to suggest that it pushed him out of his comfort zone. “It’s easy to hook up with someone you’ve just met in a dark room after having a few drinks. But asking someone out on a date in broad daylight, and when you actually have to know their name, can be really scary,” he tells the newspaper.
Some, I guess, would criticize Cronin for taking this tack, saying she needs to get with the times, instead of trying to go back to decades ago when couples dated one-on-one and didn’t rely on technology to do their bidding. And people might feel like it’s too personal in nature to be within an academic course.
However, I wish more universities would have a safe space—or class—in which students were encouraged to date, rather than just mate. Heck, single adults in their 20s and 30s could use this skill. It’s so rare these days for a date that I go on to originate from an in-person meeting in which we chat and then exchange numbers. Apps are doing the heavy lifting. Or you’re meeting up with someone in a group setting, and then it’s not just sort of a group hang.
Also, more and more, I’m finding that arriving on a date that’s been arranged through OkCupid or Tinder, the other person isn’t expecting what I’d call a traditional date either. They’ve set a meeting masquerading as a date in which they’re hoping for action, not conversation. Clearly, there are exceptions.
The other day, while sitting outside in the park I happened to witness a man and woman in their 40s interact for the first time. She was sitting with her two chihuahuas, and the man used her dogs as a conversation starter. From there, as I sat within earshot. They talked about their individual dreams, career pursuits, where they were from. There was a hint of flirtation. When the man found out that the woman designed restaurants, amongst her many professional pursuits, he suggested they get dinner one night at one of these eateries. “But we don’t have to call it a date if you don’t want to; that’s so American,” the Dutch-born gentleman joked to her.
Then, they took each other’s phone numbers and agreed to get together another time. They were clearly arranging a date, and one that both seemed excited to take part in.
The novelty of such a situation dawned on me, and I felt almost blessed to have witnessed such an honest getting-to-know you that held all kinds of potential for these two.
Now if only they’d let me watch their date and witness another rare romantic milestone in this era of hook-up culture.