People come to the University of Dallas for a multitude of reasons. Some are drawn in by the Core curriculum or the Rome semester. For others, maybe it’s the people or the deeply-rooted traditions. Some come hoping to find the love of their life and a “ring by spring.”
According to Urban Dictionary, a popular website dedicated to explaining modern slang, the catchy phrase “ring by spring” describes “Christian college kids in their senior year [who] feel a need to get engaged before the final semester.” The definition seems to apply well to the UD trend of pre-graduation engagements, but is this definition entirely correct? Do people really “feel the need” to get engaged because of a specific kind of dating culture?
Though the prevalence of the “ring by spring” mentality may not seem to influence romantic interactions, it percolates into UD culture through jokes about sitting by someone at Mass (which of course means they will be married) or discussions of an “MRS degree,” that is, a degree in becoming someone’s “Mrs.”
Dr. Gregory Roper, UD professor and alumnus, has witnessed many a UD spring and the inevitable proposals.
“I understand the impulse and the motivation of this movement, but I’m not sure I fully agree with everything about it,” he said. “I think it plays into the very phenomenon it is trying to counter. I worry that at times it turns dating into immediate pre-engagement, filling it with the status of a ‘mini-relationship’ or ‘mini-marriage.’ What 18-year-old should immediately think when he meets a girl his freshman year, ‘Is she marriage material?’ That puts enormous pressure on them both.”
As Roper admits, the balance is difficult. It seems a relationship must be serious enough for the couple to grow maturely, but also not so serious that the marriage looms overhead and prohibits the relationship from growing in the ways it needs to first.
As one privy to female laments, I have heard many complaints that UD men won’t simply ask girls out, and girls are left wondering why dates have to be so serious. But the fault seems equally hers – the alacritous female mind can quickly jump from the sign of peace handshake to wondering if his last name sounds good with hers.
Without understanding the emotional repercussions of such thinking, the search for someone with marriage potential can be more hurtful than helpful. Jumping immediately to marriage, even lightly, adds pressure to any relationship. The very idea that people must be marriage material before one can consider dating them denies the chance to show they are marriage material.
Like those before, this generation needs to discover the unique way in which it approaches romantic relationships.
“It’s not my problem, or place,” Roper explained. “Every generation, it seems, has to work out its own way through this difficulty of meeting and finding happiness in marriage, working through the fraught notions of its culture. Isn’t this what every Jane Austen novel is about? Every Shakespeare comedy?”
Allie Rogers, a senior who got engaged this past fall, says she recognizes that early engagements are not the answer for everyone.
“If it’s right for some people, go for it, but if not, don’t,” Rogers said. “People shouldn’t feel like they need to. It’s not something everyone should be striving for, but if it happens, then go for it.”
Perhaps there is no single right answer to the question of the best time to propose or way to date. But it seems worth pondering how relationships at UD influence the “ring by spring” trend and conversely how the idea of a “ring by spring” influences the manner in which people date. Regardless, we are lucky that our culture here is one that is hasty toward the sacrament of marriage rather than one that disregards that sacrament altogether for the convenience of the “hookup” culture.
– Linda Smith contributed to the reporting of this article