UD Dating: inconceivable?

Teresa Blackman and Stephen Henderson

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Recall the words from “The Princess Bride”: “Mawage, mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.” But is marriage hat keeps students at the Univerversity of Dallas apart from each other? After scouring the Cap Bar, invading professors’ offices and reigniting a well-beloved subject, we found that a number of factors, including the pressure of marriage, determine the way people date at UD. Students and alumni cited marriage, gossip, our isolated locale, small community, previous inexperience, timidity and the inordinate amount of women as reasons for our dating culture.

When asked about the dating culture at UD, senior Lucy Bennett joked that given the solid group of people here, men should take their pick.

Though teasing, her sentiment coheres with the experiences of alumna Abby Bird.

“Dating and finding your spouse at UD is actually a perk because … there are many common denominators that people are looking for in relationships,” a UD professor once told Bird.

But often it takes leaving UD to appreciate these people.

“I think a lot of people [in my class] do wish they had dated more at UD,” added theology professor and alumnus, Father Thomas Esposito. He continued that often, after graduation, alumni “realized what a gift the UD bubble is in this particular aspect, because unless you have a solid support cast around you, the dating scene in the world can be utterly hit or miss — and the misses would be catastrophes.”

If UD provides such a great pool of people, then why is no one swimming? There seems to be an epidemic of people afraid to get their feet wet casually dating — casually dating being defined as romantic, yet non-committal, outings for mutually interested people to get to know one another better.

Some blame our isolated inability to simply walk down the street for coffee, but others stated that timidity and pressure have crippling effects. Many complained of the unpleasant gravitas marriage attaches to any first date.

“The UD dating culture is definitely more focused on marriage than dating I would think,” said junior Katie McIntyre. “People don’t really date around a lot. It’s just a more serious topic here.”

The intensity of dating comes not only from future anticipations but sometimes also from past inexperience.

“For the most part, a lot of people have their real first relationships when they come to UD,” said sophomore Manny Salazar. “So at UD, when they fall in love, [in] their first real relationship, they fall in love real hard.”

Perhaps this seriousness makes casual dating unnatural within a tight community. After all, how non-committal can a date be when you already know each other?

Close friendships not only potentially mitigate the need for casual dating, but also complicate long-term relationships. Classics and drama professor Dr. Teresa Danze was sympathetic to the risk of dating within small circles.

“You all know each other so well,” Danze said. “It’s such a small community; you know that you have to live with each other for another four years — or two or three.”

Like in a small town, living together for years fosters plenty of gossip.

“[The dating culture at UD is] close-minded, overly dramatic and overly romanticized,” said senior Rob Turner. “It needs less gossip because that ruins the ability of people to hang out socially without it being immediately harped on as romantic.”

Like Turner, many students blame gossip, or even well-intentioned discussion, for the lack of a healthier dating culture. Largely, students actually want more dates, saying dating should not need to be an all-or-nothing endeavor.

“Girls sit around talking about guys too much instead of talking to guys,” said senior Ali Sentmanat said.

She added that women should be more proactive in the dating process. However, the fault is often mutual.

“Sometimes guys are just too scared to ask a girl out because [they] think that the UD gossip fire will turn it into marriage,” Sentmanat said. “But they should stop assuming they know a girl and take a chance.”

It would seem, based on student comments, that the problem lies both with the dating and the commentators, and those going on a date might even put less pressure on themselves than do their friends.

As one student put it, there’s a clear air of “What’s next, what’s next?” following two otherwise content people after their first date. Are we too quick to cast an analyzing eye to our peers’ interactions? Whether committed, hopeful or happily single, we ought to watch our words themselves in order to create a dating culture we can all appreciate, for in the words of junior Christina Craig:

“Maybe we should be talking not about the dating culture but about the gossip culture.”

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