Walking on the mall toward Braniff, a bright red sign on the glass of the Fishbowl catches your eye.
“This Valentine’s Day … #bringdatingback,” it reads above a picture of a man running from a furry monster. “It’s not that scary.”
You let out a little laugh and then get that knot in your stomach – dating? What kind of dating? The awkward “let’s pretend we don’t actually like each other” hang-out? Or the “put a ring on it” pressure-filled relationship?
Or maybe, just maybe, could it actually be casual dating?
These humorous but direct posters around the University of Dallas were the efforts of the Anscombe Society, a chapter of the Love & Fidelity Network, and part of a nationwide effort to, as the hashtag says, bring dating back into contemporary young adult culture.
“Right now on most college campuses, including UD, there’s often a fear of dating,” President of the Anscombe Society Emily Lataif said. “Obviously it’s a little bit different than other schools, where dating is almost nonexistent. That’s not true for UD. But I’ve noticed, my friends have noticed, other people I’ve talked to have noticed that there tends to be a lot of fear, awkwardness, discomfort.”
These posters directly address the awkwardness surrounding the idea of dating by making the almost taboo concept humorous. With UD’s unique culture, many students value marriage and its place in building a fruitful society. But it seems that sometimes the emphasis on marriage as the end overpowers dating as the means.
“People here think that if you’re dating someone, you have to get married, and that’s just not true. That’s not how it should be,” Lataif said.
Rather than this contemporary version of courtship, the Anscombe Society is encouraging casual dating: simply spending one-on-one time with someone to get to know that person better.
“Part of getting to marriage is dating, and sometimes we think that ‘the one’ is going to fall out of the sky and it’s not going to require any effort,” Lataif said.
But as senior Grace ‘Acey’ Zischkau notes, it does require effort on the part of both men and women.
“The guys are scared [of dating] here because the girls take things so seriously,” Zischkau said, adding that she found the posters funny but direct. “They’re expecting him to be ‘the one,’ and that’s a lot of pressure on the guys.”
Junior Mary Shannon McFall agreed that casual dating needs to make its way into UD’s culture and was glad to see the posters around campus promoting casual dating.
“You’re never going to really get to know someone unless you go on a date,” McFall said.
Casual dating as a way to truly get to know someone has become mostly obsolete, according to the Anscombe Society, leaving young adults unsure how to go about it in a culture where texting, social media and hook-ups often substitute for relationships.
“There are no longer any social constructs for dating, so we don’t really know where to begin,” Lataif said. “A hundred years ago, there were very specific rules about ‘this is what time you would call on a girl,’ and ‘this is how you would behave.’ And we don’t necessarily want to go back to those times – it was very restrictive – but it’s hard right now for millennials to jump into this dating culture because there’s really nowhere to begin,” Lataif said.
So, why not begin with the “pro tips” on the bright red posters?
“Relax and have fun! They’re human too,” says pro tip #2. “Keep it casual. Think fro-yo, not filet mignon,” says #23.
These funny, simple sayings strike a deeper chord that the Anscombe Society and other students hope will resonate with UD’s social culture. While many students reacted with laughter, according to Lataif, the posters sincerely remind us that dating does not have to be that scary, old-fashioned, awkward or complicated. Instead, it can just be about getting to know someone for who they are and building a pressure-free friendship with the potential for growth.
“A date is saying, ‘I think you’re interesting. I want to get to know you better,’ ” Lataif said. “It’s not asking something, it’s offering something.”