In the wake of Valentine’s Day, I find myself overwhelmed to the point of saturation with recommendations for a more invigorating or at least existent love life. Practically overnight, we have accumulated a Yale Herald issue focused almost exclusively on romance and sex, Sex Week and its various public responses, and, perhaps most phenomenal, the immediate sensation of YaleStation’s online dating service in all its playful red font glory. And just when you thought you could finally go back to normal, just when you thought all this nonsense was over, and just when you thought you could return to the 51 usual weeks of the year, here I am to cover one last base in the dating game of Yale.
At any given moment, pretty much everyone here is in one of three love life phases; Type 1 never releases his/her firm grasp on the hand (or other body part) of his/her significant other, Type 2 goes to various parties and/or clubs to find people to bring home with him/her, and Type 3 bitches with his/her friends about the horrible monotony and/or moral laxness of Types 1 and 2. The three types can be understood in terms of YaleStation Dating’s self-categorization system: Not Available, Polyamorous and Single.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I think that I speak for a lot of us when I say that the dating scene at Yale is in a little bit of a rut, and I don’t think that online dating, Sex Week, or even the Herald’s illustrious front page feature with step-by-step instructions on how to get a hook-up will make things any better. They are fun diversions, but does anybody actually take them seriously? I propose that we give an old system a new whirl: boys should develop a thicker skin and ask girls out on dates. A girl, in turn, should accept the offer unless she has a very good reason not to — for example if she objects to dating someone in her own college, if she actively and fervently dislikes the boy, or if he is her cousin, etc.
Because I am, sometimes to my benefit and sometimes not, proverbially wrapped up in books, I am going to treat a few fictional situations as if they are real-life examples of what I’m talking about. First, classic courtship gone right: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” in which wooing consisted largely in everybody going to balls and men inviting women to dance with them. A dance was not an enormous commitment for either party; it was simply a testing of the waters, if you will, sometimes with mutually beneficial consequences. But we needn’t look back that far; take Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey.” I realize that Franny and Lane do not have an exemplary relationship, but at least they are a couple who is “dating,” or “going out,” that actually goes out on dates. He picks her up at the train station, they have lunch, she faints, and he looks after her — it’s just the way things were done.
Now think about what people are writing about now. Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” HBO’s “Sex and the City” — these are just stories about women who want to be courted. Of course, the modern woman has the luxury of taking control and initiative when it comes to her love life, and I commend that as well. It’s great that girls today ask boys out, offer to pick up the tab, and are generally progressive. But ask almost any girl at Yale — really, any single woman you know — and she’ll tell you that she’d be very happy to be asked out for a drink or a milkshake. It really is that simple. Dating at Yale is such a big deal because nobody really does it. So, people, do it! Maybe nothing will come of it, and maybe something will.
To be honest, I have almost no faith in this column having any effect on the way that our social lives progress. Still, I impart this probably futile advice to my male peers: To the gentleman who is involved with a lady, take her out to dinner and a movie; she’ll be delighted. If you’re unattached, and if there’s somebody you might be attracted to and you think she (or he, for that matter) might like you, then be old-fashioned and ask her (or him) out for ice cream, or to an athletic event, a movie — it doesn’t really matter. The key is remembering that a date is just a date and might end up being nothing more. It’s just a nice gesture that may restore some variety to our lives.