In my mind, there is an obvious reason why television shows that originate in high schools tend to go downhill in the college years. How do you keep up relationships that seem to rely on shared study halls where no work ever seems to get done at a time in life when people are supposed to go their separate ways? There is always the incredible option of throwing all of the characters into the same local college where the romantic intrigue continues indefinitely in a new setting (think “Saved by the Bell” or “Boy Meets World”). But then again, there’s the more probable alternative of splitting up the cast and dealing with the distance — the “Dawson’s Creek” approach. Let’s face it though; the latter seasons of “Dawson’s Creek” were awful. Are we supposed to infer then, that long-distance relationships, fictional or not, just cannot and should not be successfully maintained?
Perhaps my own inclination to be irritable when it comes to the logistics of relationships that make the transition into “the college years” is derived from my roommate’s frequent visits from her long-distance boyfriend. Yes, I am referring to the dreaded sexile. I don’t mean to deprive anyone of love, least of all the person who could shave off my eyebrows while I sleep, but no futon is comfortable enough to make sexile an appealing prospect. Waking up with popcorn kernels in your hair, and a crick in your neck is, well, not ideal.
I always thought that people in long-distance relationships were commitment junkies — commitment junkies with really good phone plans. But ask around, and you will find that there are a lot of Yale students who consider themselves to be sane, healthy people and who also have significant others far away. I learned, from a chart made by The Center for the Study of Long-Distance Relationships (believe it or not) that 25 percent of college students are in an LDR at any given time, and that 78 percent of college students have had an LDR at some point during their college experience. But why is this the case? Are people really that loyal in their late teens and early 20s? Are college students deep down, die-hard romantics? Is the Yale dating pool really so limited?
Most people seem to believe that if you’re mature enough, and devoted enough, distance is a minor impediment. Those in LDRs agreed, however, that physical separation does add an extra burden to the already hefty pressure of commitment.
Sherman Wang ’07 is dating a recent graduate from the University of California at Berkeley whom he sees probably once every two months. He explained that they trust each other a lot, and he attributes this confidence to the fact that as they got to know each other, physical contact could not serve as such a crutch.
“Distance somewhat forces a relationship to develop backwards,” Wang said. “You have to learn trust before a lot of things that usually develop first.”
And more “Dawson’s Creek”-style self-analysis flowed from people’s romantically off-limits lips. Zach Marks ’09 has dated a George Washington University student for almost three years now and believes that LDRs are more convenient than they are often perceived as being. More than an apologist for LDRs, Marks is a veritable advertisement for them: He touts benefits such as an enhanced extracurricular life and, thanks to inter-college visits, extra networks of Facebook friends.
“The distance can be a positive thing,” Marks said. “I’m not always on the prowl, so I’m much more comfortable talking to girls, and both my girlfriend and I are really focused on stuff on campus.”
I don’t mean to sound cynical about people who are truly devoted to someone far away, because there is certainly something noble about clinging to love wherever you find it. Distance, moreover, is meant to make the heart grow fonder, and there are many people who appreciate the passion that comes with meetings after time apart.
“Distance condenses everything,” Michael Losak ’09 said. “It’s a gigantic intensifier of everything. There are incredibly high highs and low lows.”
Losak is in a relationship with a Yale student who is studying in Oxford for the year. He was adamant in his insistence that even with his significant other away, he did not, like so many others, let himself go. I guess you want to be recently showered for those high times, whenever they might come along.
And there are those who don’t wait for their boyfriend or girlfriend to visit to experience the high highs. Some view separation by a mile, or thousands of miles, as a blank check for promiscuity.
“It’s more like an out of sight, out of mind thing,” said Imran Bhaloo ’10, of his dedication to long-distance fidelity. He was — past tense — in a relationship with a senior in high school back home in Tanzania.
But no one who has an ounce of sentimentality, including myself — I weep during sappy life-insurance commercials — can resist the stories of surprise visits, romantic gifts and heartfelt revelations.
“He sent me a box of hand-written notes and little presents,” said Noel Leon ’09, of her boyfriend of three years’ amorous attentions. “It made me start crying.”
“There was a period where we were fighting a lot,” Losak explained of his relationship. “When it settled down, we realized that love is all about support. There was a mutual feeling that whatever either of us needs to do, the other will support it.”
I think that, with the approach of Valentine’s Day, everyone can swoon, to varying degrees, at the idea of Eros’ arrows piercing two such considerate and accommodating people. And if you’re out for even more highly concentrated doses of long-distance loving, visit roommates Grace Oedel ’10 and Danielle Copper ’10. Both are in LDRs and both like to make late-night cell-phone calls from their bunk beds. Just imagine the whispered sweet-nothings emanating from the top, loudly voiced disagreement from the bottom.
We live in a technologically advanced age where people can talk on the phone anytime while simultaneously iChatting and leaving adoring Facebook comments, and where couples can video-chat every night in various states of undress (ew, but it had to be said). But technology does not always help us stay close in a good way. Besides the incentive to spend every waking moment reading flirtatious wall-posts left for your guy or girl by someone in Arkansas who has a slightly pornographic photo as their profile picture, there is always the bad, bad, late-night intoxicated phone call.
Farhad Anklesaria ’10 dated long-distance from Calcutta to Bombay in high school in India, but it was when the couple began their studies at two different American colleges that a lack of communication — he wanted to talk when she was busy, she wanted to talk when he was — became the problem that led to a breakdown of the relationship.
“My major drunk phone call, I asked her to get back with me,” said Anklesaria. “So we were back together for the night, but I forgot about the whole conversation the next morning. That’s when we really broke up.”
Perhaps I have been viewing the LDR as too much of an inconceivable anomaly with no relation to my own life. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that among Yale students in long-distance relationships, there are definite degrees of separation. Personally, I am a member of a floor-to-floor long-distance relationship. The real pressure comes when I pull a hamstring and that two-story walk up becomes an expedition requiring ropes and carabineers.
To end on an optimistic note, then, let me repeat to you the wise words of Journey, as sung to me by
Oedel: “Don’t stop believing!” To this she added a little Leann Rimes, belting out, “You can’t fight the moonlight!” Just remember, you commitment junkies, in those moonlit hours on those lonely Wednesday nights, stay sober, or give your roommate your cell phone.