I’ve never seriously dated anyone at Yale. As I near my 21st birthday, I realize I possibly never will. Yet my own acceptance of this — based mostly on the patterns I’ve become familiar with as an upperclassman — does not preclude a sense of curiosity for the distinctive way men and women interact on this campus.
I’ve enjoyed reading the recent articles written by Yalies expressing discontent at the current social and sexual climate. In the course of my time here I’ve developed a rather acute interest in all things related to relationships. It’s a bit of a hobby of mine, and when it was particularly strong a few months ago, I managed to get through a decent amount of popular literature on the subject.
I read “The Rules” by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, an ineloquent guidebook to winning “the man of [your] dreams” with crude, numbered commandments like, “Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance)” or “Don’t Accept a Saturday Night Date after Wednesday.” Needless to say, it was a terrible book.
“Why Men Love B——” by Sherry Argov was, surprisingly enough, a bit less severe, but it sang a similar song. I explored in other directions as well, reading tasteless works like Neil Strauss’ “The Game” and scouring blogs for men on “tips for dealing with” (read: ways to confuse, perturb or lead astray) women.
Why, given the recently asserted populations of nice-looking, not evil, socially adjusted, straight single men and women, do so many of us feel like we are floundering in the wake of some tragically insurmountable reality?
We all have friends back home who are living the kind of romantically or sexually fulfilling college experience we occasionally dream of. Some of us even have long-distance if-onlys (if only s/he went to Yale! Why can’t I find anyone like him/her at Yale?).
It’s not clear to me why my friends at Stanford or any of the UCs seem to be so much better adapted. Or why a decent number of my friends here have decided to opt out of the Yale dating sphere in favor of easier, less threatening online relationships with people half a world away. In attempting to answer all of these questions, I tried turning to the books. Hilariously, it took me awhile to notice the glaringly perfect caricature I was quickly becoming. Turning to the books to learn about love? How incredibly Yale.
The point I’m going to make next is not original, and I’m positive it comes up in the myriad conversations had over Wenzels every weekend as frustrated boys and girls wax philosophical about their failed romantic ventures. Nevertheless, I think there’s some merit it getting it down on paper.
Regardless of how we each got here, we came to Yale because we are particularly good at thinking. When you have to think long and hard about something in order to do it, it means it does not come to you as a natural talent. Look at the frequent media coverage of Yalies’ sex lives, the fact we annually host a Sex Week (and now a True Love Week,) the culture we’re thrust into as unsuspecting freshmen (where we’re expected to set near strangers up on blind dates in some contemporary take on courtship) and the (occasionally naked) parties we host named after the Modern Love column in The New York Times.
We, both collectively and individually, are not socially adjusted. The truth of the matter is the enigma that is love, sex and all their accoutrements seems to paralyze us when the opportunity arises to make a connection and obtain something like normal happiness.
The idea of a strategy or science to finding love — or even just physical satisfaction — is appealing to people who are as introspective as me, but, ultimately, there’s no simple solution. It’s as tempting to blame the other sex as it is to blame ourselves, just as it’s tempting to idealize communities and people with whom we have no physical contact. (Ever had a dining hall run-in with your high school ex? Didn’t think so.)
But what we should all try to remember is the fact that “Yalie” is really synonymous with “awkward,” that regardless of gender, we are all people with feelings, that despite our best intentions, our plans and our hopes, we have to learn not to expect the screw date to work out or the flirting to turn into something more.
And then, finally, we have to stop thinking about it.
Alexandra Lin is a junior in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.