We’ve all had that conversation.
You know what I mean. That conversation. The conversation that immediately follows the moment that you and your girlfriends finish your respective (and delicious) blend-ins at T-Sweets. Let’s give this friend a name, or maybe for the sake of privacy we shouldn’t. For the purpose of this article, our mutual friend is named S. The last time we saw S was when she snuck away with the guy she met in Frist / on the Street / Wilcox (officially proclaimed as the best dining hall on campus) / random campus location. And as we sit together, huddled in a circle, someone finds the courage to ask the inevitable question: “Did y’all have fun?” My apologies, my Louisiana-isms must have caught up with me. I’ll be accurate; here at Princeton, one of us would say: “How was your night?”
The questions that we want to ask are choked down by our nauseating desire to be polite. We want to ask questions such as: “Was he nice?” “Did you hook up?” “Are you going to see him again?” “Did you hook up?” These unvoiced questions loom heavily over all us, and S’s response to the one asked question is more than lacking. She shrugs her shoulders and mumbles something about how he was a nice guy…that she had a good time…that she didn’t see anything happening with him in the future. For some reason, the last of her mumblings upsets us.
We’re upset, or sad rather, for two reasons:
1. We wish that S was more communicative. A shoulder shrug and half-sentences aren’t going to fly.
2. We worry that, like S, we will find ourselves in relationships that will lead nowhere.
Maybe it surprises us that we care so much about hypothetical relationships. It’s not as if we came to Princeton to get our M-R-S degree. We are all intelligent and driven women with career-minded aspirations. And as independent women, our futures don’t necessarily include a leading man. We try to convince ourselves that we’d be perfectly happy without a partner in the future, and in order to practice for a future lacking in commitment, we don’t follow up in relationships. We prefer casual hook-ups, devoid of substance.
It’d be a lie to claim these pseudo-relationships to be entirely satisfying, but do we have the option to enjoy true relationships? Can we follow the social norms of courtship?
The academic rigor of Princeton requires us to commit first and foremost to academics, if only to stay afloat. Our dedication to academia and our independence perpetuate our never ceasing solitude; this, however, is understandable. We don’t want to spend time focusing on relationships that may or may not work out, and as a result our hook up culture has been born. While many would like to say that this hook up culture is a result of our male counterparts, this isn’t the case. The birth of our hook up culture, just like our own births, is the result of two willful participants.
Princeton’s hook up culture has led us to question if dating is dead on campus. When I hear stories about my fellow collegiettes going out on a date, or even my fellow collegiettes that have recently become engaged, I become reminded of dating’s faint pulse and its few waves on the EKG. Although we can’t pronounce dating dead here at Princeton, we may as well declare dating a dying specimen.
As dating becomes more and more irrelevant on campus, student relations run rampant. Hook-ups and one-night stands are not only frequent, but dare I say, practical. With everything we have going on in our lives, we are always looking for a short cut somewhere in the mix of our lives, and our relationships take the brunt of most of our cut-backs. We catalyze our emotional recession and as a result we see deficits in romance.
We Princeton women are successful in all things but love.
Maybe we enjoy the pleasures of relationships without the emotion and the commitment. Maybe we just don’t have the time for a boyfriend. Or maybe we don’t even want one. Yet all of us have had an awakening, as surprising as Edna Pontellier’s realization in her Louisiana town. I’ll admit that Edna chucked monogamy aside—early feminism at its greatest—but we alternatively realize that our college years are the prime time to find our soul mates. This idea isn’t too crazy, as it is said around campus that between 60%-70% of Princeton graduates marry other Princeton graduates, but as I watch my fellow collegiettes and their non-relationships, I find myself doubting this statistic.
How could the numbers be so high, relatively, when dating—the first stepping-stone toward marriage—is virtually non-existent? Princeton’s hook up culture has added unnecessary pressure to dating. Dates, of all types, are considered the Holy Grail, a big deal. Casual and serious dating have been combined into a foreboding category of responsibility and backbreaking commitment, something we don’t want to invest in emotionally.
I’m not expecting all of us to have our fair share of Taylor Swift romances, but it is ridiculous that we dated more often in our high school and even middle school years. Nonetheless, I find myself searching through my closet for a black dress. As I mourn monogamy and the dating game I didn’t appreciate in the past, I’m aware that our lives here at Princeton make dating more of a burden than it truly should be. Yet, I am apprehensive of the hook-up culture that pervades throughout campus, and so instead of going out for another night on the Street, I prepare for a funeral.