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Truths About Dating at Bowdoin

As date week comes to an end, I thought it would be particularly interesting to write about how my peers, both male and female, feel about the Bowdoin dating culture. I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had about the Bowdoin dating scene, or more specifically the lack there of. It seemed necessary to look beyond my immediate friend group and get feedback from other students about their thoughts regarding dating at Bowdoin. As a result, I sent an anonymous survey to over fifty Bowdoin students, some friends, some acquaintances, some complete strangers, and 26 people responded to my survey, which may seem like a small sample of the Bowdoin population, but it’s a start. I should warn you, most people I talked to rated the dating culture as a 4 on a scale of 1-10, meaning that the majority of students don’t feel that the dating scene on campus is prevalent or successful.

65% of survey participants reported that they had been on a date with another Bowdoin student at some point. This seems promising right? Although this means that more than half of the participants experienced some sort of dating occurrence, an overwhelming majority responded negatively when given the opportunity to provide “any comments on the dating scene of Bowdoin. One student wrote, “The dating scene is borderline non-existent. The impression I get is that most relationships begin with a drunken hook-up… although this could not be true, it’s just what is most visible on campus. I’m almost done with my third semester at Bowdoin, and I’ve accepted the fact that I will very likely never have a boyfriend at Bowdoin.” This may seem like a drastic opinion, but most people who took the survey seem to agree that there is very little dating culture, and instead, there is an extensive hook up culture. Another student responded, “I think there isn’t really much of a dating scene at Bowdoin and there is a lot more emphasis put on the “hook up” scene at Bowdoin. I rarely hear about people going on dates unless they are in a full on relationship.”  Someone else wrote, “Hookup scene is good, serious relationships are prevalent, but “Dating” is practically nonexistent.” Another response was, “I think most people end up hooking up with the same person for a while, out of sheer convenience because it is such a small school, and then when it gets to the point where they have to start dating or stop seeing each other, way more often than not, they just stop seeing each other.” A final response that I feel is important to mention was, “I’d really like the chance to have something more than just a hook up at Bowdoin. Date week is cool, but why can’t every week be date week? I realize that sounds ridiculous, but it would be awesome if the Bowdoin dating scene was bigger. It’d be a nice change of pace.”   So that begs the question, why can’t every week be date week? And why is dating so scary?
To respond to those thoughts, another question on the survey asked respondents to describe their ideal date, and after reviewing the answers, it is evident most people just want a low key hang out, meaning that dating doesn’t have to be scary.
Question: In a few sentences, please describe your ideal Bowdoin date.
-“My ideal date is one in which we can just really get to know each other. I want a chance to learn more about the person I’m dating. Dinners are great, but even a walk somewhere nice can be awesome. The hook up scene makes it seem like nobody wants anything substantial from one another beyond the usual one-night stand. Ideally, a date goes beyond that, with the hope that maybe something more can come of it. My ideal date presents opportunities for that to happen.”
-“A trip to scarlet begonias and/or gelato fiasco filled with great conversation /
-“Nothing fancy, something low key, like pizza and a movie at their apartment”
-“killing it at gelato fiasco”
-“I would love to just go to Little Dog, Gelato Fiasco or Wild Oates, sit down, have a cup of coffee, and just talk. Then go back to my room and watch a movie.”
-“An ideal date would be a nice dinner in town, followed by gelato.”
-“100% sober, Flipside or Frontier, maybe a Bowdoin sports game together. Goodbye kiss. OR, if it’s a second or third date, going down to Portland to explore Old Port, or go to a concert. OOHH, a Seadogs game, if it’s baseball season!”
-“Walking to Maine Street and going out to eat at one of the restaurants there and then going to see a movie at the tontine mall.”
-“Get off campus for a little while, grab dinner, and watch a movie in bed.”
-“Going out to a nice place for dinner and maybe enjoying a movie or just hanging out afterwards.”

So what does this mean? Let’s be honest, going to dinner in town, followed by gelato or a movie really can’t be that bad. When talking with a friend about dating at Bowdoin, she mentioned that the reason people don’t want to ask other people out on dates is because they feel vulnerable, and are afraid of what could really happen when you take away the booze and drunken hook ups. When you ask someone out, you’re putting yourself out there, and if thinks go badly, you don’t have alcohol to blame it on. But what about if things go well?  It seems that most Bowdoin students aren’t looking for incredible dates, or life changing experiences. Most of us are just looking to have real interactions in an environment where good conversation (that you’re both going to remember) can happen. After conducting this survey I feel better knowing that there are other people out there who just want to experience some sort of dating culture, just to know what it’s like, just to see what else is out there beyond the Bowdoin hookup bubble. And if the fear of rejection is what’s holding us all back, then I think we need to give some consideration to both the opportunities we’re missing and the reality that a little risk taking might end up being rewarding. 

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