Friday, November 18, 2011

Dating Culture: College

I began my undergraduate career at a liberal, secular college and finished at a conservative, Catholic university. Both were small, private schools in Ohio, but the two had vastly different dating cultures.
The first is a party school. A day in the life of a typical student consists of attending class, eating, exercising, studying, hanging out or partying with friends, and sleeping. A typical student is often a member of one or two extracurricular clubs, too. Outside of that, there wasn’t very much to do because the school is out in the middle of nowhere. I was blessed with great friends on the soccer team, though, so I was never bored. There are more girls than guys, I think about 3:2. People hang out in common areas such as the cafeteria and the student center, but spend most of their free time in each other’s living quarters (there are various types), which are either co-ed or have very relaxed rules on mixed company. I don’t recall a penalty for staying the night in the room of someone of the opposite sex. Although there are exceptions, hooking up is the cultural norm. Many girls have a “no strings attached” attitude on sexuality and don’t want anything serious. Contraception is widely accessible and widely used. Dates are rare, but steady relationships do exist. The school is tiny, so everyone’s news travels fast, whether they like it or not. Still, I had a very positive experience there overall.
The second is a profoundly Catholic school. A day in the life of a typical student consists of attending class, eating, participating in a faith community known as a household, studying, playing an intramural sport, attending daily Mass, serving as a regular member of a ministry, hanging out with friends, and sleeping. Most students are ridiculously over-committed. Obviously, boredom was not an issue there either. There are more girls than guys—once again, the ratio is about 3:2. Guys and girls primarily hang out together in the cafeteria, the student center, common rooms, outside (weather permitting), and other public places. Girls spend a lot of their free time in each other’s dorms or apartments, which are single-sex and have very strict rules on quiet hours, common room usage, and when/where a member of the opposite sex may visit. Although there are exceptions, chastity is the cultural norm, goal, and expectation. Many girls are there for their “MRS” degrees and hope for a “ring by spring”; that is, getting engaged by the time they graduate. Contraception is not necessary before marriage, and not a moral option afterwards. Many people do go on dates and there are a lot of steady, serious-as-a-heart-attack relationships. However, due somewhat to the fact that many students are actively discerning priesthood or religious life, and due largely to the ratio of girls to guys, and most people are single. This school is also tiny, so once again everyone’s news travels fast, whether they like it or not. Overall, I had a wonderful time there too.
The first school is a better representation of typical college life than the second. Colleges (especially larger ones) feature countless other cultural factors, from active Newman clubs to active Greek life. Going away to college is a blast, and it is possible to have good, clean fun anywhere.

Thanksgiving: For those who stand up for what is right, even when they stand alone.
Prayer requests: That leaders/administrators of colleges take seriously their responsibility to create an environment of true respect.