Last week was One Sexy Week for Duke, and Cupid has struck the Editorial Board with his arrow, for we have decided to take on a softer, fuzzier, but nonetheless important topic for today’s editorial. Of course, love should not be confined by the restrictions of our corner of the editorial pages, but we hope to deconstruct the state of romance on our beloved campus in honor of St. Valentine’s Day.
People often muse on the death of dating at Duke: Is it a Duke problem, a twentysomething problem, a millennial problem or perhaps even an individual problem? We do know a bit about hooking up and dating statistics for the University from the Duke Social Relationships Project. From the time this data was collected, 2007 to 2010, most single students reported that they wished they were dating more (72.4 percent of men and 74.6 percent of women). This is puzzling: If it’s something most people want, what’s the holdup? It could be that we Duke students have limited time to socialize, and when we do, we want to focus on our friends. This phenomenon could be indicative of a fear of rejection or risk aversion.
Given these deterrents, why date? Not all Duke students are looking for a romantic liaison at this time in their lives because college is just a short four years. Many students say they are too busy. That being said, we come to Duke or any new chapter of our lives with enthusiasm and a readiness to take on new experiences fully and deeply. Why not let this same eagerness carry over into our romantic lives? Healthy approaches to romantic relationships make people happier in other areas of their lives too, such as helping people learn to take risks, be vulnerable and communicate. An intimate relationship with a romantic partner can be a wonderful aspect of coming into adulthood.
Although here at Duke, the norm has become not to date, and so we fall into the scripts we’re all familiar with of how people who are attracted to one another behave. We do not necessarily wish for the old fashioned dating practices to resurface or lament the current ‘hook up culture,’ rather we hope for people to show their intentions through means which are free from social coercion.
We say this, but turn a skeptical eye towards those extremists in our culture that monumentalize romantic love as the ultimate source of meaning, stability and happiness in human life. Advertising for jewelry stores or dating websites comed to mind. Dukies know that our friends sustain us in these four years, challenge us, strive with and against us, prop us up against failure. It is our friends who see in a lasting way beyond the constellation of awards, categories and club names that too often define us in college to the whirl of individuality underneath. So skip the roses, and send your friend a bonsai fig tree this Valentine’s Day.
Respect the ficus bonsai tree.