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Relating to relationships


At the beginning of the year, freshmen were told that 31 percent of Duke students are in committed relationships and that 75 percent of students were interested in a relationship. This statistic, collected as part of the Duke Social Relationships Project conducted by Stephen Asher across four years of Duke students, looks legitimate at first.

The survey, however, was conducted at the beginning of each year, when many freshman were still in long distance relationships, before the infamous "turkey dump." According to Urban Dictionary, the "turkey dump" is defined as when “a student returning from college breaks up with their significant other from high school. So-called because it traditionally takes place over Thanksgiving break, the first time most students return from college."

Journalist Dan Savage said in a rant, "You're a cad if you break up around Christmas. And then there's New Year's—and you can't dump somebody right around New Year's. After that, if you don't jump on it, is Valentine's Day. God forbid if their birthday should fall somewhere between November and February — then you're really stuck. Thanksgiving is really when you have to pull the trigger if you're not willing to tough it out through February."

In my case, I came to Duke with a boyfriend who was himself coming to Duke. A few weeks in, I realized that I just wanted a break. It wasn't the realization that I was going to be busy, or the distance—if anything, we were in even closer proximity than we were in high school—but it was merely the idea that I wanted to experience different things because, well, college. Did it really take a month at Duke for me to realize this? I don’t know.

There are websites with messages for dumpers and dumpees and appropriate e-cards related to the turkey dump, and articles full of advice and analysis on this phenomenon. And yet it seems to be undocumented at Duke. With a simple search on The Chronicle’s website, I was surprised that no one had written about the breakups I saw so often amongst my peers. And perhaps with good reason—to be fair, most of the breakups I’ve seen (including mine) happened before Thanksgiving, and personal relationships are meant to be personal. But for many of my fellow freshman, leaving significant others is a reality along with college, perhaps as instrumental as doing laundry for the first time or sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of other students.

The weeks after we stopped talking to each other, I hid behind other people or walked in the opposite direction when I saw him on campus. The same person who had comforted me through the “FOMO” and discomfort of being an introvert, who had made adjusting to college just a bit easier, was now off-limits. But for the most part, it was a relatively unemotional event for me. After a few days of pining and realizing how much I missed the comfort, I was over it emotionally.

Rationally, however, I questioned my decision repeatedly, and I was mentally pushing away the questions that people had been asking me in the weeks past and were asking me now.

"How are you not feeling absolutely devastated? You were with him for over 2 years."

"Are you sure you didn't come to Duke just to be with him?"

"Do you know what other people would give up to be at the same schools as their boyfriend or girlfriend?"

"Are there even any other guys you're interested in?"

We booked the same flight home over Thanksgiving and on the plane, our conversation was surprisingly normal—the same babble about courses, extracurriculars, current events and home that I could have had with anyone.

In high school, my relationship was the only one in my friend group, and it was almost taboo to talk about relationships. Since I've gotten to Duke, I'm surprised about how normal it can be to start a conversation about relationships, the number of people who offered to listen and give advice. Over Fall Break, I ended up part of this sort of conversation at 4 a.m.: one had broken up before college, one had been on a break, and one had been in a relationship. In many ways, hearing these perspectives characterized my first few weeks at Duke.

Many of the problems I've faced in my life have been simple, in that if I gave them enough thought, I could figure them out. Relationships are the one aspect that I'm not sure this applies to. I don’t know much more than I did my freshman year of high school. It's tempting to shy away from that uncertainty for more concrete and foreseeable things, yet at times, I wonder if it's this inexplicable and sometimes illogical deviation from rational acts that make us human.

Amy Fan is a Trinity freshman. Her column, "fangirling," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

Amy Fan | fangirling

Amy Fan is a Trinity senior. Her column, "fangirling," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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