Date more, Duke!

guest column

At first blush, love has no room at Duke.

That’s not for a lack of interest. Anecdotally, many of my friends want to meet somebody at Duke. A meetcute at the Perkins is even cuter when the alternative is conversations on Tinder that begin -- and end -- with  “heyyy”. 

Sidechat too is like a digital pharmacy for lovesick students. Each day brings a new variation on:  (1) Should girls approach guys?  (2) Should guys approach girls? and the ever-festive (3) Upvote if we should CANCEL Valentine’s Day >:(.

Clearly, many students want a robust dating culture. But why is it so hard to link this supply of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes with such heavy demand for loving, healthy relationships?

First, we’re a risk-averse campus. For example, many of us will pass up newly-offered classes -- even if they genuinely excite us -- because we don’t know how difficult the class will be. In fairness, this is often for legitimate reasons, such as maintaining a high GPA for graduate school admissions. But the point still holds. Many of us expect perfection from ourselves, so we engineer our surroundings in response. 

While we can craft the perfect schedule, we can’t guarantee a perfect response from someone else.  Consequently, our academic rigidity trickles into our love lives too. Like how we avoid classes that may hurt our GPAs, we also avoid interactions that may hurt our self-esteem. 

Additionally, hookup culture smothers relationships before they can even start. If we all believe that love is dead, nobody will try.  But as Sidechat demonstrates, the pool of prospects is bigger than we think. If you peek outside your circle, likely you will discover somebody who wants to get to know you better. 

Finally, crushes, love, and dating seem frivolous compared with classes, extracurriculars, and traditional social life. Many people wake up early, study all day, party all night, rinse and repeat. But repeating the same tasks all week, every week, semester after semester is like eating the same goopy oatmeal every day. It is healthy, but also boring and beige and dull. Where’s the seasoning?

Allowing ourselves to indulge in our more silly desires is an easy way to spice up our daily routines. Maybe seeing your crush will motivate you to attend a lecture, speak up in discussion, or hit the gym. 

Duke can feel like a means to an end, whether that’s medical school or a shiny job at a prestigious company. Dating doesn’t fit neatly into this tried-and-true conveyor belt to our next big achievement. As such, it’s relegated to the back burner and late-night Sidechat confessions. But school doesn’t have to be so rigid. There can be space for all types of chemistry -- organic, inorganic, romantic -- in a Duke student’s brain.  

Ultimately, crushes are about believing in each other. Tinder and Hinge might help connect you with matches in a new city or spark conversations with witty prompts. But the person at the other end is driving that conversation and sharing their energy with you. The person provides love and accepts love. So do you! New hookup apps or student-run matchmaking services won’t change our love lives. But other people will. 

And luckily, we’re in the ideal environment to meet these people at Duke. Where else can you run into your classroom crush at the same mailroom, the same lunch spot, and the same cafes?  

When we graduate and disperse across the country, we’ll eat breakfast at home and our packages will be delivered to our front doors. Our local coffee shop and favorite late-night food truck will be filled with strangers. Our time with familiar faces is fleeting.

Most students want to graduate from Duke having given it their all, whether that’s pushing themselves academically, exploring extracurriculars in new disciplines, or befriending people different from themselves. Notably, love isn’t on this list. 

Why not? Finding companionship may be awkward, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Physics 142, the walk to Gross Hall, or weeks of sleeping in musty tents, pouring rain, and blaring sirens. We are tenacious! Through Duke, we learn to grow our brains and build our social networks. Surely, we can learn to nurture our hearts too. Love is within your grasp. Go make it happen.

Jessica Luan is a Trinity junior.


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