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Students should consider casual dating

By Kaylen Strench and Sophie Newman     2/10/14 6:00pm

First off, we want to start by saying we are not attempting to represent all populations at Rice, and we know our point of view can't be generalized to every individual. However, our conversations with many Rice students have demonstrated that others have shared similar experiences to us in terms of Rice dating culture.

We have heard the same story over and over again: "What's our relationship status?" or "Our 'relationship' isn't a real relationship." Bottom line, Rice dating-culture is strange, complex and confusing. Though it's fairly easy to meet people, and there always seems to be plenty of students in long-term relationships, it seems to be extremely difficult for Rice students to casually date. 

The issue is that the norm for starting relationships at Rice is very atypical as compared with adult dating culture. Apathetic hook-ups flow into serious commitments in which neither individual has had a chance to truly get to know his or her new partner. This makes communication awkward from the beginning and consequently the relationship is doomed from the get-go. 

We think part of the problem lies in the stereotypes surrounding commitment at Rice. Guys don't ask girls on dates for fear of immediate commitment and girls, afraid of being viewed as "clingy," don't push for them. It certainly makes a relationship difficult to establish when neither party wants to admit that he or she is committing to being monogamous. What results from these interactions is either nothing (most of the time) or a doomed-from-the-start relationship in which neither partner is able to sustain conversation or can hang out without hooking up.  

Let's look at an example - say one of us was dating a guy named Matt. Matt and I were casual acquaintances for a while, until one night at a party (after heavy alcohol consumption) he confessed he had a crush on me. We proceeded to hook-up that night and several other nights for a couple of weeks. Eventually, we decided we wanted to try to be together exclusively. We hung out a little, but I was nervous around him and I think he felt the same way so we barely talked. Then, one day, he simply cut off all communication. I, confused, but afraid of being "clingy," did not confront him about it. Instead, I obsessed about what I could have done that had turned him off so suddenly and built up a lot of anger, sadness and frustration. When he finally texted me out of the blue a couple of weeks later, I admittedly had a, perhaps not unwarranted, "psychobitch" reaction. He apologized, we made up and the cycle repeated itself two or three more times until we were both so emotionally and mentally exhausted that the relationship was completely unsalvageable. Now, we don't speak at all. It's impossible to say, but I believe that much stress and anxiety could have been avoided if we had taken more time to get to know each other, gone on a few dates and not put so much pressure on sustaining a relationship right off the bat.

Despite our reservations, we do think there are tangible solutions to this problem and believe there is hope for the future romantic lives of Rice students. First, guys need not fear that asking a girl on a date is committing to a relationship, and this applies to girls as well. Also, guys, if a girl asks you on a date, don't freak out: It's the 21st century Just go with it and see what happens. A date is not a binding clause; it's more of a test to see if two people can hold a conversation together and (hopefully) enjoy each other's company. 

Second, girls need to stop being afraid of being "clingy." What is "clingy," anyway? Texting your interest to check in, asking him/her out for a night or wanting to discuss the nature of your relationship or your feelings? Obviously there is a line between committed boyfriend/girlfriend and maniac stalker but don't hesitate to do what seems natural to develop or maintain intimacy. 

All in all, we feel that it is possible to create a more normal dating culture here at Rice. There is a middle ground between serious, long-term relationships and drunken one night stands, and it starts with dating. This Valentine's Day, or whenever, really, ask someone out and see what happens. Maybe it will be awesomely romantic, maybe it will be terrible, or maybe it will just be a pleasantly platonic conversation. No matter what, it will be a noble and necessary plunge into the wonderful world of casual dating. 

Kaylen Strench and Sophie Newman  are Thresher Arts & Entertainment Editors

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