Drunk in Love

It’s August and a fresh batch of high school graduates are both cherishing their last moments of unexcused youth and eagerly anticipating their transition into college. With it comes a  new world of parties and dating. High school was full of hook ups, first kisses and first relationships—because young people are anxious to get a taste of the uniquely-adult excitement that comes with romantic exploration. College, on the other hand, is full of undefined opportunities, excitement, and freedom when it comes to dating.  And being such a definitive step into adulthood and independence, entrance into college causes many students to face conflict when deciding what is right for them in terms of dating. The sides are usually split in two: those who want to be free to explore and those who are better suited to a more traditional monogamous dating. Oftentimes, the prior taste widely stems students’ fear of missing out on the party culture of their school if they are tied down to one person. Students intentionally end high school relationships so they can make new ones in college. There is also a culture of experimentation that arrives with the freedom granted to students in college, a need to satiate new romantic curiosities that rightfully come with the new ability to go on dates without the scrutinizing eyes of parents and friends, or perhaps skipping the ritual of going on dates entirely. College opens new chances of freedom: meeting new people, exploring new places, trying new things, and hooking up with new people. Such options can make the idea of being bound to an old relationship feel more like a restrictive chore.

I for one, was close to being dumped when my boyfriend left for college. We had been dating for eight months and I was about to be a senior in high school, him a freshman in college.  He reasoned that he’d rather end it then than have it end badly later, and if it weren’t for him going to college, he wouldn’t consider ending our relationship at all. I argued that I thought it was better worth a shot in the dark than to give up, but at the same time, I would rather him be honest and end it than stay together to appease me and be resentful later. It’s a challenging conversation to have, knowing that underlying his words was likely the desire to to be free to make relationships entirely uninvolved from me, to not have to text me while hanging out with new friends, or to be able to hook up with girls at parties. Of course this is not true for all relationships, but these worries and this scenario is familiar to anyone. Similar conversations are had by many couples each year before parting ways to their respective schools. But my boyfriend and I worked out, and neither of us have any regrets about doing so. So is it really a personal desire to cut ties and sexually explore, or is it a generational, societal one?

My boyfriend goes to a party school, so fitting into campus culture relies a lot on how readily one is able to conform to greek life and parties. It requires a very present mentality, which is easier when you don’t have anyone you’re obligated to keep in touch with. Entering Emerson, I knew I wouldn’t be pressured to go to parties or to conform with an extremely socially-active student culture. We each approached our shared relationship in different ways, entirely out of different surrounding cultures.

Because of these cultures, and personal interests, we see students—I could name a few friends of mine—who enter college with a clear intent to deny any intimation of a relationship. To clarify, this is not bad at all; it is a lifestyle choice. They say no to dates, but yes to the casual hook up. They dance at parties, but they don’t dance with just one person. They may hook up with someone regularly, but be hooking up with multiple people on the side, and as soon as there may be feelings, they’ll end it all. This is done out of enjoyment, and it becomes something fulfilling, exciting, and brand new. “Catching the feels” is looked at like a terminal illness. There is a fear that as soon as you can’t hook up with anyone you want, parties stop being a welcoming territory. This can largely be credited to the culture of socialization on campuses. People do things in groups: go to parties to meet strangers, to dance in crowds, to take pictures. When you are tied to one person, there is less freedom to move in whatever direction you want in the midst of these events. There is less opportunity to try new things or take a path you never noticed before. However, these unexpected virtues are not created by an individual, but by the romantic culture people are immersed in on campus, oftentimes derived by party culture.

Emerson surely isn’t known for its parties, but there is certainly a population that indulges in them, and in doing so, develops their own standards for relationships. If anything, Emerson’s collective acceptance of sexual fluidity and liberation may well contribute to sexual exploration within the student body, and especially those at parties. This represents the unique attitude of our generation in terms of the evolution of dating: research published in Psychology Today concludes that students of our time have ditched much of the formal rituals of dating in favor of hooking up and having casual flings.

Simultaneously, there are many who do start dating one person and feel content and fulfilled by the connections they make. Based on the psychology publication Romantic Relationships in Emerging Adulthood, 60% of people our age (18-24) still aren’t likely to have more than one sexual partner per year—a sign of monogamy. I have one friend who had been talking to the same person for months, and upon deciding to formally date, felt like all of her doors were closing. Her freedom to hook up with other people was suddenly gone. However, two months in, and she couldn’t be happier. Time and time again we see, in formal research, in art, and in experience, that human connection is the essential link in romance and happiness.

This is not to say one course of action is better than another. Human connection and romance can be achieved in higher volume through the hookup culture produced by on-campus party-scenes and society. To some, it may be the most fulfilling to find this connection with many people rather than just one. Whatever the case, what is most crucial is that the choice is a personal one. When you go to a party you drink for yourself, you dance for yourself, and you hook up for yourself. You romantic choice shouldn’t be dominated or created for you by the people around you or the culture of your college. Dating should always be fun, so do it your way regardless of what your campus culture or party scene looks like.

Photo via Unsplash

RomanceJulia Bannon