Going Steady: Giving Relationships A Try in the College “Hookup” Culture

RelationshipsInCollege_SkylarYuen There he is. The man that makes your heart sing. Your face flushes red when you see him. You fluff your hair and put on your best smile, hoping he notices. Or, it’s the girl whose beauty outshines the rest. Something about her just makes you stop and stare, and even though you can’t define it, it’s there. And you want it…bad. But, you can’t be in a relationship because… college, right?

It’s everywhere. Whether you have read articles about college dating failures in Cosmo or Elite Daily, seen features on our generation’s struggles in The New York Times or heard it passed through the lips of your peers, the idea that college relationships don’t work is very prevalent. So, what is up with relationships? Is commitment in college really such a crime?

“I think relationships in college can work, but a lot of the time things are just really casual and people tend to go for the ‘we’re not defining the relationship’ idea,” says junior public relations major Chrysten Colacicco. “Generally I think college tends to be defined more by a hookup culture than actual relationships.”

“Hookup culture” isn’t just a term used among college students. It’s a term that has become easily attributed to the twenty-something’s of today.

But even if you don’t partake in the hookup culture, maybe you still have your “because… college” reason to avoid commitment. The main purpose of college is to achieve your goals and work toward a future. Do relationships get in the way?

“I personally don’t see myself getting in a new relationship any time soon because I have too many goals and career objectives that I think a relationship would hold me back,” says sophomore broadcast journalism major Kristin Consorti. “I can’t rely on a man, and my career goals will require me to be flexible, so I don’t see the point unless there’s some magical guy out there willing to follow me around while I try to start my career.”

To be clear, this article isn’t meant to suggest that casually seeing someone is bad. We all have a right to make responsible decisions about what we do with our body and emotions. And it DEFINITELY isn’t meant to suggest anyone should toss aside their future goals to focus on a significant other. But let’s say the man who makes you blush stumbles into your life, or you meet a girl who’s got that sort of something you like. Would it be such a bad idea to take a leap of faith, stop saying “but… college” and give the r-word a try?

Junior Sam Lehr was asked this question when he met fellow junior Amanda Macedo.

The two college students met through a mutual friend at the beginning of summer 2014. They were introduced casually, as his friend said Macedo was a girl Lehr “might like” or “could maybe hookup with.” Regardless of the casual encounter, Lehr said he was instantly intrigued by Macedo.

The two hung out again, but Macedo spent the majority of her summer studying abroad in China. Lehr said he was waiting for the day he could take her out again. Macedo felt the same, but questioned how things would turn out.

“When I first met Sam, I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen,” said Macedo. “He and I had a pretty strong connection when we first met, and I’ve never met anyone who understood me so fully.”

Macedo said regardless of their connection, she was being realistic about how college works. She believed it would fall apart and they would continue seeing other people. She said eventually, it would probably just fade away and I’d move on to the next person, and he would do the same.

“She got back a week before school, and we came to the conclusion we were going to have an open relationship,” said Lehr. “It would give us free reign to do whatever we wanted, hookup with whoever; I didn’t want to hold her back.”

Lehr said as time went on, it got to the point where he wasn’t interested in exploring his options with other girls. He only wanted Amanda.

Macedo said she felt similarly, not finding other guys attractive. Soon enough, it became clear it was time to make what they had exclusive. When asked why he didn’t jump on a relationship in the beginning, Lehr said it was because, well, college.

“College is what held it back,” he said. “I knew I was coming into an environment where I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. It prevented me from wanting to be exclusive.”

Macedo agreed, saying she believed relationships in college were basically nonexistent. She said that American college dating life is unclear and confusing, although she doesn’t look down on a culture of having fun without commitment.

“(College) is really a time to be selfish and do whatever you want to without being tied to anyone but yourself,” she said. “I figured everyone kind of has that motive, even if they don’t talk about it. My approach was always, ‘okay, I know you don’t really care about me and you’re just trying to have a good time, so I’ll do the same thing.”

“I just didn’t know that when you met someone, you could have a connection with them and like them as much as I did with Sam,” she says. “It was kind of what they talk about really cheesy-ly in the movies. I really didn’t think that existed for me.”

Lehr said he believes many people avoid relationships in college because they feel like they will miss out on something. He said he thinks people worry about losing opportunities with other men or women and exploring without the emotion.

“I honestly don’t regret it at all,” Lehr said. “Sometimes, I look at my friends and see they can do whatever they want, but then I think about the fact I wouldn’t want to be with anyone except Amanda.”

Lehr said every situation is unique. College is definitely a time to find yourself before being attached to someone else. However, he said if you meet someone you shouldn’t let slip through your fingers, then don’t.

Macedo said communication is a very important aspect of successful college dating.

“Some people are ready for a relationship and want relationships, and some people just want to have fun. College is your selfish years, so whatever you want to make of it, you can. You just have to be clear,” she said. “I think that’s where a lot of confusion comes in. A lot of people think (another person) just wants to hookup, and some people get confused when someone has actual feelings. There’s no criteria for how to date someone anymore like there used to be in the fifties.”

Maybe “college” is a bad excuse for dodging the r-word. That doesn’t mean everyone should ditch their habits and soul-mate search before graduation. If you don’t want one, don’t get one. But having someone to share experiences and grow with is a huge aspect of life too. So, if you’re teetering between whether or not to give someone a chance, be like Nike and just do it. Live your own kind of college experience and see where it leads. Hey, you never know until you try.

Photo by Skylar Yuen

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