Breaking Free of the Swarthmore Dating Binary

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Tell me how to find someone to love. Where are the swatties open to having something other than a one-night-stand or a swat marriage? Everybody seems to have no time for anything other than work, or at least in my social circle. I’m worried that by my senior year I would have found nobody at all, even if just casual dating for a little while. Am I the only one going through this?
— Disappointed With Love Life at Swat

Dear Disappointed,

You have already laid out the problem. For some reason, all romantic entanglements here are forced into this binary of Hookup or Swat Marriage. Like most binaries, the majority of people aren’t actually at one of the poles that are emphasized, and some may want to be completely off the scale altogether. And I think that a setup like this is really damaging for the relationships that form here.

I know that I have felt pressured when dating people here to become very serious very quickly, not by my partners, but by people around us. If you aren’t looking for something serious, you will resent this pressure, push back against it, or freak out about it. And even if you are looking for a steady relationship, a serious relationship, or a Swat Marriage, artificially creating closeness too quickly isn’t exactly a formula for success.

On the opposite pole, it seems that there is pressure for hookups to fit a certain typology: drunk and once per partner. If that’s what you’re into, then great – do it. But I know it’s not the model I have ever wanted for my hookups, which has seemed to mostly just result in confusion when the situation presents itself. I am very much a lightweight and when I get above a certain (pretty low) level of drunk, I get scared, so drunken sexual activity is very much a bad idea for me.

In most of the hookups I’ve had here (and this could definitely be personal rather than general), my partners have been mildly to very uncomfortable with the fact that I have been sober and still wanted to hookup, which strikes me as a real problem. There should be a larger variety of options even within the category of hookup, including sober, repeated, and other varieties that are escaping me right now because classes end today and I am very tired.

But you’re talking about the middle of the spectrum. As you can tell by the number of comments your question prompted on an article that was already four days old, not liking either of these polar options is a very common sentiment. I’ll throw my hat into the ring as well and say I am personally currently pro mid-spectrum living. I have obviously not polled the entire student body, but my guess is that if we were to gather all the people that share this opinion in the same boat, it would be the size of a Carnival cruise. Which would then of course become a date-centric party boat. And it’s a really nice idea: finding someone nice to hang out with and sometimes do some naughty business. Or maybe that’s not the idea you were implying. Maybe it was going on a lot of first dates. Or someone who you walk to class holding hands then hug, middle school style. All these options seem pretty nice on one level or another.

So clearly, the answer to your first (and last) question is that we are everywhere. But, given that we’re not marked, the only way you’re going to find out who is also in your faction is to ask them out. It’s an idea so simple and obvious that you/we all may have never thought about it: if there is a certain kind of relationship that you really want, try to make it happen. It’s like the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” but on a much more local, personal, and selfish level. And that is totally okay. Sometimes being a little selfish is a good idea.

The worst possible outcome of this approach is that your askee says no or you go on one date and it doesn’t go that well. Usually drastically different relationship philosophies become apparent pretty early on, and as someone what has been on some truly abysmal dates, they don’t matter that much.

So date whomever you want to date, and do so however you want to do so. And if you feel people trying to steer your relationship in a direction than you would like it to, tell them to put a cork in it. But probably say it more politely, especially if you generally like the person raining all over your happy parade. Or, more accurately, steering your happy parade off the road and into a swamp of unhappy emotion.

As for not having time to date, there seems to be a conception, probably fueled by romantic comedies, that dates are very long, complicated, and should include flowers, and gazing deep into each other’s eyes and at least three different activities. You can do that, and I guess it’s nice sometimes, but they really don’t need to be that intricate and prolonged.

Because honestly, 90% of the time, Swatties have a lot more time than they think they do. Yes, we are going into finals week so there will be some crunch time coming up, but think about all the study breaks you take, the amount of procrastination you do and the amount of time you use playing misery poker or spending 2 hours in Sharples at each meal.

You can translate at least some of that into low-stress date time. Spend a half hour hanging out on the beach instead of a half hour watching The Office. Skip Sharples and order takeout together. Watch the half hour of The Office together. Or just get together for some naughty business. Using dates as study breaks or to replace activities that you do anyway is a great way to fit them in without sacrificing your sanity.

In conclusion, we should all be free to be you and me, Marlo Thomas style, in life and in our romantic endeavors. Also, fit in dates, don’t let finals kill you, and please sleep more than I currently am.

The Phoenix

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