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At 6:05, the rows of Fulton 511 started filling. At 6:30, the aisles were overflowing. By 6:35, the room was packed to capacity. The excitement in the hall was tangible as the crowd anticipated the arrival of Professor Kerry Cronin. Three days before Valentine’s Day, Professor Cronin spoke once again about the anxiety of dating in college and the prevalence of “hookup culture” on the Boston College campus.
Cronin has been giving her talk on dating and the hookup culture for 10 years. Within that time she has traveled around the country, bringing the discussion to other universities on the dating culture– or, more appropriately, the lack thereof—at BC. Accompanying a glance at the infamous “hookup culture” is Cronin’s notorious dating experiments, which have been covered by the Boston Globe and have given her campus-wide prestige and popularity. In these experiments, Cronin requires her students to ask someone out on a sixty-to-ninety minute date—or she fails them. Even with its popularity, is the challenge as life-changing as some might claim?
Cronin began her talk with her usual spot-on dissection of BC culture, surprising the audience with the fact that within a class of seniors, only one said they had been on a date. According to Cronin, BC students choose one of three paths in romantic relationships: 1) become “pseudo-married” couples inseparable from their significant other, 2) participate in the hookup culture, or 3) “opt out” because they are “too busy” to have relationships. As vague as the categorizations might seem, it is hard to dispel Cronin’s validity.
To close her talk, Cronin read the essays past students had written for her dating assignment. All of them explain the difficulties of actually asking the person out in person. She read some of her personal favorites to the audience, and these students all seemed to have gleaned a valuable lesson from their experiences. All of them had to go through the awkward stages of initiating romance, but they eventually found their footing and discovered that their dates could hold interesting, worthwhile conversations.
“You loathe awkward conversation like I fear death,” Professor Cronin reflected on her students’ work.
The ability to communicate human-to-human, without the use of a screen and buttons, is a notable loss of our generation. We are more scared of human interaction now than ever before, which sheds light on why the hookup culture at BC is so prevalent. As Cronin points out, we would much rather meet someone in a dark room and have a brief physical encounter while under the influence than approach someone in the light of day and ask them for a cup of coffee. Somewhere down the line, the casuals and the formals of American dating culture have flip-flopped. Hooking up has become the casual, and asking someone if they want to go to White Mountain has become the formal.
Students who have not attended Professor Cronin’s talk might think of it as merely a guide book on how to go on dates. The relationship talk may seem like it only caters to the hopeless romantics on our campus, but that could not be more false. Even for those who prefer the less emotionally attached route, Cronin’s discussion can be equally rewarding.
Professor Cronin’s talk is about more than just finding romance—it is about opening doors to new opportunities and new relationships, both romantic and platonic. Encouraging BC students to go out and date does not mean, as the professor puts it, “buying a house and having three kids.” Rather, it is a challenge to have a meaningful conversation with someone face-to-face. Professor Cronin’s goal is to push people out of their comfort zone and help them find that the formality of dating is relative. After 10 years of giving her speech, she has proven that her goal can be reached.