“What’s dating like in college?”
My senior girls looked earnestly at me over their lunches. There’s no denying that having five guys in your year at school doesn’t play in your favor.
“Not so great,” I said, and regretted it immediately.
I scolded myself because I knew the door I’d just opened wouldn’t be closed easily. They wanted to know why – their eyes crestfallen, their hopes dashed by one sentence.
I prefaced everything with: “Well, you know things didn’t end well for me, so my opinions are skewed – I’m sure if I married someone I dated in college, I would have a very different view.”
But as I think about it now, hours later, I wonder if this is true. Because even if I had married someone I dated in college, that wouldn’t change the fact that the whole thing was quite awkward and oddly polarizing and much more work than I ever thought it should be.
I told them I went to a small Christian college.
I told them I loved it there, but that there was a strange social construct around dating. That you don’t date, actually, but you have a boyfriend. That going on dates wasn’t really something you did. You either were in a relationship or you were starkly single.
That some girls could have guy friends, but lots couldn’t.
That I was never once asked out on a date, but somehow found myself “dating” two boys over my four years.
That there was pressure from people immediately.
That I didn’t know any better.
That there is such a thing as a good relationship. And a bad relationship. And somewhere in between.
That even though I praise God for sparing me from a terrible choice, it doesn’t change the fact that I had been wooed (or wooed myself) into thinking it was the right choice.
I told them all this over lunch, in the senior lounge, them leaning across the table.
They’ve been waiting four years to date, college beckoning to them, claiming to be full-to-bursting with attractive, single, emotionally mature young men.
And I said, “The thing is, girls, you’ve been waiting four years to date, but when you get to college, you realize they’re all the same boys.”
They’re all the same boys.
And yes, there are winners. There are awesome young men who know what they want and will treat you well.
But they’re just a few months removed from high school. Just like you.
When I was sure I’d bruised their hopeful hearts forever, I tried to make things look less bleak. I told them about my dating experience since college – how I’ve been on dates and not felt pressured (Is he the one? Who cares?! I’m in my twenties and I’m figuring out who I am and who I want to be with! It’s a first date, darn it!). I told them it’s been a lot better, that I’ve filled my coffer with story after story – some good, some bad, most hilarious – and that even if their dating lives in college aren’t all they thought they would be, there’s hope.
I did not go into detail (trying to keep some boundaries), but I wish I could’ve told them how dating in college seems to be more about who you think you’re supposed to be instead of who you are. At least it was that way for me. I might have told them that I’m happier than ever, and regardless of what my future dating brings, I know I am a better person for giving it a try.
They’re sure to at least have good tales to tell me when they visit in the summer.
I should’ve told them to start a blog about it.
[Dating for Dummies photo: ZacVTA]
[Czech Couple photo: Ard Hesselink]
[Seville Couple photo: BMP]